Linnaeus

The Importance of Being Elegant — Introduction

In boardgames, elegance, game design on April 16th, 2007 at 1:29 pm

[Presented here for your amusement, at long last, is my second essay on elegance in game design The Importance of Being Elegant. Well, actually, this is just the introduction to it. The whole thing is much too long to read comfortably in a single blog post, so I have broken it into four parts, and I will post it over the course of the next couple weeks.
I thought that I would start you off easy ;)

The entire essay consists of

  1. Introduction
  2. Concerning Aesthetic Content in Games
  3. The Case for the Prosecution
  4. The Upside of Elegance]


There is a quality I truly love – a kind of severe elegance. I don’t mean relative elegance, like, say, Hannibal, which has a hell of a lot of rules, but a good rule/complexity ratio. I mean games with a hard, ultrasimple ruleset. Maybe two minutes to explain, maybe, at tops, 4 minutes.
-Thi Nguyen, Intense Elegance

…I feel that ‘fiddly’ shouldnt [sic] be a derogatory term, but rather, its [sic] something that can be very good for a game if done well, and bad if done poorly. Fiddly parts need to be very clear rules-wise, not hard to figure out…
-Alex Rockwell, American style games vs German style games: Fiddly is good.

As these passages show, opinions on whether elegance is an essential quality for a game or not vary widely. Where some see the hallmark of a quality game, others see elegance as a virtual scam — a means to foisting soulless, easy-to-crank-out products onto a public that could be enjoying the rich experience that a good wargame or “American”-style game offers.

While analysis cannot bridge this divide completely, it can help us see elegance in its proper context. Examination of the benefits may help detractors understand — though probably not agree with — the proponents of elegant design, and examination of the drawbacks may help proponents understand why something that they instinctively value is not universally admired.

It may even uncover the importance of being elegant.

  1. I tingle with anticipation.

  2. […] I want to recommend some other game design blog reading that is not my own: The Importance of Being Elegant takes a good shot at attempting to define elegance in board games and providing means by which we […]

  3. […] that the goal says it should produce. Bad system produces outcomes contradictory with the goal. Elegant systems produce relevant outputs (with regards to the goal) and do so with as minimal a process as […]

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