[TT] Necessary Complexity?

I have an oft-stated fondness for elegant rules mechanics, which give rise to games that are easy to learn and have surprising depth. Checkers is more “simple” than elegant; chess is pretty elegant, because you know almost all the rules if you know how the pieces move. Settlers of Catan is elegant, a classic strategy game where most of the important information is contained in the little card that lists costs. Games that come with books of rules are rarely elegant.

The Awful Green Things from Outer Space is being re-released. In my youth, this seemed really awesome for its lack of elegance. Lots of little tokens! Different stats for the whole crew! Randomized weapon effects! Lines of sight and zones of control! Special rules for a dozen special circumstances! Extended rules for fighting outside the ship!

Basically, it is the sort of game that could work really well as a computer game, but for a tabletop game it is way more complicated than it is worth. As a young nerd, grasping that complexity was a game of its own, but I cannot recall ever getting anyone to play a full game with me. It just is not worth the time commitment to learn the rules to play maybe a few times and still need to check the rules every few minutes.

“More complicated than it is worth” does not mean “unnecessarily complicated.” I really do think all those details are important to the game. Not in the sense that you could not build a streamlined version, but rather that the developers made it for people like themselves, like that young nerd I was, for whom the complexity is a virtue. It is worth it for them, and I imagine they have a great time playing.

Once you have accepted that you want that much complexity, the game is surprisingly elegant in its retention and presentation of information. You can reference things like differing hit points and movement rates per unit and what each weapon does this game. And as the old joke would have it, the amazing thing is not whether the dog can do it well but that he can do it at all.

: Zubon