Do Complex Games Need a Quick or EZ Mode?

I’ve been working on Cage Match (new site!) for nearly a year now, and the game is great, but one piece of feedback I’ve gotten is that there’s a lot going on.  More than one person suggested that it would be nice if there was an easy or quick mode to the game.

The thing is, I’ve worked so hard to balance the game between being easy and fast enough to play, yet complex enough to represent some of the more strategic elements of a mixed martial arts contest.  I want it to be authentic and have enough authentic moves to appeal to the true MMA fan – and I think those same elements would appeal to more strategic gamers.  The result is a game with depth, but also an unavoidable learning curve.  I’ve included a “First Fight” where some of the rules are eliminated, but even this first fight takes some getting used to.  Therefore, MMA fans who want a quick, casual MMA fight experience weren’t going to find it in Cage Match.  Until now!  It came together around the UFC on Fox 30 event.

I was thinking, does Cage Match need a Quick Mode?  To answer, I looked at some of my other favorite games.  Most do not have a special Quick or Easy Mode, in fact, it’s not something I’ve seen frequently.  However, I do see it, and I’ve also seen other games try to make themselves faster and easier.

Agricola, which I reference on a near-daily basis, is definitely a complex game with a steep, steep learning curve, and one that I’m still learning, even after having played for years.  It does have what they call a “Family Mode”.  I honestly wonder how many people play that version of the game – even to introduce themselves, but they included it, so there probably is a reason.

Another game where I’ve noticed a Quick Mode is the game Evolution.  I think it’s great and simple and quick enough as it is, but I guess they got feedback saying otherwise, because they released Evolution: The Beginning, to be even simpler and quicker.

I started a thread on boardgamegeek and got some other examples of games with introductory modes, such as Through the Ages.

So, there appears to be a group of game consumers out there who want games that are simple and quick.  Although I think Cage Match is relatively simple and quick, if Evolution can be simpler and quicker, so can this.  Besides, for fans wanting a quick and casual game, the learning curve could pose a problem.

In short, I’m not going to let a problem that I can solve stop this game from succeeding.  So, with a nod to Travis Drake, who has a great game on Kickstarter called Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds that is over 120% of its target, I developed a Quick Mode to Cage Match that’s a real rocket.

In the past several months, the ideas have been there, but they didn’t come together until yesterday, when I knew I’d be seeing a gaming buddy to watch the UFC event.  I put pen to paper, so to speak, (or fingers to keyboard, more literally) and came up with something in about 15 minutes.

The new Quick Mode is well, really quick!  Instead of the usual 15-30 minute game, we rattled off 4-5 matches in that time, with Jack Jonson submitting opponent after opponent.  Some matches were over in minutes, the “long” ones took closer to 10.  It’s not only quick, it’s easy.  In fact it’s so easy, it’s Eez-eh.

“Eez-eh” by Kasabian

Here’s how quick mode works:

  • I stripped the game down to its most basic functions.  It’s not a lot more than rock-paper-scissors at this point, but that was always the core of the game.
  • As with the “First Fight” rules, there are no position changes.
  • There is also no muscle or muscle rating, only Head and Body (which I might include in the “First Fight” rules too).
  • I also took a lot of dice rolling out of it.  There are no critical hits and no misses, so there’s some lost drama, but it REALLY speeds things up, and reduces the randomness, which some players like.
  • There’s still some dice rolling, a part of the game people like.
  • I simplified the Focus concept: You get 1 every turn, and you can only use it on special actions.
  • When getting 1 Focus per turn, the specials need to cost a bit more than they do now.
  • There’s no ground, and only submission specialists can try for the submission. They do this by using their special move, which typically requires winning with a Shoot or Throw, then trying to win 2 additional roll-offs versus the opponent.
  • All of this means the 10 fighters need a Quick Mode version of themselves, and some of the specials and Focus need to be rebalanced a bit. Specifically, those submissions moves need to cost a bit more than the power punches, because they can end the game outright.
  • I could also include a Quick Mode version of the Action Pad, but I’d rather just use the one, and instruct players to ignore certain elements. Since damage is the only thing that really matters, I’ll need to find a way to emphasize it graphically.
  • I also need a slightly different Shoot move for Quick Mode, and will have to find a way to incorporate that.
  • Nonetheless, all of this trains players to play the advanced game, which, again, is really great.
  • On that note, we had a great match of the full game, but figured out a way to make the Ground part of the game slightly smoother and better, and get one half-click down in terms of making that part of the game simpler, at least.

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