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When I want to learn about a new game, I usually look at the character sheet or similar. This gives me a good impression on the complexity of the game. So I wondered, can we make this measurable somehow? After all there are is much discussion on what is a complex game or not. To try this, I devised this simple system.

  1. Count fill-in fields on the character sheet for 1 point.
    1. Ignore intermediate calculation fields, like for Armor Class on the 3.5 D&D sheets. They are a service and make things easier.
  2. Count checkboxes / radio groups for 0.5 points.
  3. For list fields that take a fixed number of items count that number, max. 10 points.
    1. If the number is indeterminate, count 10 points.
  4. Do count things like name, hair color etc., if present.
  5. Do count fields that only certain types of characters would fill in, like spells.
    1. If the game has different sheets for different types of characters (e.g. playbooks), take the most complicated sheet.

Some random stats from my book shelf:

41: The Dark Eye 1, Anniversary Edition
51: Nobilis 2nd
64: Mage: The Ascension 2nd Revised (aka 3rd)
71: Wraith 2nd
77: Legends of the Wulin
90: 13th Age
123: D&D 4th
133: Ars Magica 4th

Is this method perfect? Certainly not. For example Legends of the Wulin is surprisingly complicated during play, which cannot be seen from the character sheet at all. Still, I hope it might serve as a start for discussing various games.

What are your games like on this scale?