The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Woodcraft — A Crime Against Elegance

with 3 comments

Last night (in addition to Stationfall), I had the “pleasure” of learning Woodcraft, the most inelegant game of recent memory. Resources you can gain include immediate Money and VP, recurring Money and VP, three types of cubes (saws, glue and spare lumber), three colors of dice, a variety of tools and cards. A mosaic of tile placement (your ‘attic’) for bonus resources (all types), some ‘first to the post’ bonus VP races.

“VP Multiplier times number of orders fulfilled?” Check!

“Tokens that let you take an extra action or ignore the action on the rondel you selected?” Check! (If one of your resources lets you ignore the core mechanism that differentiates your game, is that a good thing?)

(“A different ‘Bonus action token’ that lets you re-use a once-per-season free-action token?”) Check!

Do any of these mechanisms interact in interesting ways, you ask, already knowing the answer? Pshaw.

This led me to ponder “Why is it so difficult to define elegance?” I suppose we could just say “when there is nothing left to remove, it is elegant.” Or perhaps “When the theme fits the mechanisms,” sort of a “well-ordered” definition. Who knows?

Not me. But I certainly know enough to feel its absence.

Rating Avoid


Written by taogaming

March 9, 2023 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Ramblings, Session Reports

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3 Responses

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  1. My working definition of elegance is: a game which has something interesting it’s trying to do, and does it in as simple a manner as possible. A lot of euros are just a mechanism mashup so aren’t really trying to do anything and are thereby disqualified from being elegant. But to me stuff like High Frontier or Oath can be elegant (even though they’re not simple) because they don’t have anything that is in them extraneous to what they’re trying to do.

    Chris Farrell

    March 9, 2023 at 8:40 pm

    • I think our definitions are pretty close … I was thinking about Stationfall or High Frontier or Cosmic Encounters (but Oath is also a good example). It’s like watching the machines in “How it’s made.” There are a lot of moving parts and many machines, but they need each machine. Nobody puts in a router or bender just because….

      Complexity does not bar elegance, and based on your goals you might have to be complex. Kolmogorov complexity as a related idea …. if you have some amount of information, you can’t squeeze it down beyond a certain point.

      So I think it gets back towards the “nothing left to remove.”


      March 10, 2023 at 9:03 am

  2. I think it is more than just nothing left to remove; what is left also clearly achieves/illuminates the end goals.

    I am reminded of Erdos and proofs from the book (

    Joe J. Rushanan

    March 10, 2023 at 7:11 pm

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