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Which of the following is true?

  1. General questions about games are Off Topic.
  2. General questions about games are On Topic.
  3. General questions about games are On Topic if they meet Some Condition.

I was told that my question, What's the name of the theory that the player with the most options has the advantage?, was off topic because it was not about a specific board or card game.

[Your question] should be closed because it's not about specific board or card games and is therefore not on-topic on this site.

In any case, the on-topic help page says "For a question to be on topic, it must relate to a game that is on topic."

Questions about kingmaking, analysis paralysis, and other concepts that are not specific to a single game have all been treated with high regard on this site. This question about house rules even declares that it is not about a specific game. Why does mine have to be about a specific game?

I think the reason that my question is being treated unfairly is that there is a deeper issue that is bugging voters, and they are looking for a made up reason to close vote. I'll enumerate the reasons that I think could be bugging the voters:

  • "Your question doesn't specifically apply to board games."
    • The same could be said of almost every question on the site. Kingmaking was born from war, money, and politics. Analysis paralysis has its roots in software development workplaces. My question is apparently born from trivial set theory, according to another user.
  • "Your question is trivial."
    • The theory is trivial. I am looking for the name of that theory. There's a difference.
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General questions about games should be on-topic — as long as it's a question appropriate for board or card game enthusiasts.

In terms of the comments you've received, I believe the following:

  • Your question is about something relevant to board and card games.
  • The question doesn't apply specifically to board games, but neither do some very good questions we've had. I can pick out a couple from a non-game specific tag like fairly easily, which also apply to roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons (which definitely isn't an on-topic game):
  • Your question isn't trivial. Even if it is, that's not a reason for closure. It would suggest, maybe, you haven't done your research, but I imagine you have.

But it's hard to draw a rule of thumb on general questions.

I propose a guideline

There's a guideline we can use to determine whether general questions not directly related to a board or card game are appropriate for our site or not. A version of it has been used on Game Development and Role-playing Games for years, and it's produced great results.

It'd be something like this for us:

Questions about a general topic, such as terminology, might more likely belong on another Stack Exchange site (e.g. English) than here. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself …

Would a board or card game expert give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than a Linguist, Video game developer, etc?

If yes, then feel free to ask it here.

For Game Development, where this guideline first originated, the major problem was non-game related programming questions, so their FAQ specifically mentions it in that context. They now can recognise when a question isn't suitable for their site in that area and others (art, animation, mathematics, etc).

For RPG.SE, our problem was real world topics - people developing a campaign would ask historical or geographical questions, or how fast certain boats were in real life. It was hard to tell what to do with those questions, since while many were totally appropriate, others weren't, and it was hard to know where to draw the line. It was a real problem for us and it took a couple of years before we found and adopted that guideline (heck, the meta question I linked was 'part two' - part one was two years prior). RPG players usually aren't the right people to ask about that stuff. Our FAQ calls those out explicitly, and it's worked really well and finally made it clear which ones we should keep or close.

For us, here on Board Games, the current issue is just a terminology question. There might be other stuff more appropriately mentioned here. I'm not sure if this has come up a lot for us.

So by this rule of thumb, is your terminology question on topic?

Yes. Whether you ask it on here, or on English as a term identification question, a basic answer will just be the name of the strategy (if it has a name). However, you'll get a more specific response on Board Games: someone spirited enough to do so may elaborate on why this isn't always advantageous in games, or may sometimes leave you worse off, or so on, elaborating on certain situations offered by certain games.

So whilst it's kinda borderline, it's borderline on the side of yes, it's fine here.

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Games in General

I do agree that requiring a question to be about one specific on-topic game is unnecessarily narrow. However, questions on this site should at the very least be specific to board games and/or card games. The help center's on topic page defines the site like this:

Board and Card Games Stack Exchange is for expert Q&A from people who like playing, discussing the strategy of, and getting rules clarifications of board games, designing board games or modifying the rules of existing board games.

Considering your examples in that light:

  • Kingmaking is not a concept that is specific to board or card games. However, that particular question was asking about the strategy of kingmaking in board/card games and about designing and modifying the rules of existing board games to take those kinds of strategies into account.
  • Analysis paralysis, again, is not a concept specific to this subject matter. But, again, that particular question was about playing board games with people who act that way.
  • The "taking back actions" question, finally, was also about modifying the rules of existing board/card games (that's what "house rules" means, after all) to allow people to reverse actions, and whether that was desirable.

Your Specific Question

First, your question is not just not about a specific board or card game. It's also not about playing board or card games in general. It's about games in general, and only then because the wording of the question uses the word "player." It's not even asking for any knowledge related to playing games. Your question, in essence, is asking

Is there a [formal or mathematical] term for the idea that "it's always better to keep your options open"?

That doesn't fit with any of the categories specified in the help center. The information you are looking for isn't really about games, in particular or in general; it's about terminology. If anything, the question might fit on English Language and Usage.

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  • In response to your first paragraph only: Kingmaking also has no specific relevance to board or card games. It was born of royal politics. I could easily take the question about analysis paralysis and instead of talking about Settlers of Catan, I could talk about productivity at my workplace. Why is my question treated unfairly? – Rainbolt Jun 24 '14 at 21:58
  • In response to your last half: I could easily generate hundreds of examples of where this theory applies to actual board or card games, the same way that "paralysis analysis" can be applied to Settlers of Catan. If I do that, you'll still just retort with "I could remove all this extra information and reduce it to a set theorem." If you can remove stuff from my question, why can't you remove stuff from the paralysis analysis question? I hope that you will consider the other three questions I linked to in your analysis. – Rainbolt Jun 24 '14 at 22:01
  • I added a general answer that I think addresses some of your concerns. I think the most important point is that even if we accept that your question is about games (which I personally disagree with), it's still not specifically about board or card games. – murgatroid99 Jun 24 '14 at 22:27
  • Again, Kingmaking is not specifically about board or card games either. Neither is paralysis analysis. The examples included in the question were incidental. If I include a specific example of a board or card game in my own question, are you saying that you will actually take it into consideration? – Rainbolt Jun 24 '14 at 22:40
  • Kingmaking and analysis paralysis are not about board games, but they will get treated differently in the context of board and card games than in other contexts, so they are still of specific interest to this site. And as I said at least 4 times in my answer, the difference between all of those questions and yours is that the other questions are about playing games and yours is not. – murgatroid99 Jun 24 '14 at 22:43
  • The theory in my question should also be treated differently in the context of board and card games (but isn't that completely subjective anyway?). As I've said three times now (since we're keeping count), avoiding a kingmaking scenario has nothing specifically to do with board or card games. Although you have stated it four times now, you have not explained why kingmaking is somehow "more related" to board and card games than my question is. – Rainbolt Jun 24 '14 at 23:20
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    All three items in your new bulleted breakdown are just wrong. The kingmaking example references on topic games, but would still be the same question without those examples. You copped out on the other two by claiming they existed on day 1. Are they off topic now? If not, can you trim your answer to only include relevant arguments so that I don't have to spend all day parsing what is and is not relevant? As soon as I present one argument, you take another path. It's bothering me that you can't seem to find one single definitive reason for my question's off-topicness and stick with it. – Rainbolt Jun 24 '14 at 23:33
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    I rewrote my answer to try to communicate my thoughts on the matter better. Before you ask, I removed the references to "mathematical theorems" because I think they muddied the real issue. I'm sorry if it seemed like I was "moving the goalposts"; I was really just having trouble articulating what made me think the question didn't belong. I think I've got it now, though. – murgatroid99 Jun 25 '14 at 5:39
  • Isn't "specific to board/card games" way too high a standard? Maybe more something more like "primarily about board/card games" or even "enough about board/card games that you'll get as good an answer in that context as in any other" (sorry, not as concise)? It doesn't do anyone any good if general questions can't be asked anywhere because they're not specific to any one site. – Cascabel Jun 26 '14 at 5:07
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    I think you're treating the word "specific" as being more demanding than I was. I think my treatment of the chosen examples shows what I mean in that regard. I just don't want to see "Is it appropriate to play board games with coworkers?" (might belong on Workplace) or "How do I write a program to do a chess knight's walk?" (might belong on SO) or "How do I calculate the number of game states in Go?" (might belong on Math) where the actual information the question is looking for doesn't really have anything to do with board games. – murgatroid99 Jun 26 '14 at 5:19
  • @murgatroid99 Hm, well, I understand what you mean but I'm not sure specific is the best way to say it. The guideline in Jonathan's answer ("will it get a better answer in the context of board/card games") is actually not that different from what you're ultimately saying. – Cascabel Jun 26 '14 at 21:38
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To (rather belatedly) flesh out a comment Jefromi made: While I don't think it's a primary consideration, one relevant consideration to appropriateness that may have been being applied here (consciously or not) is the question of whether this is the most appropriate site for a given question. In the case of the terminology question you posed, I don't think that B&CG is inappropriate for it, but I feel that the Mathematics StackExchange site would be a better fit for it, since the 'core content' of the question is primarily mathematical (you're looking for a formal term).

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