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I'm starting to notice a pattern of closes on questions that can't be answered with rules quotes. Some examples:

  • Board Games development online course: This was voted to close as off-topic because it was not about a specific game. In the help center, it clearly states that questions about board game development are on-topic. After @PatLudwig reopened the question, there were close votes as primarily opinion-based. However, this still falls within the purview of the site because it is a good subjective question.
  • Dungeon Petz strategy: This is generating close votes as primarily opinion-based. Once again, the help center specifies that strategy questions are on-topic, and this question also appears to be a good subjective question that can have objective answers (as noted by @PatLudwig). This does not fall to the level of "What's your favorite board game?", which would certainly be closed as primarily opinion-based.

I've been noticing this for longer than what's on the front page, but it looks like questions are being closed if they can't have a strictly objective answer based on a rulebook. If you look through some questions from when the site first started, there are quite a few that deal with strategy and game development/design.

Do we have a scope problem? In other words, has the site evolved to the point where the current users with close privileges do not want questions that don't have a clear-cut answer?


To quickly tie this into other conversations on meta, part of the reason we probably have low answer ratios is because good subjective questions are not being let through the process. It's easy to answer a rules question, and we generally only need one answer for that. But good subjective questions can frequently have multiple good answers. This is certainly true on Parenting and Workplace.

Also, it's fairly easy for anyone to find a rulebook and point out what the rules show. Part of B&CG.SE is having experts available to answer questions that you might not know or be able to find the answer to. This is where strategy questions come into play. It allows experience to be a guide for disseminating useful information to other users.

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    Thanks for writing this meta question! I'd resolved to do the same but didn't have enough time last night. – Pat Ludwig Feb 23 '16 at 15:17
  • I added a comment for why I voted to close the Dungeon Petz question. I voted as Too Broad, not Opinion Based. – bwarner Feb 23 '16 at 19:11
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    This is a great meta question -- no matter what should be done with those particular questions. – Joe Feb 24 '16 at 6:47
  • If you can find some additional examples, you might be able to avoid answers that focus on the broadness and subjectivity of those specific question, rather than the attitude toward non-objective questions in general. – Cascabel Feb 24 '16 at 13:11
  • Another useful direction to take this is attempting to save questions. If we (or some of us) think that a question is subjective and isn't clear enough that it wants answers with explanation and support, we should just fix the question. – Cascabel Feb 24 '16 at 13:26
  • Examples of recent questions closed as opinion-based or too broad, skipping over really obviously bad ones: boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/28982/409 boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/28865/409 boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/28755/409 boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/28528/409 (people mostly ask rules questions so there really aren't that many...) – Cascabel Feb 24 '16 at 13:36
  • @bwarner On the Dungeon Petz question you linked to some sources about making sure the scope of strategy question was limited enough that it wouldn't require explaining the whole game. Then a question came up about Dominion strategy as it relates to the mine. This question seems to have a very specific scope: what is the strategy if I only have the Mine as an Action Card. However, this is receiving close votes for primarily opinion-based. While I admit that this is an unlikely situation without... – SocioMatt Feb 24 '16 at 13:54
  • some crazy house rules, do you view this as out of scope for the site? – SocioMatt Feb 24 '16 at 13:54
  • @Socio I don't agree with those close votes. I think they could be justified as downvotes for a not useful question, but close votes seem wrong to me. – bwarner Feb 24 '16 at 14:44
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    @bwarner I guess that gets more at the heart of my question. If we have people closing non-rules questions from both sides (too broad or too narrow, frequently with just saying it's primarily opinion-based or off-topic), is there a scope problem that needs to be addressed for the site? – SocioMatt Feb 24 '16 at 15:26
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The author of the Dungeon Petz question asked for key strategy points. Does that inspire answers that explain why and how? Does it inspire long answers? Does the question insist that opinions be backed up with facts and expertise? I don't think so. I would vote to close it if I had the chance.

The author of the "Give me links to a bunch of material." question... well... I just voted to close it again using a more appropriate reason (Too Broad). It may not look bad now, but that question is going to require maintenance over the years. Answers containing only links are prone to link rot, and I don't see how any answer to that question could be anything other than a collection of links. You couldn't possibly fit an entire course into one answer, or summarize it without leaving out too much important information.

Here is an awesome question that I noticed yesterday that can't be strictly answered by throwing the rulebook at it. This kind of question can be answered in multiple ways: by an expert who has been playing the game for a long time and could tell you what might happen if the premise in the question were realized, or by researching old articles from around 1997.

  • @Jefromi I went ahead and removed the last paragraph. – Rainbolt Feb 24 '16 at 14:15
  • Cool. I do think being careful as you were to use "too broad" instead of "primarily opinion-based" is pretty important. If the fundamental problem is that someone's asking for a giant list of resources, saying it's opinion-based comes off as a bit aggressive - like we're saying it's not okay to ask for resources in any way. – Cascabel Feb 24 '16 at 14:45
  • @Jefromi: It's worth noting that many SE sites have specific canned close reasons for "recommendation questions" or "requests for external resources" like this one. We do have such a canned close reason for game recommendations, but not for other types of recommendation requests, so – assuming that we believe the question should be closed – we're left with either "too broad" or a custom write-in reason (e.g. something like "Questions asking for links to external resources often attract spammy and easily outdated answers."). – Ilmari Karonen Mar 1 '16 at 15:04
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I do agree that the attitude toward subjective questions can be unnecessarily harsh here. It's hard to come up with examples, though, because people mostly don't ask them. (Of course, sometimes that harsh attitude is justified - but not always!)

I went through past closed questions, excluding duplicates. I found plenty that I agreed with closing. We're not really doing that badly; most of the closed questions really are pretty bad. I think the examples in the question also might not be all that great (borderline, at least), and I'd rather not debate about them for now.

But I also found some that I think are worth considering:

  • Are solved games worth playing? -- seems pretty solidly "good subjective" to me. Sure, we could tweak the title, but it's asking what people actually get out of playing these games, something pretty concrete. It's fine that there are probably several reasons; the question doesn't ask for a judgment about which reasons are good or bad, just what the reasons might be.

  • Optimal Dominion strategy with only the Mine action card -- this quickly collected three primarily opinion-based votes, and yet people managed to provide serious evidence-based answers.

  • Are there any house rules for combining Munchkin and Fluxx? -- this is more borderline, and I don't know how good a question is, but it does seem answerable. If someone can come up with a decent method of combining the games, that's a real answer.

  • In go, is it possible to guess the opponent's strength? -- I don't really know go, but I'm not sure this is all that broad. The OP doesn't seem to be expecting precision, just ways to get a rough impression. Answers could discuss what kinds of decisions or mistakes might indicate something about skill, or even just explain why it's not possible to discern much. They certainly don't have to delve into excessive detail, categorizing thousands of possible moves and what you'd deduce.

  • https://boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/28959/409 -- as asked, I agree that this doesn't seem great. But at the same time, I feel we should be able to edit questions like that into a form which allows someone to get a rough answer - roughly how difficult is this game to learn, given some benchmarks. (For example, surely we could manage to agree that Uno is really fast to learn, Dominion takes more time but isn't insane, and Race for the Galaxy takes a while to understand all the fiddly bits.) Not one of my favorite questions, but worth considering.

I think one of the common patterns here is that since we're used to questions having One True Answer, we tend to read them as the OP asking for that. So if a question leaves some room for possibilities, then that must mean that the OP is asking for judgment about what's best among those possibilities. But it doesn't have to be that way; just look at https://rpg.stackexchange.com/ for some great gaming-related examples of slightly more open-ended questions.

And of course, it's quite possible that we'd get more good subjective questions if the site weren't so clearly focused on rules, and were a little less eager to close questions when there's subjectivity involved.

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    The last paragraph is on point! – Pat Ludwig Feb 28 '16 at 20:14

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