As with its opposite, crunchy, the meaning of fluffy varies depending on whether the term is applied to “regular” board games or to role-playing games.
In role-playing terms, fluffy games do not have very detailed rules and are all about narrative freedom and improvisation based on their setting, their lore — the fluff (the opposite of the crunch). Such games are said to be open (although not as much as sandbox games), and imply a lot of ad hoc decisions and rulings by the Game Master. That’s why they are also called high-trust games, meaning that the players will have to trust their GM on many critical decisions, in contrast with low-trust games.
Many game-related things can be fluffy. A fluffy role player goes out of his way to impersonate his character, to the point of annoying the whole table by making loud voices and wild gestures. Likewise, fluffy play is very atmospheric, story-driven, and often involves some reenactment. Fluffy rules contain minimal gameplay instructions, a low level of detail, but often lots of background stories, descriptive text and illustrations.
In board game terms, most fluffy games are shiny American-style games that are simulation-based or story-based. They often come with lavish rulebooks and other evocative, eye-catching, even overproduced components — and yet sometimes use fairly common, generic mechanics and deliver underwhelming gameplay.
This might be an important difference between a fluffy game and a thematic game.
References and Further Browsing
- Meaningful Roleplaying Vs. Fluffy Roleplaying, on Reddit
- Where did the term crunchy start in the board game world?, on Boardgamegeek
- How “Fluffy” do you like your games?, on Boardgamegeek
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