Analysis Paralysis (AP) is the situation when a player is confronted with too many choices that lead to too many results. Essentially, it’s an overload of processing. 

Games that are prone to AP have an ever increasing possibility space as the game goes on. 

The games themselves don’t necessarily need to be complex, only that the options the player needs to consider increase to an unmanageable state. 

Consider two games: Qwirkle and Völuspá. Both are tile laying games with fairly straightforward scoring mechanics (one point per tile for a given tile placed). But Völuspá has demonstrated more propensity for AP than Qwirkle. What’s the primary difference? While scoring and placement at a high level are the same, the main differentiator is that the pieces in Völuspá have powers that activate, giving them a micro level consideration that is not present in Qwirkle.

Put another way, here’s the thought process of someone playing the game. A V indicates it’s something a Völuspá player has to think about, a Q is for a Qwirkle player, and a B is for both games. 

Turn Starts 

B: Examine Board 

B: Examine Hand

B: Consider Legal Tile Placements

V: Consider if Legal Tile Placements Score

B: Compare potential scores. 

B: Consider future placements.

B: Place desired placement and score points. 

Turn Ends 

As you can see, Völuspá has an additional consideration that Qwirkle never has to consider. All placements in Qwirkle score. 

Additionally, considering if the legal placement scores is actually not a one-liner as listed above as the potential placements can be multiplied by 5 potentially (the size of a player’s hand).  So when a player is taking their turn in Völuspá, they have the potential to do 5 times the processing.

This is compounded as the game continues, as the possibility space expands and more options are available.

Possibility space expansion contributes to AP in all games.  If it exists, it’s exacerbated.  The difference is the amount of possibility space as the game continues.  Take Axis and Allies for example.  The possibility space of they game is huge at the outset, with multiple units and multiple options, far beyond the comprehension of the average player.

A game that does a good job of keeping AP and Possibility Space in check is Memoir ‘44.  It’s another WW2 combat game, but the playfield is divided into subdivisions, with cards specifying which playfield the player is allowed to move in and which type of units the player is allowed to play.  So a game which has multiple units and actions is reduced to a hand of 5.  Each card in the hand of 5 allows a small subset of choices, effectively whittling down the Possibility Space to something manageable in the player’s mind.

Ultimately, AP is a symptom of being a perfectionist and trying to do the perfect move.  Unfortunately, like many things, perfect execution is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.