2014 Review - Playin’ Games

A whole year’s worth of gaming reviewed in one blog post.  Hmm. Could be a long one. Note: I wouldn’t consider this a review of the games so much as a review of my experiences with them.

I started tracking my plays on BGG in January 2014, so I can report on the games that I played and the ones that didn’t get any attention. It wasn’t until later in the year that I heard about various challenges gamers set for themselves like “10 x 10” and “H-Index of 14 in ‘14” so I did not start the year with any such goals. Mostly I was just curious about how many games I would actually play, but I suppose I also wanted to see what games were getting the most plays and compare that to the ones that, by recollection, were providing the most entertainment.

At the risk of falling into complete nerdom, a little analysis of the year’s plays follows.

My complete list of plays from BGG is at the end of this article with shading to indicate the major breakpoints. A few notes about my records:

  • Since I participated in a couple playtests for game producers and I am always playtesting my own designs, there are a lot of plays that don’t get recorded. In cases that I can, I will update a game’s plays once the game has a record in the BGG database (e.g., Downwood Tales).
  • Although I have several board games on Android, I generally don’t record those plays with a couple exceptions: pass and play games where the players are actually seated together and asynchronous games where I am playing with people that I normally play face-to-face games, but do not have the opportunity to get together. (I do live in a relatively remote area as do some of my gaming buddies). So, games against random online players or AI are not counted.
  • I have counted solitaire games of actual board games, but those are rare.
  • I have not counted expansions separately (except in one case so I knew how many I played with and without, but I have excluded these numbers from the tallies).
  • I didn’t start accurate counting until mid-January and tried to account for some plays prior to that date. Some minor error was introduced, I’m sure, but this isn’t rocket surgery.

Summary

A quick summary of the data:

Statistic

Qty

%

Games Played

79

 

Number of Plays

735

 

Number of Plays *

555

 

Avg. Plays per Game *

7.03

 

Games Played > Avg.

22

28%

Total Plays of Games > Avg.*

385

69%

Games Played < Avg.*

57

72%

Total Plays of Games < Avg.*

170

31%

* Excluding Star Realms which was exclusively played on Android.

What does it all mean?

  • 79 Games Played. Is that a lot? I am sure that is far and away the most different games I have played in one year.
  • 556 Plays (ignoring Star Realms for now). I am also sure that this is the most plays I have had in recent history; probably in my adult life (excluding video game sessions).
  • It is probably a good thing that the number of hours played is not readily calculated, but with an average game time of 30 minutes, this is about 400 hours (including Star Realms). Well, at least it is better than watching TV that whole time. Right?
  • As for hitting an H-Index of 14 in ’14, well I was one play short on one game or 2 plays short of 4 other possible games.
  • Depending on how you want to look at it:
    • Frequently Played Games: Roughly 30% of the games represent 70% of the plays.
    • Rarely Played Games: Roughly 70% of the games represent 30% of the plays.

So, if plays were victory points there are some clear winners and losers in my catalog of games. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers on my game shelf.

Winners

A common way of measuring the actively played games is to use a metric called “nickels and dimes” (games played 5 and 10 times in one year respectively). To that we can add “quarters” also since I had several games that broke the 25 plays mark and one game that was over a “buck.”

This is a reasonably OK metric, but it has some flaws as a means of determining entertainment value and what games are favorites. Obviously, short games will likely dominate the most played games since they are usually played multiple times in one setting. Based on the types of games in my catalogue, though, they also often have a large number of players. Also, some games have only been on the shelf for a few days or weeks at the time of pulling the stats. But, ultimately, what am I doing here; trying to get an exact measurement of some kind? (Geez. Gamer nerds…)

Here are some notable games and game classifications on the list that can be considered winners:

Star Realms: Obviously this game is the clear winner as far as plays. This is due in part to the nature of the game; quick and played on an Android device so games can be started and stopped and continued whenever. Even so, this game is a winner for me. I am eagerly awaiting the 2 promised expansions. Some time well before my 180 plays, the game lost most of its luster. It is no less a great game, but without some freshness the game will drop to marginal value for me in 2015.

Splendor: Like most folks, I had not heard of this game until it was announced as a finalist for the Spiel des Jahres 2014. Honestly, when I looked into Splendor, it did not look so splendorous. Sure, as essentially every reviewer notes; the chips are surprisingly heavy and feel great to stack and use to pay. They are substantial in several ways. What I did think as I looked at the game was my wife would probably like it, grock it, and challenge me in it. So I picked it up and it has obviously hit the table regularly. I have mostly played 2-player and as predicted, it is a game that Lori and I can challenge each other equally.

Mice and Mystics: As a franchise Mice and Mystics is very near the top of my list and is certainly at or near the top of my most enjoyable games. At this time Downwood Tales is the only game I have rated a 10 on BGG and the base game is one of only 3 games I have rated 9. It may weigh into my love of this game that Lori and I were playtesters for Downwood Tales, but Jerry Hawthorne continues to provide wonderful surprises through a live action narrative in these games.

Card Games: This is no surprise since my gaming history has primarily been with card games. Coloretto, Hanabi, Sushi Go! and Lost Legacy in particular are games that we can pull out at a pub or a park and play a quick game or two. Saboteur 2, Bohnanza, Battle Line, and Guildhall are great go-to small card games as well, but require a little more space than what is typically available. Diamonds (in particular – love trick-taking) and Red7 will certainly get many plays in 2015. I’ve only had them a couple days and they are already working their way up the chart. Haggis is also a great game, but is harder to find partners. Fortunately I have Tichu on Android and can play anytime I want.

Social Deduction Games: These games are easy to introduce to novice gamers, so dominate the list as much as any category. Bang! TDG, The Resistance (all varieties), Coup, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf are so easy to break out and play several games with new players. Add to that list Spyfall, which I printed from BGG onto business cards just a month ago and plain as it is, it is very popular with my friends.

Cooperative Games: These too, are so easy to introduce to new gamers. We’re all in this together. Here’s what we are trying to do. You can learn the rules along the way. The coops on the lighter side can wear out quickly, though, and I wouldn’t play Escape: The Curse of the Temple or Castle Panic without the expansions. Forbidden Island and Pandemic (base game) work well for total newbies, but Forbidden Desert is the most likely to be recommended by me in this class.

Tough (Semi) Cooperative Games: With fewer plays purely due to the amount of time to setup, play, and store, these are my favorite Coop Games. I started the year off with Mice and Mystics (already a winner) and Robinson Crusoe. Then Dead of Winter started hitting the table. I love all these games and they round out my 9-ranked games on BGG. I wish I had more time (and partners) to play them.

Light, Competitive Games: It is probably no surprise given my gaming groups that the Ticket to Ride franchise has seen a lot of playing time. For two players especially, Europe is the country to travel (over the US map). Takenoko is just plain fun to play. The game is solid and the theme and art is lovely. Stone Age is an absolutely solid, light, worker placement game that a new player can get into in the first game. Add Splendor, as already mentioned, to this list. I have played Colt Express now enough times to know that I like it, but not enough to know how long that will last. Unfortunately, my most common game night is 2 players and the 2-player variant just doesn’t hold up. I may have to design my own so I can play this game more.

Party Games: I am not generally a fan of the typical party games, but there are some solid ones on this list that fit the bill for almost any party. Dixit is a clear winner for me and Concept is solid. I can truly live without King of Tokyo, but will give King of New York a chance.

Classics: You might notice that there are some classic games on here. Although I played several games of other rummy and trick-taking games that did not get recorded and some that may not have records in BGG, but are variants of whist (20 Hands, Oh Hell, Gin, etc. and Poker). Poker (which I played several hours’ worth in multiple sessions) , Backgammon and especially CRIBBAGE were my father’s games and these have a special place in my gaming heart. Some other classics are recorded, but they were mostly games that others wanted to play.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: I mention this game last though it is higher on the list of plays because it has the fortune of being the focus of an après-work gaming group. It is fun for what it is and works well for that group. However, if the story and objectives in the scenarios don’t get more interesting and the loot and leveling don’t escalate faster, it will possibly drop to drudgery to finish the entire set of expansions. So far it is still fun (starting #3) and I don’t want to predict doom, but am starting to wonder.

Losers

A couple opening notes to clarify:

  • By “Losers” here I mean games that missed playing, not ones that I wish I hadn’t played.
  • Many, maybe even most of the games that only had 1 or 2 plays are probably not losers. They are just too new to me so haven’t had a chance yet. I’ll have to review them in 2015 and look back at 2 years to see the real losers. Several others in this class are games that I don’t have and played at a convention or game store.

As a reminder here; much of what I play is determined by the gaming partners I play with. Given that my current game groups are mostly comprised of new gamers, this means that I play a lot of light and/or quick games and not many heavy and/or long games. So top of my loser list is:

Meaty Games: Fortunately some of the meaty Coops were winners, but I would have played all of the ones previously mentioned even more, much more, if possible. Battlestar Galactica. Boy, only one play and that wasn’t even a complete game. Please someone contact me to play this great game. Eldritch Horror is a great game that takes a great amount of time to setup. I expect it to get several plays in a row by leaving it setup for a few weeks in the dining room. (OK, Honey?) I would certainly have many more plays of Viticulture and another Stonemaier game that didn’t get even 1 play, Euphoria, given a chance. Maybe the Tuscany expansion will make that happen. Of the other games on my shelf that didn’t get any plays despite my desires, meaty ones dominate the list as well.

Compounded: This is a fun, middle-weight that just hasn’t received the love it is due. Maybe in 2015, but the competition has gotten stronger with many new games on my shelf. Although, I expect that the Geiger expansion will spark some interest again.

Space Alert: I absolutely get a thrill playing this game; it is so intense, but apparently I am alone in that. All my plays of this game have been solo. So, as for the meaty games, anyone up for a game of Space Alert?

2014 Plays

Here is the list of all (published, non-expansion) games played in 2014 with their BGG link.

Game

Qty

Star Realms

180

Bang! The Dice Game

36

Splendor

34

Coloretto

29

Hanabi

26

Lost Legacy: The Starship

25

The Resistance: Avalon

25

Spyfall

22

Cribbage

21

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

17

Mice and Mystics

15

Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales

15

Castle Panic

14

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set

13

Hive

12

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island

12

Takenoko

12

Ticket to Ride

12

Saboteur 2

10

Ticket to Ride: Europe

10

Bohnanza

9

Concept

8

Dixit

8

Backgammon

7

Coup: Reformation

7

Dead Drop

7

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

7

Libertalia

7

Five Crowns

6

Scopa

6

Space Alert

6

Battle Line

5

Castle Dice

5

Colt Express

5

Eye Know

5

Forbidden Desert

5

Guildhall

5

Catan Dice Game

4

Dragon Slayer

4

King of Tokyo

4

Quiddler

4

Red7

4

Stone Age

4

Sushi Go!

4

Carcassonne

3

Diamonds

3

Elder Sign

3

Eldritch Horror

3

Forbidden Island

3

Space Cadets: Dice Duel

3

Things...

3

Bananagrams

2

Betrayal at House on the Hill

2

Coin Age

2

Haggis

2

Mr. Jack

2

Munchkin

2

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

2

The Resistance

2

Star Fluxx

2

Wizard's Brew

2

Battlestar Galactica

1

Belfort

1

Compounded

1

Extinction

1

Go

1

Guillotine

1

Istanbul

1

Lifeboat

1

Mascarade

1

Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde

1

Pandemic

1

Pastiche

1

The Settlers of Catan

1

Spurs: A Tale in the Old West

1

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

1

Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition

1

Viticulture

1

 

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