Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BoardGameGeek Top 100

BoardGameGeek (BGG) is perhaps the most authoritative site for one hobby online other than IMDB is for movies. Almost every committed hobby board gamer uses the site to track his or her collection, record plays, and find out information about new games to play. The site has been active since the year 2000, and although its interface is viewed as somewhat outdated, it really does provide a significant gateway into the hobby. I have used BGG extensively over the past four years as I have gone deeper and deeper into the world of board gaming, and I really appreciate the depth and breadth of information available on the site, as well as how it lets me track my collection and plays. I was thinking about my own journey through board gaming and the BGG site lately, and I thought that it might be interesting to see how my progress is going in terms of games I own and how many I have played, and I thought the easiest most accessible way to do that would be to look at my current status in terms of my status within the top 100 games.

One of the unique functions of BGG is that it allows gamers to rank games on a scale of 1 through 10 with 10 marking the best and favourite games. It then uses a complex algorithm to eliminate extraneous information and to attempt to consolidate consensus about a game into an average that can then be ranked. The resulting rankings then determine the order in which the games are displayed in browsing through the games, and Top 100 status is quite coveted in terms of advertising the quality of a game as a general point. Of course, as you might expect of a site with a relatively nerdy userbase, there have been many comments and criticisms about the ways in which BGG collects, organizes, and evaluates these rankings, and there is significant evidence to support the thesis that the system is both skewed toward more recent games as well as "heavier" more complex games, as the users of BGG would be more inclined to rank those more highly. In addition, a recent study of BGG found that the drop off in quality occurs not after the Top 100, but the top 700 or so, and the difference between the average ranking of games in the top three or four hundred is usually a matter of hundredths or thousandths, which is not very statistically significant. But in spite of those criticisms, there is still a value associated with the Top 100, particularly as a way for new gamers to see games that are generally highly regarded.

As I was considering the nature of these rankings, I have gone through the BGG Top 100 and grouped all of the games therein according to several categories depending on their status in my collection, the number of plays I have recorded (minimally meaning fewer than five plays), and my general level of interest in playing them in the future. I'll give the results and then some conclusions based on my findings. The games are listed according to BGG rankings as of October 27 (given in parentheses after each game) in each category as they stand in my current collection.

Categorizing the BGG Top 100

Owned and played significantly (19): Agricola (6); The Castles of Burgundy (9); Le Havre (15); 7 Wonders (19); Race for the Galaxy (24); Lords of Waterdeep (28); Pandemic (43); Star Realms (54); Ticket to Ride: Europe (64); Cosmic Encounter (69); Splendor (70); Patchwork (74); Codenames (76); Village (79); Galaxy Trucker (89); Jaipur (91); The Resistance (92); Glory to Rome (96); Ra (99)

Owned and played minimally (5): Puerto Rico (5); El Grande (26); Ora et Labora (48); Goa (57); Bora Bora (95)

Previously Owned (3): Power Grid (12); Dominion: Intrigue (22); Dominion (31)

Played minimally but really enjoyed and want to play more (17): Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (17); Caylus (20); Keyflower (21); Five Tribes (34); Roll for the Galaxy (36); Trajan (38); Crokinole (41); Russian Railroads (42); Suburbia (46); Castles of Mad King Ludwig (49); Stone Age (51); Concordia (52); The Princes of Florence (63); Imperial Settlers (68); Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (84); Ticket to Ride (87); Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (94)

Played minimally and not really interested in future plays (6): Twilight Struggle (1); Terra Mystica (2); Android: Netrunner (7); Eclipse (10); Chaos in the Old World (59); Summoner Wars (60)

Unplayed but on my "Want to Play" list (15): Caverna: The Cave Farmers (3); Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (4); Mage Knight (8); Robinson Crusoe (14); Dominant Species (23); Battlestar Galactica (29); Tigris and Euphrates (33); Troyes (45); Tichu (67); Hansa Teutonica (75); Lewis and Clark (77); Space Alert (80); The Voyages of Marco Polo (85); Dungeon Petz (88); Alien Frontiers (97)

Unplayed but considering playing (18): Brass (16); Dead of Winter (18); The Resistance: Avalon (32); Eldritch Horror (25); Twilight Imperium (30); Nations (44); Railways of the World (55); Steam (56); Alchemists (58); Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game (61); Age of Steam (62); Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (65); Kemet (66); Go (71); The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (73); Imperial (83); Here I Stand (86); Memoir '44 (90)

Unplayed and not interested at all (17): Star Wars: Imperial Assault (11); War of the Ring (2nd Ed.) (13); Star Wars: X-Wing (27); War of the Ring (1st Ed.) (35); Mage Wars Arena (37); Descent: Journeys in the Dark (39); A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd Ed.) (40); Commands & Colors: Ancients (47); Paths of Glory (50); Combat Commander: Europe (53); Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (72); Runewars (78); Shogun (81); Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery (82); Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game (93); Battlelore (2nd Ed.) (98); YINSH (100)


I was quite interested to see some numbers that were quite different than I expected. I have currently played 50 of the top 100 games, which was higher than I expected. Of those 50, I have played just under half (22) many times, with the other just over half (28) at minimal plays with varying levels of interest, though 17 of those were games that I would definitely play again and would likely even purchase, with many currently on my wishlist. The 50 games I have not yet played divided roughly into thirds between games on my Want to Play list (15), games that I have not really thought about (18), and games in which I'm not really very interested (17) for whatever reason (mostly because of length, genre, or fiddliness, or some combination therein).

Of course, every time I go through the BGG list like this I tend to add a number of games to my "Want to Play" list, and this time is no different, as there are likely at least ten games that I will want to try as a result of this exercise. Of course, some of those games are ones that I want to try once for the experience (such as Twilight Imperium) rather than as a game to add to my regular rotation, whereas some are games that I expect will become part of my repertoire and collection at some point. My plays are weighted slightly toward games in the top 50 (27), but actually a little less so than I expected them to be, considering that I think that I have used the top 50 more consistently to add new games to my "Want to Play" list than numbers 51 through 100. It seems, though, that a few games have dropped down into the 50-60 zone from the top 50; there are also a number of more popular titles (such as three Ticket to Ride games, Star Realms, and Galaxy Trucker) that rank between 51 and 100, and those tend to be easier to play because of their broader appeal.

For my own interest and extended nerdiness, I also superficially examined the games currently ranked between 100 and 300 according to some more general statuses in my collection: owned, previously owned, played, Want to Play, and other. I also felt it might validate the sentiment about the lack of statistical difference in rankings to actually how a seemingly arbitrary ranking affected my collection. For games ranked between 101 and 200, I found that the percentages went down slightly from the top 100: 20 owned, 3 previously owned, 11 more played (for 34 total played) and 11 on my Want to Play list, leaving 55 games outside of my radar. For games ranked between 201 to 300, the numbers were a little lower still: 11 owned; 2 previously owned, 11 more played (for 24 total) with 7 on my Want to Play list. The conclusion here is that the rankings have affected my plays, but that part of the problem is that there are just too many games to play, and anything outside the top 100 tends to take less of a prominent place in my gaming radar. I'm still not disappointed in those numbers, particularly having played over a quarter of games ranked between 101 and 300, but maybe I have some more research to do on those levels after the first page.

I am overall very happy with my progress through the BGG Top 100. I have never made it a goal to have played all Top 100 games, but I have unofficially looked at playing many of those games as the mark of being an accomplished gamer. I think I can consider myself to be so even at 50% completion, considering that many gamers would not likely rank even that highly. I also appreciate that my journey through the top 100 validates my tastes as a gamer, as I have highly enjoyed many of the games in the top 100 (and even the ones I didn't really care for are more a matter of personal taste than of game design) even though many of them were not in the top 100 when I played them and enjoyed them. It's kind of like that moment when I realized that I liked good movies and that critics are actually right a lot of the time. I am not going to set any specific targets or goals for playing through the Top 100, but I am going to continue on my path of trying to continue to expose myself to good games; after all, life is too short to play games that are not that great.

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