Sunday, December 27, 2015

A thousand splendid plays

Today, I accomplished my thousandth recorded play on Board Game Geek. It has taken me five years to accomplish this feat since I started tracking my plays on December 21, 2010; I had 2 plays in the final ten days of 2010, 75 in 2011, 221 in 2012, 150 in 2013, 206 in 2014, and 346 (and counting!) in 2015. I don't know how many plays I would have tracked in years previous to 2010, but I would not be surprised if I had far more than another thousand plays in my lifetime up until I started tracking, given a rough estimate of two plays per week (roughly a hundred per year) for the decade from 2000 to 2010 and then all of the games I played in the decade before that. At any rate, I'm (perhaps unreasonably?) proud of this accomplishment and the landmark that it represents for me as a board gamer. (Maybe I can even get a special microbadge on BoardGameGeek!)

I realized in early November that I had a distinct possibility of hitting the magic mark of a thousand plays before the end of the year, which would mean hitting that target close to within five years to the date of that first tracked play. As it happened, my thousandth play was with the same friend with the same game as my first play with the same result: a brutal loss in two-player Citadels. This circumstance might seem normal at first glance, but it was particularly unusual since I had not seen him in the five years between those plays, since he and I have lived several provinces apart that entire time; it just worked out that my thousandth play worked out perfectly for the symmetry and the story.

What follows here is a collection of reflections, statistics, and lists that are of interest primarily to people like me who are also board game geeks - and believe me, I am nowhere near the top of that scale (though I am certainly more advanced than many). I have spent some time looking at some of the trends contained within those thousand plays and compiling some lists both for posterity as well as for my own analysis, and I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have learned, which is that I am very satisfied with my progress as a board gamer over the past five years. I have interspersed a few lists in the midst of the heaviness of the text, so I hope that you can find a way to enjoy this analysis, whether you know the games or not.


Top played games (number of plays in parentheses):
1. 7 Wonders (60)
2. Race for the Galaxy (36)
3. Pandemic (30)
4. King of Tokyo (29)
5. Dominion (25)
6T. Agricola / Splendor (21)
8. Innovation (19)
9T. Hanabi / Lords of Waterdeep / The Resistance (16)


I am very well-rounded in my board gaming, as I have an H-index of 14. In the original sense of the term, an H-index is a measurement of the quality of scholars by how often the number of papers they have published have been cited by others; in the world of Board Game Geek, an H-index is the number of games that have each been played that same number of times. A larger H-index usually indicates that a gamer has broader tastes and experience than gamers who play certain games repeatedly; it's generally seen as a positive trait amongst gamers, as it displays both a dedication to playing different games as well as a broader spectrum of familiarity with games as a whole. In my case, my current H-index is 14 (as I have played fourteen games at least fourteen times), though I am very close to an H-index of 15 (2 plays) and even 16 (6 plays). It would take a bit to get much higher than that, but I could probably be up around 20 by the end of next year if I continue my rate of plays on the games in my top 25 most played.

I have recorded plays of 250 unique games during these thousand plays, which was not intentional, even though it makes the math a lot easier. My most played game - 7 Wonders - takes up only 6% (60) of my total plays, so I was interested to see how top-heavy my list might be in terms of playing games repeatedly, and I was encouraged to see what I consider a respectable balance between familiar and fresh games. As a portion of my total plays, here are my numbers: my top 10 unique games take up 27.3%; my top 20, 41.3%; my top 25, 47.2%; and my top 31, which includes all games I have played at least ten times (referred to as "dimes" in BGG-speak), sits at 53.5%. I have another 23 nickels (games played between five and nine times) that comprise 145 plays; another 203 plays amongst the 79 games that I have played between two and four times; and then 117 games that I have played only once. Those 117 one-time plays mark 46.8% of all unique games played, which might seem like a lot at first glance; it is, however, is a misleadingly high number, however, as 71 of those games were part of the 100 games that I played for the first time in 2015. (As a slight aside, I would estimate that between half and two-thirds of the games with a lower number of plays -one to four - will climb on my overall plays list.) I'm relatively happy with this balance of plays overall, though I am fully aware that I have a lot of games to play a second time.


Dimes (between 10 and 15 plays): At the Gates of Loyang; Battle Line; Carcassonne; The Castles of Burgundy; Chrononauts; Citadels; Dixit; Eminent Domain; Flash Point: Fire Rescue; Fleet; Forbidden Island; Galaxy Trucker; Glory to Rome; Le Havre; Kingdom Builder; Pot O' Gold; Saint Petersburg; San Juan; Star Realms; Ticket to Ride: Europe (20)

Nickels (between 5 and 9 plays): 7 Wonders: Duel; Alhambra; Among the Stars; Anomia; BANG!; Blood Bowl: Team Manager - The Card Game; Bohnanza; Camel Up; Catan; Cosmic Encounter; Dutch Blitz; Five Crowns; Fresco; Glass Road; Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot; Istanbul; Jaipur; Patchwork; Ra; Scoville; Things...; Tikal; Village (23)


Also, perhaps not surprisingly, I realized that I am far more likely to play games I own and to purchase and/or own games that I want to play; of my top 25 games played all-time, there is only one I do not own - Dominion, which I gave away over a year ago because I knew I would still have easy access to it and also because I knew that I would either want to own all of the expansions or have none of them. Of the 54 games on which I have at least five plays, I currently own all but six, and only one of those six was a game I never owned - Blood Bowl: Team Manager - The Card Game, for which I was involved in a play test of an expansion (and thus racked up the plays). Those 48 games make up just over a third of my current collection of 129 games, though I am continuing to refine my collection through reduction and to play the games I own more often; after all, what's the point in owning a game I don't or won't really play?

I was interested to see how my plays ranked by weight, which is a user-generated aggreggate measure on BGG that indicates roughly how complex a game might be. It's not a perfect measure, but an interesting one to analyze nevertheless, particularly as I find my own tastes gravitating toward heavier games all the time. I have 52 plays of games that rank between 3.5 and 3.9, most of which come from Le Havre and Agricola with a combined 33 plays between them. I have a further 104 plays of games that rank between 3 and 3.5, a third of which come from Race for the Galaxy with 36 plays. Another 164 plays come from games that rank between 2.5 and 3.0, and then the plays just got too annoying to count after that point. Although those three categories include just over 30% of my total plays, I am still satisfied with my percentage of more complex games so far, as it has increased significantly in the past year. Several of my most-played games fall in the 2.0 to 2.5 category, which likely features my highest percentage of any weight range since I am often teaching games and playing with gamers with less comfort and/or experience with more complex games. With that said, however, I would not be surprised to see that percentage of more complex plays rising in the next thousand plays.


Twenty games that would have (in some cases significantly) more plays if I had started tracking plays as early as Board Game Geek was established (in 2000): Apples to Apples; Bang!; Bohnanza; Carcassonne; Corsari/I Go!; Cranium; Dutch Blitz; Five Crowns; Kaiser; Killer Bunnies and the Journey to Jupiter; Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot; Portobello Market; Rook; Sequence; SET; The Settlers of Catan; The Settlers of Catan: The Card Game; Starfarers of Catan; Thurn and Taxis; True Colors

Ten games that would have (significantly) more plays if I tracked plays on my computer or phone: Carcassonne; Dominion; Galaxy Trucker; Kaiser; Lost Cities; Race for the Galaxy; Rook; San Juan; Splendor; Star Realms (10)


I had also considered evaluating my plays based on metrics like genre or family of game (ie. party, complex, historical, etc.) and by mechanic (deck-building, worker placement, etc.), but I ran out of a mixture of time, interest, and ability to differentiate easily between some of those elements. I did, however, take the time to look at some of my favourite designers and how much I had played their games; I chose six, though I could easily have chosen more. My most played designer, unsurprisingly, was Antoine Bauza, with 87 plays, thanks mainly to 60 on 7 Wonders. Uwe Rosenberg, of complex games like Agricola and Le Havre, had 75 plays across 11 games, while his fellow German complex game designer, Stefan Feld, had only 28 plays across 11 games, with 13 of those coming from The Castles of Burgundy (though many more are yet to come). Carl Chudyk of swingy strategic card games had 39 plays, mostly from Innovation (19) and Glory to Rome (15), while fellow American Donald X. Vaccharino had 37 plays, mostly from Dominion (25) and Kingdom Builder (10). The other designer I could not leave out in this somewhat perfunctory analysis was the grandfather of German games, Reiner Knizia, who came in at a surprisingly low 24 plays on five games; then again, I do have many of his games on my Want to Play list, so that number will certainly go up in the next thousand plays.

With that, I feel that I have sufficiently analyzed my first thousand plays, except to consider what might happen for my next thousand plays, an objective which, if I continue the pace I set this year, I will meet in three years rather than five. In my next thousand plays, I look forward to increasing my H-index by playing my favourite games more, as well as to add more expansions to those games (many of which I already own, still unplayed). I look forward to playing many of those games with a lower number of plays more often, particularly the games with a little more complexity. I look forward to trying new games, as I have almost as many games and expansions on my Want to Play list right now (203) as I have unique games I have played over the past thousand plays. And I am excited to play more games of my own design; 1.1% of my first thousand plays (11) were of games I created, but I have a feeling, given the ideas that I have brewing, that that percentage might go up for the next thousand. But perhaps the best part of the next thousand plays is that I have already started them off well with a victory in Jaipur to avenge that unfortunate loss in Citadels; one down, 999 to go!

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