In addition to the regular quarterly and yearly updates I post, I have taken a few other opportunities to delve into an analysis of my growth in the hobby on a qualitative and/or quantitative basis, even though I have not done much of that recently. I did write my "Board Game Biography" last January, and just before that, I wrote a post in which I analyzed the first thousand plays I logged on BoardGameGeek, but I have not had much opportunity to engage in another such post - until now.
You see, today, I am feeling accomplished as I reached an H-index of 20. You may find yourself asking a number of questions as a result of that piece of information: Why does that matter? What have you learned in your journey? And, perhaps most pertinent, what is an H-index? Well, if you can endure some intense nerding out, you will get your answers - and more. Much much much more.
What is an H-index?
"H-index" is a measure that originated in the world of scientific academia as a way to validate the scholarship of an author by assigning a number based on the number of articles published and the number of citations published about those articles. It's a more useful measure than just the number of published articles or the number of citations, since it includes a measurement not only of how prolific a researcher is, but also how well-regarded their articles are by others, which is an equally - if not more - significant marker of a scholar's success.
In board gaming, an H-index is used to indicate a gamer's breadth and depth in the hobby in a similar way to how it is used in academia. A player's H-index is determined by the intersection of the total number of games played and the total number of times those games have been played at least that many times. Therefore, a player with an H-index of five will have played at least five games five times each. Players with a higher H-index will have played a higher number of games a higher number of times, indicating (at least in theory) that they are more accomplished and dedicated as a gamer.
I really only started tracking my H-index in the past couple of years, but it has been a fun measure to see as it has shaped and been shaped by my efforts as a gamer. A few months ago, I posted a Geeklist on BGG about my H-index, but I recently realized that even that list did not tell the whole story. I decided, then, that what I needed to do was to go back through my logged plays since December 2010 and see how the narrative of my H-index played out over the past six and a half years.
So that's what I did - I spent around eight hours going through my play history on BGG in order to determine when I achieved each new level of my H-index, which games marked those historic plays, and to see if I could learn more about myself as a gamer and my history - and I did. I went through and recorded the dates for each play for the games that comprise my H-index, and as I saw the chart filling out, I made some qualitative observations about my journey that I will share later on. But first, the data.
Turner's H-index - the facts
Here's the facts of how my H-index grew and changed from my first play to today. Each entry includes the H-index level (the number), the date it was achieved, and the number of days that it took to achieve that level from the previous level. There is also a list of the games that were included at that H-index level, including games that were new to that H-index (in italics), the game that triggered the new level for that next H-index (in bold), and any additions or subtractions from the list of games (in square brackets). [If you're more interested in the end observations, just skip this section - this is basically just a list of games.]
1. December 21, 2010 - Citadels
2. January 15, 2011 (25 days) - Citadels, Puerto Rico [+ Puerto Rico]
3. April 9, 2011 (74 days) - Citadels, Puerto Rico, Agricola [+ Agricola]
4. December 9, 2011 (244 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Dominion, Innovation [+Dominion, + Innovation, - Puerto Rico]
5. January 13, 2012 (35 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation [+ Carcassonne]
6. February 24, 2012 (42 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders
7. June 19, 2012 (106 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Dominion, Innovation, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders, Pandemic [+ Pandemic]
8. November 10, 2012 (144 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, Battle Line [ + Glory to Rome, + Battle Line, - Carcassonne]
9. March 23, 2013 (134 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, Battle Line [+ Carcassonne]
10. August 27, 2013 (157 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, Battle Line [+ Race for the Galaxy]
11. April 5, 2014 (221 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, Saint Petersburg [+ Ticket to Ride: Europe, + Saint Petersburg, - Battle Line]
12. June 28, 2014 (83 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, Lords of Waterdeep, At the Gates of Loyang, King of Tokyo [+ Lords of Waterdeep, + At the Gates of Loyang, + King of Tokyo, - TTR: Europe, - Saint Petersburg]
13. April 13, 2015 (285 days) - Agricola, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, The Resistance, Battle Line, Lords of Waterdeep, At the Gates of Loyang, King of Tokyo, Hanabi [+ The Resistance, + Battle Line, + Hanabi, - Citadels, - Carcassonne]
14. August 14, 2015 (123 days) - Agricola, San Juan, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, The Resistance, Lords of Waterdeep, At the Gates of Loyang, King of Tokyo, Hanabi, Splendor [+ San Juan, - Battle Line, + Splendor]
15. February 19, 2016 (189 days) - Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, The Resistance, Lords of Waterdeep, At the Gates of Loyang, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Splendor [+ Carcassonne, - San Juan, + Castles of Burgundy]
16. June 18, 2016 (120 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Glory to Rome, The Resistance, Lords of Waterdeep, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Splendor [+ Citadels, - At the Gates of Loyang, + Flash Point: Fire Rescue]
17. August 30, 2016 (73 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Kingdom Builder, Glory to Rome, The Resistance, Lords of Waterdeep, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Splendor [+ Kingdom Builder]
18. November 27, 2016 (89 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Kingdom Builder, Glory to Rome, Battle Line, Lords of Waterdeep, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Splendor, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 [- The Resistance, + Battle Line, + Pandemic Legacy: Season 1]
19. March 11, 2017 (105 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Kingdom Builder, Glory to Rome, Battle Line, Fleet, Lords of Waterdeep, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Splendor, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1) [+ Fleet]
20. June 30, 2017 (111 days) - Citadels, Agricola, Carcassonne, Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, Kingdom Builder, Glory to Rome, Battle Line, Fleet, Lords of Waterdeep, King of Tokyo, Castles of Burgundy, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Splendor, Pot O' Gold, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 [+ Pot O' Gold]
The progression of my H-index
The average number of days it has taken me to reach a new H-index level is just over 124.2, though that number has decreased to 99.6 days for each new H-index level since I reached an H-index of 15 in February 2016. It was at that point that I started to be more cognizant of my H-index, in part because the app on my phone started to help me track it.
Since then, I have been much more deliberate about attempting to make progress on my H-index each quarter by playing each game on my H-index at least once to help advance the level accordingly, and I continue to pursue that progression as a goal in each quarter of the year. Here are a couple of other superlatives in my progression over the past few years.
Shortest time elapsed from first play to joining the list after my H-index reached double digits: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 - 301 days (Jan. 30, 2016 to November 27, 2016)
Longest time elapsed from first play to finally joining H-index: Fleet - 1955 days (November 4, 2012 to March 11, 2017); Runner-up - Kingdom Builder - 1671 days (February 2, 2012 to August 30, 2016)
Observations on my H-index
There are a few very interesting observations that I can make from these lists about the kinds of games that I tend to play the most. The games that have appeared on my H-index are typically light-to-mid-weight family games with a play time of around 45 minutes to an hour. They are games that are relatively easy to teach and to learn and to play, and many of them would be considered to be "gateway" games; this makes sense because I am often teaching games to non-gamers and different groups of people. There are, of course, a couple of exceptions from that categorization in terms of play time, but even the exceptions still fall well within those guidelines of being more family-style entry-point games.
Most of the games on my list are highly strategic, though they are not necessarily "complex", per se; three of the more complex card games on my H-index - Glory to Rome, Race for the Galaxy, Innovation - are mostly considered such because each card is unique, rather than the complexity of the gameplay itself. I was quite surprised, however, to see that there were a couple of genres and styles of games that were almost entirely absent. There were no "party" games on the list other than The Resistance; perhaps that is because I tend to vary the party games I play, or perhaps that I do not tend to play as many of those types of games.
There were also fewer "filler" games - games that can be played in half an hour or so - than I had expected, particularly of the "lighter" variety; that designation is somewhat subjective, of course, but it's interesting to note nevertheless. The only "true" filler games on my list were Hanabi and Battle Line, though Dominion, Splendor, and King of Tokyo could also easily be included in that category. (Some might also include 7 Wonders or Race for the Galaxy as much more complex "fillers", and while I might agree, I tend to consider them as a separate category because their complexity often adds a significant amount of time to teaching and playing, particularly for new players.)
In addition to the general type and categorization of games, there are other interesting ways to evaluate my H-index, including two provided by information from BoardGameGeek by which I can evaluate my H-index: the game's general ranking, as well as its weight. My taste in games is strong, at least according to the metric of rankings on BoardGameGeek; there are, of course, some serious issues with how the rankings are compiled in regard to recency bias, but nevertheless, I was heartened to see that I have good taste as far as general consensus is concerned.
Many of the games on my list ranked much higher than their current ranking at one point (several have fallen at least one hundred spots), but even their current rankings are indicative that I tend to favour games that are well-loved and widely appreciated. The twenty-five published games that have appeared on my H-index - my own design, Pot O' Gold is the only exclusion - are all very well regarded, with none with a ranking lower than 615; in fact, there are only two games that fall outside of the top three hundred - the top 0.003% - of all entries on BGG. Of those twenty-three that fall in that top three hundred, four fall in the top fifteen, another seven in the top hundred, another seven between 101 and 200, and then another five between 201 and 280. (For reference, there are over 91,000 items logged on the site.) And in an odd coincidence, there are also three instances in which currently consecutively ranked games appear on my list.
[The rankings, if you are interested are, in descending order: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (1); The Castles of Burgundy (11); Puerto Rico (12); Agricola (14); 7 Wonders (37); Race for the Galaxy (46); Lords of Waterdeep (48); Dominion (55); Pandemic (61); Ticket to Ride: Europe (85); Splendor (97); Glory to Rome (128); Carcassonne (129); The Resistance (137); Battle Line (157); King of Tokyo (188); Saint Petersburg (198); San Juan (199); At the Gates of Loyang (209); Flash Point: Fire Rescue (231); Hanabi (237); Innovation (249); Citadels (284); Kingdom Builder (416); and Fleet (615).]
The other interesting measure on BGG is the "weight" of the game, which determines how complex it is according to the average as determined by users who rank its weight on BGG. Like a game's BGG ranking, the measure of weight is somewhat problematic for a couple of reasons: it is the average of a large group, and the actual values are vague and undefined, so they can be misleading and at times even incorrect - I, for one, would rank King of Tokyo as heavier than The Resistance - but it's still interesting to note
Of the 25 games on my H-index with weight rankings on BGG, seven are weighted between 1.5 and 2.0; ten between 2.0 and 2.5; four between 2.5 and 3.0; and three between 3.0 and 3.5; and one above 3.5 (Agricola). The mean weight of games that have appeared on my H-index is 2.4, which is also close to the median (2.31). The real complexity of many of the games on my H-index would be higher, since those weights do not include expansions with which I often play that add complexity, but it's still an interesting measure to observe nevertheless.
[Those BGG weight rankings, if you are interested, are, in increasing order from easiest to most difficult: King of Tokyo (1.51); The Resistance (1.64); Hanabi (1.70); Splendor (1.84); Battle Line (1.91); Carcassonne (1.94); Ticket to Ride: Europe (1.96); Citadels (2.06); Kingdom Builder (2.07); Flash Point: Fire Rescue (2.21); Fleet (2.24); San Juan (2.29); 7 Wonders (2.34); Dominion (2.37); Pandemic (2.43); Saint Petersburg (2.47); Lords of Waterdeep (2.50); Innovation (2.71); Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (2.81); Glory to Rome (2.92); Race for the Galaxy (2.97); The Castles of Burgundy (3.04); At the Gates of Loyang (3.15); Puerto Rico (3.29); and Agricola (3.63).]
Other interesting facts and thoughts about my H-index
There are so many other interesting ways that I could analyze and measure my H-index, but I chose just a few. Here are a few other interesting lists and observations about my H-index and the games that appear on the list.
Total number of games that have appeared on my H-index: 26
Games that have appeared on my H-index that I do not currently own: Dominion; Puerto Rico
Games that dropped off my H-index but that re-entered later (with the levels at which they dropped off and later re-entered): Carcassonne (8-9; 13-15); Battle Line (11-13;14-18); Citadels (13-16)
Games that dropped off my H-index and did not re-enter later (with the level at which they dropped off): Puerto Rico (4); Saint Petersburg (12); Ticket to Ride: Europe (12); San Juan (15); At the Gates of Loyang (16); The Resistance (18)
Games previously on my H-index that were never played to achieve a new H-index level: San Juan; Ticket to Ride; At the Gates of Loyang
Games currently on my H-index that were never played to achieve a new H-index level: Dominion; Flash Point: Fire Rescue; Hanabi; Pot O’Gold
Games that were played to achieve a new H-index level more than once: Carcassonne (5, 9); Citadels (1, 16, 20)
Games I am most surprised to see not ever having appeared on my H-index: Bohnanza; Chrononauts; Dixit; Forbidden Island; Jaipur; Star Realms; Ticket to Ride: Europe
Games that at one point I would have guessed would definitely appear on my H-index but that seem like they probably will not now based on current rate of play: Alhambra; Cosmic Encounter; Hive; Lost Cities; Tikal
One final digression was looking at the plays at each level that succeeded the plays to achieve the H-index. I was interested to see how closely it mirrored the growth of my H-index, and I was interested by what I found. Eleven of those games joined the H-index at the next level, and of those eleven, six of those games were played to trigger the next level of my H-index. There is only one game on this list that never appeared on my H-index: Chrononauts. Interestingly, both Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride: Europe had this happen four times apiece, which is likely somewhat of a product of having had a smaller library and roster of games at the time.
For reference, here is the list, with the H-index level in parentheses: Agricola (2), Carcassonne (3,4); 7 Wonders (5); Chrononauts (6); Ticket to Ride: Europe (7); Carcassonne (8); Ticket to Ride; Europe (9, 10); At the Gates of Loyang (11); Ticket to Ride: Europe (12); San Juan (13); Carcassonne (14); Fleet (15); Kingdom Builder (16); Battle Line (17); Fleet (18); and Pot O' Gold (19).
Thoughts on the future of my H-index
An obsessively analytical post like this would not be complete, of course, if I did not further indulge myself by some rampant speculation on the possibilities of the future of my H-index. I decided to go through my list of plays and to attempt to evaluate the games at different play count ranges that might end up on my H-index at some point. I have rated them most likely, very likely, likely, possible, and in a few cases, unlikely, as far as whether I think they may end up on my H-index.
This section (well, the whole post, really) is mostly, of course, for my future self when I look back on this post in a few years so that I can (hopefully) nod my head knowingly and be impressed by my prescient self-awareness about my trajectory in playing board games. And yes, I am aware that I ultimately have control over these results and could manipulate them, but I find that my gaming patterns tend to be affected enough by other players that it will still be interesting to see how these guesses turn out a few years hence.
As I considered which games might end up on my H-index, I had to factor in the history of how games have been added in the past and the trends over the past few years. I ended up with a list of eighty games that could possibly end up on my H-index at some point, with varying degrees of possibility. I chose to focus on games that I have played, as it seems increasingly unlikely that a game that I play for the first time now will enter the list before these eighty games I have listed, as the rate at which new games enter my H-index has decreased significantly as the number of new games I play has increased significantly (from thirty new games a year to over a hundred).
In fact, the only games that I played for the first time in the past three years that have entered my H-index are Splendor, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, and Pot O' Gold. There are another 31 games for which I have recorded initial plays in the past three years that I have listed even as possibilities among those eighty; only five of those 31 have had their initial plays in the past year, with only one played for the first time in the past six months. In short, it is becoming more and more difficult for new games to garner enough plays in a short enough span of time to warrant any kind of consideration as a possibility for my future H-index.
Of course, in order to contend for my H-index at some point, I also need to own the game, as every game currently on my H-index has been in my collection at some point, so games that are already in my collection are rated as more likely to enter my list. Of the forty games I ranked as "most likely" or "likely" to enter or re-enter my H-index (other than T.I.M.E Stories, which I will never own), there are only two other games that I currently do not own - Cacao and The Grizzled - and those are quite possibly going to be the next two games that I purchase.
The criteria, then, for any game that could eventually contend for a spot in my H-index is that it has to be in my collection (at some point), be easy enough to teach and learn for new players, be short enough to play multiple times in one sitting, be replayable often in a short span of time (ie. be "binge-able"), has likely already been played a few times, and, judging by my play history, be a game that my wife wants to play, since she has directly influenced the presence of almost every game on my H-index as my primary gaming partner.
So here are my thoughts on eighty games that are currently not on my H-index, including the six that have been included at some point, grouped by current play count. I find it interesting as an overall trend that I ranked 21 games as "very likely" or "most likely" to enter my H-index at some point, with another 20 as "likely", 36 "possible", and three "unlikely". I doubt, of course, that I will ever reach an H-index of one hundred - or even of 61 or 41, for that matter - but it seems as though I am optimistic about my chances, given these categorizations.
For games for which I have currently recorded ten plays or more (23):
Most likely to enter H-index / the next five games that I predict will enter my H-index: Eminent Domain; Istanbul; Jaipur; Rook; Star Realms (5)
Likely to enter H-index sometime: Anomia; Dixit; Galaxy Trucker; Orléans; T.I.M.E Stories (5)
Possible to enter or re-enter H-index sometime: Glass Road; Le Havre; The Resistance; Saint Petersburg; Ticket to Ride: Europe; Village (6)
Unlikely to enter H-index sometime: Chrononauts; Alhambra (2)
For games for which I have currently recorded between 6 and 9 plays (21):
Most likely to enter H-index someday: Between Two Cities; Dutch Blitz; Ingenious; Patchwork; Sushi Go!; Tiny Epic Galaxies (6)
Likely to enter H-index someday: The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game; Coup; OctoDice; Pandemic: The Cure; Tokaido (5)
Possible to enter H-index someday: Bohnanza; Camel Up; Cosmic Encounter; Fresco; Friday; Harbour; Imperial Settlers; Scoville; Takenoko; Viticulture (10)
For games for which I have currently recorded between 3 and 5 plays (25):
Most likely to enter H-index someday: Codenames: Pictures; The Grizzled; Hey, That's My Fish!; Paperback; Red7 (5)
Likely to enter H-index someday: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small; Biblios; Cacao; Get Bit!; Hive; Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King; King of New York; Lost Cities; Love Letter; Valley of the Kings (10)
Possible to enter H-index someday: Apples to Apples; Caverna: The Cave Farmers; Eggs and Empires; Elysium; Macao; Machi Koro; Medieval Academy; Mottainai; Notre Dame; Villages of Valeria (10)
Unlikely to re-enter H-index: Puerto Rico
And ten games for which I have recorded either one or two plays that I think could contend for my H-index someday: Flip City; For Sale; Gravwell; Kaiser; Lanterns: The Harvest Festival; Oh My Goods!; Qwirkle; The Resistance: Avalon; Roll for the Galaxy; Tides of Time.
This ended up being a much deeper dive than I had initially anticipated. I would estimate, including time going through my BGG history and collecting data, analyzing the data, doing a bit of research, and writing this post, that I spent well over thirteen hours in total composing this post over the span of three weeks. But I learned (or at least re-realized) a lot about myself as a gamer along the way, and that makes the whole journey worth it, right?
I really enjoy monitoring my H-index and using it as a way to measure myself as a gamer. Even though I have greatly broadened my gaming horizons in the past three years, I continue to use H-index as a way to continue pursuing depth in a hobby that often does not seem to lend itself naturally to supporting such endeavours - "cult of the new" and all.
My current ongoing goal is to achieve one new level of my H-index every quarter, which generally means playing all of the games currently at that H-index level at least once and then playing at least one of the games with slightly fewer plays repeatedly to have it catch up with the rest. I have been able to advance my H-index in each of the past six quarters (although just barely this time), and I expect to be able to do so in at least the next two quarters that remain in 2017.
I decided this year to remove all other external challenges like playing ten games ten times each (10 x 10), or playing all of the games in my collection a certain number of times, as I had found them too restrictive in determining which games I would play, and I found myself not enjoying the feeling that I had to play a particular game to achieve a challenge. But I decided to keep the one external pressure of advancing my H-index for a few reasons: it's much easier to manage playing a half-dozen or so games once a quarter; I think it's good to have at least one guiding external goal helping advancing my game playing; I often find myself gravitating toward these games anyway; and I think it's a really valuable measure of how accomplished I am as a gamer.
It seems kind of silly in many ways that it feels like such an accomplishment to have achieved this H-index of 20, since all it means is that I am enjoying certain games enough to play them repeatedly, which is kind of the point of owning games at all; the strange reality underlying this whole analysis is really that I will not play most of the games I own even twenty times.
I recognize that that realization might not make sense to a lot of non-gamers - after all, it does not necessarily seem to make sense to keep buying games when I seem to barely play the games I own - but I know that most people in the hobby will understand my predicament. I enjoy playing new games, but I also really enjoy replaying games I love, and so I keep adding games I like playing to my collection so that I can play them more. And despite how much I do already play, I know I could always play more.
It is possible, of course, that at some point that I will have to reduce the number of games that I own or play, particularly in order to keep advancing my H-index, but I have not yet reached that point in my life or in my gaming. For now, I am proud of the advancements I have made as a gamer, and I am happy that I continue to keep my H-index in mind as I keep gaming and that I do have an H-index that is as high as it is. It validates the fact that I am a veteran board gamer who pursues both breadth and depth as I play, and, if nothing else, it gives me something to obsess over and enjoy in a far-too-nerdy self-indulgent way.