In 2015, I played 365 board games, and kept fairly detailed logs of what I played, when I played, who I played with, who won (when relevant), and how much I liked the game. I usually get about this far in the explanation before people start bombarding me with questions, so I suppose I should start with an F.A.Q.
Why do you play so many board games?
That’s a question that deserves its own in-depth post. I really enjoy board games, especially “Euro-style” strategy games. The social element is huge — it gives me a reason to spend time with my wife or hang out with my high school buddies. Unlike most multiplayer computer and video games, board games are rarely frantic or reflex-based, which I find refreshing and relaxing. Most games I play span a comfortable time frame of 30 minutes up to two or three hours, a good length to be immersed but not bored. And lastly, I’m a competitive asshole who likes winning things.
You played a board game every day?
No, I played 365 total across the year. Many days I did not play any board games. The days I did, I often played multiple, peaking at 12 in one day.
Did you play 365 different board games?
No. I played 365 rounds of board games. And if we’re being technical, I should add that my interpretation of board game was fairly broad: I played 365 rounds of tabletop games, including strategy games, card games, and party games.
So then what counts as a “round” of a board game?
For most games this is very intuitive. Everyone knows what one game of Catan or Agricola is. For other games, it is less intuitive. What counts as a round of Magic: The Gathering? What about For Sale, Codenames, Star Realms, or Coup? I eventually settled on the (admittedly subjective) rule of thumb: If it would feel incomplete to play one iteration, then it did not count as a “round” for my tallies. For example, I don’t find it unusual to play one game of For Sale, even though I often play two or more games of it. But it does seem unusual to play one game of Coup, so I counted all of the games in one sitting as one round. In Magic, I logged a draft and all of its subsequent games as one round. (Lastly, I should note I was not 100% consistent in my logging all year — I included and excluded some things that I later would not have as I refined my criteria for a “round” of a board game.)
Why keep track of all that info when you play?
I don’t really have a good answer. I thought it would be interesting and fun. I was inspired by the occasional post on /r/boardgames that said some variation of “I just logged my 100th play!”
Are you going to keep doing this through 2016?
Probably! Now let’s get to the analysis!
My 365 rounds included a total of… 73 different games. Curiously, that averages out to exactly five rounds played per game. A few other numbers:
- I logged just one round of 29 of those 73 games
- Of those 73, five games were designed by me or one of my friends, combining for 12 rounds
Here are my most-logged games in 2015:
- Race for the Galaxy – 47 rounds
- Dominion – 42
- Khet – 37
- For Sale – 24
- Suburbia – 20
I think it’s more informative, though, to break the list down into two halves: Post-work games, and other games.
See, a hefty portion of my 365 rounds (just over a quarter) came from playing a quick game with coworkers after closing hours. We would sometimes do this almost every day for weeks on end. But unlike my regular game sessions, we only had one or two games at a time at our disposal. Thus, the tallies for those few games became inflated to disproportionate numbers. The discussion about what I played is, I think, more interesting if we break the games into after-work games and regular games.
My actual most played games (excluding after-work games):
- 1. Dominion – 42 rounds
- 2. For Sale – 24
- 3. Suburbia – 20
- 4. 7 Wonders – 18
- 5. Hanabi – 9
- 6. Sushi Go – 8
- t7. Codenames – 7
- t7. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar – 7
- t9. Android: Netrunner – 6
- t9. Magic: The Gathering – 6
Looking at this list, there aren’t many surprises to me. Dominion is a strong contender for my favorite game, fairly light, and loaded with variety once you use the expansions. I have multiple groups of friends who like playing it, so it’s one I’m often pulling out. It’s common to play two or three games in a row, which definitely elevates the count.
Most of the top ten list is filled with fairly light games with rules that are easy to explain: For Sale, 7 Wonders, Sushi Go, and Codenames all have rules that can be explained in about five or ten minutes.
Suburbia and Tzolk’in round out the list by being favorites of my wife (especially the former, her favorite game) and good two-player games we routinely played a round of after dinner.
Netrunner is short and rules-intensive, and I briefly became determined to get into the game, but my wife isn’t a huge fan, and I only tried it with one or two friends.
Magic’s long drafts and play sessions mean the amount of time I spent with it outweighs its ranking on the board.
Just a bit lower on the list are some of my favorite “heavy” games: Caverna, Power Grid, Terra Mystica each clocked in at 4 plays; Through the Ages, Twilight Struggle, and Castles of Burgundy each were logged thrice. This definitely aligns with how I view my board gaming patterns: a few “heavies” a month, keeping them in frequent rotation.
Another curiosity of this list is that I decided not to include digitized versions of board games. This means that Agricola, Terra Mystica, and Ascension — all of which I played a lot, but almost entirely online or in an app — are represented less in the tallies than in the actual time and thought I devoted to them.
A few oddities on the list of games that made just one appearance: Old lady game Bunko, my wife’s invented hybrid “Scrabble to Apples,” and a Colton-hosted outing of Arkham Horror.
As mentioned in the previous section, a few games received frequent play as blowing-off-steam games played with coworkers after closing hours. Because we were limited to the games we could carry around with us, these few games got plenty of play:
- Race for the Galaxy – 47
- Khet – 37
- Summoner Wars – 18
Of these, Race for the Galaxy is my favorite. It’s a fast-paced card game whose expansions add a lot of depth and complexity, perfect for regularly playing quick rounds with the same couple people.
Khet, also known as “laser chess” is a fun and clever little game that we played a lot of but then got tired of. Summoner Wars is a cool and extremely replayable game that ended up being too long and involved for an “after-work game.”
My 365 rounds of board games included… 68 different people, including me. A few other numbers:
- A total of 1,153 players were logged across the 365 games, meaning the games I played averaged about 3.2 players.
- Fourteen people played at least ten games with me in 2015
- My log allows me to include up to eight players per game. I logged four games with that many players. Curiously, three of those four came in the last week of the year.
- Technically, my log allows me to record solo board games — and I own several games that include 1p rules — but I didn’t play any games solitaire-style.
Some info about my most frequent playing partners:
- My wife, Katy, joined me for 204 rounds
- One of my coworkers, Scott, accounted for 78 rounds, thanks to those post-work sessions described in the previous section.
- My semi-regular board game group, all former high school buddies of mine, make up three of the next four spots on the list: Jordan, Jack, and Mike joined for 64, 59, and 41 rounds, respectively.
- Neighbor/bud Stephen, college buddy C-Bag, Katy’s cousin Jenny, coworker Chris, and Stephen’s roommate Jon round out the top ten. Each logged between 17 and 57 rounds.
- Of the Earn This staff writers, Colton joined me for 14 games, while Grant and Brian each joined for 6 games.
A few other observations about the people I played with:
- The list includes mostly friends, plenty of family, but also several friends-of-friends and acquaintances. And since I logged games that I wasn’t hosting, the list of players also includes people I don’t even really know. I counted 8 people on my list whose name I could not mentally put to a face.
- The most popular last name of a player — my own, at 9 unique players. The second-most popular last name of a player — my wife’s maiden name, at 7 unique players.
- Youngest player – my eleven-year-old sister. Oldest player – my wife’s grandfather, seven decades older
I am somewhat loathe to actually write this section, but it is part of my data, so I suppose I should include it in the report for completeness. Because I am — as previously mentioned in this report — a competitive asshole, an early reason for tracking my board gaming was to see how much I actually win the \games I play. I realized about a month in, though, that a) nobody likes hearing you boast about how much you win at board games, especially when you usually know the rules well and competitors usually don’t, and b) the data itself is deceptive and inconclusive. Some games (like party games, co-op games, team games, and games with ties) had no distinct winners, skewing numbers. And the fact that different people played different numbers of games, with different numbers of players per round, made all results effectively useless to analyze.
That said, I continued to track the data of who won each game I played, and here are the results:
- Me with 151
- Katy with 47
- Scott with 39
- Jack with 13
- Mike and Stephen with 12
- C-Bag with 8
- Jordan with 5
Best winning percentage for players who played at least 5 games (again: don’t read too much into this; the number of average players per person varies wildly):
- Scott, 50% (39/78)
- Me, 41% (151/365)
- Mike, 29% (12/41)
- C-Bag, 28% (8/29)
- Katy, 23% (47/204)
Special shout-outs to the two players who played more than ten games and ended up with a winning percentage of less than ten percent, though both participated in several party games that had no logged winner:
- Jon, 6% (1/17)
- Jordan, 8% (5/64)
Better luck next year, fellas.
Every time I played and logged a game, I scored it out of five stars. (The exceptions being games designed by people I know.)
Here are the games that I ranked, at any point, 5 stars (aka, “one of my favorites ever”):
- For Sale
- Power Grid
- Race for the Galaxy
- Terra Mystica
- The Game of Things
Here are the games I ranked, at any point, 4.5 out of 5 stars (aka, “a brilliant classic”):
- Castles of Burgundy
- Le Havre
- Lost Cities
- Power Grid
- Puerto Rico
- Race for the Galaxy
- Small World
- Twilight Struggle
(Curiously, the scores for Caverna, Power Grid, and Race for the Galaxy fluctuated between 4.5 and 5 stars. As of right now, I’d put Caverna at 5 and Power Grid and Race at 4.5.)
The lowest ranking I gave a game was 1.5 stars out of 5 (“pretty bad”). I gave three games this dubious distinction:
- Battle of the Sexes Card Game
- Hold Your Horses
- Shut the Box
The most common rating I gave was 4 stars (“great”), with the average ranking being 4.04 stars. This seems high until you consider that the data set is selective, not random; i.e. we choose to play games that we like.
A Parting Plea
I’ll wrap my article up with a request: Play more board games in 2016. Seriously, they are legitimately fun. If you think you don’t like board games, you’re playing the wrong ones. Read BGG and get some new games, or find friends who have games, or go to a con or a game store with other people who want to play games. Board games are a maturing medium, and there’s something for everything if you look around just a little bit. The physical, in-person, low social pressure interaction that accompanies board games has made me a happier, more fulfilled person. Logging my playing has made me realize how much my board gaming pastime has allowed me to connect with a lot of people, and how much better I am for it.