Wednesday, January 27, 2016

BGG's Top Fifty, Staying Power, and Old Games

Like a lot of people, I spend time watching the top games on Boardgamegeek, because it's always interesting to watch what games people consider to be The Best of All Time, even if I often disagree with the ratings.

In fact, people often speak of the "Cult of the New" to describe games on the list, because new games will often rocket to the top of the list before gradually settling on down the list. It's exacerbated because people don't often go through and review their ratings and adjust them. And then "older" games hit the table less-frequently, and so even people who are fastidious about updating their ratings don't update older games in comparison to newer games.

This last weekend, I discovered that Tigris & Euphrates was available on my Kindle Fire. This game initially hit at about the same time as Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. It was part of the first wave of Euro-style games to hit with hobbyists here in North America. I remember playing it a few years before I started tracking games on BGG.

And it's a really good game. But it's a fairly dry abstract and it's a real brain-burner. These are both things that tend to hurt a game's numbers in the ratings game.

BUT it was re-released with a new edition in 2015, which makes it visible again and (often) boosts its ratings ... right?

So I did some searching and I found this thread, which (thankfully) includes T&E in its ratings. It doesn't go through 2015, but it does go through September of 2014.  So I was shocked to discover that its re-release hadn't improved its ratings. Or, honestly, made much of a difference to them at all.

In September of 2014, it was 31 on the list. As of this writing, it's 38. It's the third-oldest game in the Top 50, in fact. Crokinole and El Grande are the only two Top Fifty games that are older that are in the Top 50.

Only four games from 2015 are in the Top Fifty. Seven games from 2014.  The year with the most games? 2012 has eleven games.  I wonder - if I went back four years and did a similar analysis, would 2008 have a similar spike? Or was 2012 just an amazing year for games?

There is one (standalone) expansion on the list, Dominion Intrigue. It's rated higher than its base game.  War of the Ring is on there twice in two different editions. Two other games have their second editions listed, too. Game of Thrones and Descent: Journeys in the Dark. But the first editions for these games is not on the list.

Keep in mind - according to hobby gamers who visit BoardGameGeek (and rate games), these are the fifty best games of all time. And the average game was released midway through 2007. If you remove Crokinole from the listings, the average game was released in early 2010.

I'm not going to say these aren't good games, because they're not. Many of these are absolutely fantastic games. But where are the classics?  I'm not talking "Mass-market hits," here. I'm talking games which have very much stood the test of time. Go is #78 on the list. Chess is #344. Backgammon is #955.  That's insane.

Do I think the Cult of the New is a problem? Yes, but not to the same degree as many other folks seem to feel it is. And not for the same reasons.

I think that this list is an excellent guide for good hobby games, but using this as a list of the Best Games of All Time will leave the reader disappointed.

If I were running a game store, I'd keep track of the top ten or twenty or so, because these are the games which have had diverse appeal over the last few years - and their very presence on the list can lead to further sales for new gamers.

Not everyone will agree with all of these ratings. Me, for example. Of the 21 games I've rated that are on the list, my average rating is just over 7.2. At least one game on the list is one I rated a 4.

To find games that you might like, you're better off checking them by category. Pick a category, scroll down to "linked items" and where it says "sort," chose "rank," and it'll re-organize the list of games based on other peoples' ratings. And even that is no guarantee, because you may like a game that most people dislike (and vice versa).

Something to think on, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. You're on point recognizing that BoardGameGeek's ratings are really about hobby games. I'd go on to say it's really about those games published since the advent of Euros. Everything else is there for completeness' sake.

    When it comes to ratings on BoardGameGeek, I keep in mind the suggested criteria is framed in two ways: the typical "good, better, best" scale and "do I want to play it?"

    My personal ratings, scattershot as they are, always come from asking myself how eager I am to play any given game that comes up, rather deliberating over a game's quality.