Are You Being Served? Again!

So, yesterday you  looked through two collections of games.  As some of you guessed, the first list was a snapshot of the 100 highest ranked games on BoardGameGeek (from June 2nd, if you’re curious).  The second list was a snapshot of the 100 most owned games (excluding expansions) from the same day.  (The 45 games which appeared on both lists were removed, so that the lists weren’t too long.)

So the question is – who is well served by the current ranking system?

Clearly I’m not; of the games in only one list, I had a strong preference for those more owned over those higher ranked.  While I had odd nooks and crannies in my gaming preferences, most would describe me as a hardcore Eurogamer, so perhaps Eurogamers aren’t well served by the current ranking system.

But I think it’s clear that fans of American style games aren’t being well served either; when I look at a list of games such as RoboRally, Munchkin, Bang!, Guillotine, Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie,  Axis & Allies, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, HeroQuest, Runebound (2nd edition), Nexus Ops, and Dungeon Twister – well, those might not hit the taste of _every_ fan of American games, but it seems like a fine starter set.  It also seems to me that the German games only found on the most owned list seem to be a better fit for fans of the American style.

Wargamers – and particularly serious wargamers – are clearly _far_ better served by the rankings.  While most groups of gamers can likely find something of interest on both lists, the most owned list doesn’t feature a wargame more complex than Axis and Allies, as compared to over a dozen strong titles on the ranking list.

Fans of abstracts seem to come out better with the most owned list; YINSH goes missing, but it’s replaced by such classics as Hive, Blokus, and Ingenious.  I suppose that might still be a step down for fans of heavier abstracts, if it weren’t for additions such as Chess and Backgammon.

There’s not much for fans of children’s games on either list, though the most owned list is a lot more child friendly.  The same can be said for party games; the most owned list is only slightly better.

Besides wargames, the other place where the rankings shine is for fans of heavier strategic games.  Most of the games I would miss from the ranking list fall into that camp (along with a couple of wargames), but enough of my favorites are outside of the top 100 that the effect is muted.

So: one more simple task for those who braved the long lists yesterday…

  1. How would you categorize yourself, as a gamer?
  2. Did you find the highest ranked or the most owned games more to your taste?

Patrick Brennan:
Being I’m seemingly equally open to both quality and populist games, put me down as a game strumpet.

Larry Levy:
I consider myself very much to be a Eurogamer and a member in good standing of the Cult of the New.  And while newer games are almost always better represented in the Geek 100 than in the most owned list (both because of the long-standing bias toward newer games in the rankings and because it takes time for a game to build up a large list of owners), most of the games from Collection 1 that I like aren’t new ones.  Instead, the games that are most represented in my list are challenging Euros that are well thought of by more experienced gamers, but which are rarely very big sellers.  Goa, Year of the Dragon, and Amun-Re are very good examples of these games.  It’s games like these that help explain why I’ve always had a good correlation with the Geek 100, particularly when compared to the list of most owned games, even though a lot of the recent hits are games that don’t appeal to me.

Matt Carlson:
If it is a game, I’ll play it, and probably enjoy it – especially in the right company.  Thus, I have a collection (and a played list) that largely favors set #2.  However,the games I enjoy the most tend towards the Euro style.  Thus, given infinite time and a good gaming group, my preferences would align more closely with the Geek 100 list.  However, my most played list of games might align more closely with the 100 most owned games, due to my gaming with many non-hardcore gamers.

Dale Yu:
I feel that while I’ll play just about anything, I definitely have a preference to the Eurogame side of things.  While the numbers say that I like more of the games in Collection 2, there are more all-time favorites for me in Collection 1.  Furthermore, as I am a card-carrying member of the Cult of the New, there are more recent games in Collection 1 than Collection 2.  The new “hot” games seem to be able to jump into the Top 100 of the BGG rankings without necessarily having a lot of owners — Exhibit A: Age of Steam.

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12 Responses to Are You Being Served? Again!

  1. Neil Christiansen says:

    Many of the games in the “most owned” list are cheaper and more widely distributed, hence why many more people own them. But I would generally rather play 1 medium-heavy game than 3 lite games. We played Die Burgen von Burgund Tuesday night and it took 3 hours with explanation for 4 players. I would MUCH rather do this than have played Apples, Bang!, and For Sale.

    So the rankings appear to serve me well enough. I do not think any of those three are really Top 100 games. Brass, Steam, Navegader, Troyes, and the rest suit me rather well.

    A better question is: Why do so many people own such cheap, easy, and not very interesting games.

    And Magic the Gathering? Seriously?

    • I am not sure it is the kind of “bias” in ratings going on that you suspect. It is more of a “self-selection” process at work. Liter and easier games get tried and rated by everyone, those that like such fare and those who prefer more depth. On the other hand, heavier games are avoided by the former but sought out by the latter. So they only get rated by those who like games with more rules, more complexity, and more time investment.

      Do you want ratings to refelct popularity? I am not sure I do, but I can see the argument. Do we want critics’ ratings of movies or box office sales? Both have their place. I suppose you could argue that BGG should make “owned” search more easy to get at when sorting or that it should be the default browse. But I would vote against it given my druthers.

      • Joe Huber says:

        Oh, I’m not arguing that there is any bias in the rankings. Specifically, I do not believe that Scott has structured the rankings to favor any particular type of game. And I’m certainly not arguing that rankings _should_ reflect popularity, whether measured by ownership, number of ratings, or the like.

        I merely looked through the rankings, and the ownership data – and found that the ownership data better reflects my preferences than do the rankings, which made me curious whether that was true for others. Looking at the lists, it’s easy to see folks well served by one list, folks well served by the other, and those well served by neither. Dale suggested that I extended my musings into an article, so I did.

  2. Then there’s the gamers like me, whose contributions to the data can be generously described as lackluster. It’s been years since I’ve updated my “owned” collection on the Geek, and I don’t believe I’ve rated a single game. So if the ratings don’t serve me well, I guess I should blame the mirror.

  3. Loofish says:

    Just wondering about the conclusion that the rating system is not serving particular sectors of gamers when you removed 45 games that appeared on both lists. Something seems off about that.

    • Joe Huber says:

      Each sector is equally well served by both methods relative to those games. Including them is only critical, IMHO, when comparing against yet another method, with its own set of commonalities and differences.

      Adding the 45 games in does change percentages for each individual, of course.

  4. Well, the answer to who is well-served is people who care enough to discuss rankings, of course!

    I am one of those guys that isn’t swayed in the slightest by the commercials that state more than X thousand satisfied customers. I really don’t care what most people think, but there are a few whose opinion matter to me. But even more important, I care what my friends and family will play.

  5. Chuck Waterman says:

    Thanks for an interesting article, Joe!

    Thought 1: I had something like 7 on the first list and 17 on the second. As a gamer, I’d say I’m:
    A) An eclectic gamer (I’d prefer to play at least one party game, one light game, and one medium-weight strategy game every game day if possible.)
    B) Generally one who prefers games that CAN be played in 60 mins with fast players and that SHOULD never stretch beyond 2 hours even with AP players.

    Therefore, I don’t find it surprising that My tastes lean more toward the ownership stats. On the other hand I don’;t think that the ratings mis-serve me. That site IS called Board Game GEEK, not Board Game POPULIST. I hope that the listings will emphasize games that serious gamers have played thoroughly and can recommend as worth the time investment involved in working through medium to heavy strategy and war games.

    On the other hand, I imagine I’m not the only one who ignores ratings of a new game until its been around for a year or so and the cheering from the Cult of the New has died down.

    Chuck Waterman

    • Chuck Waterman says:

      I don’t often add my ratings to games since I consider myself relatively inexperienced and I don’t want to clutter up the ratings from experienced players with my numbers.

      • I wouldn’t worry about that. Most of the games have so many ratings that your input is just a drop in the bucket. But rating the games can help you use the site better. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a “gamers who liked this game like these other games too” feature. That can help you find other games you’ll like, based on ones you say you enjoy.

        Or, if you don’t like giving the games a numerical score, you can “be a fan” instead. That’s just a yes-no choice.

  6. Randy Cox says:

    Since party games are out of the question when discussing anything about BGG or rankings, I would then consider myself to be a Eurogamer. However, the first list really only applies to people with tons of extra time or very readily available EuroGameGroups. If one gets a great percentage of their gaming only through family/relatives and the very occasional non-gaming friends, List 1 just isn’t going to work.

    So, while I might say some of the games on List 1 are “better” (for those rare occasions when I get away from the real world and devote hour upon hour to boardgaming) I think List 2 is the more reasonable choice for getting a game fix in from time to time.

    Personally, I’d think that the happy medium lies either in a ranking system which includes popularity and quality and consensus (Tim Benjamin’s FORM comes to mind) or if it’s some kind of BGG Top 100 rating with a fudge factor to slant it away from recent (that means 10 years or so) releases.

  7. I’ve found that very few lists actually map well to my preferences. I rely almostly entirely on GeekBuddies. Now if only BGG would improve the usefulness of them…

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