Reflections on Playing 1,000 Games (And My Personal Top 50)
Article by Chris Wray
I recently added it up, and I realized that I’ve played a thousand different games. To many of my fellow Opinionated Gamers, that is a milestone passed years (or decades) ago… a couple of these folks are well on their way to 5,000! But for the vast majority of people who enjoy our hobby, it is a feat that will never be accomplished.
To me, it feels both underwhelming and like a great achievement. On one hand, BGG has more than 96,000 games in the database, so 1,000 games is nothing compared to what the number could be, especially when there are many notable games that have escaped my grasp. On the other hand, 1,000 games is an objectively high number, especially given that I’m in my early 30s and haven’t been doing this for decades.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I suspect it was sometime in 2017. One of my regrets as a gamer is not doing better recordkeeping, especially in my early years in the hobby. As of today, I’ve rated 995 games and expansions on BGG. Take out the expansions and the number is lower, but I still suspect I’m somewhere over 1,000 because (a) I didn’t rate any games on BGG before 2014, (b) I’m terrible about logging plays and rating games, (c) I play a large number of unpublished games, (d) some games on BGG contain several different games in the same box, and (e) I’ve played an unusually large number of public-domain card games… easily more than a hundred of them. I might actually be significantly over 1,000 games!
I discovered Euro games back in 2004, when I was in college. I didn’t start playing a lot of different games until 2010-ish. Now I play 150-ish new games a year.
Three lessons learned…
One of the earliest lessons I learned was that I didn’t need to buy every game I liked. When I was a new gamer, I bought everything I enjoyed. I think that’s a common experience: new gamers are frequently in acquisition mode. Today, I cap my collection at 365 games, and that means I only keep games I really love and will actually play. I’m a game player, not a game collector, and I really only have room (and money) for the games that bring me joy. That said, I appreciate all of the game collectors in my life! But personally, it bothers me to have lots of underplayed games on shelves.
The next lesson I learned is to make time to enjoy the games I love and not focus so much on what’s hot. I’m the very definition of “Cult of the New”: I travel to Gen Con and Essen each year to shop for the latest titles. I review 50+ new games a year, in large part because I enjoy learning and experiencing new games. But for a few years, I was focused entirely on new games, not taking out time to enjoy the older games I really loved. Today I focus on older titles from January to July, then use convention season from August to December to focus on new games. I like less than half of new games I play, so I think a better use of my time is focusing on the games I know I’ll love. And my advice for all new gamers is to look back at the hobby’s history: there are some great games from decades past.
The last lesson I learned — and I’m still learning it — is to actually do the recordkeeping. In retrospect, I wish I knew what my most-played game of all-time is. (I suspect it is 7 Wonders, but there are a few other candidates.) I generally don’t care about my win-loss ratio, but it’d be cool to know for some games, especially to see how it progressed over time. And, of course, I’d love to have known when I crossed that 1,000 marker. Because I probably would have thrown a gaming party!
Five classic games I really want to try…
I’ve wanted to try these for years, yet they still elude me! Here are the top 5 games I currently regret NOT playing and hope to play in the future:
Amun Re – I’ve played all of the SdJ and IGA winners, but I’ve got a couple of DSP winners left to play. This Knizia classic is one of them. I once even owned a copy… but traded it after I didn’t get it to the table.
Code 777 – Given my adoration of deduction games, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I haven’t played this. This is certainly a classic. But I’ve never bothered to pick up a copy, and I don’t think any of my friends own it either.
Keyflower – This seems like the kind of crunchy Euro I’d enjoy. I was once ashamed to admit to Richard Breese that I hadn’t played any of the games in the “Key” line.
Neue Heimat – A lot of gamers I really respect list this among their top games, and it looks like it is totally in my wheelhouse, but I’ve never even seen a copy.
Twilight Imperium – Half my friends say I’ll love it. The other half predict I’ll hate it. I’d love to say which side is right. While I don’t generally like long games, I’ve often made an exception for epic games with politics and fighting.
My top 50…
So what are my top 5%? The games that I always love? I found it difficult to do specific ordering after the Top 10, so I did them in sets of 10 alphabetically. I’ve also lumped a bunch of games in the same family (such as Ticket to Ride or Codenames) together… so there are really more than 50 games here. Lastly, it is worth noting that I won’t generally put any game on a list like this without having played it at least three or four times, so there are some games that i really love that just weren’t eligible because I’ve only played a time or two.
Links are to my reviews of the games and/or my other writings about the games.
#50 – #41
Lost Cities (And I really love the whole Keltis line.)
New York Slice (and Piece o’ Cake)
#40 – #31
1960: The Making of the President
America (or Fauna or Terra)
A Game of Thrones (2nd Edition)
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization
#30 – #21
The Castles of Mad King Ludwig
#20 – #11
Codenames (My favorite version is probably Codenames Duet.)
Power Grid: The Card Game
Saint Petersburg (2nd Edition)
The Top 10
10. Age of Steam
8. Ultimate Werewolf
6. Hanabi (My favorite version is the Deluxe edition with tiles.)
4. Power Grid (I prefer Power Grid deluxe.)
3. El Grande
2. Ticket to Ride (My favorite map is Switzerland.)
And who are my favorite designers? After all these years, the top spot is still probably Wolfgang Kramer. I’ve enjoyed nearly every game of his I’ve ever played. Though there are a few designers who I count among my favorites: Ted Alspach, Antoine Bauza, Chris Burm, Vlaada Chvatil, Friedemann Friese, Reiner Knizia, Alan Moon, and Uwe Rosenberg all come to mind.
Here’s to the next 1,000 games!
If you’d like to check out another OG-ers list of top games, I highly recommend Joe Huber’s list of his favorite 189 games. Joe is over 3,000 published games played, so he’s the real voice of experience!