Ben Bruckart: Review of 2022 Spiel Fairplay Ratings
If you are like me, and have never been to THE Spiel convention in Essen, Germany, you can often find yourself scouring messages from friends, social networking, and boardgame geek for details about games that are hot and surprising friends in between reading rulebooks.
There is a small magazine publisher called Fairplay that writes quarterly about gaming and has a booth at Spiel. They like to publish a list of games that people play and then rate on a 1-5 scale (5 being the top). https://www.fairplay-online.de/ and keep regular updates on their twitter page [ https://twitter.com/FairplayMagazin ]. BGG used to have a competing ranking system at Essen, but they didn’t have a booth in attendance this year.
To be a scout, you just need to register [ https://www.scoutaktion.de/ ] and attest that you are at Spiel and have no conflict of interest. You register online, show their booth that you are a Scout and get activated.
This article isn’t going to weigh in on the number of Scouts who participated but just look at the ratings of the top games across the three days and peek at last year’s top games and their BGG ratings. Understanding for a moment that BGG ratings and scout ratings are not the most reliable ways to value games (and people rate games very differently) but are used here to contextualize the game with the ratings. Fairplay has in the past advantageously scored better for games who are close in proximity to their booth (hopefully obviated some by using the website). While more complex games are likely disadvantaged by having longer play times and potentially less reviews, the Fairplay rankings have often given a peak into the mindset of scouts.
Spiel 2021 final
Last year (spiel 21), the top games were Ark Nova, Witchstone, The Red Cathedral, Whirling Witchcraft, Furnace, Voll Verplant, King of the Valley, Savannah Park, Chakra, Project L.
Ark Nova sits overall in top 4 on BGG with an average rating of 8.6 and a relative weight of 3.7 (more heavy than usual for voters). This is the only game with a weight over 3 in the top 8 of ’21 Fairplay. Witchstone sits near the top 1,000 games on BGG with a rating of 7.7 and weight of 2.73. The Red Cathedral sits at rank 228 with a weight of 2.81. Whirling Witchcraft sits with a weight of 1.9 and a rating of 7.2. Furnace has 6.2K ratings on BGG with a weight of 2.21 and a rating of 7.5 Voll Verplant is even lighter with a weight of 1.73 and a rating of 7.3. King of the Valley is one of two rated below 7 with a rating of 6.8 and but a weight above 2 at 2.3. Savannah Park has a weight of 1.76 and an overall rating of 7.2. Chakra is rated 6.9 with a weight of 1.74. Project L is rated 7.5 with a weight of 1.55.
This year we look at the games that finished in the top 8: Cat in the Box, Tribes and Wind, Turing Machine, Q.E., Splendor Duel, Akropolis, Atiwa, Evergreen, Kites.
Across the three days, many of these games stayed in the top and varied in rating between 4 and 4.5 with some shaking out of games of the top 9 after the first day of trends (Thursday).
Not all these games are new.
- Cat in the Box is a deluxe remake of a Japanese trick taking game by Muneyuki Yokouchi by a group of publishers including Bezier games. As of now, it is ranked at 2,111 on BGG and has a weight of 1.92 (678 ratings on BGG).
- Tribes of the Wind is an interactive card game with a civ theme by designer Joachim Thôme and published by La Boite de Jeu. It only has 61 ratings but sits at a 8.0 on BGG.
- Turing Machine is a 20-minute code cracking game by Fabien Gridel and Yoann Levet by Le Scorpion Masque. It has 231 ratings and sits at a 7.9.
- Q.E. has several versions reimplementing quantitative easing by Gavin Birnbaum. It sits at a 1.62 weight and a 7.4 rating with 3.5K ratings.
- Splendor Duel is a new flavor of Splendor that has 71 ratings on BGG and sits at a rating of 8.0 with a weight of 2.0
- Akropolis has 636 ratings and bills itself as a city and territory building game that plays in 20-30 minutes. It has a 7.8 rating on BGG with a weight of 1.6.
- Atiwa is the heaviest game according to weight on BGG with a rating of 7.8 and weight of 2.83 but only 106 ratings and is an original Uwe Rosenberg game. The theme is a unique one with Bats!
- Evergreen is an ecosystem game that plays in 45 minutes with a weight of 2 and a BGG rating of 7.5 (on 153 ratings).
- Kites is a real time cooperative game that has 199 Ratings and sits at a BGG rating of 7.1. It is a ten minute game by designer Kevin Hamano and published by Floodgate Games/Matagot.
Now all these ratings will change over time with more reviews and plays. As context, they are captured 10/11 (2 days after Spiel) and will be looked again hopefully after Spiel ’23.
Here are the scores aggregated across the trending Thursday to end of event Sunday timeline:
Fairplay also gives a list of honorable mentions which are games that are rated well but not don’t have many ratings. This year the honorable mentions were: Federation, Inside Job, The Guild of Merchant Explorers, Beer and Bread, Feed the Kraken, Applejack, Council of Shadows, Titelum, Zitrushain, HITSTER, Dorfromantik: Das Brettspiel, Johanna: Orleans R&W, Nebel über Carcassone, Riverside, Woodcraft, and Wormholes.
While I would like to see Fairplay voters drastically increased to give larger variety of scoring and ratings, it serves as an early tool for hype driven games.
I have only played a couple of the 2022 Fairplay games.
Cat in the box is a clever trick taker with a short rules explanation and tactical card play.
QE: This is a party auction game. Its got some fun auction style rules that add a twist and make turns fun but this isnt a deterministic euro like I am accustomed.
Thoughts from the other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon W: FairPlay ratings definitely do influence which games people look at during Spiel but I tend to ignore them. I can however tell you that there was a massive push from some publishers to get ratings up. Many of the games you mention had lots of tables to play the game plus some had a reminder to vote for the game on FairPlay on each table. Many of the games which didn’t make the shortlist ran out of stock before the end of the show – would you vote for a game you couldn’t buy?
Personally, commenting on the games I looked at (and bearing in mind there are thousands at the Spiel and you have to be ruthless to choose which games to buy!) :
Cat in the box: Great game idea, over-produced and overpriced.
Tribes: got a lot of talking up in the show, not sure why. My colleague bought it for the club
Turing Machine: massive stand and very impressive artwork on the cover. It’s a good game. They sold out of games every day or I suspect they would have been top of the list.
QE: not seen
Splendor Duel: new rules and a small box but I love the original game, which plays well with two – and the original chips. Not for me.
Acropolis: had a look. It’s a 3-D tile game. I heard it’s clever and a friend bought it. Happy to wait and see if it’s any good.
Atiwa: I’m tired of Uwe Rosenberg games after Hallertau. Tweak rules and theme, republish. But if it’s amazing I can buy it later.
Evergreen: not seen except from a distance.
Kites: I don’t buy cooperative games.