How do you measure 18 years? In my case, through the playing of 13,000 games. I started logging my games played using BoardGameGeek in 2005 and somehow I find myself 18 years later still loving the hobby and the data. I really enjoy being able to reflect on my games played data and the experiences of these games.
I wrote about hitting 10,000 games played back in 2019, and now at the beginning of 2023, I’ve just hit 13,000 games played. I thought it would be a good time to see what those 3,000 latest game plays included. There are a lot of interesting things buried in the data from those 3,000 plays.
First things first, the 13,000th play was none other than the wonderful Starship Captains by Peter Hoffgaard. I tried a prototype of the game last year and was really intrigued by the queue system for managing workers, and I picked up the published version a month ago to see where it landed. The production values are top notch as usual for CGE with really dynamic and engaging visuals. More importantly, the gameplay is really stellar, harkening back to classic German-style design of simple rules, dense iconography, and impressive variability – all tied together in a package laden with difficult and meaningful decision-making. I’ve played the game 4 times now, and I’m looking forward to hopefully many more plays to explore this design. There seem to be a few rough edges with extraneous rules, but I really enjoy studying the opening technologies and missions to decide on a path forward to grow my ship’s crew and try to implement synergies so that my handful of actions go as far as possible. It’s also one of those games that ends right when you’re getting going, so I’m tempted to play a fifth round, but it’s always better for a game to feel like it’s ending too soon rather than going on too long. Ultimately, it’s a tense and engaging game that I’m enjoying a lot these days.
Getting from my 10,000th play of Antiquity in 2019 to my 13,000th play of Starship Captains in 2023 meant playing 3,000 games over the past three and a half years. Those 3,000 plays were made up of 398 different games (which means an average of 7.5 plays per game). However, some games were played a lot more than that, such as Netrunner (157 plays), KeyForge (71 plays), and Railroad Ink (59 plays)… while over 120 other games were one and done.
The Reigning Champion. Netrunner remains the reigning champion. With lifetime plays of 1,743 and plays in the last three years of 157, Netrunner is the undisputed champion. I think of myself as a board gamer, but it seems the data says I’m mostly a card gamer. I think that Null Signal Games has done a phenomenal job of managing Netrunner (albeit with an overly broad ban list). The new cards are great designs, many better and more interesting than the official cards. The game is remarkably alive and well, much to my surprise and delight. I just wish I had more time to play because 157 plays since 2019 is a paltry number to really experience the best game to the fullest.
The Top 20. The full top 20 from the latest 3,000 plays is an interesting collection of card games, quick games, and in-depth strategy games. I’m generally pleased with the mix, even if I always wish there was more time for games like War of the Ring, Through the Ages, Twilight Struggle, and Antiquity.
- Netrunner 157
- Unpublished Prototype 98
- KeyForge 71
- Railroad Ink 59
- Root 49
- The Crew 49
- Santorini 47
- Terraforming Mars 41
- 7 Wonders Duel 40
- Lost Ruins of Arnak 37
- Roll for the Galaxy 34
- Cartographers 31
- Twin It 31
- Oath 27
- Scythe 26
- Mastermind 24
- Innovation 23
- Crokinole 21
- Living Forest 20
- Pax Pamir 20
The first thing I notice here is that I’ve been playing a lot of my two prototypes (i.e., First Monday in October and a newer tile-laying prototype). I’m excited for the former to hopefully come out this year, and I’m hopeful that the latter will someday find a publisher. I’m really enjoying both games, and I’m cautiously optimistic that others will similarly enjoy them.
The second thing that strikes me is that I really do love playing Cole Wehrle’s games. I have played a good deal of Root, Oath, and Pax Pamir over the past three years, and I’d honestly be really happy to play twice as much of these games. The depth and replayability and fascinating decisions of these three games keeps me proselytizing their virtues and coming back for more. I’m not sure that I have the energy to learn John Company, but I’m certainly intrigued. I feel like I might get more out of just playing these three games more. It seems that Cole’s games really benefit from playing them many times to fully grasp their intricacies, and I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of Root, Oath, and Pax Pamir.
I’m happy to see favorites like Cartographers, 7 Wonders Duel, and Crokinole make the list. It’s funny to see a random game like Twin It make the list, but it’s not surprising to see strategy games like Terraforming Mars, Scythe, Lost Ruins of Arnak, and Roll for the Galaxy make appearances. I enjoyed the Rise of Fenris campaign for Scythe last year (except for the overly random and chaotic finale scenario), and I’m really enjoying a worker placement / deck building hybrid that I finally find interesting and engaging in Lost Ruins of Arnak. It’s another one of those games that ends in a remarkably tight 5 turns, which reminds me of the all-time classic Princes of Florence.
49 Dimes. The list of games played since my 10,000th game in 2019 includes 49 other games that I’ve played at least 10 times:
- Dexterity – KLASK, Men at Work, Coconuts
- Children’s Games – Zombie Kidz Evolution, Gloobz, Draftosaurus, Fireball Island, King of Tokyo, Quoridor, Illusion, Outfoxed, Shaky Manor
- Two-Player – Nanga Parbat, Watergate, Capital Lux, Patchwork, Fox in the Forest Duet, Let’s Make a Bus Route: The Dice Game, Mandala, Fugitive
- Family Games – Kingdomino, Carcassonne, Wingspan, Azul, Decrypto, Silver & Gold, Minigolf Designer, Can’t Stop, Parks, Sagrada
- Strategy Games – War of the Ring, Architects of the West Kingdom, Through the Ages, QE, Hansa Teutonica, Dune: Imperium
- Card Games – Ashes, Magic
- Party Games – Timeline, Anomia, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Just One
- Cooperative – Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, Pandemic: Fall of Rome, Pandemic: Rapid Response, Colorful, Machi Koro Legacy, Spirit Island, The Mind
(with Caylus, Pyramid of Pengqueen, Blokus Duo, Quirky Circuits, Schotten Totten, and a few others just missing the cut at 9 plays in the past three years)
I do love all three of those dexterity games, especially the replayability of KLASK and the phenomenal component quality in Men at Work (although those brick pieces are so pesky to place). I remember those many games of Outfoxed fondly, which is one of the best children’s games ever made, and I do enjoy my child’s enormous love for Shaky Manor, Illusion, and King of Tokyo.
I’m a huge fan of 30-minute two-player games as the list makes clear, and all of those are real gems (especially Fox in the Forest Duet and Capital Lux). I’m also thrilled to see War of the Ring, Through the Ages, and Hansa Teutonica make the list, and I hope to play each of those many more times in the years to come.
77 Nickels. The list includes 77 games that I’ve played 5 or more times since 2019. My favorites of those from the list include:
- Keyflower: This clever auction and city-building game has really stood the test of time as one of the greats for 3-4 players that are up for an involved auction game.
- Hanamikoji: One of the best 20-minute two-players games ever designed.
- Captain Sonar: An absolute blast to play with 8 players, and I somehow got to play it 7 times!
- Food Chain Magnate: Splotter, exploding your brain for 25 years and counting. I learned this beast during the pandemic, and it was a real pleasure and challenge to wrap my head around.
I was surprised to see Beyond the Sun make the list because I really do not enjoy that game, but I guess I gave it a reasonable shot due to all of the praise from fellow Opinionated Gamers. Then again, given their lack of appreciation for Dominant Species, I’m not sure I can rely too much on the OG for my game recommendations.
Singletons (from Amun-Re to Zendo and Zoff in Buffalo and everything in between): Of the 129 games that I played 1 time over the past few years, there are many that I wish I had played more, many that I hope not to play again, and a few that I somehow cannot even remember at all…
The best games from those singletons are: Antics, Antiquity, Before the Wind, Java, Louis XIV, Luna, Santiago, Ta Yu, and Trapwords. I’d love to get all 9 of those games to the table more in the year to come. I adore the open-feeling puzzle nature of building up in Antics and Java. I find the price setting in Before the Wind and Santiago thrilling. I think the three-player mode for Ta Yu is something really special, and two-player Louis XIV is Rudiger Dorn at his best with one of the most inspired implementations of two-player rules around. I’m glad I’ve gotten to play games like Louis XIV 21 times overall, Java 17 times overall, and Ta Yu 16 times overall, but it’s striking to see only a single play of each since 2019. I suppose I’ve been busy playing all those games of Root, Terraforming Mars, Lost Ruins of Arnak, Scythe, and Oath.
18 years and 13,000 games later, I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to try 398 different games over the past few years and 1,911 different games overall. I’m looking forward to hitting 2,000 different games tried soon and 15,000 games played in the coming years. I can’t wait to see what my 2,000th game and 15,000th play end up being. Hopefully the next write-up will include plenty more Netrunner, Cole Wehrle games, and classics like Java, Stephensons Rocket, San Marco, Imperial, Galaxy Trucker, El Grande, and Hansa Teutonica. Maybe it will even include a first play of my own published design, which was very clearly inspired by so many of the games mentioned above.