I began tracking my plays on Board Game Geek in 2011 (because I like lists and stats), and I’ve found it to be a rewarding exercise, so I’ve kept the practice up. At the end of each year, I write a recap about what I played, what my play trends show, and predictions for the next year. (Here are my posts about 2011 and 2012.) Andrew beat me to the punch this year, analyzing his past three years in one post, so what I’m saying is: lower your expectations. Still, here’s my collection of 2013’s data, specifically related to nickels and dimes (games played 5+ and 10+ times).
[table id=3 /]
Note: For games with asterisks, I measured plays by rounds. (Some count one game as different from one round.)
As you can see, there were lots of shorter games on my five and dime list this past year, with the two games in the top spot coming in at 10-15 minutes apiece. But if you want to see the same list in terms of time spent, it might look like this (based on the average time it takes me to play the game:
[table id=4 /]
2013 was an interesting year in that I played a lot of games (breadth), but I also played several games over and over. As you might expect, writing a board game blog requires that I play a lot of different things, but I’m pleased that I was able to return to some old favorites while still staying current with what’s new in the hobby. My plays recorded last year show that I played 108 different games 406 total times. My nickels and dimes make up two-thirds of my total plays for the year. If you add in games that just missed the nickels and dimes (I played five games four times each and eleven games three times each), that makes up 80 percent of my game plays for the year. What’s interesting to me is that while these games make up 80 percent of the games played, they represent only 42 percent of the breadth of games I played. Of course, the games I played most don’t necessarily represent my favorites. I still didn’t get a single play of Acquireor El Grande in last year (shameful!), and while I played Power Grid more than ever in a single year, I still only played it twice. So why are the games listed here so favored?
The games listed above represent the three groups I most frequently game with, and there is considerable overlap in the games that each group is willing to play, particularly in the dimes. My lunch games group is responsible for a good number of these games, but especially for some of the dimes. Glory to Rome and Innovation were played almost exclusively over lunch breaks at work. (What can I say? My coworkers love Carl Chudyk.) Coup traveled a few times to game night, but most of its plays were in the lunch context as well. Rialto, aside from one play at Gen Con, was also played over lunch, as was Medici and The Resistance.
Games I play mostly with my wife are also well represented on the list. Ticket to Ride is my wife’s favorite game, and we still play it very frequently. (The six plays listed for Ticket to Ride: Europe doesn’t include the expansions. If all were taken into account, we played Ticket to Ride closer to fifteen times this year.) Lost Cities and Can’t Stop are also hits at home, as was Parade (received in December this year) and Pinata.
I don’t get together with my family very often (we live far apart), but whenever we get together, games are definitely on the agenda. My family is almost single-handedly responsible for Airlines Europe appearing on this list (even though it’s an awesome game that everyone should play–seriously). Sushi Go! and Coloretto were hits at my family Christmas celebration, as was Get Bit!
Several of the games on this list, though, are crossover hits. 7 Wonders has been on my dimes list all three years I’ve tracked plays because it’s simple enough to attract new players but deep enough for my more experienced gaming friends to want to play. Hanabi was a stand-out this year in that it got play almost everywhere I took it–and I took it everywhere because it’s so compact. And Click Clack Lumberjack is number one because everyone (including me) wanted to play it again and again once they tried it.
One thing that surprises me a little about my nickel and dime list is just how few of the games on it appeared on last year’s list, and also how few of the high-ranking games from last year didn’t make this year’s cut. Crokinole seems like an easy game to get to the table–it’s quick and doesn’t require much brain power or commitment to play–and yet last year’s breakaway hit (with 51 plays) saw only three plays on our table this year. (We did move it to a less convenient room in the house, so it wasn’t sitting out as it was for much of 2012.) Similarly, The Lord of the Rings LCG saw zero plays this year (after 47 last year), but that was expected because I traded it at the start of the year. And I guess there’s a story like that for most of the games that fell off. It’s just a little surprising to me that there isn’t more carry over from year to year. I suppose that there can be no doubt: I play mostly the new and shiny.
Despite this, I’m guessing there will be more carry over to next year’s nickel and dime list. I discovered several games that I love last year. Innovation is probably the best new discovery of the past year. (I’m indebted to Philip duBarry, who recommended it on his blog.) I would be surprised if Innovation was not a dime for this year as my coworkers’ appetite for the game is insatiable, and they haven’t even tried the expansions yet. I expect 7 Wonders to remain a dime, or at least a strong nickel. It’s a great game that most of the people in my gaming groups love. I expect Lost Cities, Can’t Stop, and Click Clack Lumberjack to stick around because my wife likes them. (I think Lost Cities and Click Clack Lumberjack will remain dimes, but Can’t Stop will likely drop to a nickel next year.) I think Libertalia will be a strong nickel but not a dime–since I’ve discovered that most of my groups like it, I no longer leave it at work. (And besides, my coworkers are often playing Innovation.) Coup (definitely) and Hanabi (probably) will be dimes next year because they’re simple and quick and awesome. I think Dominion might drop to a nickel next year after appearing as a dime on all three lists. I still love the game, and I play all the time against an AI opponent (plays not logged in this list), but I don’t have the opportunity to play face-to-face very often anymore. (Huge expandability is a blessing and a curse–my Dominion box is too heavy to take anywhere.) I’m also unsure about the fate of Glory to Rome, a game that I love but which is very hard to induct new players into.
I expect several of the games to drop off. Pinata and Gravwell made it because they were new and shiny; I don’t think they’ll see as much play with me in 2014. Neither will Rise of Augustus or Rialto or Escape: The Curse of the Temple (which, while still great fun, is less of a novelty and doesn’t get played often anymore).
However, there are many rising stars that should (or I hope will) appear on next year’s list. Ginkgopolis is at the top right now. I’m a little smitten with this game, and it’s the one that I want to keep exploring. It’s almost a nickel already. It might make the dimes, but I’m guessing it will just miss it. Impulse, the newest Carl Chudyk game, is another game that I got in December. It just missed 2013’s nickels, and I think (and hope!) that it makes it in 2014. I love the game, perhaps even more than Chudyk’s other games (crazy talk!), and I want to explore to see the possibilities. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island should make the list as well, if not because I can play the game solo (and it’s awesome solo), though I’d like to get some plays in with others too. Parade should make the list next year, and I have high hopes for Star Realms, a two-player PvP deck-builder in the vein of Ascension. I’d love to give Spyrium more plays as it’s a fantastic game. The problem is I think I like it more than anyone I’ve introduced the game to, and right now it’s a little long to fit within a lunch hour. I’d love to reduce the playing time, though, to make this fit. And while it won’t be a nickel or dime (I don’t think), I’d love to play more of my favorite games like Acquire and El Grande. And if I played Ra more, I wouldn’t be disappointed. (It just missed the nickels this year.)
But really, who knows? At the end of last year, I had no idea that some of the games–like Rialto and Spyrium–even existed, and others (like Libertalia) I had no idea I’d fall in love with. So while all these predictions seem like decent bets at this point, there’s really no telling what will appear next year. (But hey, I’m a stats man, and it’s fun to speculate.)
What about you? Which games did you play in 2013? Which do you wish you had played more? Which do you hope to play more in 2014?