Games: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

I recently redrew a classic graph by Oliver Roeder from fivethirtyeight.com, showing the ratings of various board and card games at boardgamegeek.com. These ratings run from 1 (“Defies description of a game. You won’t catch me dead playing this. Clearly broken.”) to 10 (“Outstanding. Always want to play, expect this will never change.”). I have used the same dataset (downloaded by Rasmus Greve in 2014, so slightly old now), but removed games rated by less than 100 people, leaving a total of 5121 games. The average rating for these games is 6.42 (or 6.92 for the average weighted by number of ratings).

I’ve labelled three kinds of outlier in the graph above, and listed the corresponding games below. The Frequently Rated Games on the right are rated often because they are played often, and so they are generally very good games (the graph shows a weak correlation, reflecting this popularity–quality link). These games include Carcassonne (a superb family game, because very young children can join in if they are given hints about the best move), Dominion (my favourite card game), and Pandemic (one of the best collaborative games). Overlapping with this category are the Highly Rated Games at the top, some of which are aimed at hard-core gamers, while others (like Puerto Rico) are more widely popular. It should be noted, however, that game expansions tend to get deceptively high ratings, since they are generally only played by fans of the original game.

At the bottom are a number of Poorly Rated Games, which (sadly!) includes many of the games I grew up with. These flawed games include those which are too simple (Tic-Tac-Toe, Battleship); which are too heavily based on chance (Snakes and Ladders, Risk); which eliminate players before the end of the game (Risk, Monopoly); which take an unpredictable amount of time (Risk, Monopoly); or which have other problems. This category includes seven of the eight games on this list of flawed games by Ben Guarino, and all six in this post by Luke McKinney (which recommends Power Grid, Settlers of Catan, Ricochet Robots, Alien Frontiers, Ticket to Ride, and King of Tokyo as substitutes for Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, Connect Four, The Game of Life, and Snakes and Ladders, respectively).

Frequently Rated Games

Highly Rated Games

Poorly Rated Games

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