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03/14/2010

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The Game Whisperer

@Thoughtsongames

Elitism is certainly a possibility. The Game Whisperer doesn't like the term Gateway game, due to the definition, that the game is a good beginning but then is left behind as a player finds better games to play.

And your last comment, about Settlers being the source of existence.

Money is what drives success in business and in most hobbies. Settlers is changing the game landscape because a significant amount of money is beginning to be generated in the board game industry. This will begin to bring about change for good and bad.

The Game Whisperer

@Peter Vigeant

Your movie example is excellent. The movies loved by the masses aren't always the ones to show up at the top of the critic's list. And I have seen 12 Angry Men and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

You use a interesting term about those who like Agricola. You call them 'Game Lovers'. I wonder about your definition of a game lover. Is it equivalent to a game geek? Someone who loves to delve into rules and complexity?

I also agree with you concerning Dominion. This game has rocketed up the charts, finding success in a very short time, and I don't believe it is because it is the newest game on the street. It appears that Dominion has struck a good balance between competition, complexity, and playability.

My research has shown that there is something about it that still causes people to hesitate to play, but once they play they are hooked. I'm not sure if it is the aesthetics or style of play.

Thanks for the comments.

The Game Whisperer

@Atlemar

I understand your point about the games being established for a longer time in the market as a contributing factor to their success. But longevity should then show up for other games that have been on the market as long, and right now it doesn't appear that way. The type of game seems to be what is influencing the buying decision more than how long it has been around.

Atlemar

These big games, Catan/TTR/Carc, also are older and have had time to spread out into the culture. Agricola has simply not had the time to jump from one person to the next the same way.

I think the role selection mechanic of Puerto Rico and the turn order reversal of Power Grid may be a bridge too far to people who like to keep their games light.

Pete Vigeant

I agree with James - I love Agricola and Puerto Rico, but I couldn't bring them to my local board game night because that particular crowd has a fear of depth. Settlers is actually the most complex they get, Ticket and Carcassonne are far simpler to teach casual gamers.

My group of friends has a compromise, as we love new game dynamics and challenges, which is that we expanded Carcassonne with 4 of the add-ons. This makes for a longer game that does not get old quickly. We've played Catan so much that we would love one of the expansions to shake things up...

Agricola, though awesome for game lovers, is not accessible for everyone. Just showing the rule-book gets everyone in the room all cross-eyed. In addition, games like that are very hard to play without someone having already played. Catan is similar, but one can trudge through if they are determined. Carcassonne and Ticket are painless whether it's the first time or the hundredth - the only problem being that the game gets old without variation.

Dominion is in between, I think. I really love the repeatability, as you can continually vary the choices, and the game is relatively simple to teach. The setup, however, is such a pain that it's a turn-off to new players (organizing all of those cards - yuck!)

I think that BGG is similar to IMDB in it's rankings. Avatar is not number 1 (in fact, it's number 82), but it has broken all of the box office records. The top ten, while having some crowd favorites (Dark Knight, Empire Strikes Back) also has some movies that the crowd hasn't necessarily seen (12 Angry Men, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) - I know I've seen those movies, but ask 100 people and you're likely to find a majority that hasn't. But EVERYONE has seen Dark Knight.

Anyway, it's the difference between hard-core and casual and the millions of layers in between. Many a Catan player probably has never heard of BGG...

Just sayin'

ThoughtsOnGames

This was a good read; nice job.

In all seriousness, though, no discussion of BGG is complete without adding in the Elitist Factor, which is **huge** over there. I mean, really, we're talking about people who can use terms such as "These games of ours" with a straight face.

So, games such as Settlers or TTR are penalized with low ratings from ultra-serious bean-counters who see them as "too light," or "dated," or "luck-based," or any one of a hundred other buzzwords that all boil down to the same thing: boardgame snobbery. Meanwhile, games such as Agricola and Puerto Rico are held up as shining examples of "gamer's games," or whatever the term is this month, when the reality is that for MANY people, they are the gaming equivalent of working with a spreadsheet.

(The rankings system itself is also fundamentally broken, attempts to compare apples with oranges, and has next-to-zero validity in a statistical sense. But I suppose that's a discussion for another day.)

The biggest irony of all: that place wouldn't even EXIST if it weren't for Settlers.

Travis Reynolds

I am not sure I agree with this comment:

"Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne do not appeal to Board Game GEEKS, and the term GEEK is used in a defining manner, to describe someone who is heavily involved in the hobby of boardgaming."

While they are not the top three rated games, being rated #46, #56 & #66 is pretty darned good. Anything in the top 100 on BGG is hands down a great game and is extremely well thought of by the Geek community in general. The numeric rating difference between the top game and Settlers is 8.2 vs. 7.5, which is again very close. Simply put, anything in the top #100 (or top #200 for that matter) is probably a very, very good game and is worth playing. This is a far cry from "not appealing" to the Geeks.

The mechanics presented in each of these games have been reused, retooled and represented in countless games, many of them in that top #100 and rated higher. As games evolve and new elements are added, it seems that Gamers/Geeks opinion on which game they like best changes as well. Even within these games, they continue to evolve. TTR has TTR Europe which is rated #48 and takes the original formula and adds some new elements (I personally prefer TTR Marklin as my favorite of the TTR games and it is rated #80). Settlers and Carcassonne have also both seen expansions and evolved versions. The continued use of the core mechanics in these games is a tribute to how great they are.

Top sales does not always equate to top rated. For example, Chess has surely outsold all of these combined in its lifespan, but it is rated #215. Checkers #6098. Monopoly without doubt outsells each of these every year, probably outselling all three combined, yet it is rated #6131. Considering that scope, the rating for Settlers, Carc & TTR are looking pretty darned good all of a sudden.

The BGG ratings represnt (IMO) the BGG community, which is a niche within gaming that favors designer board games. Not all of these games do a great job of also attracting more main stream customers (sometimes referred to as gateway games). These three games all do a fantastic job of this and are thus appealing to new gamers. They are often used by Geeks or established gamers as the first introduction to gaming for new folks because they are great games, with solid mechanics and are easy to teach/learn.

It is because of this that those new gamers head out and pick up these games, thus fueling the purchase. From there, I bet a lot of them end up picking up many other games at the top of the BGG ratings.

I do agree that women are a growth market in this industry and that smart publishers & stores will begin marketing to that, if they aren't already.

TR

James Humpula

"And the woman buyer is not attracted to the traditional violence, sex, and the occult of hard-core boardgamers."

Yes, Agricola is known for it's sex and violence. Slaughtering farm animals for food and expanding your family are real turn offs. :D

In all seriousness, I don't think the primary reason for the difference in game interests between the "geeks" and the rest of the world is the game's packaging; it's what's under the hood. The "geeks" quickly get tired of the simple strategies required in games like Settlers or Carcassone, often times because these were the games that launched their interest in the hobby. They move on to more complex games with steeper learning curves, or esoteric games with novel designs. On the flip side, casual board gamers and people new to the hobby enjoy games that require little initial investment and have a relatively shallow learning curve. They don't like being confused by complex interactions or having to remember lots of rules. This is why there is such a disparity between the game store and Boardgamegeek ratings - complex, well desgined games get higher ratings than simple, well designed games on Boardgamegeek, while the opposite is true for game stores.

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