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2012 In Review: Part 3 (BGG's Top Games of 2012)

Jesse Dean
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As 2012 comes to a close I find myself fairly interested in how the most-well regarded games of 2011 reflect on the year as a whole. Since 2012’s Essen games are only just now making an impact on the board game world, I’ve gone ahead and included two charts reflecting BGG’s consensus on 2012 games, the Top 10 of 2012 by Ranking and the Significant games of 2012 by Average Rating.





I went ahead and included more than the Top 10 (or so) games of 2012 in the average rating chart, because of what I consider to be the defining feature of gaming in 2012: The sheer quantity of reprints that are on these lists. The Top 10 has 3 or 4 (depending on where you categorize Android: Netrunner) and the Significant Games list has 4 or 5 (once again depending on where you categorize Android: Netrunner). I consider this to be mildly corrosive from an idealized perspective, as it kind of disrupts the ideal of having a list of the hobby, as seen through BoardGameGeek, games viewed with the most respect, but I understand that other people perceive it differently. Regardless, the sheer quantity of them compelled me to go a bit deeper into the highest average rating list in order to get a better idea of the significant new games of 2012.

Something else that differentiates 2012 from 2011 at least, I do not have sufficient data for previous years, is the sheer quantity of games with an average rating of 8.00 or higher. Granted, I looked at the average ratings on the 19th last year, but I would be rather startled if a large number of these games had a significant drop in average rating over the course of a week. I suspect that a lot of these games will not end up making a bit impact on the rankings, simply due to a lack of ability to accumulate a large number of ratings, but it does seem that that the average board gamer thinks that 2012 was a high-quality year.

2012 is distinct from the sheer diversity of games styles that are doing well. Where in years past there was usually one type of game that dominated with others having a few spots here and there, in 2012 there seemed to be a selection of games across types. Even games that periodically have weak years, such as cooperative games, are well-represented. Whether this is indicative of a change in the quality of different types of games being produced or a change in the BGG rating electorate is something I am less certain of, but on the whole I think it is positive as it does allow a large variety of people to be able to find games that might interest them.

Personally, I have only played about half of the games that made it on these two lists, and of the ones that remain, there are none that I am actually interested in playing. In fact, at this point in time there are only two games left that were published in 2012 that I have a strong interest in playing (Myrmes and Polis: Fight For the Hegemony) meaning that I have either become much more adept at finding the games I am more likely to like and ignoring the rest, that there are less games of the sort that I am interested in playing released this year, or that I am missing out on some fantastic games that would suit me well.

A Look Back At 2011
Since I wrote an article like this last year too, I can go back and see how games released last year ended up doing. Based on last year’s average rating list, the expected game rank list should have looked something like this:
Eclipse
Mage Knight
Ora et Labora
A Few Acres of Snow
Star Trek: Fleet Captains
Gears of War: The Board Game
Trajan
The Castles of Burgundy
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Dungeon Petz
Yomi

This is how it ended up:
Eclipse
Mage Knight
Puerto Rico: Limited Edition
Ora et Labora
The Castles of Burgundy
Summoner Wars: Master Set
A Game of Thrones Board Game: Second Edition
Trajan
Lords of the Rings: The Card Game
A Few Acres of Snow
Village
Risk Legacy
Dixit Odyessy
Dungeon Petz

There are a few surprises here. The first is that for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to leave out games I considered being expansions or reprints. That was obviously silly of me and I will avoid doing that in the future. I expected both Star Trek Fleet Captains and Gear of War to still be on this list, but apparently they followed the typical trends and were not able to maintain their previous averages, though Fleet Captains was able to do much better than Gears of War and mostly suffers due to the low number of total ratings. Yomi, A Few Acres of Snow, and the Lord of the Rings Card Game all lost average rating and rankings, with AFAoS’s decline being both the most noticeable and the most satisfying. Village is the most notable in the opposite direction. Apparently it winning a major German award was sufficient to give it a new wave of attention as its average rating increased and its ranking increased significantly. I remain somewhat tempted to try it out. I trashed it pretty heavily in my pre-release prediction article, and it would be nice to know if I was actually wrong.

Of the past five years 2011 makes up the second largest share of the overall games in the Top 150 (and the Top 100), with 19 total games. 2010 has 16, and further years feature an increasingly smaller amount of games, as only the most popular and/or successful are able to maintain their position in the face of relentless pressure from new games. The exception seems to be 2009, which currently holds the most total games in the Top 150, despite the fact that I, and many other people I discuss game with, consider it one of the less interesting years in recent memory.

So that is where we currently stand. I look forward to seeing what the rankings do for next year and, now that I am collecting this data, seeing how the shares of particular years in the Top 100 and Top 150 shifts over the course of time.
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Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:41 pm
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My Game Weight Preferences

Jesse Dean
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While game weight is perhaps not the most effective metric, its use on BoardGameGeek has caused it to effectively enter the board game lexicon. While I do wish we had more precise tools to analyze game complexity, depth, and difficulty, it can still be a useful tool for dialog as long as you are willing to accept this imprecision.

While thinking about Hawaii and Pantheon for the purpose of writing a review, I became more acutely aware of my general dissatisfaction with middle weight eurogames. This prompted me to take a look at the games I have played and owned and how my perspective of middle weight eurogames compares to my overall preferences for heavy (weight 3+) or light (weight <2) games.

It turns out that of the 84 games that I rate 7 or higher, which is the general threshold for which I consider myself to like a game, only 20 are what I consider to be middle weight. Of those 20 (listed below), only 8 of them are what I consider eurogames: Chicago Express, Clippers, German Railways, Neue Hemat, and Ra, Texas & Pacific, The Manhattan Project, and Vikings. This is not a particularly diverse list of eurogames. Chicago Express, Clippers, German Railways, Neue Heimat, and Texas & Pacific are all opaque Winsome-style games that are notoriously outside of the general trends in eurogames design and development, and I know people who argue that they are in an entirely different category, train games, rather than being eurogames. Ra, The Manhattan Project, and Vikings are all traditional eurogames. The rest of my middle weight favorites are a mixture of war games (Command & Colors: Ancients, Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War, and Sekigahara: Unification of Japan), complex card games (Glory to Rome, Innovation, Puzzle Strike, Race For the Galaxy, and Sentinels of the Multiverse), and old-school American-style games (Merchants of Venus).


As my ratings decrease, so does the average weight of my rated games. The first light games do not appear until I hit rating 7 (Crokinole and Zing!) and heavy games completely disappear by the time I hit my lowest ratings. I have played more heavy games than mediums or light. Fully 45% of all games I have played are heavy, with 39% being medium, and a mere 16% being light games. I suspect both the average ratings and relative quantities are based on the fact that over the last two years I have become much more aware of my general preference for heavier games and have largely self-selected away from games that are lighter. Based on this data, I think that maybe I should start self-selecting away even more aggressively, outside of the three primary categories I listed above (train games, war games, and complex card games).

So what are your general game weight preferences? Do you find that you tend to only enjoy certain types of game in a particular weight class? Is my recent purchase of Magic Realm going to push my average weight of my favorite games up?

Medium Games I Like
Chicago Express
Clippers
Command & Colors: Ancients
German Railways
Glory to Rome
Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War
Innovation
Merchants of Venus
Neue Heimat
Puzzle Strike
Ra
Race For the Galaxy
Sekigahara: Unification of Japan
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Summoner Wars: Master Set
Texas & Pacific
The Manhattan Project
Vikings
Yomi
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Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:16 pm
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2011 in Review: Part 1 (My Games Played)

Jesse Dean
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While it is a bit early to be looking at the games I’ve played in 2011, I think on the whole it is fairly safe to do so now. I expect that I will play no new games in December, and most of my effort will be expended in further exploration of the new games rolling in: Eclipse, Mage Knight, Ora et Labora, Upon A Salty Ocean, and Singapore (The last two just arrived last night!). Here is the list: 2011 Plays


Games Played by Quantity - 2011


Games Played by Rating - 2011
*This is A Few Acres of Snow, whose rating I will raise once its issue is resolved.

So on the whole, I am pretty happy with my gaming in 2011. The total number of plays (even when accounting for an expected 40-50 plays in December) is definitely lower than in previous years, which is unfortunate, but can be accounted for by a combination of gaming burn-out in the Spring, an increased focus on 18XX games during the same period, and the frequent non-meeting of my Sunday group. So even when I was gaming I wasn’t gaming nearly as much. This has turned around since summer hit, and I’ve been able to maintain a pretty steady rate since then.

The bulk of the games I have played I have been able to get more than one play out of, which I think is another promising item. While I suppose this has reduced the variety of games I’ve played, particularly in comparison with previous years, I am much happier being able to explore a smaller group of games in greater detail. I suspect a major part of this increased concentration is that I have largely completed my exploration of older games that I am interested in seeing and have a better idea of the sorts of games that are coming out that might interest me. Thus I am much less likely to find a game that I am going to only want to play once, and most of my single plays were either revisitations of older games that I like but only got to play once this year (such as 1830, Age of Steam, Battlestar Galactica, Brass, Clippers Inca Empire, and Kaivai) are ones that are very new and I have not yet had a chance to explore in more detail (such as Dungeon Petz, Eclipse, The Manhattan Project, MIL (1049), Singapore, and Upon A Salty Ocean). Since most of the items in the second category are expected to hit this month (and the second two arrived last night), I imagine that all of them will have second plays by the time the month is over with.
I have also been able to mostly play games that I like quite well, though the fact that the bulk of my plays were rated 8 rather than 9 or 10 is sad, but mostly unavoidable; the bulk of the fast games that I like are rated 8. Race For the Galaxy has seen a new resurgence locally as a few newer players have grown interested in it, so I hope that it will end up taking a larger number of my total game plays next year. I expect Innovation to still be pretty strong, but Yomi, which was my most play game in 2011, will probably decline in the face of the alternative of Summoner Wars as a fast two-player game.

The amount of play of some of my longer favorites will depend a lot on the preferences of my gaming partners. I have some influence over what games get to the table, but both Twilight Struggle and Command & Colors: Ancients will only get as many plays as my two-player gaming opportunities allow, and my declining interest in 18XX may keep 1848: Australia off the table as well. I expect that I will have no problem keeping the total number of plays of Agricola, Colonial, Dominant Species, and Imperial 2030 strong. Hansa Teutonica has fallen a bit out of favor locally though, and the amount of play Ora et Labora and Mage Knight get will depend a lot on how people like them initially so I intend to perform a lot of work ensuring that the initial impression from these is a favorable one.

Of course much of my hope for even more gaming in 2012 could be dashed by my planned move in August. Currently I live in Orlando, FL but at the behest of my lovely girlfriend we are going to be moving an hour away from the city in order to be closer to work. I do not think this will affect my Wednesday Coolstuff gaming, but it might reduce my weekend opportunities unless I can convince someone else to take over hosting duties. It might increase my two-player opportunities however, as said girlfriend has indicated that she will be more willing to play two-player games with me when we have an extra hour and a half a day with no driving. So we will see what happens. Hopefully, this will mean I am getting in even more gaming, with more two-player opportunities, Wednesday night, and a weekend session. However, I might just end up gaming on Wednesday, which will dramatically decrease my gaming options. Alas, woe, etc.
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Fri Dec 2, 2011 5:45 pm
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Essen 2011 and the BGG Top 100

Jesse Dean
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Every year after Essen I feel a bit of excitement as I see what games are making their way up the BGG rankings. It is simply fun rooting for my own personal favorites to make their way up the BGG rankings, potentially landing in the Top 100, while at the same time hoping that other games, which I view less favorably, fail to make it as far. Ultimately, it does not matter, since there are plenty of games both inside and outside of the Top 100 that I view as very good games, but the perceived competition itself is enjoyable.

Generally, for a game to be able to make it into the BGG Top 100 it has to get pretty strong initial ratings. An initial neutral to negative response from early adopters can slow down the game’s momentum, and barring something extraordinary, prevent it from ultimately getting the quantity and quality of ratings it needs to make the Top 100 as people will get scared away from a game that rates poorly. This is particularly true since initial ratings tend to be from early adopters who are more likely to rate a game well. Once it hits a wider audience, average rating almost always goes down, meaning that the earliest ratings frequently indicate the highest average rating this game will ever get. So for the purpose of this blog, I am going to look at those games that I consider being in the running for the Top 100 and am outright rejecting games that have below a 7.80 average rating. This average rating is higher than that of many games that currently are in the BGG Top 100, but as noted above, it is reasonable to expect these ratings to decline over time.

In addition to high average ratings over time, a game needs to be able to get a sufficient quantity of ratings in order to reach the Top 100. A game with a low number of ratings but a really high average rating, like the War of the Ring Collector’s Edition, can get there, but generally you need to have thousands of ratings in order to break past the dummy ratings and have a shot at getting into the Top 100. This means that games with a wide distribution, particularly with the American audiences that are the most common on BGG, have a definite advantage in getting into the Top 100. This wide distribution comes with a cost though, as a game with one is also more likely to encounter people who do not like it, bringing the average rating down.

So of the games released at Essen 2011, I think 10 have some shot at making the Top 100 based on their average rating. Some of these are released by smaller board game companies and might not make it if they never get picked up for a wider distribution, or if people outside of the core audience dislike it, but there is at least a chance they will.

Very Likely
Eclipse – 8.45 (161 ratings)
If any game can be considered the true hit of Essen 2011, this one can. It sold very well and has received fantastic ratings, with some even going so far as to say it is the best board game that has been released in years. It is a relatively fast space epic game, which is something that players have been actively wanting for years. The fact that Asmodee is going to be publishing it in the United States meaning that it is going to get into the hands of a lot of people, virtually assuring that a number of excited gamers will get their hands on it. Eclipse is virtually assured a spot in the Top 100 and may very well make the Top 25 if it can keep its current momentum.

Mage Knight Board Game 8.26 (74 ratings)
The Mage Knight Board Game will likely do well for the same reasons as Eclipse, but it has a couple of items that will potentially slow it down. The first is that it appears to be a bit more complicated than Eclipse, meaning that there is a good shot that people will get turned off by an initial negative reaction to that complexity. The second is that, despite being associated with the Mage Knight brand, and thus more likely to be purchased by fans of the old Mage Knight Collectible Miniatures Game (CMG), it also has violated some elements of the game’s mythos, and thus could get poor ratings from Mage Knight CMG fans who are upset about that. Beyond those two items, it looks like it has a strong shot at the Top 100. With Wizkids as the publisher, it will almost certainly be in every board game shop in America. It appears to be an adventure game that is specifically tailored for the sort of gamers that frequent BGG, with a strong strategic backbone and one of the hottest designers around. I am even going to get it, despite not being a big fan of fantasy adventure games genre.

Ora et Labora – 8.18 (67 ratings)
While his last two games have not done well in the rankings, Ora et Labora has the makings of another strong showing from Uwe Rosenberg. It is the sort of heavy euro resource conversion game that, while not as popular as they once were, are like catnip to the BGG crowd. Uwe’s previous two designs: Agricola and Le Havre are both in the Top 10 on BGG, and the simple fact that he has made another game in their style might be enough to get this game in the Top 100. It also has the strong initial ratings it needs to be able to make it for the long haul. Third, Z-Man Games is distributing it which means it has the reach needed to get sufficient ratings to make the Top 100. The only real downsides are that it looks like it has even more to think about then Le Havre, so its complexity might be outside of the comfort zone of the average BGGer, and the combination of low interaction with no randomness, so it might have a low degree of interplay variability. I don’t think that either of these items will prevent it from making the Top 100 and, for me personally, the question is not whether Ora et Labora will make the Top 100. The question is whether it will be the third Uwe Rosenberg game to make the Top 25. I think the answer is probably not, but it will be interesting to see!

Likely
Dungeon Petz – 7.85 (138 ratings)
Dungeon Petz is the second game on this list from designer Vlaada Chavatil, and another one that I think is likely to make it into the Top 100. Like Ora et Labora it is being distributed by Z-Man Games, meaning that it should be pretty widely available. Additionally, Dungeon Petz is clearly designed with “gamers” in mind, and Vlaada Chavatil has proven very effective in designing games that appeal to BGG raters; since 2006 every single game he has made that has been designed for “gamers” has made the Top 100. The big thing holding this one back is the relatively low initial ratings for the game. While a 7.85 average rating is by no means low, it does not leave a lot of room for rating degradation over time. How well Dungeon Petz does will depend a lot on the overall level of degradation. If it can remain fairly low then this one will easily make the Top 100, and perhaps even the Top 50. I suspect it will keep constant enough to be able to make it.



Depends on Distribution
Trajan – 7.93 (149 ratings)
Trajan is by another game by one of BGG’s established designers: Stefan Feld. While Stefan Feld hasn’t been quite as successful in getting top ranked games as Vlaada Chavatil or Uwe Rosenberg, he is respected, and his name on the box is frequently enough for people to check it out. The initial rating of 7.93 also is strong, and indicates that it might have enough appeal to go far in the rankings. The main thing that could potentially hold it back is the lack of US distribution. Unless it gets this, it might not get the quantity of ratings that it needs to make the Top 100. Assuming it does make it to the US, I have every expectation of it making it, however.

Vanuatu – 7.90 (71 ratings)
Vanuatu is another game whose fate in the rankings I expect will largely hang on the results of getting a distribution deal in the United States. However, Vanuatu’s approachable theme, largely positive initial reactions, and the general style of the game mean that I think this is pretty likely. While it does not have the name recognition that comes with having an established designer like Stefan Feld’s on the box, a copy did make it to BGG.Con, meaning it has a good shot of building the buzz that has been enough to launch games, such as Hansa Teutonica in 2009, into the US in the past.

MIL (1049) - 7.91 (68 ratings)
MIL (1049) is another game that has gotten good initial buzz from Essen attendees that needs US distribution to make the Top 100. The game itself looks like it has the correct combination of the familiar and the innovative to appeal to BGG gamers, and a play time that allows it to be played even in shorter game nights. What could potentially hold it back, in addition to distribution, are the relative complexity of the rules; reports from Essen, while largely possible, did indicate some difficulty with understanding how the game worked. Despite this, I think the game has a pretty good shot of doing well in the rankings if a US publisher picks it up. However, of these three, I think that it has the lowest odds of getting US distribution.

Possible
Hawaii – 7.80 (65 ratings)
Unlike the previous category of games, Hawaii has a distribution deal in the US, however while I think it is possible that Hawaii will make the Top 100, I am a bit less certain about it. The biggest thing holding it back is its initial average rating. While 7.80 is not a bad rating, it might not be sufficient for it to make it to the Top 100 if it decays to any extent as it gains ratings. Beyond that, I don’t have any real basis for judging its fate. Its rules are currently unavailable, so I am uncertain of how appealing Hawaii is on the whole, and most of the references I have seen have mentioned its similarities to Vikings, a solid game but not one that set the BGG rankings on fire.

Quebec – 7.82 (59 ratings)
My expectations for Quebec are similar to those with Hawaii. Its initial rating is decent, but not strong enough that it can take any serious rating decay and still make it to the Top 100. It has a distribution deal with Asmodee, which it means it should be seen by enough gamers to allow it to make the Top 100. It is simply a matter of seeing how much people like it once it gets into their hands.

Colonial: Europe’s Empires Overseas – 8.15 (52 ratings)
While I enjoy Colonial quite a bit, I think it is the game that is least likely to make it to the Top 100 of those on the list. It has a strong initial rating, but that rating is based on the smallest sample size of any game on this list and is thus pretty volatile. Additionally, based on my play, I am uncertain of how well it will do well in the overall market. It is best with 5 or 6 players and can be fairly long with that number, and games that are both long and require a large number of players to shine have not traditionally done very well in the BGG rankings. These items may be sufficient enough that it will not see the US distribution deal that is needed to allow this one to make it into the Top 100. Still, unlike a lot of Essen games, it is possible so it will be interesting to see how things develop from here.

So that is the field as I currently see it. Is there any Essen 2011 games that I am missing that you think will/could make the Top 100?
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Fri Nov 4, 2011 6:38 pm
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Strategic Musings on and Statistical Analysis of Urban Sprawl

Jesse Dean
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Urban Sprawls three currencies: action points, money, and building permits. The planning deck is the major source of two of these currencies, with each of the deck’s 36 different building permit cards displaying both a money payout symbol and a number of permits on it. Money is important for determining where you can build, but without the right number of permits, you won’t be able to build at all, which is usually a lot more inconvenient then not being able to build in an optimal space. Permit cards can also be transformed into money, if you have one at the beginning of the round, though the reverse is not true. Only action points (Aps) can be used to acquire permits. The other item that action points are used to acquire is contract cards. It is very easy in Urban Sprawl to get distracted by the flashy power of the contract cards but I think this is largely a mistake. Building permits are just as important as contract cards, if not more so, and it makes sense to be careful in both when you acquire them and how you spend them.



So what makes permits so valuable? It is mostly a matter of the scarcity of the higher value permits, and the way the requirements for the bigger ones balloon as the game continues. As you can see from the table above, the combined quantities of size 3 and size 4 permit cards are equal to that of either of the size 1 and 2 quantities. When you add in the Urban Renewal cards, these larger cards become rather scarce, and once you start reaching the City and Metropolis phases (when average permit size goes from 1.56 to 2.64 to 2.83), very important. Playing in a fast and loose way, where you try to use available building permits to build an available contract every turn may require less thought but it will also create even more of the sort of chaos I talked about in my Initial Impressions post, as you become truly reliant on what cards are coming out in order to be able to do anything.



In addition to being restricted by permit size, contract cards can only use permit cards that specifically allow them. This is rarely a problem for the smaller contracts, as they are so plentiful that you can just reach over and grab whichever card takes your fancy. Once you get into the larger permits, however, things become a bit more difficult. All of the level 3 and 4 permit cards can be used with commercial buildings. This makes sense, because there are far more commercial buildings than any other type. All but one of the level 3 and 4 permit cards also allow industrial buildings. This also makes sense because, on average, industrial buildings require more permits than the others. Residential and civic are less permit-intensive and thus have less of a requirement for large contracts. Where this becomes problematic, however, is in getting out those rare, large residential and civic buildings. It might even be worthwhile to hang on to contracts that allow them because merely by holding them you are reducing the capability of other players to build these larger buildings. With this restriction they are less likely to grab them for themselves, meaning you are more likely to get these big, valuable, contracts for a reduced cost. Also, once the Metropolis era arrives with its powerful late-game contracts, being able to build them before anyone else can be a powerful.



In a particular game it is extremely likely that you won’t see more than 75% of the town and city decks, and you will never see more than 50% of the metropolis deck. As a result of this you can never expect to see a particular card. However, the four zones each have a fairly tight mechanical focus making it so that you have a good idea of the sort of ability you will be taking advantage of when you get a building permit. Civic contracts tend to focus on gaining victory points and tend to supply Education, Public Service, and Tourism vocations. Commercial contracts tend to focus on producing and claiming other people’s money, and tend to supply Finance, Media, Tourism, and Transportation vocations. Industrial contracts tend to focus on manipulation of planning cards, and tend to supply Energy, Factory, and Transportation vocations. Residential contracts tend to focus on manipulation of wealth and victory point markers and control of buildings and tend to not deal with vocation markers. With this in mind some planning and strategy is possible, even if it is limited somewhat by when and how the contracts come out.

The eight vocations are not evenly distributed across the contract cards. Some vocations, such as Public Service, appear quite frequently across the contract cards while others, such as Media and Finance, are much, much rarer. In many ways taking a particular vocation-based contract is an exercise in risk vs. reward. Finance has some pretty amazing pay-out opportunities, but with only 4 appearances across the three decks, the likelihood of seeing it again is much lower than the more modestly rewarding Public Service, which has 12 appearances. “Dead” vocation markers are not a total loss, however, as they help you get Mayor, one of the six political offices.


*The Media vocation gets constant income from event cards in the City and Metropolis decks.


With the exception of Mayor and Contractor, ownership of a political office is about controlling the most valuable building of a particular type, with ties going to those who have the majority of buildings of that type, with further ties resolved by other political offices. The special abilities provided by these offices are powerful, and thus worth fighting for. The Union Boss, determined by the most valuable Industrial building, has the flashiest power thanks to its ability to provide 2 extra APs every round, but this typically only provides the ability to select more expensive cards then they normally would instead of getting extra cards. The District Attorney, determined by the most powerful Civic building, allows you to get more victory points from zone adjacency, which can provide a considerable bonus if it is used frequently and carefully. The Treasurer, determined by the most powerful Commercial building, allows forces other players to pay you $2 each at the beginning of your turn. This is helpful because of the fact that it provides you with a continual source of income regardless of which contract cards come out. The last one, and probably my favorite, is the Police Chief, who ensures that you get both victory points and money when getting a vocation pay-out, rather than just one. This one is obviously only useful if you are grabbing lots of vocations, but I admit I am a fan of vocations, so this does not bother me much. It also dovetails nicely into getting the Mayor, as vocation tile quantity during an election determines who gets this office. Because of the relative rarity of contracts of certain zones, it seems that it will be easier to hold on to the political offices associated with those zones. However, an errant urban renewal or the shifting dynamics of the wealth and prestige markers will prevent these offices from being too static. It will take some concerted effort to hold on to a particular office throughout the game, and if someone is willing to go through all of that to hold on to an office, they probably should get to keep it.

In addition to determining what special ability you receive, political offices also give you special bonuses via events. In the City deck there are eight events, two for each of the main political offices besides Mayor that provide some sort of extra special benefit for that political office. Four of these events cause a change in the distribution of money and/or VPs between players while the other four are slightly flashier and fun. All of the Metropolis-era events are focused on the Mayor, mostly giving the Mayor special bonuses or allowing him or her to direct the negative effects of a bad event in a limited way. This means that, while the Mayor is useful earlier in the game, it is most important to control the office during the Metropolis era as that is when the office’s biggest bonuses kick in. The others are important throughout the game, as they have good events during the City era, but also can provide big victory point bonuses at the end of the game.

Digging into the statistical guts of Urban Sprawl has actually improved my opinion of the game. I had previously been cautiously positive about it, but now that I understand it better I can move from there to fully positive. I am not quite sure where it is going to eventually settle into my rankings, but I plan to play it extensively in the near future to find out.
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Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:43 pm
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Determining The Quality Of A Year And What It Means For 2011

Jesse Dean
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So I love stats (and trend analysis) and I love board games, and thus I have a bit of fondness for stats and trend analysis of my board game tastes and habits. A very useful tool for that, particularly if you record plays, ratings, and ownership levels on BGG, is the spreadsheet that is available for download on your games page. It basically combines all of the information present in your profile statistics into one customizable document that you can use to determine all sorts of things about your gaming history and preferences.

So how do I determine that a particular year will be a good one for board gaming? In the past I’ve looked at my average rating for that year, average rating for the game I own, or simply how many 9s and 10s I own from that year. Those are all reasonable metrics, and ones I’ve used in the past; they provide part of the picture but not all of it. Lately I’ve mostly been looking at how many games I own for a given year to determine whether I think of it is a good year or a bad year.

Looking at ownership levels alone indicates that 2010 is the best year for me. I currently own 9 games from that year, which is higher than any other individual year. The only one that comes close is 2005, with 7 owned games, and most other recent years only having 4 or 5 owned games. So based on looking at just ownership levels, 2011 already looks like it is going to be a pretty solid year. I currently own four games from 2011, and three of the four have a very good chance to stay in my collection. I’ve enjoyed them a lot, there is still plenty of exploration left in them, and my local player pool also enjoys them. This is even without hitting Essen, which produces a pretty solid chunk of games in a year, and usually produces a lot of the games I think are worth owning*. I also have a pretty sizeable list of games I am looking at for Essen, so even if not all of them end up being winners, I will probably equal or exceed 2010’s number of games owned.

Lately I’ve gotten the feeling that this particular metric still probably doesn’t tell the whole story and I should probably take at other factors in order to narrow in on the what year is actually my favorite and what should be considered when deciding if a year is a good one for games. So in order to expand my knowledge, even without necessarily changing my preferred metric I decided to look at not only ownership levels, but also games that I got rid of and games that I played without ever bothering to buy. The results were striking.



So even though 2010 was the games that resulted in the highest ownership levels for me, it also has more previously owned games than any other individual year. In fact, if you consider the percentage of games owned compared to the total number of games that I played for that year, it is fifth, behind 2002, 2011, 2005, and 2003. Now, it can be logically argued that 2002, 2011, and 2003 can all be rejected because of their small sample size. This is probably the correct decision, as 2011 is still a bit too new to make a firm decision on, and I feel that I have exhausted the games I want to explore from 2003 and 2002. If I can’t find more than a handful of games that are worth going back to try out from these years, then they probably weren’t particularly great years from my perspective. Looking through the set of games played by year I have played a minimum of 20 games from every year since 2004, with the exception of 2011, which is far from over year. That seems to be as good of a threshold as any, so for the time being I can toss out 2011, 2005, and 2003. This still leaves us with 2010 and 2005.

So considering the mitigating factor of previously owned games and played but not purchased games, how can I determine if 2010 or 2005 is better? For this I am going to go back to a metric that I have previously used in order to determine what my favorite years were, but ultimately tossed aside: average rating. There are two different types of average rating that are useful to examine in this pursuit, with both average rating of games played and average rating of games owned providing useful bits of context.



There is a lot of interesting information on this graph, but narrowing in on 2010 and 2005 we can see that 2010 exceeds 2005 in both average rating of games owned and average rating overall, meaning that 2010 is clearly my favorite year thus far. This is mostly due to me getting rid of games released in 2010 that I liked well enough, but just did not see getting played regularly.

2011’s 6.22 average, with 10 games rated, is pretty high. This average will probably decline as I am exposed to more marginal 2011 games or find myself disappointed with games I am currently anticipating. However, based on my rules reading, I suspect that odds are good that I will end up with both a larger number of owned games from 2011 and that my average will end up being comparable, at least, to 2010 and 2005. Considering that those two years are clearly my best years in gaming to date, that is pretty excellent.

So what are your best years for games, and how do you think 2011 will turn out?
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3 Comments
Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:55 pm
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