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Subdomain trends

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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My last post Shifts in player count over time proved quite popular (thanks Geek Weekly!) so here's another look at trends over time - this time the number of games assigned to BGG's eight subdomains.

I remember subdomains first being introduced, maybe 7 or 8 years ago? They're voted on by users and the polls don't seem to have been particularly popular, which makes the data a bit ropey (not to mention the trouble with defining the categories!). I've cut off 2016 onwards as there's a downturn in all categories, probably because the games haven't yet received enough votes to get a subdomain.

I counted all games categorised in either a single subdomain or a pair - here are the trends in the 12 most popular combinations:



The rapid growth in the strategy and family subdomains is indicative of the expansion of the hobby in general, but there are some interesting stories elsewhere. War games seem to rise and fall in cycles. Customisable games literally didn't exist before Magic. What has happened to abstract and children's games and is it more an artefact of the polling system than a real trend?

And for a bit of fun, here are the least common (non-zero) combinations:

In a Grove has been labelled an 'abstract party' game. I'm not sure it's either!

Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords is the only post-1980 'family war game' (like Risk before it).

And W.W.B manages the impressive feat of being an 'abstract thematic game'! Judging by the forum, I think there's a joke I missed.

For what it's worth given the limitations of the data, here's a plot of proportions:

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Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:37 pm
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Shifts in player count over time

Martin G
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Inspired by Morten Monrad Peterson's post How common have solo playability become?, I did a bit more digging into BGG data.

I took the top 1000 most-rated games (corresponding to about 2000+ ratings) and looked at how supported player counts have changed over time in these popular games.

Here's the plot:



The clearest trend is the huge (and accelerating) increase in solo suitability, as Morten noted. Almost half the popular games published in 2017 supported solo play!

Almost as clear is the increase in 2p suitability - the only popular 2017 title that doesn't support 2p is a remake (Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)). But interestingly, 2p-only has almost disappeared.

3p and 4p continue to be commonly supported (though recently overtaken by 2p) but 5p seems to be in decline, from almost as common as 2p support in 2000 to less than half as common now.

UPDATE (buried down in the comments): I pulled a lot more data (basically every ranked game) and went further back in time.



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Fri Oct 5, 2018 11:18 pm
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The Reinerssance is real!

Martin G
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If you're reading this, you almost certainly know that I'm a huge Knizia fan. It's been delightful this year to see the Good Doctor seemingly back in fashion amongst gamers, with reissues of his big-box classics alongside some well-regarded new designs. I've been describing this as the Reinerssance and I decided to take a data-driven look.

I used the BGG API to harvest some basic data on all of Knizia's 505 (!) credited designs. From those I picked out the 279 with a BGG ranking (at least 30 ratings) to produce a couple of visualisations.

Here's a timeline of the number of ranked games he has produced in each year, coloured to show 'bombs' (BGG rating below 6) and 'hits' (BGG rating above 7).



We can clearly see his golden age in the late nineties and early noughties, followed by several years where his raw output increases but his BGG reception drops right off. That's followed by a period of relatively low output (still rather high by the standards of most designers!) and then in 2017-18 we see his first BGG 'hits' after a gap of ten years.

Another way to look at this is a scatter plot showing each game's rating. I've also sized the points by number of users rating and coloured them by weight.



Again, the golden age and the Reinerssance jump out and the latter is particularly striking with three of his top seven best-rated designs coming in 2017/18 (Blue Lagoon, Yellow & Yangtze, Quest for El Dorado).

If you're interested in particular games, there's a version here with hover-over tooltips.

As usual, there are plenty of caveats to BGG data. No doubt the first flush of enthusiasm for the newest games will fade, and yes, several of them are remakes of a sort. But it still seems pretty clear that Knizia is back in a big way with gamers and that makes me happy!
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Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:02 pm
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Text mining BGG comments - part 2 (the plot thickens)

Martin G
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In part 1, I explained how I retrieved the user comments for the top 2000 games and looked at the percentage of comments for a game that match a particular search term. My next idea was to look at how the use of terms changes over time, along the lines of the Google Ngram Viewer.

Unfortunately, no data is available from BGG on when comments were posted. But what I do have is the release years of the games. So I could aggregate the comments by year and look at how the frequency of a term changes with the year of release.

This isn't perfect -- I'm only looking at the top 2000, and the further we go back in time, the fewer games are represented. But from the mid-1990s on, there are enough to show some interesting trends.

Here's one showing the decline of one key mechanism and the rise of another:



and the same for designers:



Here are two notable recent trends rising in lockstep:



And this is an interesting one suggesting that the meanings of 'solo' and 'solitaire' have diverged:



Finally, any guesses what this is?

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Fri Nov 3, 2017 10:57 am
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Text mining BGG comments - part 1

Martin G
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User comments on games are probably the most valuable resource on BGG. You can quickly get an overview of the thoughts of people who loved, hated or were indifferent to a game, and you can create your own easy-access panel of trusted commenters.

Recently I've been doing some text mining at work and I thought it might be fun to try some things out on BGG comments. Using a Python wrapper round the BGG API somebody had helpfully created, over the course of several days I grabbed all the comments for the top 2000 games in the BGG rankings and saved a local copy.

As I was thinking about techniques to try, I happened on this excellent geeklist from a few years ago, in which Alison devised a simple but very effective way of looking at the text in comments. For a given word ('filler', 'dice' etc.) she found the percentage of comments which contained the word, giving a quick idea of the characteristics of a game.

I replicated her approach and started looking at some terms. Obvious mechanical and thematic terms produce unsurprising results:

Push your luck

title matches total term %
id
175117 Celestia 136 512 26.6
169654 Deep Sea Adventure 163 637 25.6
156009 Port Royal 226 918 24.6
149155 Dead Man's Draw 104 489 21.3
37759 Diamant 374 1997 18.7
632 Cloud 9 129 709 18.2
41 Can't Stop 412 2641 15.6
15512 Diamant 274 1784 15.4
150312 Welcome to the Dungeon 136 947 14.4
98315 The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus 57 422 13.5


Egypt

title matches total term %
id
35435 Nefertiti 22 398 5.5
150999 Valley of the Kings 27 523 5.2
5404 Amun-Re 106 2112 5.0
3931 Mare Nostrum 39 873 4.5
67185 Sobek 11 274 4.0
127023 Kemet 57 1463 3.9
58421 Egizia 30 812 3.7
175223 Valley of the Kings: Afterlife 6 167 3.6
12 Ra 129 4057 3.2
23418 Pursuit of Glory 4 128 3.1


but I found it interesting to look at some more nebulous terms and see how they are being used:

Opaque

title matches total term %
id
35285 German Railways 9 242 3.7
198953 Pax Renaissance 5 168 3.0
165401 Wir sind das Volk! 6 239 2.5
204 Stephenson's Rocket 14 651 2.2
132018 Churchill 7 336 2.1
75212 Grand Cru 4 207 1.9
31730 Chicago Express 26 1671 1.6
9215 Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648 4 274 1.5
29937 König von Siam 9 623 1.4
75358 Paris Connection 7 489 1.4


generated a great list of games I love or am interested in trying, and

Unique

title matches total term %
id
80006 Mord im Arosa 44 306 14.4
150293 The Ravens of Thri Sahashri 19 136 14.0
139952 Clockwork Wars 12 87 13.8
192135 Too Many Bones 27 210 12.9
142830 Chaosmos 18 141 12.8
84889 Cave Evil 15 119 12.6
164265 Witness 34 280 12.1
380 Polarity 64 620 10.3
148319 Tragedy Looper 48 498 9.6
168433 The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service 13 136 9.6


is fun too.

Next I thought about looking for links between games by searching for the title of one game in the comments of another. My favourite game is Tigris & Euphrates so maybe I'd find some interesting games to look at?

Tigris

title matches total term %
id
127997 Qin 35 327 10.7
25674 Khronos 46 458 10.0
12962 Reef Encounter 93 1512 6.2
111 Rheinländer 21 451 4.7
145588 Citrus 5 145 3.4
23730 Gheos 18 562 3.2
42 Tigris & Euphrates 145 4913 3.0
9674 Ingenious 91 3131 2.9
3 Samurai 81 2971 2.7
204 Stephenson's Rocket 13 651 2.0


Not bad! Plenty of other Knizia tile-laying games, but also Khronos and Reef Encounter, the two names that often come up when anyone asks for 'similar to Tigris' games.

I then extended this to designers and looked at the games with comments most often mentioning Reiner Knizia. The top 60 (!) were all Knizia's own designs, but having excluded those I was left with:

title term %
id
107190 Flash Duel: Second Edition 9.7
118418 Divinare 3.4
3800 Himalaya 3.2
78954 Mousquetaires du Roy 2.5
35435 Nefertiti 2.5
21380 Conquest of the Fallen Lands 2.2
42910 Peloponnes 2.1
145588 Citrus 2.1
154443 Madame Ching 1.8
181796 The Prodigals Club 1.7
128554 Völuspá 1.7
19363 Havoc: The Hundred Years War 1.6
38863 Hab & Gut 1.3
1261 Medina 1.3
38194 Cheaty Mages! 1.2
34373 Tiki Topple 1.2
91873 Strasbourg 1.1
140934 Arboretum 1.0
56692 Parade 1.0
3267 Pizarro & Co. 1.0
158600 Hanamikoji 1.0


A pretty great list of games that either have an obvious Knizia link (Flash Duel having controversially reimplemented En Garde) or a stylistic similarity.

This was a fun start, but I had lots of ideas for other things I could try using this great data set. More posts will follow soon...
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26 Comments
Thu Nov 2, 2017 3:47 pm
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