Most Popular Games in the World!
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With all this neat country-specific information Aldie now gives us on boardgamegeek, I just had to look a little deeper into how the various countries (or, more accurately, regions) look at certain games. I have lots of data here, but few conclusions. I'll leave that to the reader. Feel free to chime in with any thoughts.

To do this project, I decided to take the 11 most rated games on the 'Geek. That's not "highest rated," but rather the ones with the most people chiming in with their opinion. I figured that would give me a better chance to have a decent number of votes from outside the US. I also consider these to be the "most popular" titles. Again, not the best thought-of, but the most popular, because so many people have played the games and have opinions on them (for instance, Monopoly and Risk are in this group).

I took all the countries (there were more than 50) from whence people had voted for these games and took any countries that collectively issued 120 or more votes. All other countries were grouped into either existing countries (e.g. Ireland was merged with UK) or formed their own group (e.g. South and Central America).

I ended up with 14 geographic regions. Here they are, from most prolific voters to least: United States, Canada, UK/Ireland, Scandanavia (Sweden, Finland, Norway), Italy, Asia/Africa/Middle East (mostly Korea with Japan and some other areas), Netherlands, Australia/New Zealand, Germany, France/Iberia (includes Spain, Portugal, and Andorra), Eastern Europe (with a few small Western European countries included), Belgium, South/Central America, and Denmark.

For each game, I'll give stats from what I learned. Hope you enjoy it.

You'll see lots of references to "raw" ratings and "normalized." The "raw" averages are just that--the reported numbers (e.g. Citadels got an average 7.00 from all of Canada and a 7.48 from all of the US). The "normalized" averages take two more issues into consideration. First, I added 5 average votes to each country to cover the few situations where one region had so few votes as to skew their average (e.g. Citadels had only 4 total voters in Canada, so I added 5 votes of 7.61 [adjusted to Canada's moderately lenient ranking tendancies] to make it more reasonable). The extreme Canadian Citadels example aside, this often didn't make much difference, as there are usually lots of votes from each region.

The second thing I did was to factor in the region's overall tendancies. For instance, South & Central America are some of our most lenient graders (where these 11 games averaged 7.668, while the rest of the world gave those same games a composit 7.514). When you factor that into the equation, you get much more comparable numbers. Without normalizing, it would look like S&C America and Eastern Europe liked games moreso than everyone else in the world. But if you grade "on a curve," you find that the spread moves out a bit and you can more accurately compare "Apples to Apples."

The biggest thing I've learned is that popular (lots of people playing a game) is not equal to well-liked (high ratings for those games). Well, maybe I already knew that. Read on, you may find the last entry, with US against the World comparisons interesting. I know I did.
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1. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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Settlers of Catan - 1809 votes worldwide

Our most popular game, in terms of people who have played it and rated it. It ranks as the most popular or the second most popular in 12 of our 14 regions. France/Iberia had two other games with more votes and Germany had three others. I still don't know what this German Settlers backlash is all about.

Interestingly, it's well represented Down Under. Though Australia/NZ ranks 8th in total voting of all 11 games, for this one, they rank 5th, with 51 people making their opinions known. Also, Denmark got the vote out, with 21 people rating Settlers (based on their total votes and overall rank, you'd expect about 25% fewer votes from the Danes).

So, who liked it best? Depends on how you rank it. In raw numbers, Italy's 8.46 it top of the heap. But when you normalize the numbers (taking into account that Italy gives the average game a 7.515 rating while, say, Eastern Europe averages 7.770), the biggest Settlers lover appears to be Australia/New Zealand (adjusted 8.44 rating--raw rating of 8.39). Italy was only .01 points back in 2nd place.

And who liked it least? Well, both the raw (7.23) and normalized (7.42) numbers indicate that Germany likes this game far less than the other 14 regions of the world (Denmark was next closest and was 0.16 higher).
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2. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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Carcassonne - 1786 votes worldwide

What's up with Italy? Their trends say that 48 people should have placed votes for this game, yet only 40 did. That's a significant difference. More importantly, the Italians are our 5th most prolific voters, worldwide, yet they're 10th in voting for this game. Either this game just isn't available in Italy (unlikely) or it's not played very much at all. It's not hated, mind you (7.86 on both the raw and normalized scales), just not played.

Australia, on the other hand, cast more votes than Italy did (43) even though they are a "less game populous" region overall. Like with Settlers, this 8th most populous region cast the 5th most votes for Carcassonne, meaning it has hit the tables in Sydney. And they really like it. The normalized rating is 7.95 (tops of all 14 regions). Worst: France/Iberia (7.32). The raw figures show Eastern Europe (very easy-to-please in terms of games) on top and Asia (very hard-to-please, second only to Denmark) at the bottom.

All in all, this was a pretty boring entry.
 
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3. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
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Puerto Rico - 1450 votes worldwide

Well, the "best game since sliced bread" (is sliced really better than whole?) hits our list in the 3rd spot. And all the regions of the world seem to have followed suit. No one significantly over-voted or under-voted for this game. They just made their votes in accordance with their relative gaming population. Ever the rebel, the French cast more votes for 4 other games, meaning that three other games are more popular than this one in France.

And who likes it? Denmark. Yep, those finnicky folks (average of all 11 games = 7.326) topped the chart in both raw (9.36) and normalized (9.43) ratings for Puerto Rico. Asia was dissin' PR big time in raw figures (8.62) and normalized score (8.78).

Just to show how little the raw average means (Eastern Europe's average game is 7.770, compared with a worldwide average of 7.515), the East Bloc gave Puerto Rico its 3rd best raw tally (9.12), but only the 12th best normalized score (8.84). Goes to show that the conversion factor of 9.12 stars in Czechoslovakia is lower than 8.62 stars in Korea. Keep that in mind when you look for a 4-star hotel room.

Interestingly, Asia exceeds expectations for this game by quite a bit. In fact, no other game on our list had more votes cast in Asia/Africa/Middle East (51) than Puerto Rico. Scandanavia also exceeded expectations (they should have gotten about 67 votes for PR, but received 86). Popular games in those countries, regardless of how well-liked they are.
 
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4. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:366]
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Bohnanza - 1147 votes worldwide

Now, Germans seem to be lukewarm at best to the game Settlers of Catan. But this little bean game, which I just don't see as all that significant, seems to turn their cranks. Germans rank only 9th worldwide (behind Australia) by 'Geek voting, but in voting for Bohnanza, they rank 6th. That's a rise of 3 positions. Maybe everyone in the country owns a copy. After all, it's cheap. In fact, the 33 votes it received makes it the 3rd most popular game in Germany. It also must be cheap in Asia, where 40 people voted for it (expected vote = 30).

But where is it liked (as opposed to popular)? Folks from the Netherlands are pretty difficult-to-please (only Asians and the Danes are tougher audiences), but they like this game. Their top-ranked raw grade of 7.62 translates into the top normalized score, too (7.68). Canada also likes the game (top raw figure of 7.73, normalized to 7.67, which is good enough for 2nd).

In terms of poularity, it seems that Scandanavians want more meat to their games. This 4th-most-popular game (by worldwide standards) is only 8th in Sweden/Finland/Norway (47 votes).
 
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5. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:206]
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Acquire - 1121 votes worldwide

Fifth in world popularity, Acquire shows some significant swing in popularity when individual regions are consulted. For instance, Italians, the 5th most populous gaming region, gave fewer votes to this 40-year-old classic than all other games on the list. Yep, Citadels, Risk, Monopoly, and even Axis & Allies all got more Italian ratings than the paltry 14 votes Italy gave to Acquire. Hell, the Italians should have ponied up with about 30 votes. Where is the love?

The love is in Germany and Central/South America. Germans (gaming population rank = 9th) gave this game more votes than all but 4 other countries. But the real love is in South and Central America. Not much is expected from our second smallest voting bloc (11 voters were expected), but they stepped forward with 15 ratings. And those ratings far outstripped all others (raw = 8.40, normalized = 8.12). So, the game is played a lot and liked alot on both sides of the Panama Canal.

Who dislikes Acquire? Oh, I guess there's still some holdover from the Cold War and anti-capitalistic sentiments (tongue firmly in cheek). Eastern Europe fell more than a full point behind our Banana Republic regions (tongue still there) with a raw average of 7.15 and a normalized score of 7.16.
 
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6. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:14501]
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Risk - 1075 votes worldwide

Now this game has been around awhile and gets some credit as being a French design. Add to that that it's a wargame about taking over the world, and it seems that it's not a proper mix for post-WWII Germany (again, folks, I'm just having fun here--not serious, y'know). So it's not surprising that this game, the 6th most popular worldwide, is only 10th most popular (out of 11) in Germany. And the 5.25 raw average and 5.41 normalized are at the rock bottom of our group of 14 regions. Sure, it's a bad game (Geek average = 5.77), but not *that* bad.

Maybe this game is readily available in the UK, because there are only two other games that received more votes there (Settlers and Carcassonne). Not only that, but the Motherland is one of only two countries to give this game a normalized score of 6 or more (6.00, with South/Central America claiming the top spot at 6.09).

Other notable factoids: Asia doesn't bother to play this game very much and Denmark puts it on the table quite regularly (well, in comparison to the rest of the world).
 
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7. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15319]
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Monopoly - 1036 votes worldwide

It had to be here somewhere, didn't it? The game's been around for almost 70 years (not including its original incarnation as the Landlord Game) and it's been translated into every conceivable language. Probably even got an edition in Klingon. So that's why it's popular enough to get the 7th most votes of all boardgamegeek entries. It's the 5th most popular game in Australia and the UK, ninth most popular in Asia, Belgium, Italy, South/Central America, and Eastern Europe. So it's right about where it's supposed to be.

But the country that gives it its highest marks, both raw and normalized, is Italy (5.23 and 5.17, respectively). That for a game with a 'Geek average of 4.82. The chilliest reception comes in Asia, where the raw average is 4.05 and normalized is 4.25.
 
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8. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
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Lost Cities - 1023 votes worldwide

I must admit that this astounds me. I mean, Lost Cities was a cute game that had its day. Just like Wurcherer or Fluxx or Paris Paris. But this game has more votes than all but 7 other games in the entire 'Geek database. That's almost as astounding as our 11th most popular game.

And I'm apparently not alone. The Italians didn't do their part to push this game up the ladder. That country is the 5th most active voting group, yet they were 9th most active for this game, with only 19 people bothering to admit they've ever played the game. Maybe that's because they dislike it so. Yep, while the UK takes top honors in both raw and normalized score (7.93, 7.97), Italy drags the bottom (6.71, 6.90). And for good measure, the French didn't get out the vote very much either (expected tally of 22, but only 15 showed up at the polls).
 
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9. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
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Tigris & Euphrat - 1012 votes worldwide

Another very well-respected game that also gets lots of table time, T&E is our 9th most popular game. But not in Asia! Oriental votes are more numerous than all but 5 other regions, but for this title, only 4 other regions voted less. On the flip side, French votes, which make up 2.2% of all 'Geek votes accounted for 3.8% of this title's votes. Other higher-than-expected turnouts came from Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Eastern Europeans turned their noses up much as the Asians did.

But just because the Danes didn't vote often, they did so with gusto. Their 5th-ranked 8.67 raw average translates to a pack-leading 8.79 normalized score. The top raw voter was South/Central America with a 9.00 (normalized = 8.72), but that was from only 10 voters. The country liking E&T the least is Italy (raw = 7.98, normalized = 8.05, both worst).

The French turnout, by the way, makes this their third favorite game of our top 11.
 
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10. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1184]
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Axis & Allies - 975 votes worldwide

Our first hugely popular game with less than 1000 votes from around the world. Nonetheless, Axis & Allies is still extremely popular. Well, that's true in the Americas and Italy, at least. Those four regions were the only ones to exceed their expected vote tallies (US-62 extra votes, Italy-13 extra votes, Canada-5 extra votes, and S/C America-2 extra votes). The rest of the world didn't bother too much, particularly France, where only 6 registered their vote (expected=21).

Though this is the 10th most popular game worldwide, six countries place it 11th (all of Europe except the UK, plus Asia). One region (South/Central America) claims A&A as its 4th most popular game. The US places it 6th.

But in terms of enjoying, rather than simply enduring, this game, the Netherlands comes out on top, with a 7.13 normalized score. Compare that to Canada's cellar-dwelling 6.45 rating. Aussies don't like it much either (6.38 raw--the worst, and 6.49 normalized--13th).
 
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11. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:316]
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Citadels - 938 votes worldwide

I included this 11th-most-popular game just because I was floored by its presence here. Citadels?!?! 11th-most-popular game of all time?!?! Something is wrong with the world (no offense, Bruno). More than Chess? Scrabble? Clue? Anyway, on with the stats...

Bruno's buddies in France have surely done their part to make this a popular game. Even though it's the 11th most popular worldwide, it's #2 in France, with a whopping 40 votes (expected turnout for an 11th-ranked game should be 20). Two other countries rated this game as one of their top 3 games (Italy and Belgium). In fact, it bottomed out in 11th place in only 3 regions--Australia (where only 4 people voted), the UK, and the US. More on this later.

So, who loves Citadels? Duh, the French! Their raw rating of 8.7 was more than a full point above the game's worldwide rating (7.61). And their normalized rating of 8.22 was also tops. Who disliked it? Australia (7.00 and 7.37). But not many of them voted, so the next lowest ratings came from the US (7.48 for both methods).

This particular game brought out, as much as any other entry, the difference between "American" voting and "World" voting. It's true that the US voters make up the bulk of all ballots cast on BoardGameGeek (62%), which is a lower percent than I expected, but what I really see is a difference in which games are most popular in the US as opposed to The Rest Of The World.

So, I recomputed things a little bit. Below are the popularity ratings (most votes) and respectability ratings (highest scores) for each game, grouped by world totals, world totals removing the US, and world totals removing the US, UK, and Canada.

(PR=Popularity Rank, SCO=Normalized Score, RoW="rest of world" [world not including US], niBig3=world not including US, UK, or Canada, CE=continental Europe)

-World- --US--- --RoW-- -niBig3 --CE---
Game PR SCO PR SCO PR SCO PR SCO PR SCO
Settlers 1 8.20 1 8.28 2 8.08 2 8.02 2 7.96
Carcassonne 2 7.88 2 7.93 1 7.81 1 7.75 1 7.73
Puerto Rico 3 8.93 3 8.87 3 9.02 3 8.97 3 9.00
Bohnanza 4 7.50 5 7.52 4 7.49 4 7.47 6 7.43
Acquire 5 7.80 4 7.82 10 7.77 10 7.71 10 7.63
Risk 6 5.77 9 5.72 5 5.85 7 5.78 7 5.77
Monopoly 7 4.82 8 4.98 8 4.72 8 4.76 8 4.77
Lost Cities 8 7.62 7 7.66 9 7.58 9 7.45 9 7.36
E&T 9 8.53 10 8.53 6 8.53 5 8.51 5 8.46
Axis&Allies 10 6.70 6 6.67 11 6.75 11 6.80 11 6.99
Citadels 11 7.61 11 7.48 7 7.75 6 7.79 4 7.87

So the biggest benefactors of the US dominance in BGG voting appears to be Acquire, while the biggest "disservice" is done to Citadels (and E&T). Not to mention the fact that, without the US ballot box stuffing, Carcassonne would be the most popular game in the world.
 
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