Why BGG Ratings are Meaningless
Aaron Potter
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Provocative enough title for you?

A number of recent lists -- arguably ALL BGG lists -- have made significant reference to the BGG rating of various games in order to "prove" that this or that game is superior. I'm here to tell you it ain't so.

The reason? Because while some people seem to think the BGG rating system is a measure of a game's playability, even a casual glance at the actual comments people put in their ratings will demostrate that any number of "extraneous" features or facets of a game are incorporated into individual rankings. Thus a game's aggregate score is in no way an actual measurement of pure gameplay merit (if such a thing could even be quantified for such a disparate audience). I'll provide some examples...then I'll provide a proposed "fix" at the end of this list.
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1. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:16]
Aaron Potter
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SIMPLE SUBJECTIVITY:
let's start right at the head of the class, shall we? Look at the first two pages of comments on Puerto Rico. While there are plenty of superlatives, there's not much substance to back them up beyond the nebulous "I liked it" level of personal preference. In fact, if we look a bit closer, we see that while both Joshua Miller and David Adam give PR a "!0," Joshua praises the game for its degree of player interaction, while David decries the LACK of same. Mikko Saari loves the game for its complexity, while Chris Craft applauds its simplicity. Clinton Paris takls about how fun it is to set up pre-game startegies, while Phil Alberg maintains that PR is strictly a tactical game, and that all strategies must be scrapped.

In other words, while lots of people like PR, there's no consensus on *why* they like PR...making it impossible for the would-be purchaser to determine whether the thing might fit his or her needs on the basis of BGG rankings.
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2. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:416] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Aaron Potter
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NOSTALGIA:
Look at the comments for Chess. On the first page of comments alone, 11 of the 25 comments mention the game's antiquity as a positive characteristic. That ain't gameplay, folks, that's nostalgia. Yes, Chess has lasted a long time, but is that because of its greatness, or simple ubiquity (several other posters comment on the ease of finding opponents). Under this ranking system, shouldn't Monopoly score a lot higher than Puerto Rico?
 
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3. Board Game: Quest for the Dragonlords [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:12218]
Aaron Potter
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RATINGS MANIPULATION:
Moritz Eggert rated this game a 6. Then Andrea Masselli came along and rated this game a "1," citing what he saw as some deadly design flaws. So Moritz decided to CHANGE HIS RATING in order to shift the aggregate score for Quest upwards, and he re-rated the game as a "10." Just to balance that out, I gave the game a "1." Heh heh.
That's a minor example, but BGG is rife with rumors of people rating over-rating games (or under-rating them) in order to appease designer friends, in order to curry favor, in order to promote their own products, etc. Messy stuff.
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4. Board Game: Enchanted Forest [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:5170]
Aaron Potter
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MISTAKEN IDENTITY:
Take a look at the ratings below "5" for this game.
Several of them note that while they don't PERSONALLY like this game it is an "excellent" game for children (see typical remarks by Jeff Wauer, Dan Bosley, Doug Adams, and Rick Vonderbrink (who admits his rating would be an "8" for kids)).
Well this is (get ready for it) a CHILDREN'S GAME!!! It's not MEANT to be played primarily by adults. So while these users may be honestly representing their own preferences, this has nothing to do with whether or not the game successfully fulfills its intentions. Unless you really think that your 5-year-old would prefer a game of Purto Rico...
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5. Board Game: F*ck This! [Average Rating:4.75 Overall Rank:13740]
Aaron Potter
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OBJECTIONS TO CONTENT:
The quasi-inspiration for this list. I received an e-mail from the designer, Greg Porter, asking me to change my "1" rating on this game to a non-rated comment, because he believes games should not be judged on the basis of their promotion of extra-game behavior, etc. If so, I'd ask him, why design a game like this in the first place? Isn't its entire appeal based on that extraneous titillation? Regardless, there are plenty of cases where people change their ratings in order to reflect personal socio-political biases, based on what games seem to be promoting (see the comments for Lunch Money if you don't believe me). It seems as valid a basis for judgment as any other criteria.
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6. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15339]
Aaron Potter
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PEER PRESSURE:
Look at the abysmal ratings for Monopoly. Based on the comments for "Chess," you'd think this would get some points for sheer nostalgia. But, in fact, the opposite is true, and people have taken to bashing Monopoly simply because it's fashionable. Check out comments from Andrew Fisher, who declares that "If you're over ten years old and play this, I'm sorry but you're mentally deficient," before decrying the "crass commercialism" of the series. Note the lack of actual comments on gameplay itself. Gil Hova admits that "By itself, Monopoly was a fine game...," but he STILL gives it a "1," because "...it puts the 'ass' in 'classic.'" Ray Swan's "1" rating is most telling, since apparently Monopoly deserves scorn because it is "not a gamer's game." Interestingly, this is the same Ray Swan who gave an "8" to "Scruples," and a "7" to "Boggle," "The Game of Life," and "Hearts." Apparently those are "gamer's games." Or maybe it's just fashionable these days to slam Monopoly
 
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7. Board Game: Dark World [Average Rating:5.24 Overall Rank:15071]
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EXTRANEOUS REASONS:
By "Extraneous," I'm implying here the theme, the components, production values, and all the other elements of a board-game which have nothing to do with its mechanics and playability. Of the top comments for this game, several point out that they love the components, and then go right on to claim that the game itself, AS A GAME, blows, and that they've had to effectively overhaul the entire system with house rules in order to make it playable. So these people aren't rating a game so much as a box of miniatures.
 
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8. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3760] [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:71]
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