Hot Games of 2004, by Category
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What are the hot games here? Forget about game ratings. There are a ton of games that I like, yet they never get played. What about the games that do get played?

Well, I've taken the entire BGG game log for the calendar year 2004 and crunched numbers for a couple of days, trying to figure out what our preferences really are. Now, before people go saying "you can't tell anything from the game logs, because I don't log my games," I say "who cares?" We go with what we have. For each person who doesn't log their games, there are others who do. All in all, it's a pretty good sample to work from.

So, what I did was to take the game logs and rank all games in order of number of unique players who sat down at the table to play that game during 2004. I always use number of different players as a launching point, because I really don't care about games that one or two guys played 30 times each day at lunch. If the rest of the world is tuning out on that game, it doesn't matter much to me, either. It's kinda like diseases. One person dies of mad cow disease and it makes the news. 300,000 get very ill (but don't necessarily die) from flu, and it's an epidemic! It's not about depth of commitment (lots of playings, few players). It's about breadth of appeal.

But I do give some credence to return-play value. After I rank the games by number of different players to find the top 10 in each category, I do compute the average number of times each player played each of those games in 2004. That figure is important, too, but only after first figuring out which games "make the cut."

So, I took these results and divided them into categories. I didn't use every single category on BGG (there are just too many--and is Tile Laying really a mechanic or a category?). Instead, I picked 22 categories that interested me and all games that didn't fall into any of those categories got placed in the category of "Other." What I ended up with was a Top 10 list for each category which is pretty representative of the "hottest" games, by category, of 2004.

Below are the 23 categories and their top 10 played games of 2004, listed in order of most replayability--ie, of the games that made the top 10 in number of different people who played it, the results were then presented in order of which ones got played most per player. Sort of a combination of both worlds. (Note: I eliminated any games that didn't crack the top 1000 overall in number of different players--so a couple of categories don't quite have a full Top 10).

Hope you find it interesting.
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1. Board Game: 10 Days in Europe [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1595]
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Travel - Yep, the first category up is "Travel." Why's that? Well, I had to come up with an order to these lists categories, so I went with a combination of how many people played each category and how often they replayed those games in the top 10--sort of a gaming popularity index. But it tends to favor the games that have fewer represenataives. Like "Travel." There are only something like 79 games in this category in the entire BGG database. And only 25 of those got played at all in 2004, hence the high ranking for this category.

But that really doesn't matter. What does matter is which "Travel" games are our favorites. And they are:

1. Europa Tour (29 players, 6.34 playings per player)
2. Ticket to Ride (694, 5.48)
3. Cinq-O (8, 3.38) [this game barely cracked the top 1000 to be included at all]
4. Paris Paris (62, 2.92)
5. Marco Polo Expedition (71, 1.55)
6. Bohn Hansa (25, 1.52)
7. Bridges of Shangri-La (92, 1.39)

Numbers 8 through 10 didn't crack the top 1000 in terms of number of players who played the game in 2004.

As a point of reference, the "average" Top 10 game in these categories was played about 3 times per person during the year. So, this category had some extremely high numbers to offset the relatively weak entries.
 
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2. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:125] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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Trains - Our second most beloved category is "Trains." That's really no surprise, given that the hottest new game of the century is firmly entrenched at the head of this category. The top 10 train games played in 2004 were:

1. Ticket to Ride (694 players, 5.48 playings per player)
2. TransAmerica (251, 4.25)
3. Union Pacific (158, 2.61)
4. Metro (164, 2.34)
5. Age of Steam (156, 1.88)
6. Railroad Dice (69, 1.71)
7. Stephenson's Rocket (54, 1.59)
8. Vom Kap bis Kairo (38, 1.58)
9. Linie 1 (50, 1.54)
10. Logistico (56, 1.54)

Note that some games from a few years back are still among the 10 most popular train games.
 
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3. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:710]
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Transportation - Well, the three categories that define Ticket To Ride were our top three categories of 2004. Imagine that. Beyond the new Moon classic, what were the popular games with a transportation theme?

1. Ticket to Ride (694 players, 5.48 playings per player)
2. TransAmerica (251, 4.25)
3. Paris Paris (62, 2.92)
4. Hansa (254, 2.46)
5. Scotland Yard (55, 2.09)
6. Atlantic Star (93, 2.00)
7. Age of Steam (156, 1.88)
8. Fresh Fish (61, 1.64)
9. Logistico (56, 1.54)
10. Elfenland (101, 1.43)

Again, some older titles are hitting the playing tables. Nice to see Scotland Yard and Elfenland are still popular enough to beplayed by dozens of different BGGers. And what's this Logistico thing? It's been on the last two lists.
 
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4. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:565]
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Territory Building - This is our least populous category. Only 61 such titles in the databases, but 29 of them hit the table in 2004 (caveat: I placed Attika into this group, though it isn't officially listed there). I'm not really sure that this is even a deserving category, but I was intrigued enough to see what our "top" such games were in 2004. And here they are:

1. Attika (388 players, 5.43 playings per player)
2. Carcassonne - the Castle (236, 3.48)
3. Oasis (147, 2.35)
4. Sword of Rome (28, 1.89)
5. Alexandros (54, 1.80)
6. Tahuantinsuyu (26, 1.73)
7. New England (151, 1.72)
8. Magna Grecia (81, 1.52)
9. Bridges of Shangri-La (92, 1.39)
10. Mall World (32, 1.16)

Don't know what to make of Mall World's showing as a game not to be replayed. Is that because it's so new that people haven't had a chance to play it multiple times (though 32 different people still got around to logging a game of it in that short time)? Or is it just that it was hyped and the first wave of players didn't care for it (think Fifth Avenue)?
 
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5. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
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Economic - Our first "crowded" category. There are a lot of "ecomonic" games out there. 576, to be exact. And of those, 240 were brought to the table last year. To put that in perspective. The first four categories, combined, saw 229 games brought to the table in 2004. The most popular...

1. San Juan (508 players, 6.11 playings per player)
2. Puerto Rico (656, 3.86)
3. Power Grid (360, 3.23)
4. Goa (344, 2.90)
5. Hansa (254, 2.46)
6. Princes of Florence (271, 2.45)
7. Modern Art (251, 2.45)
8. Medici (156, 2.42)
9. Acquire (201, 2.14)
10. Wallenstein (233, 2.12)

Full disclosure notice: Princes of Florence and Modern Art aren't listed as "economic" games in the databases, though I added them to this category.

This group seems to indicate mostly what I think of when someone says "designer game."
 
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6. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1001]
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Card Games (trick taking) - This is the only category I created. There is a category for "card games" in the BGG listings. And there's a mechanic for "trick taking." So, I combined the two to see what was our favorite card game where the objective is to accumulate tricks. There's a separate listing for the pure BGG category of "card games."

1. Tichu (104 players, 4.59 playings per player)
2. Wizard (63, 3.48)
3. Frank's Zoo (89, 3.15)
4. Sieben Siegel (82, 3.02)
5. Mu (71, 2.72)
6. Guillotine (175, 2.70)
7. Sticheln (56, 2.30)
8. Flaschenteufel (88, 2.19)
9. Drahtseilakt (68, 1.93)
10. David & Goliath (37, 1.89)

Guilotine? Now, I have played it once or twice, long ago, but I sure don't recall it being a trick taking game. If not, and if someone has the energy to enter a correction on the BGG databases, it will no longer be the most popular trick taking card game of 2004 (though it ranks 6th in playings per player, it had the most unique players give it a go in 2004).
 
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7. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:228]
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Card Games - This is the sister list to the previous category. Included here are all "card games" on the geek (all 1727 of the, of which 974 were played last year; compared with numbers of 164 and 88 for the subset group previously presented).

1. San Juan (508 players, 6.11 playings per player)
2. St. Petersburg (365, 5.96)
3. Lost Cities (360, 5.79)
4. Bang! (353, 4.75)
5. 6 Nimmt! (225, 4.37)
6. Coloretto (266, 4.09)
7. High Society (225, 4.00)
8. Bohnanza (358, 2.96)
9. Apples to Apples (186, 2.80)
10. Citadels (315, 2.63)

I'm not sure, but this list may be my least favorite set of games in this entire study. St. Petersburg is OK. The rest, well, it wouldn't bother me if they all disappeared. Interesting, too, that there aren't any older games (and no trick taking ones) on this list.
 
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8. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:422]
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Deduction - Another smallish category that is near and dear to my heart. I enjoy most deduction games, though I don't always do that well at them. This group is made up of 338 BGG entries (as of this list's creation) and 128 of those were played in 2004.

1. Coda (96 players, 4.97 playings per player)
2. Werewolf (95, 4.06)
3. Zendo (65, 3.82)
4. Schotten Totten (58, 3.24)
5. Chrononauts (52, 2.73)
6. Betrayal at House on the Hill (205, 2.71)
7. Scotland Yard (55, 2.09)
8. King Me! (79, 1.85)
9. Sleuth (64, 1.77)
10. Mystery of the Abbey (137, 1.74)

Well, some of these are games that I think of when someone says "deduction game." But others, well, I suppose Betrayal... is here for the novelty factor and will disappear next year. I guess some think of Werewolf as a deduction game. And I can't speak to Chrononauts or Schotten Totten, as I've never played them. Where's Black Vienna? Where's Orient Express? Where's Under Cover? Get out the vote, folks.
 
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9. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1019]
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Dice - "Dice games" are another fairly broad group of games here on BGG. A lot of games have dice, and for some folks, I guess that makes it a "dice game." But some (e.g. #5 below) just don't belong here, do they?

1. Can't Stop (153 players, 5.20 playings per player)
2. Liar's Dice (165, 5.02)
3. Backgammon (53, 4.77)
4. StreetSoccer (100, 3.97)
5. Wyatt Earp (152, 2.94)
6. Duell (60, 2.68)
7. Piratenbucht (218, 2.11)
8. Boomtown (82, 2.04)
9. Dungeoneer (51, 1.78)
10. Railroad Dice (69, 1.71)

Can't really argue with those top three. Haven't played our top game by player count (Piratenbucht), so I don't know if it belongs in this category or not.
 
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10. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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Other - Now, almost 1700 games aren't listed as belonging to any of the categories otherwise listed separately on this geeklist. So, they got clumped into this catch-all category. And the games here are pretty darned popular. Funny that they don't fall into any of the other categories.

1. Lord of the Rings - Confrontation (245 players, 4.38 playings per player)
2. Carcassonne (506, 3.78)
3. Settlers of Catan (477, 3.73)
4. Euphrat & Tigris (344, 3.48)
5. Alhambra (333, 3.24)
6. Carcassonne - Hunters & Gatherers (203, 2.58)
7. Tongiaki (148, 2.53)
8. Maharaja (215, 2.01)
9. Taj Mahal (168, 1.95)
10. Amun-Re (205, 1.88)

I think some of these could probably migrate to some of our included categories (E&T to war? Taj Mahal to abstract strategy? Hell, most of the others to abstract strategy?). But I only moved a small handful of games to other categories, when I was darned sure they belonged there. Couldn't pull the trigger on these, though.
 
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11. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:563]
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Bluffing - With all those naysayers out there who think that all "designer games" are just variants of scissors, paper, stone, you'd think we'd have a ton of bluffing games in the database. But there are only 315, and only about half of those got played last year.

1. Liar's Dice (165 players, 5.02 playings per player)
2. Werewolf (95, 4.06)
3. Poker (83, 3.51)
4. Hera & Zeus (73, 3.47)
5. Queen's Necklace (60, 2.05)
6. King Me! (79, 1.85)
7. Adel Verpflichtet (136, 1.75)
8. Caesar & Cleopatra (71, 1.69)
9. Fist of Dragonstones (75, 1.60)
10. Aladdin's Dragons (98, 1.41)

Glad to see a traditional boardgame sneak in at number 10. I like it when the bluffing is only a part of the big picture. I guess that could also be said for Adel, too, but it's a much bigger part in that game than it is in Aladdin's Dragons.
 
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12. Board Game: Ricochet Robots [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:571] [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Puzzle - I put this category in the study because, well, I was puzzled by it. I wondered what games were considered to be, at their core, a puzzle. And I found out. Here are the most often played "puzzle games" of 2004.

1. Zendo (65 players, 3.82 playings per player)
2. Feurio! (74, 3.77)
3. Take it Easy (61, 3.20)
4. Richochet Robot (108, 2.93)
5. Set (51, 2.80)
6. Guerre des Moutons (36, 2.03)
7. Bazaar (32, 1.88)
8. Penguin Ultimatum (19, 1.79)
9. Cluzzle (17, 1.76)
10. Cranium (56, 1.48)

So, now I know. And I like most of the games on this list that I've actually played (haven't yet tried numbers 6 and 8).
 
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13. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:314]
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Action/Dexterity - It's kind of amazing that this is such a popular category (446 titles, 199 played this year). I understand it for marketing kids games, but who would have ever thought that these games could eventually become "adult" games of the year?

1. Crokinole (82 players, 6.73 playings per player)
2. Villa Paletti (28, 4.14)
3. Piratenbillard (27, 3.89)
4. Loopin' Louie (44, 3.84)
5. Carabande (117, 3.67)
6. Light Speed (41, 3.29)
7. Gulo Gulo (55, 3.09)
8. Bausack (34, 2.03)
9. Igloo Pop (48, 1.98)
10. Cranium (56, 1.48)

It's interesting how often Cranium keeps popping its little head up on these lists.

 
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14. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
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War - Our most popular category (over 2000 entries on the 'geek) but not our most often played (its 516 titles played is a distant second to "card games"). And this category is probably open to many more additions. For instance, I moved Memoir '44 into this category because, for whatever reason, it's listed in the WWII category, but not in the "war" category.

1. Memoir '44 (325 players, 5.86 playings per player)
2. HeroScape (219, 3.32)
3. War of the Ring (185, 2.43)
4. Medici (156, 2.42)
5. Wings of War - Famous Aces (146, 2.42)
6. Samurai (191, 2.30)
7. Lord of the Rings (192, 2.20)
8. Wallenstein (233, 2.12)
9. Game of Thrones (186, 1.77)
10. Princes of the Renaissance (139, 1.71)

Methinks something fishy is going on here. Sure, a lot of games grognards wouldn't even look at, much less play, are listed as wargames in this database. That's fine. But wargames seem to share titles (exact matches) with many other games (e.g. Medici and Samurai and Lord of the Rings), and that causes havoc within Excel when trying to do matches by name. So, take this list with a grain of salt.

If I were to reorganize this list into what I think of as Wargames, it's look something like this:
Memoire '44 - 5.86
Battle Cry - 3.77
War of the Ring - 3.32
Wings of War - 2.43
Wallenstein - 2.42
Hammer of the Scots - 2.16
Condottiere - 1.91
Age of Napoleon - 1.71
Axis & Allies: D-Day - 1.77
History of the World - 1.25
 
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15. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:172]
Randy Cox
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Abstract Stragegy - This category is open to interpretation. There are about 1000 such games in this group, and half of those were played in 2004. And many, many more games that have a theme tacked on could easily be added to the list. In fact, I added one of our non-categorized games (Clans) to this list, because I think it belongs. The most popular "abstract strategy" games of 2004 were:

1. Einfach Genial (163 players, 4.28 playings per player)
2. Dvonn (111, 4.25)
3. Yinsh (132, 4.07)
4. Ra (251, 3.84)
5. Blokus (175, 3.56)
6. Clans (189, 3.04)
7. Hansa (254, 2.46)
8. Through the Desert (182, 2.36)
9. Samurai (191, 2.30)
10. Torres (129, 1.65)

Not really my cup of tea. For all the hollerin' I do about how theme doesn't matter, these mostly-themeless games just don't really appeal to me. I like Einfach Genial and Blokus and Torres, but can live without the others.
 
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16. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Randy Cox
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Political - This is another "minor" category (243 in database, 112 played this past year), but I was interested to see what falls out in this area. Here it is:

1. Web of Power (165 players, 2.90 playings per player)
2. Chrononauts (52, 2.73)
3. Samurai (191, 2.30)
4. Carolus Magnus (80, 2.10)
5. Africa (52, 2.08)
6. San Marco (130, 1.95)
7. Domaine (135, 1.93)
8. El Grande (290, 1.78)
9. Liberte (56, 1.36)
10. die Macher (68, 1.31)

Note: Web of Power wasn't listed as a political game, but I made that switch. An interesting point is that all these games fall below the 3 playings/player threshhold (the rough average of all games, across categories). Seems that replay value isn't high for this set of games.
 
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17. Board Game: Fearsome Floors [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:912]
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Racing - this is a funny classification. When I think "racing," I think Circus Maximus or Daytona 500 or Formula De or Speed Circuit or Breaking Away or Metric Mile. I don't think Hare & Tortoise or any other "get to the end of the board first" sort of game and I sure don't imagine any card game. I mean, is Adel Verpflichtet a racing game because the goal is to advance farthest along the track? Others differ in their views. Here are 2004's most popular games with a category of "racing" in the BGG databases...

1. Carabande (117 players, 3.67 playings per player)
2. Odin's Ravens (132, 2.80)
3. Formula De (130, 2.78)
4. Finstere Flure (225, 2.40)
5. Cartagena (157, 2.32)
6. Lord of the Rings (192, 2.20)
7. Robo Rally (125, 2.18)
8. Royal Turf (167, 2.12)
9. Hare and Tortoise (69, 1.67)
10. Mississippi Queen (82, 1.52)

Come on, Mississippi Queen is a bumper cars demolition derby game and Robo Rally is a last-bot-standing ding-and-dent game. To me, the only real racing games on this list are Carabande (barely), Formula De, and Royal Turf.
 
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18. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
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Exploration - this seems to be another ill-defined genre. Either people don't understand when to classify a game as "exploration" or there simply aren't many such games. Whatever. Here's the list.

1. Betrayal at House on the Hill (205 players, 2.71 playings per player)
2. Runebound (175, 2.13)
3. Zombies!!! (68, 1.76)
4. Goldland (79, 1.76)
5. Starship Catan (69, 1.72)
6. Anno 1503 (58, 1.69)
7. Starfarers of Catan (64, 1.55)
8. Tikal (135, 1.47)
9. Oltremere (62, 1.45)
10. Pizarro & Co. (73, 1.37)

Kind of a lame list here. Not many games on most people's "must play" list (except maybe Tikal) and a lot of games that didn't get replayed all that often.
 
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19. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:3152] [Average Rating:5.90 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Word - A great gaming genre with some interesting entries in the BGG databases. There are not all that many word games in the database (351, 122 of them played this year) and BGGers don't exactly run through the streets looking for a word game session. But I like 'em. Here are the ones we, as a group, liked best in 2004.

1. Boggle (36 players, 2.92 playings per player)
2. Quiddler (25, 2.84)
3. Apples to Apples (186, 2.80)
4. Scrabble (98, 2.47)
5. BuyWord (61, 2.28)
6. Attribut (38, 2.21)
7. Taboo (36, 2.08)
8. Scattergories (29, 1.90)
9. Typo (27, 1.74)
10. Cranium (56, 1.48)

Well, except that Apples to Apples, Attribut, Taboo, Scattergories, and Cranium are much more party games than word game, it's a decent list. Though I've never heard of Typo.
 
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20. Board Game: StreetSoccer [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1686]
Randy Cox
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Sports - Not a lot of sports gaming fans out there. I guess BGG isn't the kind of place that attracts a lot of tabletop simulation people (sort of why those wargame consims don't do too well here). But here are the ones that registered this past year.

1. StreetSoccer (100 players, 3.97 playings per player)
2. Blood Bowl (21, 3.14)
3. Duell (60, 2.68)
4. Strand-Cup (11, 2.64)
5. MLB SportsClix (12, 2.33)
6. Battleball (45, 2.02)
7. Fette Autos (14, 1.57)
8. Reiner Knizia's Decathlon (9, 1.56)
9. Slapshot (12, 1.50)
10. Breaking Away (19, 1.32)

Note that there are a lot of games barely making it into the Top 1000 category (needs at least 8 different players during the year). What the heck is Fette Autos?
 
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21. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1165]
Randy Cox
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Party - I love party games. But there are plenty of games that appear on this list that I just don't enjoy playing. I guess we need subcategories of Party games--party/word, party/charades, party/silly, party/live-action-RPG, party/stunts, party/trivia, etc. But here's the list given what we've got to go with.

1. Werewolf (95 players, 4.06 playings per player)
2. Take it Easy (61, 3.20)
3. Gulo Gulo (55, 3.09)
4. Time's Up (48, 2.96)
5. Apples to Apples (186, 2.80)
6. Smarty Party (39, 2.46)
7. Pit (63, 2.29)
8. Attribut (38, 2.21)
9. Taboo (36, 2.08)
10. Cranium (56, 1.48)

Look at that Cranium. It seems to be holding down the bottom slot of the Top 10 list in many categories. I also find it funny that Pit(t) follows Smarty Party. But that's just me.
 
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22. Board Game: Chicken Cha Cha Cha [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1384]
Randy Cox
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Memory - games in this category are the second-most loathed group in our survey. I guess people just don't pull out memory games like we did when we were, say, 4 years old. But here's our elite amongst these types of games for 2004.

1. Zicke Zacke Hühnerkacke (32 players, 5.78 playings per player)
2. Capt'n Clever (19, 2.53)
3. Rat-a-Tat Cat (25, 1.48)
4. Kablano (15, 1.53)
5. Sucking Vaccuum (21, 1.48)
6. Meisterdiebe (28, 1.46)
7. Marchands d'Empire (12, 1.33)
8. Employee of the Month (29, 1.31)
9. Bakerstreet (10, 1.30)
10. Schwarzarbeit (10, 1.10)

Look at the boat anchor of this list. Only 10 players and only one of those bothered to play it a second time. This is a sad, sad list, though I'm sure it has its fans.
 
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23. Board Game: Trivial Pursuit [Average Rating:5.20 Overall Rank:15275]
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Trivia - this is our least loved game category (of the 22 included in this report). I don't know what it is, but just a short 25 years ago no self-respecting young adult could go anywhere without playing these games. They were the real deal. They were the cat's pajamas, no, that's cool, nope still wrong generation, they were rad, nope that's wrong too. I guess they were baaaad, and by that I mean good. But now, they're just something to turn one's nose up at.

1. Chronology (8 players, 3.00 playings per player)
2. Smarty Party (39, 2.46)
3. Facts in Five (8, 2.25)
4. Cranium Hoopla (11, 1.82)
5. Lord of the Rings Trivia (8, 1.75)
6. Scene It? (27, 1.67)
7. Cranium (56, 1.48)
8. Trivial Pursuit-composite of all themes (86, 1.33)
9. Outburst (9, 1.22)

There is no number 10, as it fell outside the Top 1000 overall (it was Odds'R, with only 6 players and 1.67 playings per player, and I've never heard of it).

This group has some good games (the top 3, plus Outburst). And I've enjoyed many a game of Trivial Pursuit. But these days, people just don't play this type of game so much anymore. Oh, for a simpler time, when we thought it was so spiffy to get the next edition of Trivial Pursuit.
 
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