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Subject: Help Me Understand the BGG Board Game Rankings? rss

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Drew Duke
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I love the never ending search for the perfect board game. I read reviews, check out geeklists and watch the BGG rankings. Sometimes the rankings don't jive with the reviews. From what I've read, some of these games are way too low on the rankings (Snowdonia-291, Viticulture-553, Euphoria-304, Concordia-239, Alhambra-280, etc.). I would appreciate any insight you might be able to provide.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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okduke wrote:
I love the never ending search for the perfect board game. I read reviews, check out geeklists and watch the BGG rankings. Sometimes the rankings don't jive with the reviews. From what I've read, some of these games are way too low on the rankings (Snowdonia-291, Viticulture-553, Euphoria-304, Concordia-239, Alhambra-280, etc.). I would appreciate any insight you might be able to provide.


Rankings change wieghtiness with the number of people rating them.

Also realize, I might write rave reviews for a game everyone else rates a 2.
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Pete Goch
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A review reflects the opinion of one person. Average Ratings reflect the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people. Average Geek Ratings (which is what rankings are based on) are an attempt to "fix" the Ratings by weighting out the extremes.

Long story short: a handful of enthusiastic reviews don't necessarily equate to a widespread set of high ratings.
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Patrick Davis
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Here's a description from the BGG FAQ about how rankings are derived:

Quote:
The BGG Rating is based on the Average Rating, but the number is altered. BoardGameGeek's ranking charts are ordered using the BGG Rating. To prevent games with relatively few votes climbing to the top of the BGG Ranks, artificial "dummy" votes are added to the User Ratings. These votes are currently thought to be 100 votes equal to the mid range of the voting scale: 5.5, but the actual algorithm is kept secret to avoid manipulation. The effect of adding these dummy votes is to pull BGG Ratings toward the mid range. Games with a large number of votes see their BGG Rating alter very little from their Average Rating, but games with relatively few user ratings will see their BGG Rating move considerably toward 5.5. This is known as "Bayesian averaging" and a quick search of both BGG and/or the Web will reveal much discussion on the topic. In effect, usually the games with many votes will Rank higher than those games with the same Average Rating but fewer votes.


Also, a ranking in the 200s, or even 500s, is still very impressive considering that there are nearly 70,000 games cataloged on this site.
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Nate Straight

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The 200s to 500s are exceptionally strong ranking positions in the BGG catalog of 8000+ ranked games.
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Eric Johnson
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Another thing to consider is that early on there are lovers and haters of a game (theme, style, etc) that will flood the ratings. This can skew the reality of a game's quality. BGG uses their algorithm to try and adjust for this. If they didn't, some pretty crappy games would shoot to the top of the ranks.

Over time, I think the rankings tend to become quite fair. Until then, you have to rely on reviewers that you trust... or play the game at a shop or conference.
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Nate Straight

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Also, the people who write reviews about any given game are disproportionately going to tend to be those who think the game is great. Relatively few people take the time to write about games they think are mediocre or outright bad. This means reviews will almost always represent the best possible perspective on a given game, which is usually far removed from the "average" perspective represented in the BGG average rating.
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okduke wrote:
I would appreciate any insight you might be able to provide.

Rankings do not help you find games that are suitable for you and/or your group. They are just an average assessment of a game from mainly people that like that genre of games already and anyway.

You should play different games to find out which things in a game you love and more importantly, which things in a game you hate. With that information together with knowledge of your group (how many players, play length) you can search for new such games and ask for recommendations from other people.
 
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Chris Wray
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okduke wrote:
I love the never ending search for the perfect board game. I read reviews, check out geeklists and watch the BGG rankings. Sometimes the rankings don't jive with the reviews. From what I've read, some of these games are way too low on the rankings (Snowdonia-291, Viticulture-553, Euphoria-304, Concordia-239, Alhambra-280, etc.). I would appreciate any insight you might be able to provide.


This is a great question, and the commenters preceding me have been insightful.

I'm stating the obvious, but the biggest bias in the rankings is that they don't represent everybody that has played the game, but rather just the people on this site. The average BGG user tends to be very into the hobby, and they tend to like games that are more complex than what the average population likes. The ratings on here are often not representative of the gaming community at large, because only the most dedicated people use this site, and I suspect they may have different preferences.

One commenter above described bias in game reviews. The same is true for game ratings. I won't play a board game I'm not interested in, and I won't rate a game I haven't played. Thus, games that would likely get a low rating from me never actually get a low rating from me. As such, some games that are quite "niche" may end up with artificially high ratings on the site if enough people vote for them. BGG's algorithm adjusts for niche games with a small number of ratings, but I suspect it isn't as effective fo niche games with a large number of ratings.

(I suspect at least a couple of the top tens on this site fall into this category of niche games with high numbers of ratings.)
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David Debien
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chriswray84 wrote:


(I suspect at least a couple of the top tens on this site fall into this category of niche games with high numbers of ratings.)


I completely agree with this assessment as long as you aren't talking about the games I happen to like.
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Enrico Viglino
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TheOneTrueZeke wrote:
A review reflects the opinion of one person. Average Ratings reflect the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people.


It is important to note though that the population of the site
does not reflect the general population. From the other side, any
mass voting such as the ratings system here will favor games with
a certain level of exposure. It's a useful tool, but one with limitations.
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Enrico Viglino
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NateStraight wrote:
Also, the people who write reviews about any given game are disproportionately going to tend to be those who think the game is great. Relatively few people take the time to write about games they think are mediocre or outright bad.


However, the most prolific reviewers are those who do look at many games.
Especially those who get review copies. The insight will not be as deep
as what someone who has really studied the game will give, but even a
cursory look can often exclude some games from consideration.

If a game is a recent 'hot' offering, and hasn't been covered yet,
that could be an indication that it just ain't too good.
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O.Shane Balloun
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calandale wrote:

It is important to note though that the population of the site
does not reflect the general population. From the other side, any
mass voting such as the ratings system here will favor games with
a certain level of exposure. It's a useful tool, but one with limitations.


Selection bias.
 
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