Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Games of 2016

In 2015, my brother decided to track all of the board games he played. In one year, he had 829 plays with 48 different people, including 524 with his wife. He played 124 unique games. He ended the year with an h-index of 16; that is, there were 16 games that he played at least 16 times. He shared these numbers with me right around New Years Day 2016, and it made me wonder, what games do I play, and with whom? And, if I tracked my plays, what would it tell me about how games fit into my life?

During 2016, I tracked nearly all of my tabletop game experiences. The only exceptions I made were for cases where it was really work and not play, such as playing students' games or workshopping games at the NASAGA conference.

Let me start with the overview statistics for 2016:
  • I engaged in 441 plays of 85 distinct games
  • I played with 87 different people
  • My h-index is 12
The games I played twelve or more times are:

Samurai Spirit16
Animal Upon Animal15
Camel Up14
Dumpster Diver14
Temple of Elemental Evil14
Runebound (3rd Edition)13
Dungeon Fighter12
Flash Duel12
Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus12

The people I played the most games with were my oldest son (269), my wife (211), my second son (154), and my third son (114). The next most highest, at 22, is one of my students who attended all the Spring 2016 Game Studio game nights and who took my game design course this past semester.

The reason why Crokinole is so high is that earlier this year, my father decided to start making boards for the family. He made a prototype for my brother—the gaming enthusiast mentioned in the introduction—and then proceeded to make them for any of my siblings who wanted them. My family rented a house in the Canaan Valley in West Virginia this past summer, and my dad brought a board with him. We played a lot that week, and I played some with my family once we got our own board.
My Crokinole board—my dad's handicraft
A lot of the games in my top list are family-friendly games. Carcassonne is a perennial favorite. Not only is it a great gateway game, it plays well with my younger children by simply using fewer tiles and expansions. Many of the other games on the list are ones that I played regularly with my sons: Samurai Spirit was a birthday gift to my oldest son last year that saw a lot of play, and Animal Upon Animal, Camel Up, Labyrinth, and Flea Circus are all accessible from my third son on up. My oldest son can handle pretty much anything you throw at him, and he's my partner for games like Runebound, Myth (11 plays), and Mage Knight. The latter is one of my favorites, but it takes so long to play that it didn't hit the table very much in 2016. I didn't think I had played Samurai Spirit that many times, but it is a fun puzzle of a cooperative game, and I have introduced it to several people as something of a curiosity.

Between Runebound, Temple of Elemental Evil, Myth, and even Labyrinth, you can see that we spent many happy games with miniatures I painted. On the other hand, games like Imperial Assault, Legend of Drizzt, and Wrath of Ashardalon didn't hit the table at all. I'm hoping my second son will soon be able to handle some of the D&D Adventure System games; the reason Flash Duel is so high is that it was a good one for him to practice his reading comprehension skills, and I'm sure he'll be able to handle more complex card management before too long. Also, like many people, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the cooperative-mode app for Imperial Assault so I can bring that back to the table without needing to be the Imperial player again.

The only games I played this year that I considered RPGs were Fall of Magic and Phoenix: Dawn Command. We only played Fall of Magic once, and although I am eager to try it again, it was surprisingly tiring: you really have to commit to active listening and creativity to tell a good story together. Both of these games provided wonderful gaming experiences, fulfilling in a very different way than board games, and I'm hoping that 2017 might bring an increase in this area.

I am amused by my reaching an h-index of 12 in one year. Google Scholar computes my scholarly h-index as 11, meaning that I have eleven articles that have at least eleven references to them in other articles. It has taken me fourteen years to get my scholarly h-index to 11, and I already overcame that with games!

I am happy that such a strong majority of my plays have been with family—I love playing with them. We are a homeschooling family, and so I am also happy to see how games give them the opportunity to practice important skills. I have often hosted game nights for my immersive learning teams, and that's been a good way for me to play some other games with non-children during the Spring semester; I expect to continue this in Spring. This coming year, I should also try to host more regular game nights for my adult friends; it's something I really enjoy, but it's also something that's easy to put off. There is a local board game group that I could also be more involved with, but during the semester it's hard for me to rationalize going out to their meetings when I feel I should be spending time with my family. Thinking about it, it makes me even more grateful for my family, whose company I enjoy—even if my son just beat me in our final Runebound game of the year. One more turn and I would have beat that lousy spider...

A Happy New Year to you, dear reader! Let's make 2017 another memorable year in gaming!

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