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Every play I logged in 2013 organized by hours played for each game: Full statistics and a pretty chart

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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Each year, I compile a list of the board games that I spent the most time playing, sorting by time spent playing them rather than number of plays (since we all know it's easier to get 3 games of No Thanks in than it is 3 games of Eclipse) It's just about to turn over to June, so I thought it was high time I get 2013's stats out.
The Year in Review
2013 marked the 4th consecutive year in which I spent increasingly more time playing board games (2010: 269 hours, 2011: 282 hours, 2012: 473 hours, 2013: 505 hours)

In terms of unique games played, I played the most different games ever in 2013 (2010: 100, 2011: 83, 2012: 115, 2013: 135)

Top 20

1) Magic: The Gathering (100 plays | 58.3 hours)

2013 marked the return of Magic the Gathering to my charts. In 2012, I only played 4.7 hours of Magic. This was fueled largely in part by playing with my brother and our new way of playing. We buy 9-booster Fat Packs and build decks only from those. It gives a lot of options for deck construction without the need to keep buying more product. A number of these plays also come from playing Magic Online in their $4 phantom drafts (in which you pay to play, but don't get to keep the digital product, making it way cheaper)

2) The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (58 plays | 42.5 hours)

Before Magic came back, I played a ton of LOTR:TCG. I got this game on Feb 12 with birthday money and by the time the month was through, I logged 24 plays. Almost all of these plays are solo plays that I would rack up when my wife and I would have a show on TV after our daughter went to bed. Far and away, the recent LOTR saga expansions that go through the books are the best expansions to this, and I look forward to when the next one finally comes out.

3) Flash Point: Fire Rescue (30 plays | 22.5 hours)

Flash Point is always reliable. It's that game that we go to when we want something that everyone can agree on.

4) Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (7 plays | 19.2 hours)

I got this for my wife for Christmas in 2012 and we've really had a lot of fun doing these cases together. We completed the final case in 2013 on our anniversary. We're going to hopefully ressurect this one in 2014 by hosting a game where we run a case and all of our friends try to work to solve it together.

5) Ticket to Ride (all versions) (43 plays | 17.9 hours)

This is a mainstay for my wife and I. When no game really calls out to us when we're trying to pick a game, we always go to this.

6) Escape: The Curse of the Temple (90 plays | 16.5 hours)

What a wonderful game. Super easy to teach, super quick, super action packed. My wife is amazing at this game. For our 100th play, we played will all tiles (minus the chalice) and the 3 player number of gems and still won. The secret is looking for opportunities to explore when you're rolling for other things.

7) At The Gates of Loyang (12 plays | 16.0 hours)

This one took a while to build up steam, but has grown on us with more plays once we didn't get into situations where it was obvious that one player was going to win when the game still had 50 minutes to go.

8) Mansions of Madness (5 plays | 15.0 hours)

I feel like so many people have moved on from this game, but I still really like it. The main issue I have with it is it takes a long time to set up, but if we know we're going to play Mansions, I don't mind taking the time to set it up ahead of time. Hasn't completely replaced Arkham Horror, but still serves a similar place.

9) Suburbia (9 plays |13.5 hours)

Played this for the first time at Snakes and Lattes in Toronto when we were out on vacation and really had a lot of fun with this one. Now with some perspective I think that I personally will pick this one to play more often than, say, At the Gates of Loyang, but both have their own purpose. I like this one with all numbers of players where Gates I definitely prefer as a 2 player game.

10) Thunderstone (23 plays | 12.7 hours)

Nearly all played on I really like how much this game rewards repeated play. I think, you had the same number of available kingdom cards that Thunderstone offers a greater depth of strategy than Dominion. Yet at the same time my physical copy of Thunderstone almost never comes out except for solo play due to the slow start and the length of time it takes to play one game.

11) Eclipse (3 plays | 11.6 hours)

My current favorite experience game. I want to make it a point to always play at least one game per year of this even if it does take ages to teach and play.

12) Space Alert (25 plays | 11.3 hours)

This is the sort of game that, when we play it, we'll play like 5-9 games in a row. I traded for a copy of the expansion, and the experience point system really rewards you for playing a bunch of different games. Plus we've always been ones to enjoy a difficult co-op.

13) Agricola (8 players | 9.7 hours)

A huge fall from its #1 spot last year, (53 plays, 64 hours), but still a really respectable spot for this game. I am always willing to play Agricola.

14) Arkham Horror (6 plays | 9.5 hours)

I think sometimes this gets play for nostalgia sake, but I do still really enjoy this game. I have enough expansions that something is always going on. One of these games was an amazing game that only lasted 20 minutes in which we won on turn 4

15) Forbidden Desert (14 plays | 9.3 hours)

I've played Forbidden Island over 50 times and Forbidden Island offers more depth. Forbidden Island will forever have a place in my collection for its accessibility, but eventually the next step is always this. Not that we don't ever revisit Forbidden Island with the last 30 minutes of our game sessions.

16) Battlestar Galactica (3 plays | 9.0 hours)

For whatever reason, we rarely had 5+ players at my game groups in 2013. Busy schedules all around. This will jump back up in future years I hope. My current #1 game.

17) Can't Stop (58 plays | 7.7 hours)

All played on

18) Zooloretto The Dice Game (43 plays | 7.2 hours)

Mostly played on but I have the physical version now that it's out in the US. Sees a good amount of play.

19) Flowerfall (42 plays | 7.0 hours)

At one point, I was going to put this game up for trade, but it turns out this is basically the perfect game to play with a young kid (my daughter was age 2 over the course of 2013) since it involves throwing stuff on the ground. She rarely ever wins, but it's pretty fun to play. Once my 2014 games list comes out, you'll really see just how many games she has branched out into. In fact, I predict that my top game may very well be a game that her and I play together.

20) Sushi Go! (21 plays | 7.0 hours)

7 Wonders mechanics but I can play it with just about anyone? Sign me up! Sign everyone I know up! I'm glad to see that Gamewright is publishing this so that when friends go to add this to their Amazon wishlists, they don't have to pay to ship it from Australia.

Here's a pie chart of the data. I find it interesting that even though I played 135 different games, my top 20 games made up more than 50% of my games played.

Predictions for 2014
It's hardly fair to make predictions, since we're five months into 2014, but it's safe to say that all the different games I play with my three year old daughter are going to make an appearance on the list. Our new baby born in March also leaves us with less and less time, so I think we're going to see more shorter games making an appearance supplimented which a huge number of games of Mice and Mystics

Forthcoming post:
I have four years of data now, so I'm going to take it and compile it into a list of my most played games of all time.

Posts from previous years:

2012's post:
2011's post:
2010's post:
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Wed May 28, 2014 7:27 am
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Every play logged in 2012 organized by hours played for each game: Full statistics and a pretty chart

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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1) Agricola (53 plays | 64.5 hours)
It is insane how much I played this game this year. For comparison's sake, last year's number #1 most played game was Dominion at 28.8 hours played. Karen (my wife), and I play this all the time. We started 2012 by making a board game rotation to ensure that all of our different games that we like to play would get played. We, no joke, got 4 games in. Every time we had time to play a game, Agricola usually won over any other choice. All the time. And now here we are at 64.5 hours played. I play this primarily as a two player game, but there's definitely times I break it out with the board game group.

2) Thunderstone (102 plays | 56.1 hours)
I played my first game on Thunderstone on in April, and over the course of the year racked up a total of 102 plays. The thing that impresses me most about Thunderstone is how still, 102 plays in, I have by no means perfected the strategy of the game and Yucata only has the base game and half of an expansion in it. I love Dominion, but I find this far more replayable with just its base set. I did get a copy of Thunderstone: Advance (included in the plays above), but I by far have played this most online. Offline, the game plays a little slow, so I can see why people might not pick this up, but for me, I've by no means finished playing this game. Maybe in 2013 I can learn how to use Banish properly.

3) Crack the Case (37 plays | 27.8 hours)
Yes, 1993's Crack the Case is my #3 most played game of 2012. We got a hold of Karen's childhood copy and played each and every case in the entire game together. I'm told, by the gentlemen of Building the Game, that this game is a variation of a popular game that people play around a campfire. For those who aren't aware of this game, one player reads the case and its solution and the other players get to ask Yes or No question to try and figure out what happened. We played a lot of this game on our road trip to West Virginia: it's one of the few games we own that can be played in the car. Sadly, without any further cards to play, we have played this game out.

4) Battlestar Galactica (9 plays | 24.8 hours)
I will never get tired of this game. I now own the Exodus expansion which improves the base game, and I'm excited to add the new characters to the mix.

5) A Few Acres of Snow (30 plays | 22.5 hours)
This is another game I played on Yucata. This is a game that I stumbled through with my Dad. My record, according to Yucata, is 11 wins and 19 losses, so I'm by no means great at this game, but my dad and I certain enjoyed trying out new strategies and seeing what worked and what didn't. I know that people say this is a broken game, but after 30 games, we are far from discovering how to do well at this game.

6) Ticket to Ride (all versions) (36 plays | 12.6 hours)
I have to attribute this game's resurgence on the charts to it appearing on Steam. Playing it on Steam just reminded me of how fun the game was in person, and so we racked up a lot of plays. I played this game more than 4 times as many hours as last year.

7) Arkham Horror (3 | 10.5 hours)
I'm glad to see that Mansions of Madness hasn't completely replaced this game. This always makes my top games list each year after my FLGS recommended t 3 or more years ago.

8) Dominion (62 plays | 10.3 hours)
Hooray for Dominion! I still love this game, but admittedly it saw less play due to the appearance of Thunderstone. I don't own Dark Ages yet, but I'm still curious to see what Dominion's final set will be. A year without Dominion in my top plays would be a sad year.

9) Zooloretto The Dice Game (59 plays | 9.8 hours)
This is a great two player game. I don't care for it all that much with 4 players, but I love all the decisions of the two player game.

10) Lords of Waterdeep (7 plays | 8.8 hours)
What a great game. One of the things that I appreciate about this game is that, even with more players, it still has the same play time. I love Agricola as you already know, but given 5 players, I think I would usually choose 90 minutes of Lords of Waterdeep over 180 minutes of Agricola. I'm excited to see what the new 2-in-1 expansion brings come August.

11) Friday (22 plays | 8.1 hours)
I really enjoy this 1-player deckbuilding game and admittedly, I'm not much of a solo gaming person. It's quite convenient that I can play a game in 22 minutes which happens to be the length of a standard TV episode without commercials. If you haven't tried this and are interested, it's certainly worth a try. I get how this might not be for everyone, but I'm really impressed with this design. I've enjoyed getting better at this game over time.

12) Nefarious (14 plays | 7.0 hours)
I got this in a BGG trade this year and I'm quite happy with this game. There are plenty of haters out there, but I'm a fan. Yes, it relies on those plot twist cards but I really like how they make each game different.

13) Mansions of Madness (2 plays | 6.9 hours)
I've had a lot of fun with the extra print-on-demand modules, and am excited to see the new (to me) Forbidden Alchemy and how it plays out. Mostly, I'm excited for the fact that my attack decks now have doubled in size.

14) Space Alert (15 plays | 6.8 hours)
Continues to be a fun game. I don't understand why people buy the expansions that make it harder because this is plenty difficult enough for us.

15) Clubs (12 plays | 6.4 hours)
I was a playtester for Clubs and really enjoyed introducing this game to a variety of different people. I've always been on the lookout for a ladder-climbing game that's less complex than Tichu and I'm here to tell you that this is it. I expect this to make a big splash when it comes out in 2013.

16) Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (3 plays | 6.0 hours)
I just bought this for Karen for Christmas and already we've played it enough to get it into the top 20. Sadly, the fact that we have played 3 times already means we're 30% done with playing this game, but realistically, it would be amazing if we found the time to complete the remaining cases with all the time that raising a two year old takes. Still, don't be surprised if this is one of the most played games of 2013.

17) Forbidden Island (12 plays | 6.0 hours)
These plays come form a mix of solo games and group games. It's a great game to play between other games, and I still like this game more than Pandemic. In my solo games (which, conveniently, also take about 22 minutes), I've been working my way through all the addition tile layouts and roles offered in the official/fan expansion that I printed up through Artscow. I play each layout until I beat it.

18) Reverse Charades (7 plays | 5.8 hours)
The Dice Hate Me podcast pushed me over the edge on picking this up. i've had a lot of fun with this game in the last few months of the year. We were in need of an additional large-group party game and this definitely fits the bill. It sounds lame, but it's really fun.

19) Can't Stop (41 plays | 5.5 hours)
A game that I have played exclusively on Yucata. It's a great game to play when you're in the middle of other games. Oddly enough, I feel like the more rules I understand, the worse I do.

20) Risk Legacy (7 plays | 5.3 hours)
This game is wonderful; I really like how the world persists from game to game. I'm sure that in 2013, we'll see games that do similar things. I hope that we get to finish our world's plays this year.

The year in review
Last year, I played an estimated 473.5 hours of games, which is a huge increase from last year's 281.5 hours of games in 2011. A lot of this (maybe 80 hours worth) I can attribute to Yucata, but even still, that's a decent increase since last year. It's nice that, as I look through the stats of games that I didn't play this year, that most of them are games that I traded away. So, in other words I have good success with playing just about everything I own.

In total, I played 114 different games across 870 plays.

A few other highlights:
22) Incan Gold (14 plays | 4.7 hours)
27) Wits and Wagers (10 plays | 4.2 hours)
36) No Thanks (10 plays | 3.3 hours)
38) Nuns on the Run (3 plays | 3 hours)
40) Galaxy Trucker (3 plays | 3 hours)
45) Fluxx (15 plays | 2.5 hours)
50) Bohnanza (3 plays | 2.3 hours)

It's nice having some games (these being a few) that I've owned for a while that still continue to see play, still filling a roll in my collection. Incidentally, that's more Wits and Wagers than I played in 2011 and 2010 combined.

47) Flying Fortress (3 plays | 2.3 hours)
This is my own game. I've made good progress on it and I hope to finish it in 2013. I think I've got a winning idea: I just need to execute it.

Last year's top 24 games were games that I played 3 hours or more a piece. This year, there were 40 games that met that criteria.

Games that made the top 20 for 3 years in a row:
Dominion (54 hours | 28.8 hours | 10.3 hours)
Arkham Horror (17 hours | 17.5 hours | 10.5 hours)
Battlestar Galactica (11 hours | 19.3 hours | 24.8 hours)
Forbidden Island (9 hours | 8.5 hours | 6 hours)
Space Alert (7.7 hours | 4.3 hours | 6.8 hours)

This year's full data (along with 2011/2010) available as a spreadsheet:
2011's post:
2010's post:
My theory on keeping/trading games:

2012 pie chart:
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Wed Jan 2, 2013 3:26 am
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From a chance encounter with Ticket to Ride to buying a game a day for a year and a half: a conversation with the wonderful Orangemoose

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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I was browsing a thread in The Dice Tower guild when I happened upon a post by Andy, BGG username Orangemoose. In it, he mentioned that in 18 months he had gone from owning 30 games to 570 games. I was intrigued and wanted to know what it was like for someone who dove headfirst into the hobby: what stood out, what got traded away, and how he finds time to play those games. He was kind enough to write back and let me post the conversation here, and so, I give you my geekmail with:

Andy Andersen
United States
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1) First off, What was the catalyst that got you from 30 to 570? What was the spark that got you into the hobby in the first place? Was it a particular game/person/experience? How long did it take you to build up to your first 30 games? Do you consider yourself new to gaming or have you been at it for a while?

Youngest son and daughter in law came home for Christmas in 2010. They had played Ticket to Ride in Michigan with friends and were looking for a copy. They found a game store a few miles away that I did not know existed and found two copies of TtR so they bought them both. We played that night and I was hooked. I hadn't really played anything more modern than Chess or Monopoly and had not seen a "designer" game. I looked at games on Amazon and bought a few after reading the reviews. I'm not sure how I found BGG but from the moment I did, the collection grew, fairly slowly at first. My goal was to own 60 games.

2) Who makes up your gaming group? Do they enjoy learning lots of new games? How much time do you get to spend playing games each week? Your BGG profile mentions that you're retired--I imagine that must help give you plenty of free time to game.

My wife is my gaming group. We do enjoy learning new games. In general we play games every day. We are both retired, gaming and reading are my main hobbies and my wife knits and quilts.

3) What has been your favorite game so far? (If you can't pick just one, a list is fine too)

Favorite games. Village, Downfall of Pompeii, Vikings, Seeland, Stefan Feld,

4) How many games of your 570 would you say that you've played? What are the games that you keep coming back to for multiple plays?

Of the 570, I would guess we have played 150. We've picked up the pace of learning new games and although it is unlikely we will ever play them all, we have only found about 8-10 we haven't enjoyed and have traded. We keep coming back to Village and more recently, Kingdom Builder.

5) Can you talk about the logistics of this? If you gained 540 games in 18 months, you've bought about one game per day every day for 18 months. Do you buy a lot of groups of games on ebay, or are you buying them one at a time from other places? How did you carve out a place to store 570 games where you live? Does the UPS driver know you by name?

Most of the games I've purchased are from three OLGS' and I almost always get free shipping. I don't trust ebay and won't buy from there. I have won many BGG auctions and have always had great results with the sellers.

The games are spread out over eleven bookshelves in three rooms. We have one room dedicated to gaming.

I'm usually able to meet the UPS and FedEx guys at the door. The delivery times are fairly predictable.

6) Where do you hear about the games that you buy?

I listen to a couple of podcasts but the bulk of my gaming education comes from BGG. I read game reviews and watch video reviews.

7) What game has been the biggest surprise-one that was far better than you expected

Hard to answer. We have been very pleasantly surprised by Kingdom Builder. We tend to prefer light - medium weight games but have recently bought heavier games and are progressing toward those gradually.

8) What game has been the biggest disappointment?

Pastiche - I bought this for my wife as she is an artist and the game left us completely flat.

9) What's are the games that you're dying to get a chance to play?

Eclipse, Vinhos, Ora et Labora

10) What is a game that most people have overlooked that you really like?

Seeland, Magnum Sal

11) If you could do it all over again, Would you? If you've spent $20/game, I estimate that you've spent about $10,000 in a year and a half if you spent $20/game. Money well spent?

No I would not. I've got too many overlaps of the games that use the same mechanisms and would be more prudent in buying within each mechanism. So while I do not regret building this collection this quickly, if I had it to do over again, I'd go slower.

12) What keeps you going? Is it the search for the one perfect game? The excitement of playing a game for the first time? Reading the new rules? Collecting?

I'm still fascinated by the imaginations people have in designing games. I also look forward to new games when all of a sudden it clicks for us. Many times I'll read the rules and then my wife will interpret them correctly. I've had good luck with kickstarter and enjoy supporting small publishers. I enjoy my collection.

13) On a related note, do you feel like you've played the games you own enough?

Not nearly enough. We set aside at least two hours every day for gaming and I wish we had more time.

14) Now that you're at 582 (according to your current profile), do you foresee continuing adding games at the rate that you're purchasing or are you going switch to trading mode? I guess what I mean to ask is: are you satisfied with your collection or is there more on the horizon?

There will always be the next great game, but I am slowing down my purchases. I've got a few games on an OLGS wish list that should arrive this month. I am starting to pick up some vintage titles with wood pieces.

My wife told me to get a hobby when I retired. I did.


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Wed Jul 4, 2012 3:30 am
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Negative reviews are the most useful reviews

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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If I had one complaint about the reviews I see on BGG and hear on podcasts, it’s that there aren’t enough negative reviews out there. Say you’re holding to the principles of Bus Theory and you are trying not to buy too many games and make sure your favorites see play. If you were to buy games based on BGG reviews, you would end up with a lot of games you didn’t want, need, or maybe even like.

Let me back up my claim with some data. A few weeks ago, I went through the first 30 reviews on BGG and tried to sum up their main point with a 1-2 sentence quote from the review. I’ll separate them by type for you here below

Positive Reviews

Memoir 44: Everyone should try this game at least once!

Super Dungeon Explore: I can’t wait to play this game again.

BuyWord: Is BuyWord for you? As far as game designers go, they don't get much better than Sid Sackson.”

Nightfall Blood Country: If you liked Nightfall, then we don’t see why you wouldn’t want to add in Blood Country

Dungeoneer: Highly recommended classic dungeon crawl with nice 'gamer' edges.

Eminent Domain: I am looking forward to many more 2 player games of this - at the moment we're playing it almost daily, and I would be happy for that to continue for the foreseeable future!

Dungeon Twister: As a game for a couple I will give this 4 out of 5.

Aton: Aton is one of the best [abstracts], and more people should try it.

Frankendie: It has replaced our copy of Zombie Dice and is quickly becoming a family favorite. FrankenDie was designed to be entertaining and it most certainly delivers.

Crappy Birthday: On that note, Crappy Birthday scores a solid 7, when played with non-gamers in a birthday party setting. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth here.

Robin Hund: it's a solid & very enjoyable game for kids & families.

Innovation: This game is great for serious gamers, and a suitable "light" main event.

Napoleons War II: Overall, I think this game is a big success.

Escape of the Dead Minigame: It's simple, fun, and easy to play...but it takes some time to figure out a good winning strategy. I suggest this game to everyone who likes these quick games.

Talisman: Talisman is a classic board game, well-remembered by many, and for good reason.

Elder Sign: This is our go-to game for battling the forces of darkness together as a team.

Isla Tetra: [a positive review that is mostly a session report—no good quotes to pull]

Quarriors: Having said that, it's still a great little filler, even with just 2, and it's easy to play a couple of 2 player games in 10-15 mins between other games

Upon a Salty Ocean: A thematic challenge provider. An optimization Euro in its very core form with a nice well-implemented action mechanism. A good game as it is.

Forbidden Island: Following the BGG guidelines, I give this game a 7.

Infarkt: Infarkt is a fun and silly game that lets players try to creatively work out ways to off one another.

Poo The Card Game: Poo is a GREAT game! Almost every group I have played it with enjoy it

Identik: I think 120 cartoons are good value for money, espcially with all the hysterics we got out of the demo alone. Recommended!

Five Fingered Severance: The game is light-hearted and fun. The rulebook is funny, the art is good for a few laughs and the title alone is enough to warrant interest

Tobago: Overall, Tobago offers a great experience, putting a rich, approachable theme onto its essentially economic mechanisms

Memoir 44: The nice thing about Memoir is that it is an extremely simple game and just about anyone can enjoy it and in this day of $100 games it's still only $50 and you get a ton of stuff.

Records of Three Kingdoms 190-280: I really like this game, its well done, while there is a lot of FAQ, the FAQ answers the quesions well and the game is quite historical as it models the warfare and poltiics of the time(a lot of leaders switching sides).

Weiß Schwarz: Weiss Schwarz is a good trading-card game with reasonably simple yet well-weaved rules, well-balanced cards, and rich, subtle strategy in actual playing (as well as plenty of options in deck construction).

Neutral/Negative Reviews

Penny Arcade the game “Mediocre game. Not bad, but not that good either.”

Risk Legacy: “If you're intrigued but unsure (like I was), I feel that the price tag is unjustified. Save your money for something that will see table time beyond 15-16 sessions”

Kingdom Builder “I rate it a 4.”

I find it interesting that not only are 27/30 of the reviews positive, but many of them are glowing. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the reviews quoted above did also address who the game wasn’t for, but so often I find that reviews just give the illusion of being impartial. Imagine a fictional game called CubePusher. People will write like this.

“CubePusher is a heavy Euro game that plays 5-7 players. If you don’t like heavy Euro games that take 2+ hours, can’t get 5+ people to the table, or are a from age 1-3 and might choke on the pieces, you shouldn’t buy this game. Otherwise, this game is amazing and everyone should own it!”


“I have heard complaints that the rule book is hard to understand, that one strategy is always dominant, and that the first player wins 90% of games. That doesn’t bother me though! I have fun and everyone should own it!”

Do I think that the Poo: The Card Game reviewer quoted above was lying when he said that he thought the game was “GREAT”? No, not at all. Let me be clear: I’m not trying to take individual reviews to task, I’m talking about overall trends in reviews. If people still want to say “Dungeon Lords is the best game of all time!” I welcome it even though I don’t agree. But I also would love to see more reviews that say, “This is a mediocre game. Let’s talk about it and go over what works and what doesn’t.”

I think we can only get an accurate picture of a game if we know why the people that love it love in and why the people that don’t like it don’t like it. If you’ve been on the Panic Station forums, you have a great picture of the many differing opinions on the game and have all the tools you need to figure out if you’ll like the game.

Along those lines, we can only truly get where a reviewer is coming from if we know what games he or she doesn’t like. I, for example, enjoy listening to the State of Games podcast and reading its companion blog, Dice Hate Me (I especially appreciate the good photos). However, there aren’t many reviews that pop up that are negative, especially on the blog. So when Chris says that Road to Canterbury is “a sinfully-delightful masterpiece,” it’s hard for me to evaluate those claims when every review is a positive review (recent scores: 17/18, 16/18, 13/18, 15/18, 14/18).

But, over time, I’ve learned that Chris can’t stand Mansions of Madness and I know that Chris and Cherilyn don’t like deck builders. So if Chris said “I thought I was going to hate this game because it seemed so similar to Mansions, but it turned out I really loved it” that would really make that review stand out to me. In the most recent podcast, they talked about Pond Farr, an in-development deckbuilding race game that they liked. Pond Farr is now on my radar as something I might like. All the other ones they talked about loving? I’ll wait and see.

One of the things I really like about the Dice Tower video podcast is that Tom reviews everything he gets. So when I watch a bunch reviews in a row where Tom says
“My kids like this but I’m not that crazy about it” or
“This is basically just an Uno variant if that’s what you’re looking for” or
“This is a good game and parts of it are cool, but overall it’s nothing special”
but then, in his next review he says “this is a great game,” that this game is really a cream of the crop game. And, similarly, all of his previous reviews have given me enough background that, if Tom says “Star Trek Fleet Captains just might be my game of the year” I can say, well, I know from previous reviews that Tom never gets tried of space themes, so maybe I’ll look into this more before I run out and buy it.

My challenge to you:
Find a game that you’ve played recently that you would rank a 6 or less (for reference, this corresponds with “Ok game, some fun or challenge at least, will play sporadically if in the right mood”) and write up a review discussing its pros and cons and post it to BGG. Post a link in the comments and even if you write that you hate Mansions (a game that was my #2 played game by time in 2011), I’ll thumb it based on principle.

I don’t have many reviews here on BGG, but as much as possible in my reviews over at I tried to review games that I did and didn't like, but if you want to argue that I did a bad job with those or with this blog post, I welcome the negative review.
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Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:45 pm
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The top games I played in 2011 (organized by the amount of time I spent playing them)

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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The best review you can give a game is spending time playing it!

It’s time once again for my yearly audit of all my logged plays this year. I’m interested to compare this to last year and also to check in with the games that I wanted to play more.

Here are this year’s most-played games.

1) Dominion (115 plays | 28.8 hours)
Interestingly enough, I logged more plays of Dominion than last year (115 vs 108) but logged far less time playing (28.8hrs vs 56 hrs). This can be attributed to the bulk of my plays happening online with my brother where we could play a full game in about 10 to 15 minutes. I'm glad to be able to play online: I only bought Cornucopia after playing and enjoying it. Hopefully the forthcoming digital release will be playable on the PC.

2) Mansions of Madness (9 plays | 27 hours)
This was a game that I originally wasn’t going to buy, but once I got a chance to play it, it was clear that this was a game for me and, most importantly, that it was different enough from Arkham Horror to warrant owning both. I still think there is a lot of replay value here so I’m holding off on buying the expansion.

3) Battlestar Galactica (7 plays | 19.3 hours)
I will never turn down a game of Battlestar Galactica if we have the time. I will also never choose to be Boomer.

4) Power Grid (12 plays | 18 hours)
On last year's list, I identified this as a game that I wanted to play more to see what I thought of it since, at the time, I had only played it once and didn’t even play a full game. I wrote, “I suspect that repeated plays may just show me that this isn’t the game for me” and “Currently, I’m rereading the rules and basically seeing if I can convince myself that it would be easy to teach,.and that my wife would like it.”

As it turns out, this is a game that my wife, Karen, really likes (It’s her #4 game) and one that I like too, so we play it when we can manage to find the time once our one-year-old daughter Violet has gone to bed. We like this game for its replayability and how each game is different every time. And yes, we do enjoy this game as a 2 player game.

5) Arkham Horror (5 plays | 17.5hrs)
Arkham Horror has gone down in the rankings this year (last year it was my #2 most played game by time), but not because I have played Arkham Horror less: we logged 5 plays this year and 5 plays last year. I think that this is indicative of the fact that I am playing my favorite games more often when something I spent almost 17.5 hours playing is my #5 most played)

6) 7 Wonders (23 plays | 11.5 hours)
I’m surprised this made it all the way up to the #6, but those "we have 30 minutes, what should we play" sessions start to add up over time. I’m really happy to see that, even after all these plays, that there isn’t an “always-do-this” kind of strategy.

7) The Resistance (19 plays | 9.5 hours)
The Resistance is my new-to-me game of the year for 2011. I have played this with over 20 different people (not all at once—across multiple plays) and this has always gone over well. For its versatility, fun, and let’s-play-it-again-ness, this was a great purchase.

8) Flash Point: Fire Rescue (12 plays | 9 hours)
Yes, this is more random than Pandemic, but I like this game better than Pandemic. This was definitely in the running for my new game of the year, but I felt like it was too new to get the title. I really like all of the boards available to me, and I like how there is still a lot of strategy to the game since you can play the game of probabilities. We’re still figuring out the best strategy to win. Amazing that it made it all the way up to number 8 even though it came out in late November.

9) Forbidden Island (17 plays | 8.5 hours)
Still going strong. Whenever I’m recommending games to people, this is usually one I recommend (unless they already own Pandemic).

10) Time's Up (8 plays | 8 hours)
There is no better silly party game than I’ve found than Time’s Up.

11) What's My Word (7 plays | 7 hours)
I still have yet to beat my wife at this. This game is a great game for my wife because she likes word puzzles and logic/deduction puzzles and this has elements of both. I’m going to win this someday if I can quit ruining my best games by making mistakes.

12) Pandemic (9 plays | 6.8 hours)
Most of these plays came from a string of “we have to play this until we beat this” plays. It took 9 plays to finally win and when we did win, it was a landslide.

13) The Drawing Game (aka Eat Poop You Cat) (6 plays | 6 hours)
This is still more of an activity than a game, but it never fails to entertain.

14) No Thanks! (15 plays | 5 hours)
A simple card game that has plenty of meaningful decisions. It’s the only filler game that I rate a 10 since it’s absolutely perfect at what it does.

15) Scrabble (6 plays | 4.5 hours)
I’m normally not really a fan of Scrabble (I blame 2 letter words) and the game can be frustrating when you and your opponent have accidentally locked down the board so that the only place to play off of is a J. Still, once we got Scrabble on our phones and could play games just by passing it back and forth, the game got more fun and neither of us takes it too seriously.

16) Space Alert (13 plays | 4.3 hours )
This game continues to be a winner. We still only win like maybe 1 in 4 games, but we still have a fun time trying. I would like to see the wizardry necessary to win the expansion’s difficulties.

17) Nuns on the Run (4 plays | 4 hours)
When we want to change up the pace, this game comes up. I still have a lot to learn about playing the adult nuns.

18) Magic the Gathering (10 plays | 3.3 hours)
It will be a sad year when I don’t get any Magic the Gathering plays in. These players were mostly from one free tournament event and from a few games against my brother. I miss the world of tournament Magic, but it is too expensive. I still enjoy following the spoiler feeds to see what new things they do with Magic every year

19) A five-way tie of games I played for 3 hours a piece

Panic Station – I want to play this again now that my main group has gotten past the learning game (2 hrs). Haters really like to hate on this game, but I like it overall and look forward to when we can get done with a game in 30-45 minutes. Still, I’m actually tempted to use the pieces from the game and make my own completely new ruleset.

Galaxy Trucker – This would see a lot more play if I could play with 5 players, but I don’t want to overcomplicate the explanation process with all those extra tiles

Cloud 9 – A game that is easy to pull out with gamers and non gamers. I still like push your luck games. I’m happy to see this up here.

Dice Town – Needs to see more play

Ticket to Ride – Another game that my wife usually beats me at. Almost all of my Ticket to Ride games are 2 player games

King of Tokyo – I’ve had fun with this even though I still haven’t had the opportunity to play it with the max number of players.


Games that I hope to see played more in 2012
Agricola – This is pretty much guaranteed to be one my most-played games next year. I think I’ve already got 3-4 plays in of this in January alone and at 1-2 hours a play, this will quickly climb the charts.

Innovation – I really like this as two player game. I don’t know how balanced the cards may be, but I like how you feel like you still have a chance to come from behind, even if you’re far in the back of the pack.

Cosmic Encounter – I’ve gotten in one 6 player game of this and look forward to seeing how differently this plays when we all have different powers.

Also I hope to spend more time in 2012 further narrowing down my collection (see my article for why)


Games that I said wanted to play more of last year

Alien Frontiers: Successful. I liked the game more after repeated plays but not enough to keep it, especially once I realized that I would always rather play Agricola over this and so I sold it.

Nuns on the Run: Success: made it up to #17 most played!

Power Grid: Made it all the way up to #4!

Small World: I got a play in which was fun, but I realized that there are always games I play over this, so I’m going to sell this as well. With all the two regular expansions and the out of print Necromancer Island, I suspect this should sell well.

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Unsuccessful (1 play), but I hope to play more this year

Diplomacy: Unsuccessful (0 plays). Someday I will play you again, Diplomacy

Falling off of last year's top 10 list are
Carcassonne which I still like, but just haven't played as much recently and
Race for the Galaxy which, while I liked the game, took too long to explain and required too much investment up front if we just wanted to play a game. I sold my copy.

Finally, if you want to see all of my data, you can check out the spreadsheet here:
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Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:21 am
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Bus Theory: Buying more games does not mean you will have more fun.

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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After a spending a good deal of time around here, I see a lot of people that can’t seem to stop buying games. While I am not prefect in this regard, I’ve come up a few points about buying games that I've learned along the way. My theory is as follows (since everyone gets named theories, let’s call this Bus Theory).

1) Just because you had fun doesn’t mean you need to keep paying for that fun.

Let’s say that you have friends over and you introduce them to Cosmic Encounter. They love it. You have a great time and everyone says that you have to play it again sometime soon.

I don’t know about you, but following that experience, my gut reaction would be to start looking at buying the expansions. Yes, your copy of the game came with 50 alien races. Yes, you could use these races for game after game after game and see how their different combinations come together. BUT THERE ARE NEW ALIENS YOU DON’T HAVE! And playing Comic Encounter was so fun!

Don’t be like me. Don’t own Small World and 3 expansions while only having played the game 3 times since you bought it in 2010. Just because you had a fun experience with a game does not mean that you need to spend more money on a game. It means you need to resolve to play that game more often.

If you love having your friends over to watch football, buying a bigger TV won’t make it more fun (or at least won’t make it so much more fun that it justifies the cost). You don’t need to build a shrine to the fun you’re having. You’ll have the same fun next time if you watch it on your same regular TV.

2) The opportunity cost of buying a new game to play is not playing your old games

I agree with Ryan Sturm: we should seek to play better games, more often.
How many times over the course of the year are you going to have opportunities to play games? 52 times? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time playing your absolute favorite games?

I hear a lot of podcasters and see a lot of BGG posters who talk about “I really need to get this game to the table” or they lament that they haven’t played a certain game in a long time. Why haven’t you played that game recently? You have spent too much of your time playing games that are not your favorites.

Think of your game collection and the plays you log like a Dominion deck. Would you rather draw from a 60 card deck full of 30 copper and 30 gold, or a 40 card deck with 10 copper and 30 gold?

3) Just because a game is a good game or a fun game does not mean that you need to own it.

Your criteria for buying a new game should not be “would I have fun playing this game?” It is a game. You like games. Chances are, you are going to have fun playing the game. If you’ve ever listened to the Myriad Games Presentation podcast, you know that they can have fun playing just about any game, even if they don’t much care for the game.

Somewhat better criteria is “Is this game going to absolutely blow me away?”
You can probably have fun with your friends playing a lot of different games: even bad games that you don’t really like. But remember, if you’re looking to buy a game, you want to fill your Dominion deck with gold, not copper.

And still, even if every game that came out in 2012 was a perfect 10 on the BGG scale, that would not mean that you needed to own them all. You would not have that kind of time. There is no sense buying 20 perfect games if you only have time to play 10 of them. And remember (rule 2), if you buy and play those 10 games, there are 10 games that you already own that you aren’t playing.

Eager for podcasts to listen to when most podcasts were on break for Christmas, I went back and listened to some old episodes of the Dice Tower including the best of 2007 podcast. It’s interesting to hear people’s thoughts on games of the day (big news: a game called Agricola is starting to generate buzz), but my biggest takeaway was how many of the discussed games I have never even heard of. People talk about the games from 2007 being a lot of fun of with a lot of replay value. And yet now, here in 2012, I have never heard of those games: they came onto the scene and then vanished.

I imagine that some of those here-then-gone games are still played, but I also wonder how many copies of Trading in the Mediterranean 2007 are collecting dust while their owner preorders the new hotness, Trading in the Baltic Sea 2012.

You could forever live in any year in recent gaming history and be happy. Game factories could all agree to only print reprints of already-in-print games from here on out and we would be perfectly fine and still have fun when we meet up to play board games. You would not run out of games to play and you would not run out of fun to be had.

You do not need to buy more games in order to have more fun.

If you're interested in buying fewer games, you might consider checking out this Simple Dollar post where he suggests keeping an "already have" list of games to remind yourself you have plenty of games you have been waiting to play before you buy new ones
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Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:40 pm
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    A year in gaming: logging every game I played in the last year

    Mike Hulsebus
    United States
    Ann Arbor
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    This article was originally written for my article on, where it will go live on Monday, March 7. All of my other reviews are viewable at For this BGG version I'll also include the full stats at the end.

    There’s a certain degree of nerdiness required to be someone who writes a board game review column, but today we’re going to ratchet up the nerd level a few clicks. Over the past year, I’ve logged every single board and card game that I played. So yes, if you’ve read this column regularly, you probably know what games I think are good or bad, but when it comes down to it, these are the games that I spent the most time playing this year. I’ll also talk about games I wish I played more.

    This list spans games played from February 28, 2010 to February 27, 2011. I took my logged number of plays and multiplied it by the average number of minutes the game takes as reported over on BoardGameGeek, with a few modifications where I thought the numbers were off (no game of Boggle takes 10 minutes to play: it has a 3 minute timer). So, without further ado, here are my top 10 games that I spent the most time playing. My full reviews of each game are available on

    And finally, there are games I’ve played this year that I hope to get to play more in the year to follow. Here are some games that I would love to see rise in the rankings.

    Small World (11th place: 6 hours | 4 plays)
    Despite what I expected to happen after my first play of Small World, I like this game more each time I play it. I still don’t think of this as a family game like some people do, nor do I think it’s a game I would pull out with non-gamers again due to its length, but Small World is a game that I think gets better as you start to discover the strategies of the game—which I don’t think really happens until play two or three: there is so much more to the game that just recognizing which race and power combinations are best.

    Betrayal at House on the Hill (18th place: 3 hours | 3 plays)
    I’ve only played 3 scenarios of the 50 provided in the scenario book. My box is full of monsters and tokens and I’m really curious to see what each of them do once they get put in the haunted mansion. Having so many different scenarios makes it so that the game feels different every time (without having to take the time for everyone to learn a new game).</p>

    Alien Frontiers (21st place: 2.5 hours | 2 plays)
    I’m still not sure how what I feel about this game (which is why there hasn’t been a review yet). This is a combination worker placement/dice-rolling game where players are able to place their workers (dice) based what each die reads. Alien Frontiers is currently all the rage among the board game crowd, with its first printing selling out quickly and the second printing (due in April) in high demand. After my first play of the game, I thought it had too much downtime, but it went much quicker on my second play and I may be starting to warm up to it.

    Nuns on the Run (33rd place: 2 hours | 2 plays)
    This is a really fun game, and it’s a shame that I haven’t gotten to play it more. Like I mentioned in the original review, it’s somewhat hard to bring to the table since asking rules clarifications during the game might give away someone’s hiding space, but once people I know learn the rules, I’ll be more likely to pull this out. I enjoy playing this as a two player game, so that’s always an option too.

    Power Grid (46th place: 90 minutes | 1 play)
    This is another game that I’m on the fence about. Unlike Alien Frontiers, I suspect that repeated plays may just show me that this isn’t the game for me, but in the meantime, I really like the idea of this game and all the systems that it has in motion. In time I may understand enough of the strategy to remember that I usually don’t auction games. This is an auction/resource management game where players are trying to build power plants and supply power to cities across a map. Currently, I’m rereading the rules and basically seeing if I can convince myself that it would be easy to teach.and my wife would like it. I look forward to actually playing again sometime in the future to figure out my thoughts on it.

    Diplomacy (tied for 102nd: 0 minutes | 0 plays)
    I haven’t played a game of Diplomacy in probably 8 years, but it left such an impression on me that I traded for a copy a few months ago. Diplomacy is a negotiation game that requires exactly seven players to play properly and takes over four hours to play. This is a game that players get so into that people explaining the game often have to remind players that everyone is entering the game as friends and you should make sure that everyone leaves the game as friends. In my particular game 8 years ago, I made it to the final years of the game and was poised to share victory, only to be perfectly stabbed in the back so that my “ally” could win by herself. It was awesome.

    Mike Hulsebus often finds himself wishing other things he did had such easily quantifiable data so he could spout off things like how many diapers he changes in a month at will. He can be reached at

    Full stats showing all 100+ games played over 270 total hours:
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    Fri Mar 4, 2011 4:36 am
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