While they are not one hard scienceand should be viewed with as much skepticism as (video) gamers would view a site that Metacriticalit cannot be denied that the user considers on BoardGameGeek plays a major role in helping people choose which board games to buy, play and/or argue about.
The site, an invaluable resource that is everything from a community forum to a wiki to an asset platform, allows anyone who has played a game to rate it. The more people rate a game, the more valuable the rating becomes, and while it’s far from a perfect system—this 2019 post has a very good guide to the rankings pros and cons— Most people, myself included, can’t help but look at a game’s rating and feel that it has some kind of impact.
You would think that since the site is over 20 years old, there would have been dozens, or even hundreds of games that have reached the top position on BGG’s ranking table. But no! Only when the website exists – or more precisely during the time the rating system has been in place eight games have ever clawed their way to the top of the pile.
The first seven are:
- Paths of glory
- Tigris and Euphrates
- Puerto Rico
- Twilight Struggle
- Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Gloomhaven, the biggest board game of the last decade, had been number 1 since December 2017, but this month was finally dethroned, ending its five-year reign. And not of a new game, either; it was instead overhauled by Brass: Birminghama game that was first released in 2018. Although I never got around to reviewing the game on the site, I played it a bit back in 2019 and thought it was pretty good! Not the best ever good, but that’s why review merges are a tricky business.
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Instead of one Kotaku write-up, so here it is SUSD’s review of Brass: Birmingham instead, in case you’re wondering what kind of games can collectively rank so highly among board game geeks:
In case you’re wondering which game might next achieve this feat, BGG say that the point difference between Gloomhaven and Brass: Birmingham is so small that they will “probably change places for a while”, which will Pandemic legacy (which is also up there), so fresh blood may have to wait a while.
BGG’s post announcing the shift also includes some very useful advice for aggregating reviews, regardless of medium:
It’s not like any of these rankings are fixed in time or that a game lands in its “correct” spot and never moves again. The ratings do not indicate absolute greatness, but rather greatness for a good number of people who are fans of that particular game or game genre.
Gloomhaven, for example, is not a game that casual players will pick up on a whim, but rather an experience that calls out to those who might be interested in what it specifically offers. I don’t fall into that bucket, so I’m unlikely to ever play the game, which means I’ll never add my (probably low) rating to the game page. You could only get a “correct” rating for a game if you forced everyone in the world to play it and rate it – and forced ratings are probably not a reliable measure either, so let’s not go there.
Ratings and rankings only matter to the extent that your tastes match the tastes of others. Don’t assume that every high-rated game is recommended for you, and don’t avoid the low-rated game that seems like a perfect match for your taste. You do, boo.
Here’s the top 10 as it stands today, if you’re interested in seeing the full list of games that get BGG users actually excited:
While I never got around to reviewing Brass: BirminghamI have reviewed a number of other titles on this list – including Pandemic legacy, Terraforming Mars and Rebellion—and you can read them here.