Community Focus: BGG Ratings Part 4: Disposable Games

Setup

If you are coming to this article first, you may want to start at Part 1 of this series to be sure you have the full context.

As we saw in Part 3 of this article, some of the “hate” in rating Pandemic Legacy was directed toward ‘legacy” or “disposable” games in general. In this part we will look at some of the justification for that hate and the tracking data provided by users that either supports or undermines that sentiment. Based on the comments provided by raters and the data available we have two basic foundations for argument:

  • Legacy games have limited playability.
  • Legacy games have compromised value.

Round 1: Legacy Hater Communities

In Part 3, we looked that the Pandemic Legacy rating communities. The chart for that discussion is reproduced here so you don’t have to reference back.

As suggested by user communities described in Part 3, particularly in communities B, C, D, F, and most of H which represent about 70% of the overall data, there is negative sentiment regarding “Legacy” or “disposable” games – those who like or love Pandemic, but rate Pandemic Legacy a “1”. While this community overlaps with the community protecting Twilight Struggle’s position on the BGG ranking, it is at least as large, probably larger, community.

Let’s dive into the rationale for this sentiment a little deeper. Note: The following statistics are representative of the entire community of users that rated Pandemic Legacy a “1” not just those who are members of the communities listed above – the “Legacy Haters”.

Round 2: Limited Plays

One of the reasons for the hate of Legacy games and an aspect of their “disposable” nature is that they have a limited number of plays before you can no longer play that copy of the game. There are both physical and mental aspects to this limited playability; parts are destroyed or marked up, the story is revealed, etc. Although the designer/publishers of the few games that have been released so far have been careful to include a means to add or remove users to the campaign, this is still not the optimal playing experience and there is a social reticence to doing that. See my article Pressure Problems with Legacy and Disposable Gamesfor a discussion on this aspect of legacy games.

Average Plays

What is an average number of plays for a game? In the case of Pandemic Legacy, the number of plays that a groups is going to get out of the game is somewhere between 12 and 24 by definition in the rules of play. The session reports I have heard or read have all fallen between 15 and 21 plays (personally we had 17) so let’s say that a group might expect 18 plays on average. Is this a “reasonable” number of plays for a game, “Legacy” or not?

Statistical Challenges

Unfortunately, as mentioned in Part 1, most BGG users don’t track plays and there is no way to know the self-imposed rules followed by those that have at least tracked some plays or when those plays were tracked (without a ton of effort). Additionally, there is no way to compare the number of plays over time with a user’s lifetime expectations. If I own a game for a year, 10 plays may be a reasonable value expectation, but if I own it for 20 years, what would be reasonable? Fortunately, Pandemic and Twilight Struggle have been in the market for a long time so they have at least been available to play and the number of plays for users in general is not limited to the last year or so.

The data I was able to collect for each user includes:

  • The number of total plays.
  • The number of plays for the games in this study.
  • The number of games played 18 or more times.

The “games” played data also includes expansions and several users in the dataset track their plays of an expansion as well as the base game, so these are double-counted. There is no easy way to remove these play counts, so they have been included. As an example one user counted 100 plays of Dominion, but also 100 plays of all 9 expansions of Dominion. Should this really be 11 plays of each or just 100 plays of Dominion? Also, at least in one obvious case a user recorded many plays of one game with farcical comments to indicate their distaste of Pandemic Legacy.

Another piece of information that I would have preferred to incorporate but was too much effort is the number of games played.

Additionally, some users have not tracked plays so much as estimate previous plays. This is obvious in entries of the same game being played many times (as many as 3000 in one entry). Although this data is highly suspect, we will assume that it is as accurate as the rest and include it in the analysis.

So, we have some data to work with, but we would have to make some tenuous assumptions here to get to any firm conclusions. Maybe we can get a sense as to what is typical based on the plays tracking data available by users who rated Pandemic Legacy a “1”.

The Data

First, let’s look at the number of plays tracked by any given user:

Users w/ Recorded Plays

Recorded Plays

Users

Cumulative

% Users

Avg. Plays

0

165

328

100%

0

1-19

45

163

50%

7

20-49

15

118

36%

35

50-99

10

103

31%

77

100-499

38

93

28%

252

500+

55

55

17%

1873

Total

328

     

The data appear to be fairly representative of the groupings I selected since the average is right at the middle of the grouping.

Note: Previously we looked at recorded plays of those who had ranked both Twilight Struggle and Pandemic Legacy in Part 3. This data is for all users who ranked Pandemic Legacy a “1”.

Unfortunately, most users do not track plays consistently, if at all, so we will need to use a decreasing percentage of all users to dig deeper. So understanding how many plays a user gets from a single game is difficult – it is biased by the number of users who don’t track plays at all. Looking at the same data, but counting only users who have played at least 1 game 18 or more times, we get:

Users w/ 18+ Recorded Plays of at Least 1 Game

Recorded Plays

Users

Game w/18+

% All Users

% Users in  Group

0

165

0

0%

0%

1-19

45

0

0%

0%

20-49

15

0

0%

0%

50-99

10

3

1%

30%

100-499

38

22

7%

58%

500+

55

53

16%

96%

Total

328

     

 

Trying to minimize the bias further, let’s narrow the data to those who have recorded 100 or more plays. More than half of the 100-499 plays grouping (58%) has played at least 1 game 18 or more times. So we will now look at the number of games played 18 or more times by the composite group as a whole (all users w/ 100 or more tracked plays).

Looking at the intersection of those who tracked at least 100 plays and those who own (or previously owned) at least 20 games, it appears that we can make some comparison here based on number of games played and the number of games owned. (Accepting that the user doesn’t need to own a game to play it. In fact, only 1 person needs to own Pandemic Legacy for 2-4 people to play it. However, those who track at least some of their collection and some plays are what I would call active users). As validation that those who track plays generally own games and also track their collection, the chart is almost identical (dropping only 3 users of 92).

The story in the charts is that most BGG users have a small number of games that they actually get 18+ plays out of. So 18 plays might be a reasonable value for a hobby game or any game.

Super Playable Games

What are the games that get the most plays? This section started out as a bit of an aside, but ended up providing some new insight. (This is a great example of why I call these articles Analysis Paralysis. I thought I had completed all my research when this question occurred to me, so I went back a dug more…). This list is interesting in two ways: it provides context to the statistics above – what games are we comparing against for replayability - and it gives insight (at least for this niche community) into the games that are generally highly replayable. Here is the list of games that were played at least 50 times by at least two users. (The full list for at least one user is long so is at the end of the article in Appendix 1).

Users

Game

Max Plays

8

Dominion

438

5

Magic: The Gathering

1000

5

7 Wonders

410

5

Twilight Struggle

372

4

Android: Netrunner

129

2

Poker

2572

2

Memoir '44

549

2

Axis & Allies

500

2

Checkers

500

2

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

261

2

Chess

200

2

Race for the Galaxy

115

2

The Resistance: Avalon

115

2

Carcassonne

105

2

Mahjong

103

2

Yahtzee

101

2

Lost Cities

100

2

Codenames

91

2

Glory to Rome

90

2

Agricola

85

2

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

82

2

UNO

78

2

Neuroshima Hex!

74

2

The Resistance

71

2

Pandemic

63

It probably comes as no surprise that the list is dominated by a few games or types of games. I particular traditional games (Chess, Backgammon, Poker, etc.), lifestyle games (Magic: The Gathering, Android: Netrunner, etc.), and wargames (Twilight Struggle, Warhammer, Memoir ’44, etc.) have dedicated players who tend toward playing the same game (or games system) regularly.

What might be a surprise is the prominence of iconic/landmark games (Dominion, 7 Wonders, Carcassonne) and party games (Codenames, Resistance, etc.) that have a more universal appeal. It is not surprising to see these games on a list of most played games, but it might be surprising to see them on this list. We saw the fairly typical ratings of Pandemic earlier in Part 3 and now we see that not only do some of these users like Pandemic, they play it often. This is another indication that there are several realms of thought that lead to Pandemic Legacy is a “1”.

Round 3: Getting Your Money’s Worth

While getting a certain number of plays from a game is one measure of getting your money’s worth out of a game purchase, another main aspect of the “disposable” nature of “Legacy” games that causes angst among game buyers is the loss of resale potential. If I buy just about any game, I can play it a few times, decide that I no longer want it (for any number of reasons), then sell or trade it away. With a “Legacy” game, for all practical purposes, I lose that potential recovery of funds (and these games are expensive) once I interact with the game in a “Legacy way”. That game is now the proverbial “boat anchor”. Once a “Legacy” game has been opened and the first piece of content is spoiled (torn, stickered, or even just exposed), the resale value has also been spoiled. Additionally, these games are expensive (~$70), so the potential loss is higher than for an average hobby game (~$40).

Personally, I don’t sell or trade many (any at this point) games, but that is the packrat in me. The games that I have discarded have gone to the Goodwill Store. I completely understand the desire to try to recover the cost of games that are no longer providing entertainment value and will certainly reach a point when it will be essential (when KALLAX 2 is full or when I need a new pair of shoes). However, many people do sell or trade their games off when they are done with them for some reason or other (tired of it, hate it, just can’t get a group together to play it, didn’t want it in the first place, etc).

First, let’s look at the games collection sizes for these users. In this chart, Collection Size is the total of games currently “Owned” and “Previously Owned”.

Size of User Collections

Collection Size

Users

% of Users

0

40

12%

1-2

19

6%

3-19

44

13%

20-49

50

15%

50-99

37

11%

100-249

75

23%

250-499

32

10%

500-999

20

6%

1000+

9

3%

 

Now, let’s look at how many of the users own (or once owned) Pandemic and/or Pandemic Legacy.

Users Owning Pandemic Legacy

Users

Own Pandemic

Legacy

Base

7

Y

Y

26

Y

N

84

N

Y

166

N

N

33

Total

 

12%

% of Total

 

 

Only 12% of the users who own at least 1 game, own Pandemic Legacy. Presumably, these are the users who could have had an actual monetary inconvenience by owning a game they did not want and could not resell it.

Assuming that “Previously Owned” indicates the potential for “Sold or Traded”, let’s look at the ownership stats for the users who have at least 1 Previously Owned game in their collection.

Previously Owned

Total

Pct Of All Users

Pct of Games Previously Owned

136

41%

23%

So, 41% of all the users in this study have at least 1 game that they “Previously Owned” and for all those users (136), 23% of their total collection is “Previously Owned”. This indicates that for these users reselling/trading is a significant aspect to their collection practices. They expect to be able to recover funds or at least for someone else to be able to enjoy the game after they are done with it.

Your Turn

Should a game provide more than 18 plays or 18 hours of entertainment? How many plays or hours are appropriate? Do you sell the games that you don’t like or grow tired of? Does the legacy property of a game decrease the potential value of a game to you?

Continue with this series or catch up on previous parts:

If you find this article interesting, you may want to check out all the articles in the Analysis Paralysis category where we analyze and discuss issues in the tabletop industry and community.

Appendix 1: Most Played Games

For the BGG users who ranked Pandemic Legacy a “1”, these are the games that were recorded as having been played 50 times or more by at least one user. Note: There was 1 user (one who played 58 games more that 18+ times) who is responsible for 29 of these, distinguishable by their very round numbers). I have left the stats for this player in, but have indicated them with a “*” so it is possible to see the list without this significant single contribution. (This data would have tested out of the collection had I used more rigorous statistical functions).

Users

Game

Max Plays

1

Legends of the Three Kingdoms

3000

2

Poker

2572 (1000*)

1

Dawn Patrol

1951

1

Warhammer: Invasion

1190

5

Magic: The Gathering

1000*

1

Go-Moku

1000

1

Blackjack

1000*

1

Portal

1000*

1

Liar's Dice

748

2

Memoir '44

549

1

Thurn and Taxis

521

2

Axis & Allies

500*

2

Checkers

500*

1

Max's Advanced Rules for Axis & Allies

500*

1

Euchre

500*

1

Strat-O-Matic Baseball

500*

8

Dominion

438 (100*)

5

7 Wonders

410

1

Mr. Jack

407

5

Twilight Struggle

372

1

Café International

344

1

Title Bout

334

1

Carcassonne: 10 Year Special Edition

299

1

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization

266

2

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

261

2

Chess

200*

1

Chinese Checkers

200*

1

Spades

200*

1

Space Beans

168

1

We Didn't Playtest This At All

167

1

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)

159

1

Diggity Dog

138

1

Mr. Jack in New York

136

1

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

131

1

Combat Commander: Europe

131

1

Mr. Jack Extension

130

4

Android: Netrunner

129

1

Win, Lose, or Banana

128

1

Star Realms

125

2

Race for the Galaxy

115

2

The Resistance: Avalon

115

1

Cribbage

115

1

Terra Mystica

114

1

Tigris & Euphrates

110

1

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics

106

2

Carcassonne

105

1

Small World

104

2

Mahjong

103

2

Yahtzee

101 (100)*

2

Lost Cities

100

1

Crokinole

100*

1

Go Fish

100*

1

Old Maid

100*

1

Risk

100*

1

Hearts

100*

1

Battleship

100*

1

Scrabble

100*

1

Stratego

100

1

Monopoly

100*

1

Ghost Stories

95

1

Coup

93

2

Codenames

91

1

Spyfall

91

2

Glory to Rome

90

1

Shadowrun: Crossfire – High Caliber Ops

88

1

Tic-Tac-Toe

86

1

Fill or Bust

86

1

The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow

86

2

Agricola

85

2

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

82

1

Connect Four

80

1

Nuclear War

80

1

Doppelkopf

79

2

UNO

78

1

Fairy Tale

78

1

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War

77

1

Straw

77

1

Yomi

76

1

7 Wonders Duel

76

2

Neuroshima Hex!

74

1

Formula Dé

73

1

Ingenious

73

2

The Resistance

71

1

Battle Line

69

1

Love Letter

69

1

Battlestar Galactica

68

1

Seasons

67

1

Tri-Ominos

65

1

Viva Pamplona!

64

1

6 nimmt!

64

2

Pandemic

63

1

Defenders of the Realm

63

1

Santiago de Cuba

62

1

Abalone

60

1

Dark Dealings

60

1

El Grande

59

1

Cartagena

59

1

Pylos

58

1

IceDice

57

1

BANG! 10th Anniversary

56

1

Epic Card Game

56

1

The Bucket King

53

1

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium

52

1

Catan

52

1

Backgammon

51

1

Friday

51

1

BANG! The Bullet!

51

1

The Castles of Burgundy

51

1

Gazza! The Game

50

1

Go

50

1

HeroQuest

50

1

Cosmic Encounter

50*

1

Alien Frontiers

50

1

Summoner Wars

50

1

Kings in the Corner

50*

1

Trivial Pursuit

50*

1

Onirim (second edition)

50

1

Frank's Zoo

50

1

Tuppen

50

1

Memory

50

1

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest

50

 

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