538 on BGG

I had somehow not noticed that fivethirtyeight.com (the site founded on political poll analysis, now expanded into sports, general news, and lots of politics) does occasional articles on board games. Being a data-driven site, they of course love boardgamegeek.com, which provides lots of data in terms of player ratings and logged play. I love data and board games.

The article of the day is about Gloomhaven, which has been atop the BGG rankings for a while as a very dense, rich game with heavy RPG elements. I have been tempted to play but would need a more dedicated, consistent group. Also, it’s $200, which is not a dealbreaker for me, but I want to get some play from that.

You can see past articles from when Twilight Struggle was #1 or on the worst board games.

As we have said elsewhere, ratings are not so much important as finding a rater whose ratings usually line up with yours. I don’t now if Kurt Loder is the best movie reviewer out there, but his ratings seem closest to mine since Roger Ebert died. BGG is full of people who have ratings globally similar to mine: serious gamers who do not like games determined primarily by chance. I am sure that I could argue with ratings all over the place, but it would be plus or minus two points. No one worth taking seriously is going to argue that Monopoly is a good game. (Monopoly was literally designed to be a horrible experience.)

: Zubon

One thought on “538 on BGG”

  1. Gloomhaven’s a great game, but it’s definitely not for everyone. So, for all those inclined, a few pointers of whether it’s for you or not. (This is coming from the standpoint of someone who primarily plays cooperative games, and did rate it a 10 on BGG.)

    Do not play Gloomhaven if:
    > You actively dislike solo / cooperative gameplay.
    > You are looking for a game that is not a dungeon crawler. (If you want exploration / adventure, play the 7th Continent instead. If you want storytelling in RPGs, try Legacy of Dragonholt instead.)
    > You want something light. Gloomhaven is rules-heavy, and has a very active errata/FAQ on BGG.

    Do not buy Gloomhaven if:
    > You do not have the time or interest to play a game dozens of times. To actively beat the campaign, going straight through, would take around 25-30 game sessions. More likely, with taking time out to play side scenarios and explore more things, you’ll arrive closer to our group’s 60 game sessions — and that didn’t include completing every scenario in the game book, nor the bonus adventures the creator’s put out. That said, I still suggest playing the game sometime!

    Be careful if:
    > You dislike making permanent changes to cards. By default, the game comes with stickers that can make permanent positive upgrades to cards. That said, there is an optional pack of stickers that are meant to be removable, to make this a less permanent part of the game.
    > Challenge turns you off. The first few games of Gloomhaven are the most punishing — you haven’t gotten the hang of things yet, and you don’t have all the options (equipment, skills, et cetera) to complete things as easily. If you stick through it to get to level 2 and get a little gold along the way, you’ll find things starting to let up on this front.
    > You don’t like the possibility of party intrigue. By default, the game is designed such that the party ‘mostly’ works together — but it encourages people to make suboptimal choices to benefit themselves long-term, and if you pick up an item, you can’t trade it to other people later. (House rules are available to blunt some or all of this, if you find such useful.)

    Play and/or buy Gloomhaven if:
    > You like dungeon crawling, and the idea of playing several characters along a campaign appeals to you.
    > You like hand management, and dealing with the interesting choices of having a hand of 8 cards, and picking which two to play, and how to play them.
    > You like lots of options for upgrading, between your two decks, what equipment to bring with you, and what cards to upgrade.

    Hope this helps!

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