Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gaming impact of children

Having children seriously reduces the amount of gaming one gets to do.
They're really worth it, but it's a big impact. That's all well and
good to say, but let's see some numbers.

First of all, to correct for annual events and the like, I looked at a
sliding window of 365 days. Prior to having kids, it was somewhat
variable, but going into 2004 it was pretty steady at around 550 games
every 365 days. Then, the drop. In the first year of my daughter's
life, I fell below 400 games/year and it gradually climbed back up to
about 450 when my son came along. Let me tell you, the second is a
bigger impact than the first, and the numbers bear me out, both as a
percentage and as an absolute value. In the first year of my son's
life, the rate fell to 266/year and hasn't recovered much since. So:

  • First child: 30% drop (then up 10% after 2 years) (-150 games/year)
  • Second child: 40% drop (-175 games/year)

On the flip side, my daughter is ranked 4th among people I play the
most games with for the year so far (in the top 75 overall), after
three game night regulars. And that's only games played according to
the essentially correct rules, and to completion. With her, currently
age 3, the big hits are Go Away Monster!, Monza, Who Lives Where? and
any "daddy game" she can get her hands on. Plus, she's become a very
good rules explainer. The other day she taught me the full rules to
Karambolage, exactly correctly and very clearly. Hopefully, as she
gets older the interest will remain.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Hot at the Gathering

In past years, I've posted about what the "hot games" (even if my
opinion didn't line up) were at the Gathering. Here's my list of what
I perceived as having a lot of people talking about it and playing it.

Notre Dame. Almost universally, when I asked people "What have
you played and loved?", this was the first response. There were
several copies at the event which meant it was easy to get a chance to
play, and there were often multiple copies in play. That said, there
were people who weren't totally impressed, and the buzz around this
one wasn't of the magnitude of Power Grid a few years ago, and
certainly not of Puerto Rico, back in 2002.

Descent. This was a bit of a surprise, since it's so different
from most of the other games played at the Gathering. But, this got
played a great deal, often with 2 or 3 games going simultaneously. I
heard some went as long as 8 (!) hours. I played twice, neither over
3 hours, and both were a lot of fun.

Race for the Galaxy. This didn't get as much play, because
there were only two prototypes, but most who played it liked it a lot,
and everyone I spoke to thought the art was stunning.

Wikinger. This got a lot of play, with reasonably positive
reactions. I heard from several people that the advanced version is
better, which I did not try.

Caylus Magna Carta. There was only one copy (maybe 2?), but it
was almost universally positively received with most of the comments
similar to mine.

Pillars of the Earth. This got a lot of play and was generally
quite well received, but it was almost never at the very top of
people's lists of top games they played.

Through the Ages. I didn't get to play this, but it saw a fair
amount of play, and the reactions from those who did seemed to be
extremely positive in general. At least a couple people declared it
their favorite game ever.

Zooloretto. This got a lot of play at the beginning, and some
continued play later, and was well liked, but not by everyone.

Thurn und Taxis Expansion. This also got a lot of play
throughout the week and was often on people's "top lists".

Colosseum. There was one copy of this and it got played a lot,
and was well liked in general, but it also seemed to rairely make it
near the top of people's lists. A lot of the comments around this
seemed to express roughly, "it deserves a few more tries before I have
a final opinion".

Arkadia. This didn't get played much at all until late in the
Gathering, when both the copies there were often continuously in play.
Most people liked it and several said it was among the best.

Objet Trouves. Another "showed up late" hit, this party game
got a lot of play in the last few days and was mostly well liked by
those who played.

A few other games that had reasonably positive buzz, but of lower overall magnitude: Huang Di, Phonecia, Quirkle, Animalia. I'm sure there were others that I didn't play that got some positive buzz, but I don't recall them now.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Buy, Maybe, No Buy

Of the new-to-me (and mostly new-since-Essen) games I've played, I
broke them down into three categories: Buy, Maybe and No. Within
maybe there's some more likely than others. Several of the "No"
games are quite good, just not for me.


  • Race for the Galaxy: I can hardly wait
  • Caylus Magna Carta: For me, standard Caylus will be completely obsolete
  • Notre Dame: Good to see Alea "back on track"
  • Friedemann's auction prototype: Can't say more
  • Baumeister von Arkadia: A surprise hit


  • Capes & Cowls: Fun, I love the theme, almost certainly will get it
  • Volle Wolle: Yet another entertaining Zoch dice game. Probably worth it.
  • Colloseum: Probably. But not definitely.
  • Thurn & Taxis For Power & Glory: Probably, but I'm not sure I play enough T&T to make this worthwhile.
  • Pillars of the Earth: 3 or 4 years ago, this would have been a definite yes, probably a buy still
  • Tumblin Dice: probably too large/expensive, but fun
  • Huang Di: probably not a buy for me, but it's interesting and fun
  • Truffel Schnuffel: Cute kids game from Haba, but if I bought everything with that description, I'd be overrun
  • Sakkara: Interesting, but broken without a rules fix, could be quite good with a fix
  • Zooloretto: Fun, but maybe not enough to justify the shelf space


  • Wikinger: For me, it didn't hang together well enough
  • Guatemala Cafe: Left me cold
  • Portobello Market: Short, not interesting enough.
  • Sudoku Challenge: Some game there, but not enough
  • Dragon Parade: Cute, but nothing striking.
  • Jetzt schlagt's 13: Mundane.
  • Stonehenge: I'd like to play the other three games, but the two I tried weren't "enough".
  • Nomads of Arabia: I didn't feel like there were enough choices

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Newly played at the Gathering, Brief Comments, Tuesday

Some quick impressions of games played...

Guatemala Cafe: Not bad, but didn't impress me. Somehow reminded me of Santiago, which I also wasn't so fond of, but that may be superficial.

Notre Dame: Has that "great" feeling. It will take a few more plays to be sure, but midway through the first turn it's got that feeling. Interesting options, engaging. It's got a little bit of multi-player-solitaire quality, but if you (like me) don't think that's so bad, this is really worth a try.

Animalia: Oh what a shame this isn't generally available. The art is spectacular and the game is a really good filler.

Wikinger: Didn't do it for me. A lot of people seem to like it more than I do. A bit to calculating without enough fun.

Thurn & Taxis: For Power and Glory: Not so much an expansion as a different (but similar) game that can be played with many of the same components. If you like standard T&T, you'll probably like this, but it's different enough to feel like a distinct game, even if they have many similarities.

Caylus Magna Carta: All of the good parts of Caylus, without all of the length. This is great.

Portobello Market: It's short. It's not bad, but it's not especially interesting either.

Nomads of Arabia: I didn't find many interesting choices and it's a lot of dice rolling, and not in the good way.

Settlers of Catan Dice Game: Cute, good dice game, but if I want to play a Yahtzee-like game, I'll probably stick to To Court A King or Kniffel Duell (Cosmic Cows).

Race for the Galaxy: This is still outstanding. The proofs of the art for the production version are jaw-droppingly good.

FF auction prototype: I can't say much more than that I played a really good Friedemann Friese light auction prototype.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Friedemann charms a 2-year-old

I took my daugther down to the gaming area to say hi to some people
and introduced her to Friedemann Friese, the famous green-haired game
designer. She was a bit cautious at first, but was clearly fascinated.

When I took her back up to the room, she told my wife: "I saw
Friedemann with his green hair. I was a little bit scared, but I
wanted to play his game."

The next morning, when we went downstairs again, he wasn't around and
she asked, "Where is Friedemann with his green hair?" Finally, this
morning when we went downstairs, he was there and she declared,
"There's Friedemann all the way over there. Let's go over there."

So, I've started lobbying Friedemann to design a children's game. :)

Gathering 2007, appetizer

For the first few days of the Gathering, we're here in Columbus with
the kids, doing fun local things and not so much gaming. Soon, the
kids will visit Grams and I'll do a lot of gaming. So, a quick review
of non-gaming and the small number of games I've played:


COSI: The Columbus children's/science museum is great for kids. Highly recommended.

Graeter's: Delicious Ice Cream, highly recommended for children and adults.

Polaris: Every chain store and restaurant in existence gathered
into one place. Mimi's Cafe is pretty good.

Columbus Zoo: Headed there today.


Colloseum: Good, maybe very good. Definitely worth trying, and
better than Cleopatra (DoW's previous Spring release).

Zooloretto: Much bigger box, somewhat more fun, otherwise very Coloretto-like.

Jetzt schlagt's 13: OK late-night filler fare.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Game Card Catalog

My full collection

Over on BGG, a cool simple idea was discussed: Create a card for each
game you own, and use it as a sort of "card catalog" of your games, or
even as a way of deciding of what game to play. Tom Kiehl made href=>a very cool
tool, that was href=>extensively
discussed. It automatically generates these cards from your BGG

An example sheet of 4

Unfortunately, the cards are less image focused than I'd
want, and I wouldn't want to deal with printing on labels and applying
them to some other material for hundreds and hundreds of games. So, I
decided to write my own card generator, with some changes.

Just the Knizia games in my collection

First, I made the image as large as was plausible, automatically
rotating the image if that would allow it to be larger. The only text
information I wanted on the card was game name, number of players,
time and designer(s). I also wanted to be able to override the game
name, not just the game image. Finally, I wanted them inexpensively,
and in full high-quality color. So, I decided to print them four to a
"page" and have the pages printed as 4x6 photos from Costco. I ended
up having to do a fair amount of cutting, but less than applying 600+
stickers. Overall, the result is very cool. Having one's entire
collection "in hand", physically, with all games being equal is useful
and fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gamer, age 2

Ok, my daughter doesn't actually play many games, but she thinks she
does. She can really play "Go Away Monster!", fully by the rules.
Heck, she even teaches other people the rules. She gets that one.
But for most games, she really means she wants to play with the pieces.

She has a few favorites, such as Zick Zack, Gulo Gulo and Konig der
Maulwurfel (which is really cute to try to hear a two-year-old say),
but she enjoys Chess, Plumpsack, Cartagena, Sambesi, Dawn Under,
Hamster Rolle, Kayanak, Villa Paletti, Face-It and a variety of
others. Even if she's not quite there in terms of the rules of most
of the games, she understands the meta-game. She'll say "Let's play a
daddy game!" and we'll proceed to peruse the shelves and she'll say
"How about this one?" or "Maybe Gulo Guolo?" until we settle on
something. We'll set it out, play with the pieces and clean it up.

But, the absolute icing on the cake is what she's taken to saying
lately when we're playing games. She'll turn to me, look me in the
eyes, and declare "Daddy, I love playing games with you." I love
playing games with her.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Full Circle

Fourteen yearso ago, I wrote the first web spider, back when the web
was small. It was called the Wanderer. Based off of it, I wrote the
first web search engine, called "Wandex". It was not very good, but
again, the web was small. Within a year, numerous better web search
engines appeared. But, I am proud to have had the opportunity to be

In the years since, I started a web analytics company, earned two
degrees, joined a hardware startup, and started a wireless location
company. Now, I have come full circle. In February, I started work
at Google in Boston. The first month has been great and it's a
remarkable company.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

BoardGameGeek Ratings

I've posted some
analysis of BoardGameGeek ratings
on BGG. This post repeats the
contents of that post.

Since I do a lot of statistical analysis on the geek, one category of
questions I get a lot are those about the "validity" of BGG Ratings.
I finally got around to writing up a bunch of the notes on this. Enjoy.

How much a difference in rating/ranking is signifcant?

Well, depends what you mean, but I can answer the question I think
most people are asking better than this one. Tests for statistical
"signifcance" are common, but most are based on assumptions that are
simply not valid for BGG ratings. This isn't to say such measures are
completely useless, but they shouldn't be treated as the final word.
The "ratings error" calculated in this manner is somewhere in the
ballpark of 0.2 points. For games with thousands and thousands of
ratings, it is much lower, below 0.1. For games with fewer ratings,
it's more like 0.5 or more. But, the assumptions that go into these
calculations don't hold for BGG, so the numbers are even more

Easier to evaluate is what is the chance you (a random BGG user) will
like a particular game better than another game, given their relative
ranks. For this, we don't need to make as many assumptions, as we can
look at the raw ratings distributions for those games. This still has
some issues with sample bias, but it's better. The answer is, knowing
nothing else, if the games are 50 ranks apart, there's a 60% chance
you like the higher ranked one better. If the games are 250 ranks
apart, 70%. 700 ranks, 80%. 2000 ranks, 90%. Now, games at the very
top of the chart (roughly top hundred) actually give higher
confidence. If the games being compared are near the top of the
chart, multiply the difference by a factor of about 2 to 5. So,
roughly speaking, you're 70% more likely to like a game that's 50 to
125 ranks higher, if it's near the top.

In other words, rankings/ratings are a rough estimate. They're
far from meaningless. Between two games, with no other information,
you're more likely to like the one with a better rank. But, if one is
in a genre you like better, by a designer you like better, from a
publisher you like better or uses mechanics you like better, you'll
probably like it more, unless the other game outranks it by a few
hundred ranks.

Personally, I tend to look at game ranks in roughly 5 "star"
categories: 1-100 (5 stars), 101-500 (4 stars), 501-1000 (3 stars),
1001-2000 (2 stars) and 2001+ (1 star). If a game has a feature
(designer, publisher, mechanic, theme, etc.) I'm especially fond of, I
give it another star or two. Games with features I tend to dislike,
get docked a star or two. Ratings/reviews from trusted users might
bump it up or down one star, but for me, I don't find many
reviewers/raters who I can consistently trust. Then, if a game has 6
or more stars, I probably buy it before playing. 5 stars, I actively
seek it out to try it. 4 stars, I'm happy to give it a try. 3 stars,
I'm willing to give it a try. 2 stars, I have to be convinced. 1
star, I avoid it. For me, it works.

Wouldn't the ratings be better/more accurate if we ignored ratings from inactive users?

They wouldn't be much different. In fact, they'd be only about as
different as you'd expect from any arbitrary reduction of sample size.
I have not yet identified anything to suggest that older/inactive
users ratings are in any substantial characteristic different from
those of active/recent users.

What if we got rid of ratings that haven't been updated in a certain period

No substantial change, until you make it a really recent cutoff, at
which point the "top" lists are all exclusively new games.

What if we just use the plain average instead of the Bayesian average, with a cutoff for minimum number of ratings?

No matter what value of cutoff you use, it introduces a large bias
toward games that have just barely enough to make the cutoff. In
fact, for any particular value of the cutoff, roughly 20% of the top
games (whether top 10, top 100, whatever) are very close to the
cutoff. What this means is if you were to lower the cutoff a little,
you add in a bunch of games that were arbitrarily removed by having
the cutoff higher. If you raise the cutoff a little, you cut out a
bunch of games, equlaly arbitrarily. The Bayesian average provides a
"soft" cutoff.

Actually, if you're willing to raise the cutoff up to about 500
ratings, minimum, the effect goes away. That would leave only 422
games rated on the geek.

What if we restricted it to people who have played at least 3 times?

Well, the average rating of games would go up a ton because people
don't tend to play bad games that many times. Specifically the
average rating would go up by nearly a point.

It would also introduce a big bias against longer games, introduce a
bias toward 2-player games and reduce the sample size dramatically, as
many fewer people log plays than submit ratings. Other than those
shifts, many other results would remain very similar.

How about a "waiting period" before a game is rated/ranked?

Well, the Bayesian Average already has some of this effect. That
said, there is a distinct, early ratings bump many games get. That
is, when a game only has a few hundred ratings, it is often rated much
more highly then when it has many hundreds or over 1000 ratings. In
particular, it seems the average dropoff is about 0.3 points from 350
ratings to "steady state", which sometimes takes till 1000 ratings or
more. Before 350 ratings, there's a lot of variability in the

What if we only count ratings from people who have rated, say, 300 games?

The top 11 games remain exactly the same, in slightly different order,
despite what would amount to a sample destroying reduction in number
of raters. Neat.

Wouldn't clusters somehow make this all so much better?

Oooh, probably.

Monday, January 1, 2007

2006 Games Report

365 Games Played

205 titles (84 new to me)

83 sessions

216 opponents

177 hours (approx)

10+: Um Krone und Kragen (11), Launch Across (10)
5+: Darter (9), Times Square (8), Werewolf (8), Toppo (7),
Blue Moon City (7), Descent (7), Nacht der Magier (6),
Crokinole (6), Deflexion (6), Blue Moon (6), Thurn und Taxis (6).

Year Games New Diff Ses Ppl
1997 ~30
1998 ~100
1999 ~150 63
2000 301 112 141 126 129
2001 712 172 266 175 165
2002 650 161 279 163 241
2003 552 128 272 129 180
2004 470 80 212 112 216
2005 429 92 208 124 236
2006 365 84 205 83 216

First Derivative (year over year differential)
Years Games New Diff Ses Ppl
2000-2001 +136% +54% +89% +39% +28%
2001-2002 - 9% - 6% + 5% - 7% +46%
2002-2003 - 15% -20% - 3% -21% -25%
2003-2004 - 15% -48% -22% -13% +20%
2004-2005 - 9% +15% - 2% +11% + 9%
2005-2006 - 15% - 9% - 1% -33% - 9%

Overall, a "down" year in terms of the numbers, but a new baby will do
that. Still, a good year.

Game Metrics for 2006

Here's the game metrics for 2006.

Huber Happiness Metric

Equation for a games "happiness units (HU)": (Rating-Offset)*Total Time (minutes)

  1. Descent
  2. Blue Moon City
  3. Um Krone und Kragen
  4. Battlestations
  5. Fiese Freunde Fette Feten
  6. Thurn und Taxis
  7. Augsburg 1520
  8. Puerto Rico
  9. Traumfabrik
  10. Blue Moon

Month Metric

  1. Um Krone und Kragen (5 months in 2006, 5 ever)
  2. Blue Moon City (4 months in 2006, 4 ever)
  3. Descent (4 months in 2006, 4 ever)
  4. Fiese Freunde Fette Feten (4 months in 2006, 10 ever)
  5. Blue Moon (4 months in 2006, 9 ever)

I'll post my 2006-Games-Report shortly, which will include the most played lists and such.