Recently, I was talking to my students about an upcoming trip I was taking to go to BGGCon with the Meeple Nation crew. One of the students hit me with a question that seriously stumped the teacher. "What's your favorite game?"
That caused me to pause for a bit while I thought. I have so many, where do I start? I have a lot of favorite games, and my favorite in a given moment depends on a lot of factors. Coincidentally, one of my favorite phrases when teaching is, "it depends".
Sometimes my favorite game depends on who I'm playing with. For example, I wouldn't consider Descent to be one of my favorite games in general, but I love it when I play it with my current group.
Because I'm a huge nerd, and this is the sort of thing I teach, I’d like some way to quantify and compare games to determine which one is my favorite. So for this month’s post, I'm going to look at some of these ways I might evaluate how much I like a game. Some of these are going to make more sense than others, and most of them will be specific to me, but I think that at least a few are apropos to a lot of people.
On the surface, the method most easy to understand and evaluate is how many times have I played the game. But there's one problem with this measure. Unlike Nathan Howard, I haven't obsessively documented my game plays over a number of years, so there's a glaring lack of empirical data. Any measure I give would be anecdotal. That being said, there are some obvious trends. First, in some groups it's rare that I play the same game more than once or twice. It's actually one of the complaints I've had about my monthly game night. Most of the people in the group do not have a lunch time gaming group at work like I do, so the opportunities to play a variety of games just isn't there. I've tried to be better about that in recent game nights so that my guests can get more comfortable with the games we play and feel more competitive. The games that dominate in the category of plays are the games that my lunch group is obsessing about because we get one or two plays of those games in almost every day (or at least we did before Covid). In that group, few games have been played as much as Dominion. Collectively, we have bought nearly all the expansions (there was one that came out a couple of years ago that we don’t have yet), and we played it daily for nearly a year, and at least a few times a week once we got out of that phase. Other than Catan and its variants, I don't think that any other game even comes close. But, I have a complicated relationship with Dominion. I HATED the game at first. I even declared once that I would never play it again. However, since the rest of the group was determined to play the game, my choice was to either stop playing games at lunch, or play Dominion, and playing games is like pizza. When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's still pretty good. So, I persevered, and even came to enjoy the game enough that I purchased one of those expansions in our collection, and even bought a copy of the base game to keep at home. So yeah, I like Dominion, and it's one of my favorite deck builders (as long as certain cards aren't in the shop).
Another seemingly easy measure would be money spent on a game. This one gets complicated because of how much games can vary in cost. For example, the most money I’ve ever spent on a single game is on a game I don’t even have yet: Return to Dark Tower. I’ve played that game once and decided that I needed it in my collection. I then spent several days looking for the late pledge campaign for the recent kickstarter so I could get in on it. Come to think of it, that might be a different measure, how much time I spent looking for the game. That puts The City and Villainous on the list. I played The City at the last BGGCon and loved it. It took me several months, but I eventually found someone selling it and picked it up. Villainous is a bit more complicated. I got the base game as a gift and thought that it wouldn’t be a game I’d enjoy because I mistakenly thought it was a tie in to the Disney Descendants movie. It wasn’t until much later when I played it with my siblings that I found that was not the case, and I really like it. Since then, I’ve spent a fair amount of time each time I go to Target looking to see what expansions for the game they have in stock, and I’ve put several of them on my Christmas wish list.
Another measure is how many copies of the game I own or have owned. That one is pretty easy. There's a limited number of games that I own multiple copies of. I can definitely count it on two hands: Suburbia, Century Spice Road, Cover Your Assets, Munchkin, Risk, Catan. I'd probably disqualify Century Spice Road because one of the copies was bought by my wife who bought it because it was a new edition of a game we already had. The list expands a bit if you include games in a franchise: the Tiny Epic series, and Love Letter. Hands down, this category is won by the Tiny Epic series. I'll buy one of those games at the drop of a hat. I regularly back their kickstarter campaigns without a second thought. A runner up would be Suburbia. I now only have one copy because I gave one away to a family member that enjoyed playing the game with us. I like this game enough that I almost bought a third copy when they had a kickstarter for a special edition (still kicking myself that I didn't buy into that one).
This might come across as a cop out, but ultimately the answer to the question of what is my favorite game is, “it depends.” Choosing a favorite for me is complicated and depends on the context of what is going on at any given moment. I think some people might have felt that Dave’s answer to the same question was avoiding the question when he answered that his favorite game is the game he hasn’t played yet or is new to him, but I get it.
So, what about you? Do you have a favorite game? Why is it your favorite? How did you arrive at the determination that the game is your favorite?