Gloomhaven loses top spot on BoardGameGeek’s review charts

Image: Gloomhaven

While not hard science and should be viewed with as much skepticism as (video) gamers would view a site like Metacritic, there is no denying that user reviews on BoardGameGeek play a huge role in choosing which board games to buy, to play and/or argue about it.

The site, an invaluable asset 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 who rate a game, the more valuable that rating becomes, and while it’s far from a perfect system – this 2019 post has a very good guide to the pros and cons of ratings – most people, myself included, can can’t help but look at a game’s rating and feel like it has some sort of impact.

Since the site is over 20 years old, one would think that there would have been dozens or even hundreds of games that rose to take the top spot in BGG’s rating chart. But no! Since the site’s inception — or more specifically, since the inception of the rating system — only eight games have ever made it to the top of the stack.

The first seven are:

Paths of GloryTigris and EuphratesPuerto RicoAgricolaTwilight StrugglePandemic Legacy Season 1Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven, the biggest board game of the past decade, has been #1 since December 2017 but was finally dethroned this month, ending its five-year reign. And not by a new game either; Instead, it was reworked by Brass: Birmingham, a game first released in 2018. Although I never got around to reviewing the game on the site, I played it for a while in 2019 and thought it was pretty good! Not always good, but that’s why review aggregation is a tricky business.

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Instead of a Kotaku review, here’s Brass: Birmingham’s SUSD review instead, in case you’re wondering what kind of game can be rated so highly among board game nerds overall:

Brass: Birmingham – Shut up and sit down

In case you’re wondering which game could achieve that feat next, BGG says the points difference between Gloomhaven and Brass: Birmingham is so small that they’ll “probably be swapping places for a while,” as will Pandemic Legacy (which is also right is up there), so fresh blood might have to wait a while.

BGG’s post announcing the move also includes some very useful advice for review aggregation, regardless of medium:

It’s not that these rankings are timed, or that a game lands in its “right” spot and never moves again. The rankings don’t show absolute size, but rather size for a good number of people who are fans of that particular game or game genre.

Gloomhaven, for example, isn’t a game that casual gamers will pick up on a whim, but rather an experience that will appeal to those who might be interested in what it specifically offers. I don’t fall into that bucket, so I’ll probably never play the game, which means I’ll never add my (probably low) rating to the game page. You could only get a “reasonable” rating for a game if you forced everyone in the world to play and rate it – and forced ratings are probably not a reliable measure either, so let’s not get into that.

Rankings and ratings only matter insofar as your tastes align with the tastes of others. Don’t assume that all high-ranked games are recommended for you, and don’t avoid the low-ranked game that seems to suit your tastes perfectly. you do it boo

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Here are the top 10 as they stand today if you’re interested in seeing the full list of games that BGG users are really excited about:

Screenshot: BGG

While I never got around to reviewing Brass: Birmingham, I’ve reviewed a number of other titles on this list – including Pandemic Legacy, Terraforming Mars, and Rebellion – and you can read them here.