20 Years of BoardGameGeek's Most Played Games (v2)

The number of plays logged on BoardGameGeek.com over the course of 4 months, in the past 20 years.
I was curious to see if using a more “factual” data model to rank games surfaces anything interesting that scores and votes doesn’t, so I started to collect play data. Dumping the data in a bar chart race surfaced some very interesting trends; Mostly, that there aren’t any obvious “winners”. Except a handful of them, most games have a short time in the limelight before being replaced by newer, trendier games.
The chart also shows the massive growth that BGG and the whole community saw in the past 20 years.

Some points about the data:
* This is version 2 of the chart, with a fix to how sessions are counted. the previous one is available here:

* The data is obviously biased towards the kind of people that log plays, and the kind of games they play, but surprisingly the results weren’t as skewed as I expected them to be.

* The numbers represent sessions, and not plays, so that the results aren’t biased towards quicker games which might be played as a few rounds in a single session (for example, Love Letter vs Terraforming Mars).

* I used 4 months as a time window because I am limited by the charting tool to 60 dates.

* Some popular games have a popular digital version (Dominion, 7 Wonders, etc…). The data model in BGG doesn’t have a way to differentiate them while logging the play (only a Location field). There are ways to project and account for the digital plays, but I decided to simplify stuff (and not introduce accidental biases) by ignoring this fact.

* The captions showing up every year represent the Golden Geek (GG) award voted by the community itself, and the Spiel de Jahres (SdJ) award voted by a panel of judges.

* I set the chart to show 20 entries (and not the default 10) because a lot of the action seemed to happen below the fold (for example award winning games often don’t top the chart, but do raise in popularity after winning, check out Hanabi in 2013)

* Because of the constant changes, I set the animation speed low enough so there’s time to take everything in.

* The categories are taken from the 8 “family” rankings that BGG track. For most games there is a single one, but for ones which are classified using 2 I picked the one where the game is higher ranked.

* A few of the titles didn’t seem to fit the normal classification. Either the game is broken up into multiple entries (e.g. Unlock), or the expansions are self-contained enough so that people log plays directly on the expansion (e.g. Dominion). I used the game family instead and grouped all entries together.

* The data is based on about 2500 entries in the BGG DB, but is not complete, as there is no direct way to query this data in its entirety. The games where sourced based on rankings, votes, and several lists including reviewers, and trackers. It’s unlikely that the top games for each trimester are missing an entry, but the total counter might be off by a bit.

* The data is based on the BGG XML API ( Most of the work to produce this visualization was to automate obtaining the data set itself. I wrote a whole system to interact with the BGG API in Python.

* The chart is completely auto-generated. I didn’t update or “fix” any data point manually. No games are special-cased.

* The chart was generated using Flourish. ( color-blind friendlier colors were taken from:

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All Comments

  • Amazing video! 🙂 Do you have the source code of your system that interacts with the BGG Api? 🙂

    Krastyo Krastev July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Its a big scandal that Carcassonne is not in the top 100 on the main raking. I know how they manipulated it out.

    Per Sørlie July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Now best expansion
    Ahora las mejores expansiones.

    Inventor de verdades ! July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Now I know how important it is to log plays.

    Auston Carpenter July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • I am not so smart. Why do the total numbers on the right of the graph decrease? Shouldn't the amount of plays only increase?

    squidsalive July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Weird, no Resistance and all of its awesome expansions :O

    wiz4e July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Cool. Now speed up so video is 4 minutes and upload to Facebook. Haha

    boyt0mmy July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • No cards against humanity? I would have thought that would have come up on the radar.

    Robert Chase July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • amazing video,thank you!

    Manolo Traveler July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Why is Dominion treated as a series, but Ascension isn't?

    Parrish Danforth July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Great video!

    Edmund England July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Love how Carcassonne refuses to drop off that list. I was rooting for it to stay on the whole time.

    Brian Chaon July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Interesting to watch, would be nice if there were a slight pause at the end of each cycle so you could see the full list before they are readjusting.

    For the most part, the list is dominated by games that are easy to set up and quick to play until towards the end. I would say that it is skewed a bit since it is easier to get several games of Codenames in over a game like Scythe or even Pandemic, but it is interesting that Terraforming Mars and Gloomhaven are able to hold onto the top spots at the end. Also interesting that you can see the initial kickstarter of Gloomhaven and then the release of the second edition when the game become much more available to the public.

    Jon Witkop July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Why are the numbers dropping? Did you delete played games?

    René Christensen July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Pretty dang excellent.

    Scyld Scefing July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Cool.

    EviLNox8 July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Dang, Codenames be like "Hold my beer everyone"….This is awesome, thanks for doing this!

    Scott Morris July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Pretty cool watching Wingspan flying in there at the end.

    Eric Booth July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Thank 😀 And i wanna 20y geek chart 1st graph.

    함박 July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Thank you

    Rick Bagwell July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Very interesting, thanks!

    Pierre-Marc Duguay July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Great video! Interesting to see the popularity in plays of the games over the years

    Justin C July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply
  • Awesome, thanks!

    Attila Magyari July 17, 2020 6:12 am Reply

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