Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Five & Dime 2005: Dimes (10+ Played Games)

Ticket To Ride26.26%51.82%newnew
San Juan16.67%41.82%newnew
For Sale15.15%2.73%3.95%4.62%
Geschenkt/No Merci14.65%newnewnew
Lost Cities12.63%10.00%13.16%13.85%
Puerto Rico12.12%20.00%35.53%47.69%
Memoir '4411.11%10.00%newnew
St Petersburg9.60%32.73%newnew
Power Grid8.08%10.91%0.00%0.00%
Ticket To Ride: Europe8.08%newnewnew
10 Days/Europa Tour7.07%15.45%13.16%new
Liar's Dice7.07%10.00%21.05%24.62%
Settlers of Catan7.07%10.91%15.79%23.08%
Take 6/Category 57.07%9.09%5.26%12.31%
Zirkus Flohcati7.07%4.55%13.16%3.08%
The top three games on the Dime list are the exact same games as last year - even in the same order!

But where did For Sale come from?! It didn't even appear on this list last year. Obviously, the English release gave it a new lease on life at gaming tables around the nation.

Attika, Alhambra, Bang! & Street Soccer all dropped off the table from last year.

I'm not even going to try and predict what will happen to Take 6 or Zirkus Flohcati - the two of them have been flirting with the edge of this list for a couple of years.

I don't think Diamant or Geschenkt will hold their same level of popularity... but it would surprise me if either of them completely disappeared from the Top 20 Dimes. (Yes, if you count, you'll realize there are more than 20 listed... that's because a number of games tied for 20th place.)

Settlers is fading even more from the rabidly played status it once enjoyed... will it fall off this list?! Hmmm... I dunno. My guess is "no", but I'm a fan of Settlers.

The other big question: can Ticket To Ride hold it's position? History says "no" - take a look at the other 900 lb gorilla, Puerto Rico - but it will not drop out of the top ten.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Five & Dime 2005: Most Played Games

Ticket To Ride69543.94%73.64%new
San Juan51034.85%59.09%new
For Sale45530.81%7.27%11.84%
Ticket To Ride: Europe35527.78%newnew
Shadows Over Camelot32527.78%newnew
Lost Cities38526.26%23.64%30.26%
Puerto Rico35523.74%39.09%63.16%
St Petersburg32523.23%55.45%new
Geschenkt/No Merci35521.21%newnew
Take 6/Category 528021.21%18.18%21.05%
Settlers of Catan27520.71%17.27%28.95%
Memoir '4431020.20%20.91%new
Power Grid27519.70%33.64%5.26%
Liar's Dice24017.17%33.64%31.58%
Louis XIV19515.15%newnew
"score" is computed by giving a game 5 points for each person playing it 5-9 times and 10 points for each person playing 10+ times

the percentage numbers for each year are the percent of respondents who reported playing the game 5+ or 10+ times


This year, a record 198 gamers (3 groups and 195 individuals) chimed in with their five & dime lists. Of that group, there were 66 who participated last year.

Last year I predicted that Ticket to Ride would drop due to TtR:Europe... and I was paritally right. Ticket to Ride did drop... but it looks to me like a substantial percentage of that drop was the much larger sampling poll. OTOH, I think I blew it with blaming the drop on TtR:Europe - the vast majority of people who played TtR also played TtR:Europe.

I was surprised to see Ingenious (Einfach Genial) grow in popularity... this is probably due to the English release. For Sale's resurgence can also be attributed to the English release.

I'm still waiting for Carcassonne to reach a saturation point - in other words, "When will the next Carc expansion cause the whole franchise to 'jump the shark'?" (Hasn't happened yet...)

I was right in predicting that Hansa & Attika would drop out of the top 25, though Attika was still in the top 50. I was surprised by St Petersburg holding on - in some corners, it's become "cool" to diss the game.

But I was (happily) wrong about Memoir '44... it held in position, which is prety amazing. I'm guessing that the expansions and the great support from Days of Wonder helped that happen.

Shadows Over Camelot will not be here next year - I'm not saying it's a bad game, just that it won't have a lot of people playing it 5+ times. Louis XIV will drop off as well - but that's not a surprise to anyone, right?!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Five & Dime: How It All Started

The year was 1999... Prince (or, at that point, the Artist Formerly Known As Prince) was still telling to party like it was that chronological year. Y2K was the all the rage - many people were stockpiling water, food & medical supplies in preparation for The End of the World As We Know It (glancing R.E.M. reference). I, on the other hand, was stockpiling games.

And game statistics. You see, my practice of collecting "five & dime" gameplay lists began early that spring, as a post from Steve Zanini on the rec.games.board newsgroup set me off:

Anyone familiar with SUMO magazine, would also be familiar with the 5 & 10 list. This is a listing of the games you have played either 5 or more times or 10 or more times. Think this would be a good way to re-cap what you played frequently in 1998.

I found the posts that followed to be intriguing and compiled them to produce a "Most Played" list of 1998. Then I did it again the next year... and the next... and it slowly but surely took on a life of it's own.

From the miniscule number of gamers in 1998 (16) to the huge response this year (198!), the Five & Dime lists have snowballed into a very interesting way to track gaming trends, albeit only in the online community of "designer" game players & collectors.

Over the next week, I'm going to be releasing information about the 2005 Five & Dime lists here on the blog. If you want to play "catch-up" and see what the Five & Dime lists are all about, you can check them out at my gaming website, Game Central Station.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pod People

I was down in the L.A. this weekend, spending time with Mark Johnson and the Santa Clarita Boardgamers... which was a lot of fun. I also had the rare privilege of hosting Dave Arnott back here in Fresno, which meant I had an incredible weekend all around:
  • took the train down to Newhall on Friday afternoon
  • gamed with SCBer's on Friday night (Tsuro, Ark, Jenseit von Thebes, Akaba)
  • recorded a podcast with Mark on Saturday morning
  • gamed with Mark & Dave on Saturday afternoon (Zahltag, Akaba, Reef Encounter, Trump Tricks Game!, Route 66)
  • drove back to Fresno with Dave
  • gamed with Dave late Saturday night (Hochst Verdachtig, Rein Damit, Louis XIV, Africa)
  • had Dave visit at NewLife Sunday morning
  • gamed with Dave Sunday afternoon (Fjords, Kardinal & Konig: Das Duell, Kayanak, Industrial Waste x2)
Of course, the focus of THIS post is the podcast. Mark & I talked about two main topics: the Five & Dime lists and replayability vs longevity in games. If you'd like to listen to our conversation, Mark just posted it this morning. His podcast, Boardgames To Go, is one of the longest running gaming podcasts on the web. (If you enjoy our talk, he has a great conversation with Mike Siggins last fall that's definitely worth your time.)

There's a couple of spin-off topics from the podcast that I need to write some more on:
  • once-a-year games (games that aren't great but are quite enjoyable when you play them once a year)
  • Son of Apples Project
So, that leaves you with something to look forward to... (grin). Last note: Mark comments on his blog (and on the podcast) about how some folks confuse the two of us in the gaming community. The picture here was taken a couple of years ago, but should prove we're actually two different people. He's the suave looking one... I'm the guy deep in thought.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Unpacking the Baggage

This article originally appeared in 1/12/06 edition of The Grapevine, the e-newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

As many of you know, we've been traveling a lot for the past couple of months. One of the great hassles of traveling for us is the unpacking. That's right - after you've played a 3-D version of Tetris trying to fit all your clothes & sundries into a suitcase (not to mention the odds & ends which traveling with a 8 month old require), you've got to take all of them out and put them where they belong. As my mom will be the first to volunteer, putting things where they belong is not one of my "gifts." (My gift is more along the line of "scattering things about in random piles of which only I truly understand the organizational structure." You can probably guess that this didn't endear me to my mother - nor does it score me any brownie points with my wife.)

So, I do not enjoy unpacking.


I don't know what Shari said to me on Tuesday morning... or what set me off. (Really... I've sat here trying to remember what it was. My brain can't call it back up - nothing, nada, zilch, zero.) Whatever it was, I do clearly recall standing next to our kitchen table, grumbling under my breath, then kicking one of Collin's toys across the room in an obvious bid to gain attention. (You'd think that a 41 year old man would have figured out better ways to gain his wife's attention - simple stuff like, "Honey, I need to talk about this" - but no, I have to see if I have any future as a punter and let the resounding clatter/crash act as my "signal" that she should pay attention to me.)

When she responded with a "what the heck was that about?" tone in her voice, I sort of apologized and then headed out to work through the garage, still grumbling. When the mop bucket and one of Braeden's bikes was blocking the door, I popped a gasket again, kicking them both out of the way.

Of course, Tuesday morning was the day I was supposed to go into the office and spend extended time with Aaron (our worship/youth pastor) planning & dreaming about the upcoming year in ministry here at NewLife - and about our respective roles as husbands & dads. I walked in and told him that I wasn't in spiritual shape to meet yet - "I need an hour."

Actually, God needed the hour.


I've been reading an excellent book,
[re]Understanding Prayer (by Kyle Lake). In it, he talks about struggling with anger & prayer. And, of course, it's that book I picked up when I stormed into my office, shut the door & cranked up the stereo.

Rather than dismissing this anger episode as "an obstacle to real prayer," I listen to the rhythm of my soul. Its hard, rapid, pulsating beat. If my mind keeps going back to these things, then maybe I have some issues that need tending to - issues around forgiveness, anger, or significance. Rather than dismissing these thoughts, I open myself up to God's presence and sit with them for a few minutes. And through a combination of prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, and silence, I become compassionate toward the person I was... angry with.

Very funny, God. I'm wanting to throw a pity party in here - "My wife doesn't understand me or my needs!" or "I'm the worst husband ever... unable to control my temper - I don't deserve to be a pastor" or "See, I've blown the day. No way can anything spiritual happen now when you've choked like that" - and all You want to do is mess with my heart & make me more like You.

In fact, Jesus, you aren't looking for me to stuff my feelings... or to turtle up & go into defensive mode with Shari Jo. You aren't interested in me sulking, Ahab-like (1 Kings 21) because I didn't live the Christ-life perfectly. What you want is for me to unpack my baggage.

"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, "God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." Luke 18:13-14 (The Message)


You knew I'd eventually connect the dots, right? Unpacking is no fun when it's a Samsonite... it's even less fun when it's your own soul. But as good as it feels to finally get every piece of clothing back where it belongs, it feels even better to finally let God into the middle of every part of our lives.

So, in that God-filled hour, Jesus drug my petty anger out into the open, into the light of day, into the light of Truth. And it became clear that my frustration was rooted not in Shari's tone of voice or Braeden's genetically inherited inability to put away his toys but in my personal need to get everything right - to have everyone in my world roll over & play dead at my command. It was one of those mornings that I wanted to be God.

Thank you, Jesus, for your willingness to stick in there with me even when I'm a complete knucklehead. Thank you for unpacking with me - more than I ever will, you know the perfect place for each thing in my life. And you know what I need to crumple up and toss into the trash can.

This won't be the last time I have to unpack my baggage... and it won't be the last time Jesus does it with me. In fact, there won't ever be a time I deal with the junk in my life that He isn't standing right there beside me.

This is a sure thing: If we die with him, we'll live with him; If we stick it out with him, we'll rule with him; If we turn our backs on him, he'll turn his back on us; If we give up on him, he does not give up-- for there's no way he can be false to himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (The Message)

And that makes unpacking easier.

I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6 (Amplified)

Nuns With Guns

Thanks to Kevin Hendricks at Church Marketing Sucks, I saw this wonderful postcard... I still grin every time I see the image. I love it that these guys are trying to figure out ways past the "it's a church blah blah blah" barrier that keeps people from giving authentic Biblical community a legitimate chance in their lives.

Which reminds me of a story... when I was pastoring the church @ hickory hollow in Nashville, TN, we got a lot of interesting reactions to coffeehouse worship vibe. (It's really fun to watch diehard Southern Baptists try to wrap their brains around black curtains, candles, multiple screens, a pastor in cut-off shorts carrying around a diet Coke can & prodigious amounts of coffee in a worship service.)

But the best reaction was from the teenage daughter of one of our regular attenders. She came to the church @ hickory hollow somewhat begrudgingly... her mom & dad were divorced, and this was just part of spending the weekend with dad. Getting in the car that day after the worship service, her dad asked her what she thought of the experience.

"Well, this church sucks less than any other church we've been to."

From a youth, this is high praise. We jokingly considered putting it in our advertising: "We suck less than any church in Nashville."

Cream of the Five Year Crop

I like creamed corn... take a yummy vegetable & add prodigious amounts of cream and sugar. Mmmmm.... corn.

That actually has very little to do with this post. I just didn't eat breakfast.

The real point is to recap some games with serious replayability. Since I'm a bit anal retentive when it comes to tracking my game playing, I can look up on a spreadsheet and figure out which games I've played regularly over the last five years.

Thanks go to Pat Brennan for inspiring this post with his own "cream of the 5 year crop" e-mail. As Pat said, "I always find it interesting to look at the games that continue to stand the test of time (in regards to replayability), and it may be useful for anyonewho's looking to backfill their collection with the better games of the past."

The only game I've played 5 or more times each year for the last five years is
The Settlers of Catan. I'm not playing nearly as much of it as I used to... 5 times in 2005 as opposed to 24 times in 2001. That doesn't change the fact that I love the game. (In fact, we need to try the Fishers of Catan tonight at Fresno Gamers!)

Games I've played 4 or more times each year for the last five years:
  • Carcassonne (a truly great tile-laying game that works better with less players... and though the expansions can be a distraction for new players, I like the variety they lend to the game)
  • Pig Pile (Uno-ish, but in a good way... on the surface, this game should be an utter failure, but it manages to work like a charm)
  • Web of Power (packs a huge punch into 45 minutes - it's an area control masterpiece that develops differently each time you play)
Games I've played 3 or more times each year for the last five years:
  • Flowerpower (one of my favorite two-player games... a simple tile-laying game that you can play "friendly" or "cutthroat")
  • Liar's Dice (bluffing at it's best - easy to teach but difficult to learn the tactics... and the people skills to read the bluffs)
  • Time's Up (Peter Sarrett developed the folk game 'Celebrities' into one of the best party games on the planet)
  • Zirkus Flohcati (who'd have thunk a game about making a flea circus would be so darn much fun?)
Games I've played 2 or more times each year for the last five years:
  • Carabande (finger-flicking race game that is a delight to play)
  • Ra (I hated this auction game the first time I played it... but it's grown on me over time)
  • Russelbande (a children's game that works for a wide variety of people & ages... acrobactic pigs!)
Games I've played 4 or more times each year for the last five years... except for one year:
  • Lost Cities (beautiful production enhances this game of card-driven "chicken")
  • Tally Ho (you have to be able to accept aberrant/luck-driven games every 7-8 plays... but if you can, what you get is a very interesting little game)