Friday, January 01, 2021

Mark's 2020 Gaming: The Big Picture

Note: what follows is primarily about board gaming... but it will obviously involve writing about the pandemic. I love this hobby - and I know how much those of us who value the face-to-face nature of gaming are wrecked by the loss of conventions, invitational gatherings, and weekly game groups. With all that said, please continue to be careful. We're not out of the woods yet.

As I started 2020, I was beginning to find a groove that allowed me to get involved with a local game group that I'd missed out on for years as well as playing with the friends that I'd know for a quarter of a century. (Yes, I'm that old.) Travel for work allowed me to spend time gaming with my son at college and with friends across the state. I was looking forward to Gulf Games, TN Game Days, a work trip to New Jersey that would let me finally spend time with Geoff Englestein face-to-face... and my yearly trip for a post-Essen gaming weekend with a plethora of Essen games. 

The first to go was Gulf Games when my wife was hospitalized for two weeks in January with viral meningitis. My younger son & I decided to forego the trip - and spent the hotel money instead on the Return to Dark Tower Kickstarter. (Shari is doing fine, by the way... and the care she received at Skyline here in Nashville was excellent. I've thought a lot about those doctors and nurses over the past 8 months.)

TN Game Days was ruled out when we decided to take our 30th anniversary vacation in early March, since our son that was still at home would be on a Disney Cruise with one of his best friends. That was the week that the pandemic "got real" - and we worried that Collin might be stuck on a cruise ship at sea. (He wasn't - we all made it home safe.)

And with our choice to take self-quarantining seriously (with or without government support), face-to-face gaming outside our house vanished. With both boys home (Braeden's college campus closed a week or so after our vacation), that meant I had a built-in game group... but I missed (and continue to miss) regular time to play & laugh with the friends I've know since being a youth pastor in the early 90s. "King Bob" and the rest of the Wednesday crew at Next Level Games are yet another absence felt. I'd gotten used to Mike Randolph being in town for work and spending a great evening togther - that was gone as well.

I'd already been doing a good bit of solo gaming... and the pandemic kicked that into high gear. Literally 19%+ of my gaming in 2020 was solo... and if you want to know more about that, have I got a blog post for you... Solo Gaming in the Time of Covid-19 (End of 2020 Update).

Even with hermit-like nature of our existence, I had some great opportunities to playtest games in 2020:
  • I assisted in rules checking Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade.
  • We have been working with Joe Huber on a theme park game design he's been toying with..
  • The boys and I playtested a number of different Unmatched characters and maps, including the just-announced Unmatched: Marvel boxes.
    • Of my 63 plays of Unmatched in 2020, 23 of them were playtests.
    • Love me some Unbeatable Squirrel Girl... just sayin'.
  • I'm currently playtesting Core Worlds: Empires as Quixotic Games gets ready for the Kickstarter this spring. (I'm a big fan of the Core Worlds universe... and I'm really enjoying this worker placement board game with loads of theme.)
I haven't spent a big chunk of time using online board gaming platforms... but that has been a way to reconnect with old friends (some of the Fresno Gamers group) and friends just across town (the Dalewood crew). Games that I played primarily online include:
  • 6 Nimmt!
  • Butterly
  • Can't Stop
  • Downforce
  • Kingdomino
  • Lucky Numbers
  • Marrakech
  • Welcome To...
As you can see, the majority of my online play is at Board Game Arena - which is an excellent site.

I had one opportunity to game mask-to-mask in mid-October... you can read about my road trip to Cinncinati and the games we played in my post, Mark's Bundle of 2020 Essen Game Thoughts.

Since then, it's been back to the self-quarantine... and spending time with my family. Here's hoping that my end of year retrospective of 2021 reads a bit differently.

The Big Picture

  • 892 plays
  • 273 different games
  • 60 games I hadn't played before
  • H-Index: 11 
    • number of games that I played that many times
  • Hours spent (approximate): 601
    • yes, that's about 25 days worth of board games

Time After Time

I have been posting my Five & Dime lists for a very long time (since the late 90s)... and you can read the most recent one at It's Still Personal: Mark's Five & Dime Games for 2020. But I wondered what the list would like now that I'm tracking playing time as well.

So, my top games by approximate playing time...


  • Unmatched: Battle of Legends (27 hours)
  • Terraforming Mars (26 hours)


  • Marvel Champions: The Card Game (21 hours)
  • The 7th Continent (13 hours)
  • Dice Settlers (12 hours)
  • Dungeon Alliance (10 hours)
  • Memoir '44 (10 hours)
  • Sanctum (10 hours)
  • SeaFall (10 hours)
I will highly recommend the BGStats app... it's how I'm able to pull up all this information so easily!

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