NYC Gamer              

Picking the Perfect Game

December 15, 2007 (updated July 10, 2009)

Sometimes it feels like I spend as much time trying to decide which game to play as I do actually playing games. This is the inevitable downside of having a collection that has grown out of control over the past few years. With the great variety of over 150 games comes the great dilemma of picking one to play when the opportunity arises. I know I'm not alone in this, as I have seen a variety of discussions on this topic and attempts to alleviate the problem. W. Eric Martin wrote about this problem recently in his article "570 Games (And Nothin' to Play)," in which he discusses an intriguing book entitled "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less." In an attempt to solve this problem, Tom Kiehl invented the game "I Don't Know, What Do You Want to Play?" This "game" involves a website that will create a personalized PDF for you including a card for each game in your collection. The "game" gives everyone a hand of cards representing games in your collection and has rules for playing those cards to determine what will actually get played. Another method for determining which game to play that I have seen proposed is to allow each person present to pick one game, give everyone a playing card from 1 to 4 (assuming four people are present so four games have been selected), and allow everyone to place one card on each game, then tally up the totals and the game with highest total gets played. These ideas are all well and good, but I thought I'd add to the growing trend of new methods for selecting which game to play by creating a handy chart.

The following chart breaks most of my favorite games down into a convenient 12 boxes from which I can select a game to play. The four columns represent different numbers of players, from two-player games to five-player games, classifying games based on the optimal number of players, and only allowing games into multiple columns if they scale particularly well. The three rows roughly represent game length, from short games that generally take less than 45 minutes, to long games that generally take over 90 minutes. These game length classifications are only rough approximations, as actual game length depends greatly on the participants themselves. This will hopefully make it a lot easier to pick a game once you've limited yourself to the number of players present and the approximate length of time available.

This chart is very much a work in progress, and I welcome your e-mail with suggestions on new games to add to the chart, including which box they belong in, or recommendations on games that should be moved to a different row or column.

 

Two

Three

Four

Five

Short


< 45 minutes

Aton
Canít Stop
Cities
Crokinole
Dominion
Fjords
Hey! Thatís My Fish!
Lost Cities
    LOTR: Confrontation
Odinís Ravens
Pandemic
Qwirkle
Scripts & Scribes
StreetSoccer
Travel Blokus
Ubongo: Das Duell
Bamboleo
Bull in a China Shop
Canít Stop
Clans
eBay Auction Game
Fearsome Floors
Pandemic
          Piranha Pedro
Qwirkle
Scripts & Scribes
Shear Panic
Sherlock
Ticket to Ride
Bausack
Blokus
Coloretto
Crokinole
Fairy Tale
Fearsome Floors
Fits
For Sale
Jamaica
                    Loopin' Louie
No Thanks!
Piranha Pedro
Schnapp
Sherlock
Tichu
Ticket to Ride
Ubongo
Attribute
Fearsome Floors
For Sale
Igel Ärgern
Igloo Pop
Jamaica
Jungle Speed
             Liarís Dice
No Thanks!
PitchCar
Sherlock
TransAmerica
Wits & Wagers

Medium


45-90 minutes

Arkadia
Big City
Carcassonne
DVONN
Ghost Stories
Hansa
Louis XIV
               Manhattan
Mr. Jack
Samurai
Taluva
Through the Desert
YINSH
China
Cuba
Extrablatt
Galaxy Trucker
Ghost Stories
In the Year of the Dragon
King of Siam
Manhattan
   Notre Dame
Ra
Red November
San Marco
Settlers of Catan
Ta Yü
Trias
Vikings
Before the Wind
Chicago Express
Extrablatt
Galaxy Trucker
Ghost Stories
HeroScape
Hollywood Blockbuster
Ingenious
In the Year of the Dragon
Krakow 1325 AD
         Kreta
Louis XIV
Löwenherz
Meuterer
Nexus Ops
Notre Dame
Settlers of Catan
Survive!
Taj Mahal
Um Reifenbreite
Bohnanza
Citadels
Elfenland
Hamburgum
Hollywood Blockbuster
Maharaja
    Oasis
RoboRally
Small World
Tribune
Winner's Circle

Long


> 90 minutes

Antiquity
Bonaparte at Marengo
Caylus
Duel of Ages
Goa
Hammer of the Scots
    Java
Roads & Boats
Tigris & Euphrates
Torres
Twilight Struggle
War of the Ring
Age of Empires III
Age of Steam
Agricola
Byzantium
Goa
Java
            La Cittŗ
Le Havre
Puerto Rico
Reef Encounter
Tigris & Euphrates
Tikal
Age of Steam
Antiquity
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
El Capitan
Goa
Imperial
   In the Shadow of the Emperor
Java
Keythedral
Liberte
Puerto Rico
Tigris & Euphrates
Amun-Re
Battlestar Galactica
Chinatown
Die Macher
El Capitan
El Grande
Game of Thrones
          Liberté
Princes of Florence
Santiago
Traders of Genoa
VOC
Wallenstein

(See this Forum Thread for this article plus additional comments on it)