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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Burning Down Those Unplayed Games

One of my New Years resolutions was to “play through my current owned but un-played list” of games. I spent some time this week updating my inventory of owned games and figuring out what belongs in the unplayed category. Two words: “uh oh”.

I’ve got at least 75 games in my collection that I haven’t played. This constitutes about 1/4 of my overall collection, which is a bit scary. I’m not going to start a dialog around how I get into this situation (duh), but let’s talk about how to get out of it and track progress.

Last year I proposed a lifecycle model for game development that made brief mention of agile development methods. My method of choice is Scrum, which we use heavily at Corillian Corporation for product development. Now I’m not considering using Scrum to help manage a project to get through my unplayed games, but I do like applying the concept of the burndown chart to track my progress. A burndown chart is simply a graphical depiction of the work remaining in a project, time-phased to provide some historical context and progress trend. A project that is tracking toward completion will generally show a linear trend towards zero work remaining at the scheduled project end date.

So, without further delay, here is the starting view of my burndown chart for 2006. As it is very likely that I’ll purchase more games this year (which in most cases start in the “unplayed” category), I’ll add those to the project as we go through the year. The total number of games I’m trying to tackle this year is essentially the scope of my project, and I expect a decent amount of scope creep. What would make this really interesting is if I tracked the estimated number of hours required to play each of these games to get a more accurate representation of the work required to get through the list.


There are going to be some serious challenges getting through this list. I wouldn’t be surprised if I revert to drastic measures like selling or giving away games (dropping features?) to hit my target. Some of these games are long and will require scheduling special sessions to pull them off (War of the Ring, Rommel, 1830). Some I’ve been very anxious to play (Battlestations, Vinci). You might be interested in the unplayed games with the highest and lowest rankings on BGG. Some of these are expansions, which should help as I don’t need to learn a new game system to get through it.

Highest Ranked Unplayed Games (best to good)

  1. War of the Ring
  2. Memoir '44 - Eastern Front
  3. Rommel in the Desert
  4. 1830 - Railroads and Robber Barons
  5. Duel of Ages Set 2 - Intensity
  6. Battlestations
  7. Santiago
  8. Torres
  9. Ark of the Covenant, The
  10. Memoir '44 - Terrain Pack
  11. Vinci

Lowest Ranked Unplayed Games (bad to worst)

  1. Mille Bornes
  2. Spy Alley
  3. 221B Baker Street and Expansions
  4. Magdar
  5. Blitzkrieg
  6. Sword and Skull
  7. Malefiz
  8. Stock Market Game, The
  9. Rivers, Roads, and Rails
  10. Outdoor Survival

I’ll try and give quarterly updates on my progress. Let me know if you’d like me to send a copy of the spreadsheet I’m using to track this.


  • At 7:35 AM, Blogger Matthew Gagan said…

    Cool project. Next time I see you at Doug's I'll be happy to put in a vote for Santiago, particularly if we can get 5 players.

  • At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Chris, I'm always happy to play 1830 (or, really, most of the variations from it - but we don't want to make your situation any worse ;), so lets try and get that to the table sometime . It's definitely a weekend game, though, especially for your first game.


  • At 8:29 AM, Blogger mike said…

    With a couple of gamer boys running around the house, I would think War of the Ring would be easy to get to the table. Have them play the bad guys...one of them can be Sauron (the oldest) and the other Sauruman (however you spell that). The strategy for the Fellowship is a bit tougher to grasp the first few games, so this should work out well.

    Oh..and personal pet peeve on the chart...put an = IF(cell=0,"",cell) column (or row) so can get rid of that line down to zero and the line along the x-axis. (but that's just me).

    My list of unplayed is growing, I have two conflicting New Years Resolutions:

    1) Get through the unplayed games (just like you)
    2) Play more games in back to back weeks...my group gets tired of new games all the and we rarely get to explore the depths of a game.

    Clearly the solution is to simply play games more often.

  • At 9:20 AM, Blogger Eric said…

    I'm with you on the unplayed games - and I'll have to update my personal blog entry on the 2006 status.

    But I have to ask. You've seriously never played Mille Bornes? Really? I thought EVERYone played that as a kid.

    I'm not saying it's all that good, but it used to be a staple.

  • At 11:04 AM, Blogger Wes M said…


    One of my resolutions, (as posted as a reply to Dave's post, and on my protoblog,) is to play an 18XX game. If you ever schedule a Sunday (or Saturday I'm not at the store,) game please let me know.

  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    I went through something similar (although without the database tools or any tracking other than "is it on the list") a couple of years ago when I realized I had a huge number of games that I'd never played (other than setup and runthrough to get the rules down).

    The problem is considerably worse with wargames, of course. I must have at least 75% of that collection that has been set up at best, probably 40% that have never even had the counters on the map. So I didn't count them, choosing to classify them as "collectible" rather than "for play".

    I got through almost the entire list, and then I got more games. So I've given up. I'm very happy to see Rainy Day announcing their auction, I will have a large number of games that I take there, and will almost certainly get a bunch more in exchange.

  • At 11:09 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    One thing about 18xx games... While I haven't played any (other than one session that will go uncommented on with a different group), I hear that 1830 falls under the "nasty" rubric because so many actions you take screw other players. 1835, which takes place in Germany, is supposedly much easier to stomach if constant screwage isn't your bag.

    As Tim says, though, it's really about getting the game off of your list.

  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger Chris Brooks said…

    War of the Ring: Jacob and I started a game right after I purchased it but only got through a turn or two. I didn't count the game as "played", which is odd as I did count the Europe Engulfed session that Doug and I had.

    18xx: I'm not sold on just playing 1830, so I'll be open to any option there.

    Tracking the data is just part of the solution. Or rather, it only helps me understand the magnitude of the problem and track progress. I'm going to post this list in the game room to make it visible every time I pick out a game.

    And no, I never played Mille Bornes...

  • At 9:05 AM, Blogger Eric said…

    I own both 1860 and 1856 and they're both games I've never played.

    I'm all for an 18xx day if we can get it organized.

  • At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Rita H said…

    I love Torres and Mille Bornes is an old favorite.

  • At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    On the 18xx front, I've got a bunch of titles in this realm (1870, which is probably the "kindest" of the more moden versions, but is also one of the longest, 1856, 1846, 18MEX, 18EU, 18VA, 18GL, 1826 and of course 1830).

    While there IS some truth to the "1830 is nasty" rumour, it may well be worth trying it at least once, as while it can be brutal, it's also a very good game.

    But, I'm willing to play/teach any of the others as well - and most of the more obscure titles have the advantage of being faster.

    I think a weekend session is in order!


  • At 2:55 PM, Blogger BilboAtBagEnd said…

    I like your top-ranked to-play list. :)

    As for your low-ranked list, I really think you should avoid ever playing Outdoor Survival unless you really have no other games to play at some point in the year.

    The last couple years have been an absolute bumper crop of games, which is probably why many gamers I know have resolved to play all their unplayed games.

    I am usually more in the "drop features" category.... although I have over 25% of my collection unplayed too.

  • At 6:35 AM, Blogger Erik Oliver said…

    On the 18XX front, I recently played 1870. One nice touch, my friend who had played it tried to put together some short explanatory movies a la Simply Fun style that were actually nice for introducing the key elements of the game.

    I would say be careful who you play the 18XX games with in terms of timelords...


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