Supporting modern boardgaming in and around Ventura County, California.
Logging Your Game Plays
This rather long article is my justification why a gamer should record, or log, the games they have played. Hopefully I will convince some gamers to begin, or to expand, the logging of their games played. Although this is aimed at the individual gamer, in a separate article I explain why a game group should record and publicize the list of games that were played at their gaming sessions.
This logging involves the storing of game specific information; such as when and where it was played, who played the game, what happened during the game, and who won.
Since I started logging my own game plays, almost 10 years ago, I have experienced many advantages in having this information readily available. In addition to explaining those advantages, this article will also include tips and tricks on when, what, and how to log your game plays.
Hopefully this article will convince you to join the ranks of those who record their game plays.
Some terminology used in this article
BSG means Battlestar Galactica – 3-6 player game by Fantasy Flight Games.
BGG means BoardGameGeek.com – A free website devote to all things board gaming.
Let us first look at some of the basic advantages a gamer can derive from having log their game plays. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does include the most common reasons that I have encountered:
What game was played at a specific time.
What games were popular.
Did I like or dislike a game.
What games are being used.
Am I getting better at a game.
As an active gamer who is involved in several different gaming groups. I am exposed to many new, and old games in a variety of locations. I have a reasonable memory but I cannot remember every game that I have ever played; let alone when and where it was played. Having played over 600 different games I cannot remember playing some of these games at all.
Can We Play That Game Again ?
Eventually every gamer will be presented with the following scenario. A friend or relative is visiting . They want to play a game you had introduced to them months ago. The description they give you is that it had colorful cards, and it was fun. You may not want to admit their description does not help to identify the game you played with them. A good proportion of the games in your collection have colorful cards, and are fun to play.
Now what was the game you have played, was it Codenames, Spyfall, or Love Letter ?
Having the ability to quickly look back at what games you played would instantly answer this question. Using the logged data is it possible to search for the games played by various criteria; including by location or by the date the game was played.
Have I Played This Before ?
As an active gamer who is involved in many different gaming groups. I am exposed to many new and old games in a variety of locations. I have a reasonable memory but I cannot remember every game that I have ever played, let alone when and where it was played. Having played over 600 different games I cannot remember playing some of these games at all.
A few times I have been asked if I want to play a game, I glance at the game box or components and I get a feeling of familiarity. The obvious thought goes through my mind, “that game seems familiar, have I played it before ?”. A quick look into my game play history and I see that I have played that game before at so-and-so place and my memory is instantly jogged.
This Game Is Awesome / That Game Is Awful !
Not all games are for everyone, and there is only so much time and there are so many games to play. The bad game often sticks in your mind, but to be sure make a note when you absolutely hated the game, and you do not ever want to play it ever again.
Perhaps I would give Munchkin another go again, with the right crowd.
Am I Getting Better At The Game ?
Record your score, and perhaps the other players scores, to later comparison. This can help determine if you are improving. Noting which strategy you used can help determine which is the better strategy for future plays. There are a number of iOS/Android apps that can aid your analysis of players scores. In order to have data to analyze you first need to log the score data. In a separate article I will look at various analysis tools.
Recording Progress In An Ongoing Series Of Games
There are many games where the players have options in how they play the game. The players chose the difficulty level. The game could have optional modules that can be included. Other games have different scenarios to set the scene for that p[articular play of the game. These choices affect how the game plays each time, which is great for the replay value of the game. The first game you play a game you probably choose the Beginner level.
Once you are more experienced you added elements to make it more difficult. It is a good idea to make a note of the options chosen so you can ramp up the difficulty next time.
For example: “Last time we played Scenario 3 and won. This time we will play Scenario 4 on the difficult level!”
Tracking Progress In The 10×10 Game Challenge
There are game play challenges designed to make people play the same games more times. The 10×10 is one such example. The 10×10 challenge has a specific goal to play 10 different games at least 10 times each. The gamer chooses the 10 games and then strives to play them each 10 times.
It goes without saying the usefulness of recording every time one of these games is played. The BG Stats iOS app has (premium) add-on functionality for the 10×10 challenge.
Culling The Unplayed Games From Your Game Collection
There are many reasons why a gamer would want to identify the unplayed game in their collection. Perhaps the space to store games is running short, money for new games is required, or there is simply the desire to cull games that you will never play. The ability to quickly identify the games that you have never been played is invaluable.
If you do not want to record every time you play a game. Log a play the very first time you play your copy of a game. Then you can identify the games you have opened, sleeved, sniffed, punched out etc.
It is not unknown for rules questions to arise during the game. The game pauses while the players frantically searching for an FAQ or errata document. They resort to scanning the game forums on BGG desperately seeking an answer.
Sometimes an answer cannot be found. This has happened enough times for me to try different solutions: I have taken pictures, written notes on paper, and/or typed it on the phone. The best solution I have found is to record an audio note on the phone. Add a few pictures to help illustrate the example.
I have found an audio note to be a very quick and effective method to document a complex game situation.
Logging As A Memory Jogger
Associated with recording my game plays is to record pertinent facts about the game play itself. All of us have had that in-game revelation, where you immediately realize you made a bad move the second it is too late to change your move. Yes, it happens, move on. Just don’t make the mistake again.
Perhaps you had a brainwave afterwards about what you could have done differently, make a note so you can do better next time.
The process of actually logging the game play involves an element of reviewing the gaming session.Reading my notes, aided by mental footnotes, causes me to reflect on the recent games. This reflection can reveal strategic insights into improving your own game play.
If you were just reminded of some significant game play, how about sending your fellow player/s a text/email reminding them what an awesome game that was the other day. Share a laugh with your friends as you remember a successful strategy. Lament at an epic failure and a withering defeat. It is just a game, laugh about it and move on.
Game Play Nostalgia
Last, but not least, the sentimental reasons. At this I have recorded my game plays for almost 10 years. The grand total is almost 3500 game plays. These statistics are more than just mere numbers. They are many fond memories of fun times with great people. Some of these people are now longer with us. The games themselves may only be cardboard and plastic. These games have helped to create many enjoyable moments
Sometimes it is fun to look back and remember these good times spent around the gaming table.
As with any task there are disadvantages. The main factor is the time spent collecting and inputting the data. There are many methods to record game play information. I do use my phone, but I also use pen and paper. It is less obtrusive to the other players to scribble some notes on a small notepad. It is much less intrusive than repeatedly picking up a phone and tapping away on the screen.
A very quick method to capture data on scores, or the game play strategies utilized is to use a voice recording app. Most phones/tablets have them built in. Later you can replay and transcribe the information.
I would advise all gamers to be aware of their digital device usage while playing any tabletop game. Keep your device usage to a minimum. One of the reasons that people enjoy games is to have a break from the digital world. Please focus on the game and the people you are playing with.
When To Log Your Games
By the way, I will cover some game logging app choices in another article. I use a variety of iOS/Android apps to assist in the logging process.
After years of practice my logging process now consists of two steps:
I make notes of the games played during the gaming session, or immediately afterwards. This does depend on the games being played. There is little chance that I will immediately forget that I played Virgin Queen for most of a day. On the other hand I have lost count of how many times I have played Fastrack within minutes of finishing.
Later I review my notes, and enter the details into BoardGameGeek (BGG).
One of the advantages of playing a physical game, on a real table with actual people, is to detach from the digital world. Remember to keep your digital device use to a minimum, concentrate on the game and on the people.
Within a few days, while the memory is still fresh, I add the game play to BGG. I look at my handwritten notes, perhaps I took pictures of the game too. My advice is to get yourself into a good habit about converting those notes into entries on BGG. Do so before you forget or lose that post-it note, or the piece of scrap paper.
As a hybrid solution, I have now taken to using a phone app to set a placeholder record for each game play. Later on I have added the extra data.
Logging During Game Conventions
Here is advice about logging at game conventions, especially those that last for several days. These are the times where we push the limits of human endurance, where sleep is optional, where lots of games are played, and their are many alluring cardboard distractions.
It may seem fresh that day, but it is easy to forget what you played after a long weekend of gaming. Do yourself a favor and make notes often, a few seconds spent logging after each game is better than racking your brain days later. All too often those individual game played all merge into a one big cardboard blur after a few days. Like a detective case, you have to piece together the games played from half remembered accounts of equally tired witnesses, scan blurry photos for hints, and recount your steps in the hope it jogs your still fuzzy memory.
Log it early, log it often….you have been warned!
What games to log
This is one question where I reached my own policy, and stuck with it. It is up to you what games you log. With the whole logging process, you need to find your own balance of how much detail to include and how much time is taken to record such detail.
Computer based game plays
Vassal, Tabletopia, ZunTzu etc. are computer recreations of physical board games. You still play versus actual people and the players themselves enforce the game rules. The computer is the means of displaying the game to the players and a tool by which they can communicate amongst themselves. These are very different from playing against a game application. To me this counts as playing a board game, and I log these as game plays.
To help identify the game as being played online, you can use the computer gaming platform as the location to differentiate it from a Face-to-face play (F2F) game.
There are now many PC/Mac, tablet and phone application that allow you to play a port of a board game. These games usually allow the player to play against other players, and.or against an AI opponent.
My reasoning is simple, if I played against a person then I log may it as a game played. Even so, I only track longer games, games that take more than a few minutes of total time to play.
An example of my logging policy for those games where I own both digital, and physical copy of the same game:
Let us look at the neat little deck-building card game Star Realms. I have played thousands, countless thousands, of games of Star Realms against the AI on PC, Android, and iOS. I have played many games on those apps against humans, but the games are quick and often forgettable. The only games that I log have been games played across the table with a human. After playing the physical game I find that my simple arithmetic skills get a good work out. The computer makes it look so easy.
An excellent two-player game about the USA v USSR struggle during the Cold War is Twilight Struggle. The digital version is now available on Steam, iOS and Android. The game takes much longer to play than Star Realms. With three decks of card, each deck causing the game to evolve differently, this means that each game has it’s own journey. Playing against the AI has improved my game no end. Even so, I only log games that I have played against a real person, be that person across the same table, or across the ocean.
Another option to keep your tabletop and computer records separate is to log your physiocal game plays on BoardGameGeek and your computer plays on VideoGameGeek.
Logging Of Solo Games
Once again you should make up your own mind, but do take into account what type of solo game you are playing. If the game is designed to be played as a solo game, these should certainly be logged as a game play, and it makes even more sense to include your score or other relevant details. Sometimes I setup a game for a dummy run through. This can be to remind me of the rules, or to familiarize myself with the mechanics of a new game. These are the games I do not count at all.
It is not unknown for a gamer to play a two-player against themselves. Where the gamer plays each side to the best of their ability. The real opponent is the game and the game situations. The player switches sides and ‘forgets’ that he knows the plans of his devious opponent. While not as satisfying as playing against a real opponent, there is still satisfaction to be gained by doing your best and enjoying the story that the game created.
I leave that up to the individual to decide whether or not to log it. For these games I still like to have a record that I played a game. I still log the game play and include any relevant information, but I set the quantity played to 0 (zero).
Having to teach games is a common occurrence for gamers. For a variety of reasons, I also get to teach games where I do not get to play them. Being a game group organizer is one reason, but the more common reason is my role in the Wargame Bootcamp. For the Wargame Bootcamp events we prefer to just teach the game, and let the audience do the playing. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I am proud of what we do. It is hard work, but it is great fun too.
This teacher only role can be useful for all types of tabletop games. This is especially relevant when doing a public event to publicize modern games. The goal here is showcase games and to attract new gamers.
A teacher only role for the Wargame Bootcamp has proven to have a number of benefits:
It allows the teacher to give fair advice on game tips and strategies to all players.
We can keep an eye on more than one game at the same time. This allows the teacher to oversee more gamers.
If required, we can jump into a game to replace a player. At times I have played on both sides. Subbing in to replace one player who desperately needed to eat real food. Later that same game I took the place of an opposition player. Keeping the game flowing and making it a useful experience was the goal.
These teaching games are logged, this helps to record which games were popular. The only distinction I make is what quantity I record. For a teaching only game I simply set the quantity played to 0 (zero).
I’m Intrigued, What Information Can I Record ?
Looking back at my early records, from almost 10 years ago, I started sporadically and added more data as I went along. A few months into the process I found my comfort level. Initially I did not really think about what I could or should record, nor did I know what tools I could use to assist me. A year or so into the routine it became apparent that it is easier to reduce the level of information you record, and it was impossible to recreate the data that I had originally omitted.
The absolute minimum data is the title of the game you played, and the date you played. While you are entering that data, you might as well record the location, who played, and who won the game. Before you know it you can go the whole 9 yards and include a description of which strategy was used, the color meeples you played, how many points each player scored. To be more precise you can include how long it took to play the game.
As you can see there is a myriad of data that can be recorded for each game you play. intriguing isn’t it ? That is not all. Say you played Codenames, and your team came from behind to win with the clue Music 4. How about adding a short note that the winning Clue was Music 4 ?
Board gaming is great for making fun times, recording these memorable experiences when they happen is an easy way to immortalize fun times shared with fun people.
Where To Log Your Game Plays
BoardGameGeek has a built-in play logging system. You can also use various iOS/Android apps to assist you in the process.
The apps usually act as an improved interface to the BGG database.With that in mind I base much of this section on the aspects of using the BGG website. It may not be the best interface, but it is the one that everyone can access as long as they have a computer and a BGG login.
In a separate article I will show in detail how to use the BGG website for logging your game plays. A different article will also look at the iOS and Android game logging apps.
Each play is logged by going into the game page. The Log Play button (shown below circled in red) is used to launch the screen where the actual game plays are recorded.
The Basic Data Of Game Logging
The basic elements of the data that can be recorded is quite self explanatory.
When did you play ? – The date that the game was played. I hope that no explanation is required there.
Qty – How many times did you play.
Was the game compete ? – This becomes important for win / lose statistics.
Where did you play ? – You can specify the location. Once a location has been inputted, you can easily chose it from the list of your existing locations. Below I will give some advice on how to name your gaming locations.
How long did you play ? – The total time spent playing the game/s.
Was the game incomplete ? – Check the box if the game was not finished. This field can affect the win-lose statistics.
The Location field is simply text. This is where the user can type in any letters or numbers they want. Here are some suggestions on how to name your gaming locations to make it easier in the future. Unless you game in a different location every single time you game, you will simply be reusing your previous locations most of the time. It is advantageous to use a simple, short, and consistent naming convention. Such a convention will save you time when later selecting the location from a list.
Regular Gaming Locations
Most of my gaming takes place at game stores, or at my local gaming group. For these it is simple to use the name Game Empire, PasadenaorVCSB Meetup. The actual street address does not matter as the location may be different or the store may move. The location name used is short and memorable.
Special Gaming Events
Sometime there are special individual gaming events. These could be game-days, holidays, or for peoples birthdays. For these I use the event name to remind me that we gamed for a special reason. Some examples would be VCSB NYE Party at Ted’s 2016-7, or FATDOG 2016, Ventura, November 2016. The location name is still short and distinctive.
Gaming Conventions are scheduled annual events, that usually last several days. For these I like to keep the year in the title such as SDHIST, San Diego,November 2016.
As the game plays are logged to the actual date there is no need to create a new location for each day of a multi-day convention.
This is the number of times you played the same game that day.
If the game is lighthearted or fun it may not be important to you to record all who played the game or the individual scores.
For example for the party game Codenames I would often simply record the number of games, the number of players, and a little bit of detail of the game.
Codenames x4 - 7-8 players. 1st game Clue giver, we lost. Won the last 2.
For longer or more involved games it is necessary to record the names of the players, and their individual scores. Note that you will have log each game individually, compared to simply recording that you played a game x number of times. This distinction is dependent on whether you want to to record the points scored by each player in each individual game.
The Comment field is another text field. This is where the user can type in a large amount of text if they require. This is where the choices really start.
Over time I have developed my own shorthand style of writing. I want to include a brief description of what happened in the game, yet at the same time I do not want to write a book.
Keep the details simple, keep them relevant and keep it punchy!
Here is an example of a game of Black Orchestra from November the 16th, 2016.
4 player – Me, Jim D, Glenn G, Larry Lost
All arrested in Stage 5 or 6 No plots attempted Lots of arrests, I got Larry out several times, only for the next card to be Gestapo Raid
A few lines was enough to record what happened. Recording every move or choice is not required. Keep it short, and focus on the major turning points of the game. These major milestones are enough to remind you what happened in the game. Detail enough information to jog your own memory.
An early example of one of my BSG plays is the following:
6 player inc a cylon leader
Admiral Cain (shot by Cally) then back as Gaeta. (human) Lost. Cylon win at 8.2 jumps via 0 Morale
As my BSG obsession has grown, I have taken to record more information for each BSG game; such as when the cylons revealed and the game resources at the end of the game.
To help me in keeping the information entered to a minimum I use a shorthand notation with lots of abbreviations.During the game itself, I use pen and paper to keep the note taking quick and effortless. Keeping the notes short, and detailed is important to keep the game flowing.
Finally on the Log Play form is the Who played? fields. Here you can add each player, record their score, the color they played etc. I do not always record the players. Most of these fields have safe default values which means you do not have to enter any data.
Once again I would like to stress that it is up to the individual gamer to decide how much, and which data is recorded.
Other Methods To Log Your Games Plays
Using BGG or specialized phone apps are not the only method to store this data. Another practical method of logging your game plays is to use a spreadsheet or a database program. I leave that up to you of course to formulate what data fields you use, but I suggest you use the BGG data fields above as a reference. The data data structure is quite simple. Make you spreadsheet or database as complicated as you require.
A Calendar program can also be used to record your games. A note against the date with the name of the game as the Note title. It is very simple and it works.
Game Play Statistics
Please don’t laugh, they can be very fun, and also informative. Looking at statistics of how many times I played Cards Against Humanity is much more fun than gazing at a pie chart of business expenses for the 3rd Quarter of 2016.
There are a number of tools that can be used to analyze your list of games played. They all rely on accessing the game play data stored in the BGG database. Here I will give some teasers of what is possible.
BGG website – In the individual users profile there are some basic analysis tools. First look at your own profile area under My Geek. Some of the data is under Games | Played, other data is under Stats | Statistics.
Where the BGG website really shines is the ability to refine your search to a specific range of dates. If you need to tell your brother what game you played early last June, it is easy to search for such a narrow range of dates.
For some of the analysis it is easier to access the data from some of the other tools that can read and analyze the data held on BGG.
Here are my Five & Dimes for the year 2016. Five & Dimes are the games that I have played at least 10 times and those that I have played at least 5 times.
iOS – BG Stats by BgStatsApp.com – A fully featured application with play analysis and game logging functionality. Some functionality is at a premium $ cost.
Android – BoardGameGeek app by BGG4Android. A useful application to view details of your collection, and for viewing your games played and associated statistics.
BGG Extended Stats website by Friendless. This is a very powerful analysis tool, but does require a few steps to initially setup. Here is the information/discussion thread for his website on BGG.
The process of logging your game plays is supposed to be for your own benefit. The time taken to log the information is your time. Find your own balance between how much detail you include and how much time that it takes.
Start logging, and see if it works for you. If it becomes a bore, or it becomes a chore, then stop logging !
Not everyone is convinced of the benefits, that is fine by me. I hope you benefit by some of my arguments. Gaming is an expanding hobby and I hope it will convince some people. Just like I will hope to convince more people to sleeve their cards, but that is for another article.
So say we all.
Tim aka ‘Baltar’
7th March 2017; updated 10th March 2017
As of the 9th of March 2017, I have logged 512 plays of BSG.
My regular gaming friends/opponents know about my BSG obsession, they joke about it, they poke fun of me. Yet they still play BSG with me. That is a lot of plays of the same game, and that is a lot of time spent playing the same game.