The world of board games

Board game rankings by country

BoardGameGeek (BGG) users can select their country of residence in their profile. The main purpose is to find other users in your region to play face to face or maybe trade games, but but over here at Recommend.Games we obviously cannot help ourselves but to use this information for some interesting statistics. ๐Ÿค“

Let’s start with the usual disclaimer: We will have to rely on whatever information BGG provides. In particular, users can freely choose their country. As mentioned, this is meant to be the country of residence, but some users might rather choose their country of origin โ€“ or some outright nonsense. There are 19 BGG users who claim to be from ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ถ Antarctica, for example. While I’m sure that the long polar nights on lonely research stations are perfect for playing board games, I’m not sure if they have a lot of time to rate them on BGG. ๐Ÿง (If they actually did, Antarctica would have 6,880 ratings per 100 thousand residents, which would make them the second biggest board game enthusiasts in the world โ€“ only behind the ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ฆ Vatican’s 6 reported users, resulting in almost 20,000 ratings per 100 thousand residents. ๐Ÿ™)

On a more serious note, what exactly is a country is a very political question and frequently highly controversial. I’m trying to stick with the sovereign nations recognized by the United Nations and๏ธ add users from subdivisions and autonomous regions to the parent country. BGG allows users to choose ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ England, ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ Scotland or ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ท๓ ฌ๓ ณ๓ ฟ Wales as their residence (not Northern Ireland though ๐Ÿค”) โ€“ but for now, they’re all stuck together in a ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom, if they like it or not. The borders in the map that follows shortly are even more contentious โ€“ I just had to stick with what the provider chose, and they emphasised the actual situation on the ground.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some basic statistics. For this analysis, we used 19.8 million ratings by 347 thousand users who selected one of the 199 countries as their residence. Close to 88 thousand games received at least one rating.

In order to understand how board game preferences differ around the globe, we want to calculate a ranking similar to the way BGG ranks games. Remember that BGG calculates their “geek score” based on a Bayesian average by adding a number of dummy ratings of 5.5 to each game. That number of dummy ratings is determined by the total number of ratings divided by 10,000. We can apply exactly the same logic to calculate a ranking by country. Since we want to apply at least one dummy rating to each game, we only consider countries with at least 10,000 ratings in total โ€“ 62 countries meet this criterion. BGG ranks games with at least 30 ratings. If we applied the same rule to the country rankings, we would often have very short lists. So, I decided to include games with at least 3 times the number of dummy ratings in the country ranking, but never more than the BGG standard of 30.

Enough of the boring technicalities, on to the fun part! ๐Ÿ˜Ž Let’s first answer some basic questions: How many users from that country? How many ratings have the entered? How many ratings per capita? And maybe most interestingly: What is their favourite game? Here’s a quick overview over the 10 largest communities on BGG:

Country Population Users Ratings Per 100k residents #1 rated game
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ United States 331.9 mil 131.7k 7,724k 2,327 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany 83.2 mil 19.0k 1,457k 1,751 Ark Nova
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada 38.2 mil 23.4k 1,390k 3,636 Gloomhaven
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom 67.3 mil 24.3k 1,300k 1,931 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain 47.4 mil 16.0k 913k 1,926 Brass: Birmingham
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland 37.7 mil 11.8k 620k 1,644 Star Wars: Rebellion
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy 59.1 mil 9.1k 550k 930 Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France 67.7 mil 10.6k 529k 782 Ark Nova
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands 17.5 mil 7.5k 469k 2,680 Brass: Birmingham
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia 25.7 mil 9.2k 468k 1,824 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

We see lots of familiar names amongst the highest rated games. The 62 country rankings have 26 different games in the top spot. These nine games are favourites in more than one country:

Game Count
Brass: Birmingham 14
Gloomhaven 8
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 6
Ark Nova 5
Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition 4
Terraforming Mars 3
War of the Ring: Second Edition 2
Star Wars: Rebellion 2
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion 2

This looks almost identical to the BGG top 10 list โ€“ only Dune: Imperium is missing, though it is ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina’s favourite game. Overall, the country rankings are dominated by international hits, but there are a couple of local favourites with a strong tie to the country, such as Go in ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China and AFU: Armed Forces of Ukraine in ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine.

Explore more details about the different countries in this interactive map:

As much fun as it is to browse the map, there’s also the blank spaces staring in our faces: Africa and South Asia, together representing over 40% of the world’s population, are almost completely missing from the international board gaming community. ๐ŸŒ Obviously, BGG being an American website only available in English means their data really only represents the Anglo-American gaming world, but still, it’s notable how Latin America and other parts of Asia are present much stronger on BGG. I think some focus and effort needs to go into closing those gaps on the world map. ๐Ÿ•Š๏ธ

I couldn’t possibly leave you without circling back to the question of what country is the most enthusiastic about board games. We’ve already mentioned the statistical anomalities that are the ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ฆ Vatican and ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ถ Antarctica, but if we only consider the 62 countries with their own rankings, which of those has the most ratings per capita? Here’s the top 5:

  1. ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland (4953 per 100k residents)
  2. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland (4932 per 100k residents)
  3. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada (3636 per 100k residents)
  4. ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium (3575 per 100k residents)
  5. ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden (3337 per 100k residents)

Those who were looking for the reason why my chosen home is the happiest country in the world, you’ve finally got the answers: we seem to play more board games than anyone else! (Torille! ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ) In general, the Nordic countries sure hit the sweet spot here, with their highly educated populations (well versed in English) and strong emphasis on workโ€“life balance. Also, you gotta have something to do during those long, dark winter nights. ๐ŸŒŒ

Finally, if you’re interested in the full country overview, you can find it here. Browse the full rankings for each country here:

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina | ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia | ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria | ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ Belarus | ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium | ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil | ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ Bulgaria | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท Costa Rica | ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czechia | ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark | ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช Estonia | ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland | ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France | ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany | ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece | ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong | ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท Iran | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel | ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy | ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan | ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia | ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania | ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg | ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia | ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico | ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands | ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand | ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway | ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Peru | ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines | ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland | ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Portugal | ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania | ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia | ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ Serbia | ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore | ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovakia | ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia | ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa | ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea | ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain | ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland | ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan | ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand | ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Tรผrkiye | ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine | ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช United Arab Emirates | ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom | ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ United States | ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡พ Uruguay | ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ Vietnam

PS: As always, the complete code for this analysis can be found from GitLab.

See also