In the growing board game landscape it is becoming harder and harder to play games over an over again. New games are coming out at a phenomenal rate, and even though no one is buying every new game, all gamers are buying some new ones, and the bigger your collection, the less time you have to spend with any one title.
Even still, there are, perhaps a dozen games that I have played over a hundred times each. Online gaming has helped many of these titles achieve that number, but growing up in a game-playing home also contributed, as did preferring to play cards with my friends than to go tp class in high school. These are my Century Club Games.
Backgammon is one of the first games my father ever taught me. It is an excellent use of what we modern gamers call “roll and move.” It’s a highly derided game mechanism that is usually reflective of a simplistic game, but when used well, it can lead to a game with many choices to make. Having two dice to roll, and fifteen pieces to move, with benefits and consequences to certain moves, Backgammon offers enough choice to the player to elevate its lowly mechanism.
Scrabble is another game that was played a great deal in my child hood, and was again revisited in teachers’ college. It’s always been a frustration to me that Scrabble doesn’t reward the best vocabulary, it rewards the person who knows the most two-letter words.
Mahjongg was introduced to my family by friends of my parents. They had a beautiful antique set made from actual ivory. They would come over and the four of them would play Mahjongg like some people would play bridge. I would watch them, entranced by the beautiful tiles, and the excited declarations of Pung! Kong!, and Chow! I learned by observing, and eventually, my parents got their own set (no ivory, of course), and all of us in the family got to play.
I played many, many games in my teenaged years, but possibly none more than Hearts and Euchre. My high school lunches, spare periods, and any periods I cut class to hang with friends, were spent either making out with my girlfriend, or playing these classic trick-taking games. Many trick-taking games have come along in the intervening decades (Fox in the Forest, the Crew, Clubs, Diamonds, and many others), but I have a nostalgic fondness for the classics that is unlikely to be trumped.
While my family was a gaming family, I took to the hobby far more deeply than my parents or siblings ever did. I was into designer games before the term existed. I played many games of Risk, Titan, Cosmic Encounter, Mega Supremacy, and so on, but, as this was in the days before I tracked my plays, I can’t say with certainty that they are in the club. The first hobby game that I know, without a doubt, belongs in the Century Club is Magic: the Gathering. I was introduced to it in 1992 by my roleplaying group, and I instantly fell in love with it. I collected and played for about five years, until the unsustainability of the CCG format and the unpleasant nature of the people I ran into on the local competitive Magic scene made me give it up. There was a CDRom version of the game where you could play with any card that existed at the time, and it got rid of the worst parts of Magic: trying to collect better cards, and having to play with other Magic players.
Dominion is another card game that lends itself to lots of plays. The very nature of its variable setup, means that even if all you have is the original game, you still have myriad different starting spreads to play. Add in even a single of the dozen or more expansions, and your variety increases exponentially. There used to be an unofficial Dominion app that I had on my phone and that allowed me to play dozens of games with remote opponents around the world. That app is why Dominion is currently my most played game of all time. At least according to my board game geek stats, anyway.
Star Realms is the first game that I’ve owned in digital format and not a physical copy of the game. The app’s asynchronous play allows one to play against friends or strangers anywhere in the world, at your own pace. It’s also the first deck building game I’ve ever played where you are directly attacking your opponent. Dominion has “attack” cards, but they’re just a way to mess with an opponent’s deck. In Star Realms players have a health stat called “authority” and you use your armada of ships and battle stations to chip away at your opponent’s authority until they are destroyed.
Potion Explosion is another that I don’t own a physical copy of. My 119 plays have all been virtual, on boardgamearena.com. It slipped by me when it first came out, because the idea of a tilting cardboard rack of marbles that relies on gravity as a mechanical feature just seemed like a really bad idea for the cafe where I work, and whether or not a game will be good for work is often a major factor in my decision making process. Last year I discovered the digital version on BGA and I’ve played it a lot! The chain reactions caused by the falling marbles are really satisfying, and the special powers granted by the potions you make are why Potion Explosion made it into my Century Club in a matter of months (of course, the digital port is what made that possible).
Welcome to… is another game that I’ve played a lot of on BGA. I loved the physical game when I was first introduced to it. It wasn’t the first “Roll & Write” game I ever played (Yahtzee, and Quixx coming first), but it was the first “Flip & Fill” mutation of the genre, and I really liked the mechanics of choosing card pairings and deciding the best place to use those pairs; and the ‘50s aesthetic didn’t hurt, either. The vast majority of my plays have been on BGA since December of 2020, but it had already earned many physical plays in the years since it was published.
Marrakech is a tantalizingly tactile, tactical textile game that I love to play in person. The act of draping the little fabric carpets over top of one another is very satisfying. That being said, until the pandemic struck, it was not in my most frequently played section. It had respectable numbers, but it was nowhere near being in the century club until the stay at home orders started getting issued. The BGA implementation lacks the sensory appeal of the physical game, but it keeps the psychological feel of the gaming experience.
Can’t Stop & 6 Nimmt! are two more entries to the club that wouldn’t be here without BGA. They both had respectable play numbers before the pandemic hit, but being available on BGA really juiced their plays over the last year. While Can’t Stop is a dice game, and 6 Nimmt! is a card game, and they have very different mechanisms, they both manage to create a similar play experience, and that experience is “I’m being terribly clever…oh, crap! It’s all gone horribly wrong!”
Happy Salmon is in the Century Club because you never play Happy Salmon just once. This action matching, card shedding game is such stoopid fun that I usually play it about a half dozen times in a row; until everyone is huffing and wheezing, and needs a rest.
What games are in your Century Club? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.