A Beginner's Guide to Board Game Geek

"Gaming Unplugged Since 2000." Founded by Scott Alden and Derk Solko, the website Board Game Geek continues to offer the largest database of board games today. The website does not only feature board games, but genres such as dice games, card games, tile-laying games, economic games, puzzle games, strategy games, war games, party games, and more. With a lifetime of over 19 years, the website maintains its position as the center of the board gaming community and is second to none when it comes to the shear amount of information and discussion it hosts everyday. The website passed 2 million registered users in February 2019 and it only continues to grow.

But let's face it: the website is intimidating. When the front page looks like this in 2019...

...it can be easy to scare people away. At first glance, it may be hard to see what the website can even be used for (other than giving you a headache and feeling like you're back in the '90s), but if you get past a few of its layers, you'll find many features that are valuable for both experienced and new board gamers alike. Like ogres. And by relation, onions.

So as your guide to this huge, digital, onion of a website, let's start peeling back layers and try not to cry together.

An Unrivaled Database at Your Fingertips

If anyone wants to send me a copy of  Root my mailing address is ***************

Over 19 years the website has grown to host over 108,000 games, each with their own dedicated page full of a variety of information. If you are curious about that new game all your friends are taking about or want clarification on rules of a game you lost the rule book for, all you need to do is use the trusty search bar at the top of the page. These game pages are a great tool to use before deciding to buy a game, as they provide images of boards and cards, videos of game play, in-depth reviews, forums full of discussion, and downloadable files for rule books and game manuals (so you can finally settle deputes over rules in a civilized manner).

These pages are also a way to discover new games that are similar to games you enjoy through the "Fans Also Like" section and the "Classification" section on the right side of each page. This section includes each games' "type," "category," "mechanisms," and "family". "Type" includes Strategy Games, Party Games, and Family Games, "Category" includes Fantasy, Animals, and Economic, "Mechanisms" include Dice Rolling, Hand Management, and Grid Movement, and "Family" includes the games' origins and base game. Games can be explored by each of these classifications, making it very easy to find new games to play.

The Largest Board Gaming Community in the World

Every piece of information on the website has been voluntarily entered by users just like yourself, which highlights the website's culture and dependence on collaboration. The website's Forum is one of its most valuable features, providing answers to thousands of questions and discussions on topics ranging from specific games, announcements, gaming in general, and the website itself. If there's something about board games you want to talk about, there's probably a Board Game Geek forum for it. You can also stay updating with forums by subscribing to them. There is also a "Game Groups" section of the forum where users  can find group in the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and South America that they can play with. This section can help people who are new to the hobby get involved with their local gaming community and make new friends. 

The website also hosts smaller discussion groups called "guilds" for more specified or exclusive discussion. There are guilds for different gaming conventions or events, clubs, stores, fan bases, languages, regions, and even occupations. These groups act almost like subreddits and are a great way to find people who have the same hyper-specific interests as you, as well as discuss games you particularly enjoy.

Along with its forums, "GeekLists" provide a place for users to discuss lists of games with commentary that others can comment on. These lists allow users to discuss games of particular subsets or types, such as the top played games on the website, recommended games, or games people have played at different conventions. Geeklists are also used to facilitate game trades.

A Worldwide Online Marketplace

Board Game Geek is a place where users can trade, as well as purchase, used games. There are a few ways to trade board games using the website including person-to-person trades and multi-cornered trades. Person-to-person trades are relatively simple and can be accessed on the page of the game you want to trade for under the "Community Stats." Here you can view how many copies are available for trade and propose trades. You can also select games you want to trade with or for in your profile and the "Trade Finder" under the Bazaar section at the top of the page can find potential direct matches for you.

Multi-cornered trades are slightly more complex, but aren't too bad once you get the hang of them. The most common form of this type of trading is "Math Trades," or "mathematical no-risk trade lists." These trades begin when a user, the moderator for the trade, starts a trade GeekList. People post games they wish trade onto this list until enough people have submitted games. The list is then closed, and the moderator give a list of all valid items represented with a word and number (for example "Atlas17"). Each participant then lists the games they want to trade for in order of preference after their own game (for example "Atlas 17, Atlas72, Atlas89," etc.). The moderator then takes these lists and uses an algorithm to decide who gets what game and the traders are notified, contact one another, and exchange games as they would in a person-to-person trade.

Users can also put their used games up for sale on the website's "Geek Market." Most popular games can be found here and it is a great place to buy games at a discounted price. There is a possibility for a few dents or dings, though many games are usually specified as "very good" or even "like new." Buyers can see all the feedback given to each seller as well as the country where they are located. This amount of information on sellers can hopefully offer some reassurance for those scared of buying games used. If you are interested in other ways you can save money on your board game purchases, feel free to check out this article.

A Personal Profile of Your Own

A freshly made profile

Each registered Board Game Geek user has their own personal page called "MyGeek" that includes information like what games you've played, your online friends, and your contributions to the website. This is where you can specify the games you own and games you want to trade for. 

This is also where your "plays" are recorded, which are how many times you play different games and the dates you played them on. Plays can be logged on the game's specific game page or on games you have in your profile's collection. Different users have different reasons to log their plays, but a few examples are to keep track of which games they aren't playing in their collection (to see if it might be time to trade those games), to keep track of wins and losses (to gloat probably), to track the different strategies you've used throughout your time playing the games, and to view all kinds of statistics given at sites such as Extended Stats by Board Game Geek user Friendless. Logging plays can also act as a diary that you can look back on if you ever want to feel a little nostalgic.

To Finish Up

I hope that this short walk-through of the website can give you a little more confidence in tackling its contents. But before I go I want to give you some tip on how you can actually use the front page. Stick with me here. Did you know that the front page is customizable for users with registered accounts? Yes, you have the ability to move around and even remove all 19 of the modules into the layout that you want. If you don't want to put in that much effort, another option is simply clicking the [-] on the top left corners of modules you don't use to minimize them and give more space for the information you care about. If you look at the top right corer of the page, there is a section called the "Quickbar" with a bunch of [+] signs. This section basically acts as a bookmark bar for links that you constantly use, which can help you travel faster around the site.

Though not always aesthetically pleasing, Board Game Geek can be easier to use than it looks. Honestly, all it takes is taking the time to explore the website's different content locations and using the site for yourself. From its over 108,000 game pages, forum of 2 million registered users, and countless daily exchanges and purchases, the website offers itself as a seemingly limitless resource for anyone who enjoys playing games that are played with a board or on a table.

"Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions." - Donkey (Shrek 2001)

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Supporter15 months ago

I think it's good to acknowledge BGG.  It is an excellent source of information and while I enjoy BGA a lot nothing competes with BGG's wealth of information right now.,

Supporter15 months ago

I agree, and lately I'm thinking of how we could set ourselves apart from BGG. For one, I wish for BGA to become champions of expanding this awesome hobby by focusing on things like:

  • User-friendly interface
  • Making search/list use/forum discussions as approachable as possible
  • Eliminate as many of the hoops that designers and artists and content creators have to go through to market their product
  • Limit any significant gatekeeping as userbase grow in the future
  • Starting programs with schools & their board game clubs to educate/inform parents and students about the benefits & entertainment value of board games, etc.

15 months ago

Bold choice to put a guide to BGG on BGA.