The Board Game Interactivity Scale

Board games nowadays come in many levels of interactivity. Some can almost be considered multiplayer solitaire, where each player does their own thing with little or no regard to their opponents’ actions. On the other end, games can be entirely zero-sum, where any action anyone does comes at the expense of another player. Neither extreme┬ácan really be considered “better”, but people still do have their preferences. Germans, popularizers of the “victory point” system, tend to prefer the former, while American-produced games seem to more often than not fall into the latter category.

In a desire to categorize these games, I have come up with a board game interactivity scale, ranging from 0 to 10. A hypothetical “0” game would consist of everyone playing 10 games of Minesweeper and the person with the best score winning. Conversely, the prototypical “10” game might be rock-paper-scissors, with┬áthe winner taking a dollar from the loser. I’ve ranked about a dozen games to the best of my ability, based on my experience playing and watching said games. If anyone has an addition or wants to make a correction to the list, post in the comments and I will probably edit to include your input.

So without further ado, here’s the list:

Rating Game Explanation
0 Dominion (low-end) Only about one in five cards in the base set directly affects other players, and it’s very possible that none of them will appear in a game. When that is the case, the only way to really influence another player’s strategy is to buy out all the cards in a pile.
1 Agricola Other than claiming professions and the limited number of buildings, there is little in the way of player interactions in this game. With Agricola and many other victory point games, gaining points for yourself is usually a more beneficial strategy than depriving others of points, thus putting these games on the lower end of the scale.
2 Puerto Rico This game is similar to Agricola in that the main points of contention are the claiming of roles and buying of buildings; however, Puerto Rico also has the trading mechanic and a limited number of resources.
Ticket to Ride Blocking other players’ routes does occur (many times by accident), but in most cases it is more prudent to focus on your own rail empire than interfering with your opponents’.
3 7 Wonders Mostly players spend their resources building up their own cities and wonders, but buying resource rights, depriving others of cards, and maintaining a military to “attack” neighbors are frequently-used strategies in this game.
Carcasonne While trying to take over a large city or farm is a common (and potentially game-winning) tactic, players usually spend their turns expanding in their own directions and building up their own portions of the board.
4 Settlers of Catan In theory, one can go the entire game without dealing with other players. However, the size of the board results in competition for resources, trading is an integral part of the game, and the robber has been known to end friendships.
5 Dominion (high-end) If the setup is such that there are many attack and reaction cards, a rather cutthroat game can ensue. It’s still usually more important to give yourself victory points than take to away others’, though, even when curses abound.
6 Amoeba Wars Many cards negatively affect other players, and player-versus-player battles are common mid and late game. The goal of taking over an initially neutral territory and the distance between starting positions does create a nice balance between both extremes.
7 Munchkin Early on, players are usually able to focus on levelling up without being impeded by their competitors, though once someone hits level 8 or 9 it becomes an all-out slugfest to stop him or her from winning.
8 Small World While it is possible for one to avoid players for the most part (there is even a race that rewards pacifism), the game board quickly becomes about 80% filled and attacking other races tends to becomes an optimal strategy.
9 A Game of Thrones As one can probably expect with anything called “Game of Thrones”, the game consists almost entirely of fighting and backstabbing. Activities that don’t harm other players do exist, but they’re few and far between.
Diplomacy After the first few game turns, any sort of territorial gain comes at the expense of another player. This is compounded by the impossibility to stop for a turn and reinforce troops, forcing players to always be on the offensive.
10 Risk The board is full from turn 1, so any gains come at the expense of other players. While it is possible to just spend a turn doing nothing but reinforcing, the game itself incentivises taking over territories.

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