It’s the start of a new year, and with every turning of the calendar comes a deluge of people taking this opportunity to set goals and challenges for the coming year.

As board gamers, I believe something we share is a love of creating rulesets and then trying to excel within the rules we’ve made. With that in mind, there are various challenges that people partake in. Things like the 10×10, the 5×10, the 1×100, the H index, The Alphabet challenge, the Play a game every day of the year, and playing a set of games that share an attribute, such as publisher, designer, or even publication year. We use these challenges to encourage ourselves to interact with our hobby in different and interesting ways.

Some of the challenges available on the BGStats App

I think many people who would call themselves board game enthusiasts or hobbyists have identified a problem with our hobby. We love discovery, we’re always ‘chasing the new hotness’, we fall victim to the ‘cult of the new’, terms which showcase our desire to play the latest and greatest games. An unfortunate side effect of always chasing the newest games, is many great games fall to the wayside. Games that we spend our hard-earned money on, expend the effort to learn the game, only for it to languish with a single play in our statistics.

That’s where the concept of a challenge comes in. In a “Play X Games Y Times” challenge, you pick X number of games you enjoy but want to play more, and set a goal. Maybe it’s a game you recently got and are really excited to explore, or it’s an old favourite that just hasn’t hit the table very much, this is a good way to lead your decision-making when it comes to your hobby time. Instead of hemming and hawing over your entire board game collection trying to pick one game from the dozens that you own, you now have a pre-vetted list of games you want to tackle.

I attempted a 10×10 challenge (play 10 games 10 times) a few years back, and while I was unsuccessful, I saw the value in attempting it. Getting a game to the table 10 times gives you the opportunity to see depths that you may have missed before, and there’s a joy in plopping a game down that everyone already knows how to play and is comfortable with, especially if you’re always learning and exploring new games.

My current pile of unplayed games

The H-Index challenge is similar to a “Play X Games Y Times”, in that you’re trying to play games a number of times, but the values are linked. Like, for an H-index of 8, you’ll play 8 games 8 times. I’ve had an H-index tracker on for a few years, and I’m currently sitting at 23. One more game of Crokinole, and I’ll achieve 24, then I’ll need to play my top 24 games again to push it up to 25. It’s an interesting way to view your games played, but a bit more nebulous than a hard value, such as a 10×10.

For some, they want to explore games that they might not otherwise pick. That’s where “Play all my Unplayed Games” challenges, or “Play Every Game in my Collection” come in. Games that you bought years ago that you always wanted to get back to, but always end up slipping just shy of actually getting played, this is their time to shine. This challenge is also great as a preface to a great cull. Maybe a game that you loved in 2016 just isn’t doing it for you anymore, and it’s time for that game to leave your collection.

Games that are leaving my collection

For some, setting a challenge might be for them to refocus their attention on the hobby they once loved. Setting a “Play a Game Every Day of the Year” challenge is about intentionally choosing to play a game, instead of wasting hours mindlessly scrolling through social media or otherwise squandering your time. A similar challenge is to pick a friend to play X number of times with, this can encourage you both to prioritize spending time together, and gives you an activity to engage with.

All of this to say, challenges can be a fun way to interact with your board game hobby, but it’s important they’re approached with intention. Just throwing 10 random games onto a 10×10 challenge can become a drag, and it’s important not to prioritize the challenge over your enjoyment of the hobby. If playing board games is something you do for fun, or to relax, it’s important not to turn your play time into a grind. Setting a challenge can be a great way of getting you out of a rut, or to discover games that you may have forgotten about. Whatever you choose to do, just have fun!