It happens to anyone with a sufficiently large collection of anything; eventually, you develop blind spots. Some things go untouched on the shelf, while others get an extraordinary amount of use because they’re right to hand. Incredibly, you even forget you own some things. Aside from the embarrassing things it says about consumer culture and the push to accumulate piles of stuff, it means that for an industrious collector of games, there are potentially unappreciated — or unreviled — titles in their library. Or, if you’re the supplier for your group’s get-together, you need to know what games support a certain number of players, or fit a particular criteria. Smart people come up with solutions for problems like that, happily.
Dave Mansell, Wilikai of Boardgamegeek, wrote an Adobe Air application called WhatToPlay. The upshot of Adobe Air is it’ll run on most Mac, Linux and PC computers. The downside is you have to install the Air platform, along with Dave’s program. Fortunately, installation’s easy: go to the application’s home page and click the install image. Your browser handles the rest after administrative authorization.
Once installed, WhatToPlay asks for your Boardgamegeek user name. This brings up the other catch to use the program: you need a Boardgamegeek account and you have to use the website’s collection function to tag what games you own. Assuming you’ve got those, the application pulls the information it needs, displaying the games in your collection in a configurable list.
Once that’s done, you can filter the search results in different ways. Got five people coming? Move the slider over to specify games that support at least five. Want to have a night of horror-themed games? Check the appropriate ticky-box. Thinking about primary titles, and not the cluster of expansions following in their respective wakes? There’s an option to exclude them. For the decisionally-challenged, there’s a random game button, too, as well as a voting system to narrow down randomly generated choices.
At first, I thought the features seemed pretty basic and limited to funneling one’s choices to a manageable few. Then I realized that by clicking on a particular game, the application pulls even more information from Boardgamegeek for the user, including random comments to nudge a decision one way or another and more detailed information and statistics about the game.
I don’t have a phenomenally large game library, but I do have a number of titles that fall by the wayside because they come in small packages, or don’t stand out — I’m thinking in particular of the Cheapass line and innumerable card games in tuckboxes at the moment. The ability to filter out by the number of times played — again, assuming you make use of Boardgamegeek’s play tracker, which I do — can help point out the items in your collection that maybe haven’t gotten a fair try or appropriate amount of love. Fence & Fenceability, for example, deserves at least a try. I’ll be bringing it to game night next week, thanks to WhatToPlay.
Usually I’m not into dealing with software that tracks collections, because there’s that invariable step between the real world and realm of information manipulation called “data entry,” but in the case of WhatToPlay, I lucked out in I’d already done it at Boardgamegeek. For me, the application’s an amusing amenity I can see myself tapping in times when I can’t think of anything in particular to bring to game night, but want to stick something in my bag.