Review Criteria

Got questions on why I review things the way that I do? Why do board game categories get 15 points except for "Fun"? If you have questions like these, this page will be your guidebook to my own, personal review philosophy. I will detail, by review type, what I am looking for and how I score the way that I do. You will undoubtedly also learn about how I view things like board games, miniatures and other geekery in the wider scope of the world. So, here we go.

Board Games

The purpose of board games, much like most forms of recreation, are for enjoyment. After a long day's worth of work we just want to kick back and relax. Whether that is in front of the TV with a beer or around a table with a bunch of friends and board game, the ultimate goal is to relax and enjoy our time.

What aspects of gaming makes us enjoy our time? This is where we dig a bit into the psychology of games. To begin, I would like to reference the following article from the New Yorker:

While this article deals with primarily the first person shooter genre of video games, which is a subset of gaming in general, I feel that a lot can be gleaned from it about how our bodies react to recreation.

The article talks about gamers achieving this state of "Flow" where the outside world falls away as our identity is kind of subsumed into the entertainment. We have all experienced this and is, in general, the goal of all recreation. People talk about the runner's groove, getting lost in a book, losing time to video games, board games, being outside, time flies when you're having fun etc. These are all indications that these individuals have achieved this state of "Flow."

The things necessary to initiate this state of "Flow" are the following:

Immersion - The entertainment needs to be bigger than us. It needs to be big enough for us to lose ourselves in.

Sense of Agency - We need to feel like we are in control of our surroundings, even if they are confined to a board. We must believe that if we make good decisions, there will be rewards and poor decisions will lead to punishment. This is tied heavily to motor actions in gaming whether it is clicking buttons, passing fake money, moving pieces matters not.

Decision Making - We must be able to make decisions but not just any decisions. We need to be able to make decisions that we can see or feel the effects of. Pointless decisions do not elicit the visceral, adrenaline producing response from the body as those that have meaning. This differs from the Sense of Agency is in that this is being to actually execute the decisions as opposed to believing you can.

When these 3 things click together, we enter into the state of "Flow." So, how does this all roll into board games? Well, each of the categories I have chosen feeds into one or more of these, 3 items. Better scores indicate a stronger representation of the of them while lower scores represent worse representations of them.

The Max points are listed next to the category names and the scale is below:

Max points = 15 then 5 = Poor, 10 = Average, 15 = Excellent
Max points = 25 then 8 = Poor, 16 = Average, 24 = Excellent, 25 = Outstanding

Rules - 15 - Good rules exist to feed into our Sense of Agency and our Decision Making. They provide the material to help us guide our thoughts in game as well as the consequences of our actions. Poor rules can, and will inhibit one of these categories through confusion while they will also effect Immersion through extended down time (looking up rules), and vagueness.

Components - 15 - Being the physical components of the game these are important for Immersion as well as the physical requirements of Sense of Agency. When we place money down on the table in Monopoly to buy that property, we have performed a physical action that we know will have consequences on the future of the game. If the money is poorly made, such as monopoly money, it can make the game feel too cheap or unbelievable.

Theme - 15 - This is all Immersion here. Being immersed in the world or activity is essential for "Flow." If the theme is weak, the game will be lackluster at best with descriptions such as "good components, good rules, but it was just lacking something."

Game Play - 15 - Game play assists the Sense of Agency and the Decision Making aspects. By having solid game play you know what actions you can take and can execute them quickly and efficiently. By doing this turn after turn, you also build Immersion as the game becomes more believable much like after the first few pages of a good book it is all of a sudden a page turner.

Re-play Ability - 15 - Once we have achieved "Flow" in an activity, we want to get there again. This category deals with my personal belief on how likely that is. Good scores will surely see the game being fun for each play. Poor scores will struggle to be worthwhile after only a couple of plays.

Fun - 25 - The whole reason that we play games is right here. If I feel like a game hits all three of the major buttons above and I get lost in a game, I will certainly rate this category as a high score.