This article is about how to judge a board game consistently and objectively. The standard laid out here is how we do our reviews.
Below is the official Board Game Halv Board Game Review Criteria for comparing and reviewing all board games. Apples to oranges you may be saying, but you are wrong. There are universal intrinsic characteristics of a board game that make it good. Just because something isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it is not great. Better yet, every person out there can take this set of board game review criteria, apply it to their reviews, and get a score that matches others out there doing the same thing. Try it. Regardless, just read the below and if you disagree tell me why.
Fun (1 – 10)
This one is a hard one on the board game review criteria spectrum to quantify. What is fun? More specifically, whose fun is the right fun? Different people like different things and there is nothing wrong with that. For fun, we should look to its close cousin joy or at least opportunities for Joy. All fun is a set of instructions, actions and outcomes that generate positive emotions (like joy). It is time spent that is pure the best feelings you could possibly want. It doesn’t have to be Joy, some people have fun throwing on an Adele album and having a good cry.
The point is it is what you want. Having fun playing baseball or doing taxes, it doesn’t matter, but regardless if you are doing that thing, you like it. So “fun” in our case is about opportunity. Does this board game provide opportunity for fun? Are there well-written rules and balance? Does everyone have an opportunity to win? Is there something about this game that accomplishes what others don’t? Can a lot go right? Go wrong? Think about what it is people actually want and think about if this gives it to them.
Replayability (1 – 10)
Being able to play over an over is a cornerstone attribute to a board game. If you are really fun, but you are one and done, you are not a board game you are an activity. Games do this successfully by having a core experience that is the same every time, but options that change every game and change them so dramatically it is like a brand new experience. From Codenames having a different mix of photos to Catan having brand new places for resources every game, even small changes make a big difference.
Think about playing a game ten times in a row. Is every game different? Do you have to change up your strategy to win each time? Do you feel like there is still so much to explore and get into? Are you still having fun ten games in? If you are saying yes to these questions then the “replayability” score should be on the higher side.
Player Interaction (1 – 10)
This sadly doesn’t go well for a few games because there are a few great games out there that are fantastic, but don’t have you interact with the other players at all. What is the point then? Why not just play a video game? You play a board game because you want that social experience with friends, family or peers. Having other people’s worlds crash into you and their decisions affect you is a key attribute to the medium.
It doesn’t have to be as simple as trading or talking or attacking. It could be as simple as there are community cards that everyone fights over or a move by another player triggers something with you. How much do other people’s actions affect me? If it is high, then so should be this score. Fun factors into this as well, this has to be good player interaction (though it can be terrible to everyone if that is part of the game for example.) An important part of board game review criteria.
Quality (1 – 10)
Quality is another broad and hard to quantify category. This crosses everything from how good is the writing, the rules, the balance, to the quality of game pieces. It takes a large responsibility of the judger to get in the mind of the creator. Is this truly something special or is it a derivative rip off cash grab? It is exciting and memorable or is it plain and forgetful? Did someone spend the time working on design and production or was it rushed? Does this generally provide all the various qualities that make for a good game? Lots of making overall generalizations of the success of the game designer and publisher. As you can see, with the board game review criteria I am mapping out, every category blends with every other category,
Art & Style (1 – 10)
This part of board game review criteria is not just the design you can see, but overall what they went for. Does the theme/angle seem unified and purposeful? And just because the graphics are not done by some world-class artist doesn’t mean it is not good, it is about if everything fits. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the most gorgeous games out there do not get bonus points in this category. The masterfully designed Tokaido gets points for the amazing detail in every last aspect of the game. The tone is important too. Is it going for funny, suspenseful, scary, raunchy, professional? Was it successful?
Each of these five categories can be a 1 to 10. The five scores are averaged together to get your final score out of 10. You may be thinking that there is no way this is right, it doesn’t matter how much artwork & style something has, if it is not “fun” then it is not a good game. Well, you are kind of right. That is why it is important to think with the reasoning above, to understand that all of these attributes bleed into one another and that if one is low it is going to drag down everything around it. And then yes, if one of these is low, no matter what it is going to bring down the overall quality score.
So what do you think now? Tell me if you are on board or not. I also ask that you take this and review your board games. If we are all honest with ourselves, I think we can truly see what makes a good game. This board game review criteria is honest and it’s tough but fair.