Anatomy of a Review

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how a board game should be reviewed. Putting a number to your favorite game, or any game for that matter, can be hard. Shortly after posting this article, I’ll be publishing my first review: “Jamaica.” And although it is my favorite board game, “Jamaica” won’t be getting a perfect score.

These days board game ratings are primarily a binary affair: thumbs up or down, good or bad. This model is very strait forward, and there’s certainly something to be said for that. It’s also easy, because it’s noncommittal. So while a reviewer might give a thumbs up to the very best game he has played, he’ll also likely provide the same thumbs up for a game he’d merely describe as okay. This doesn’t work for me, and it won’t be how Token Opinion does things.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that I’ll be breaking down reviews into three basic sections: Gameplay, Rulebook, and Components. Each of these categories will be scored on a ten point scale, after which I will provide a game’s cumulative score out of thirty, followed by some final thoughts. Yep, that’s right: Token Opinion will score out of thirty.

Here’s a closer look at the review format:

Components- In this section I will review the production quality of the game. In particular I’ll take into account current industry standards and MSRP. Most of the time artwork will never figure in to a Token Opinion review score- it’s simply too subjective. But I’ll also discuss game art in this section.

Rulebook- Very few reviewers comment on rulebooks, and frankly, I don’t get it. How a game communicates the rules to players is incredibly important, and a lot of games get this wrong. Alternatively, some games (Charterstone” by Stonemaier Games) do such a good job of communicating rules to the player that they bring the entire industry down a notch. I’ll almost always have something to say about the execution of the rules, and you’ll find that here.

Gameplay- This whole concept of reviewing games becomes especially sticky considering that these are written reviews, not video. Admittedly, there is something about video that works very well for reviewing bored games. In particular, the ability to do a quick gameplay run through, which most video reviewers choose to do, adds a lot to the impact of video reviews. This is something that just can’t be replicated in a written format. So, I’m not going to attempt it. Instead, in this section you will find a brief description of gameplay, with a focus on how well various game mechanics interact with one another. I’ll also take game fatigue into account (more on game fatigue in a future editorial).

One major goal I’ve had for Token Opinion from the beginning is for all content to remain appropriately brief. I honestly don’t want many articles to scale past 1000 words. This goes doubly true for reviews. I’ll do my best to keep them short, and to the point. For someone as verbose as I have a tendency to be, this may prove to be quite a challenge.

You should also expect reviews here to be cast with a critical eye. I feel like there is this overwhelming sense of positivity in the board game community, and it’s something I absolutely love about this hobby. But that positivity over extends to the reviews. To a degree, I can understand. You watch all the videos on YouTube, head out, buy a game- and you just want it to be amazing. But that’s not usually the case. I feel like a lot of reviewers are guilty of this. Don’t get me wrong, the level of quality that permeates this industry is astounding. This makes honest criticism all the more important. I want my reviews to feel reliable, and that’s just not going to happen if every game is rated “awesome.”

A lot of my early reviews will make me seem less critical, primarily because most of them will be from my personal collection. These are titles that have weathered near constant culling, because they’re pretty darn good games. Despite my feelings regarding my personal collection, I hope you’ll find that there’s still a level of objectivity. For the record, out of my entire collection, plus the hundreds of games I’ve played thus far, I can only think of one that will receive a perfect score. Ultimately, that’s the going to be the focus of Token Opinion- reviews with depth.

Finally, I completely understand that one, I’m doing things differently; and two, some folks might find that frustrating. Reviews by their very nature are functionally subjective. And while I’m trying hard to be as objective as I possibly can, that doesn’t make me “right.” Critiques are very welcome here. Disagree with a review? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you. You might even change my mind.

Thanks for stopping by!

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