With a recent increase in visitors to Token Opinion, I’ve had a few folks ask how I determine a game’s score in the reviews. This felt like a fair question, so here’s the answer. To begin with, I’ve been through several iterations of scoring methods prior to landing on the process I use now. I call it a “Score Path.” Yes, that’s right- I’ve developed jargon I use within my little one-man website. Despite my comfort with tinkering with my method in the past, I will likely stick with things as they are, because I’ve found this method to work so well for me.
To begin with, when I have an actual review in mind, I try to play a game a minimum of 3 times prior to writing anything. (as a quasi tabletop gaming culture observation, only playing a game once prior to writing or filming a review is absurd, and twice isn’t much better.) Sometimes I might jot a note or two down, but not much beyond that. I usually determine an initial base score when I begin putting a piece together. This base score is set on a 4 point scale, that looks something like this:
4 – Great. This game is exceptional amongst the milieu, worthy of high praise.
3 – Good. This game is a solid title, most folks will likely appreciate it.
2 – Average. This game will not turn any heads, but will reward those who enjoy it.
1 – Bad. Whether broken or poorly designed, this game is best avoided.
As I finish up my review, I multiply that initial score by 2, and apply that number to the 10 point scale (as in 4/4 becomes 8/10). From there tweak I tweak the score up or down as might be necessary. This process is a bit muddier and by extension somewhat difficult to explain. Sometimes the starting point just feels off; usually too low by a point, occasionally to high. In those cases I simply bump the score. Most of the time though I struggle with every point added; but doubly so for that final tenth point. I think 10/10 should really mean something, possess some impact.
There are several reasons I use this process: The starting four point scale is small, making it easier to gut rate games. It also lacks a center score, forcing me to take a stance on the game right out the gate. Yes, 2 is described as average; I don’t consider that a compliment. Also, because the “translation” to a ten point score is not proportional (i.e. 2/4 becomes 5/10), this system just encourages me to be a little more critical when examining a game. A game really has to work to earn that 9 or 10. Most importantly, I want my scores to feel consistent. I think a lot of folks gut rate on the 10 point scale, which admittedly may have its benefits. Unfortunately, at least to my eye, the resulting scores don’t feel very consistent to me.
In the end, this is just what works for me- and it may not work for you. I’ve been called a cynic and worse, and I’m perfectly okay with that (well, I mean, to a degree). So take it with a grain of salt. Thoughts or questions? Sound out in the comments section below.
For those interested, BoardGameGeek has created a codified description of their suggested 10 point scale, which works really well. Honestly, as an aside, you can learn an awful lot about BGG game ratings on this page. I really recommend checking it out. BGGs scale description looks like this:
10 – Outstanding. Always want to play and expect this will never change.
9 – Excellent game. Always want to play it.
8 – Very good game. I like to play. Probably I’ll suggest it and will never turn down a game.
7 – Good game, usually willing to play.
6 – Ok game, some fun or challenge at least, will play sporadically if in the right mood.
5 – Average game, slightly boring, take it or leave it.
4 – Not so good, it doesn’t get me but could be talked into it on occasion.
3 – Likely won’t play this again although could be convinced. Bad.
2 – Extremely annoying game, won’t play this ever again.
1 – Defies description of a game. You won’t catch me dead playing this. Clearly broken.