Here is a link to my BGG ratings of games. I only rate Asian board games that I’ve played on BGG and update my ratings with each play. I play more games than I can review, and I know how reviews can get lost in the ocean of data out there.
Here’s a living document that will change over time, so you can view how I currently rate Asian board games.
(On to the show! That’s why you’re here, right? Right? …sigh)
I wanted to take some time this week to discuss how I rate board games. I can’t speak for anyone else other than myself, so all my ratings are of my personal taste and preference.
Hopefully, after enough reviews (or impressions) are out there, you’ll have a better idea of what my internal biases are (all reviewers have them), and what insight you can gain from them.
I believe reviewers can be honest without being harsh. You can be a fair judge without being Dredd.
Yeah, this is a game. How awesome is that?! Read more about this beast.
Personal Grievances Towards Rating Games
After attending Essen for the first time in 2018, I quickly saw and understood that games are many different things to many different people. I saw gamers proudly carrying a game that I would never buy. That game meant something to them, and it’s not my place (nor should it be) to take that away from them.
I’ve always found it somewhat silly that people criticize board game reviewers for not being objective enough in their reviews, which by its very nature is subjective. How dare you not be objective enough in your subjectiveness!
I’ve also never really liked the expressions “overrated” or “underrated” as they both come across to me as “my opinion is better than everyone else’s and here’s why”.
I completely don’t understand the need to have negative reviews in order to justify positive reviews. Some games just aren’t meant for me, but that doesn’t mean they’re not for anybody or can’t find a welcomed spot on someone else’s gaming shelf.
Just because a reviewer doesn’t post negative reviews, doesn’t invalidate or diminish their opinion.
After all, some reviewers only review games they like. If they don’t like it, they don’t review it. Does the lack of their negative reviews invalidate all of their positive reviews?
No. That’s ridiculous.
I understand why some gamers prefer reviewers to use the word “impressions” and not “review” if the reviewer hadn’t played the game “enough” times; however, I know I’m not alone in saying that my initial impression of a game rarely changes after even more plays.
If I don’t like a game, how many times do I need to play it before I can just admit publicly that I do not like it?
I’m not sure where the idea that reviewers have to play a game X times at every player count to get a feeling for a game came from, but it is quite ridiculous. I didn’t need to play Cards Against Humanity more than once to know that it isn’t for me.
I recall Tom Vasel sharing a story about getting a complaint from a listener.
DT Fan: I bought a game based on your review, and it got boring after several plays!
Tom: Well, how many times did you play it?
DT Fan: We played it like 80 times, and it got old.
Yeah, I think you’ll have gotten your money’s worth after 80 plays.
Time After Time
However, that’s not to say that my opinions on games never change. They do. Not because the game has changed or some expansion that “fixes” the game came out; more often than not, my opinion on a game changes because I changed as a gamer.
I didn’t like Troyes when it first came out in 2010, but now, it’s one of my favorite games of all time.
The BGG Rating System
I’m not the biggest fan of the Board Game Geek (BGG) rating system; however, I do appreciate that it’s (slightly) more granular than the thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down approach.
The BGG rating system has problems. BGG users don’t often update their ratings for games. Some users happily give out 10s for tons of games; I call them “hype drivers”. Some users give 1s to highly rated games or games that aren’t even released yet in order to “balance” out the ratings (bringing objectivity to subjectivity); I call them “hype killers”.
Also, the BGG user base—and I can’t stress this enough—is, in reality, a very small percentage of the people who play board games. It’s composed of the geekiest of board game geeks (shocking, I know) as well as people within the industry. So when looking at the BGG ratings, remember who is voting and how.
But to say the BGG rankings are completely useless, as some gamers have said, is not accurate at all. People like good games, and whether you like it or not, Gloomhaven is currently Numero Uno. Also, those rankings do have an impact on the industry and do affect how publishers react, respond, and develop.
The BGG rating system isn’t all bad though. The best part about it is that you have reviews from all over the world, giving different perspectives from a wide spectrum of gamers.
It is also invaluable to have a go-to location for rulebooks, rules questions, gaming news, etc.
I don’t want to go through the hassle of creating my own rating system. Many gamers use the BGG rating system, so I want to explain how I will be reviewing games, and how it relates to the BGG scale.
What the BGG scale really means
Contrary to what you might think, the BGG scale is defined by BGG itself. Here is their list of their recommended ratings:
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.
How I interpret the BGG rankings
I solely rate board games from Asian publishers on BGG. I also try to re-evaluate my ratings after each play—weeks, months, or even, years later. The idea is to curate a living document where scores fluctuate to represent my current thoughts on the games—not a static rating of when I last reviewed a game, but a living rating that changes with each play.
In order to give you even more context into my rating system, here is a list of Western games and how I would rate them.
10 – I will never sell this game. I structure gaming events around this game and actively attempt to get people in my community pumped about this game, so it hits the table more often.
Dune (PnP of 1979 release with updated rules via the WBC)
Glory to Rome Black Box Edition
Eclipse Second Dawn
9 – I would actively seek out people to play this game.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Pax Pamir 2nd Edition
8 – I would suggest playing this game (if the situation called for it, so I wouldn’t suggest a game of Dune at 10 pm but would suggest one at 10 am).
Lords of Vegas
7 – I would never suggest playing it, but if someone asked me to play it, I would immediately say yes without hesitation.
Carcassonne the City
6 – I would hesitate to play it. This isn’t a bad game, I’m just not always in the mood to play it. I might have played it hundreds of times. The game might be a bit long. The game was fine, but another game came along and swept me off my feet. I still keep them in my collection for nostalgia, but if push came to shove, they’d get the axe.
Stone Age 10-Year Anniversary Edition
Ticket to Ride
Space Empires 4X
5 – Meh. I don’t want to say it was a bad game; it just wasn’t for me for one or a variety of reasons: too long, diminishing returns of complexity, or a game mechanic that frustrated me. 5s also include games that I once loved but had played to death and have since sold out of my collection.
Blackout: Hong Kong
(Settlers of) Catan (I’ve technically never owned “Catan” I say waving my hipster flag)
4 – There may be a good game in there somewhere, but it didn’t get the development it needed to fully flush it out. The game was underdeveloped, overdeveloped, or perfect for what it is but what it is just doesn’t spark any joy.
3 – Not really salvageable as a game.
Ghettopoly (I mean, with that theme, it has got to be one of the Top 10 racist games of all time)
SmilelyFace (And this idea got made into a movie… sigh)
2 – Zzzzzzzzzz…
1 – Sorry, I have to go return some video tapes.
Cards Against Humanity (because I feel my inner Patrick Bateman when asked to play this game)
I play more games than I can review, and I know how reviews can get lost in the ocean of data out there.
My solution to all this is to offer a living document that will change over time, so you can view how I currently rate Asian board games.
On BGG, I’ll only rate Asian board games that I’ve played, and I’ll update my ratings with each play.
I won’t use decimals either. I just feel that you need to make a decision. Is it a 7 or an 8? Don’t take the lazy route and give it a 7.5. Make a decision. Don’t worry. You can always change your mind as I plan to do with this living rating system.
I can recommend games, but I understand that shipping from Asia isn’t always affordable—especially lately. I assume that if you’re reading this blog that (1) you’re awesome (give yourself a round of applause) and (2) you can afford the occasional game from Asia.
Living in Asia, I’m able to get games here significantly earlier and cheaper. That’s why I’m here. I play, review, and share my thoughts on these games, so you can decide what’s best for you. I’m just glad you’re open to games from different cultures. Living abroad I have learned that different cultures tell different stories, and more importantly, play different games.