Deciding Gaming Opinions

Supporter
I "lurk" a lot on other board game sites and FB groups. I feel like I often see gamers trash a game as "bad" when its just not one that fits their preference. So how do you tell between a game that was genuinely not designed quite right and one that just isn't for you? 

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Supporter7 months ago

I feel pretty free to say that I don't like game X, no matter how popular it is. I'll even say that I didn't think it was fun, or it wasn't challenging, or it was too derivative, or..... But to say a game is actually bad is a different deal. But there are things that I think make a game bad.

  1. If the rulebook makes it impossible to learn the game... I've seen rulebooks describing components that didn't exist, I've seen rulebooks with sections that contradict each other, I've seen rulebooks that were translated from one language to another and the translated version didn't have the same rules as the original.... To be clear, I'm not merely talking about rulebooks that don't jive with one's learning style. I'm talking about rulebooks that are fundamentally broken. 
  2. Naked retheme without any mechanical change. Think of all the versions of monopoly out there. "you don't like houses but you like horses, could I interest you horse'opoly?" of course there are rethemes that actually change the mechanics. There are some quite good versions of #Risk for instance. 

Other than that, I think it is mostly subjective. If course.... There could be the question of what is a game? Is a puzzle a game? I don't believe it goes the definition, but maybe some would. What about solitaire? Do you need to have others involved? 

Supporter7 months ago

Some really good points. I agree

7 months ago

Honestly? I look for opinions from other people who look like me. It's easy to be really loud and dump on every game that isn't #Terraforming Mars (which seems like a lovely game that I absolutely have not played yet) when you're a BNF in a particular space. 

It's also a huge red flag when most games are "bad" or "awful" instead of "poorly designed" or "confusing" or "not my style of gaming." If a poster or reviewer can't tell the difference between "wow, I just hate playing like this" and "I'm pretty sure the instructions were written by a chicken with an iPhone so autocorrect helped out 30% of the time" then I'm not sure I should trust much of what they say. 

I zone out a lot on game previews and overviews and rules chats. If I honestly can't focus up enough to get through 3-4 thoughtful minutes from someone who likes to play the game and is decent at teaching it, I know the game isn't for me right now. But if I can't ever find anyone who can coherently explain the game, I know the game is bad. There aren't many bad games I've run across yet, but I own at least one with rules that are just kinda...flat. No one really enjoys playing it, but the designers tried. I wish they'd play-tested it more with people who were sober. 

Supporter7 months ago

That's an interesting point about if reviewers can coherently explain the game consistently... I'll pay more attention to that when I'm looking at other games. 


7 months ago

As a reviewer, this is something I always have to keep in mind and, for some games, think very hard about. The games I've played that I thought were "bad" were maybe not so much bad as incomplete. This is generally just for pre-Kickstarter games as well. Of course, there are exceptions.

I can usually tell when a game is just not to my liking versus being "bad." For example, I don't particularly care for #The Castles of Burgundy (shame on me, I know), but despite me not connecting with it, I can see why it's "good," or why people love it and that it has value. 

Ultimately, I think that if a game isn't designed well, it gives the player a feeling of being incomplete, it doesn't do what it said it would do, the mechanics get in the way of the game, the theme gets in the way of the mechanics (and vice versa), and similar things. 

I think, many times, a "bad" game is simply not finished. As you may have deduced from reading this, "bad" is determined by the player, as there are no official resources we can use to categorize one game as bad and one as good. I hesitate to say that a "good" game will be popular among many (see BGG's rankings), because there are many amazing games that people simply don't know about, so judging it off of popularity, while effective for some, is a broken measurement. 

Great question, James!

Supporter7 months ago

Great insights. I had hoped this would bring up this kind of discussion. Being a reviewer is tough because your audience is looking for you to tell them which games are good and which ones to avoid so you somewhat have to make those decisions often. 

Supporter7 months ago

I feel so much more enlightened after reading this post. I agree that as a community we often substitute “good” for “popular”. We don’t want to miss out on games so we all chase the same popular ones. Often the “popular” games are the good ones, but how many are we missing out on simply because no one knows about them?

Supporter7 months ago

That’s true... and then there always seems to be additional scrutiny on that “popular” game and inevitably some sort of “flaw or imbalance” is found. I’m sure there are a ton of really good games that go unnoticed because they aren’t popular and don’t sell as well. This means publishers have to move on to other games that are actually making them money leaving these other good games to be enjoyed by the relative few who found these gems. 

7 months ago

I mean, it's probably a safe bet (for the most part) if a game is popular, then it is "good." Thankfully, not everyone is of the same mindset (or else the world would be a boring place), so we're naturally going to get these differing opinions.

One example of a game I really enjoy that is flying under the radar is #Fire Tower. I discovered it at Origins last year, sat down and played with the designer and two random people, and just loved it. Sure, it won't be for everyone, but it's a neat game and very well done. In fact, it's quite unheard of, for the most part. And if this is just one game I discovered to be great, how many more are out there that I/we don't know about?

Supporter7 months ago

It is probably a safe bet that many people will like it. I think I’ve generally liked most of the popular games that I’ve gotten to play but my wife and game group haven’t necessarily liked those same games too. 

7 months ago

This is an excellent topic!  I hate it when someone   gives a game a bad rating and then justifies it with “rubbish game” or “ didn’t like it” or whatever. I’d like to know was it a poorly designed game, and if so, what didn’t work?  If you are going to rubbish a game, you owe the designers and developers an explanation. 

Supporter7 months ago

Thank you! I do think that it’s nearly impossible to design a game where everyone loves it and finds it perfect. Humans just have too much variation in likes and dislikes. 

7 months ago

I tend to try and do my own research. Watch videos, read all different opinions, etc. I am typically able to tell what is a game I will like and what is a game I will not if I can learn enough about it despite other peoples opinions. 

Supporter7 months ago

Same here. I can definitely be swayed by one reviewer’s enthusiasm and another’s poo pooing but usually I feel like I can make up my own mind after seeing a few reviews. This is why I like watching many reviewers because I can contextualize their good or bad review based on the other games that they’ve liked or haven’t liked in the past. 

7 months ago

I totally agree. My first review of #Root I watched was with SUSD and they really did not like it, then I started talking to more people here and read more reviews and realized that I actually would like it! Thankfully I did because I do enjoy the game a lot now.  

Supporter7 months ago

There's definitely no problem with waiting and getting some opinions before making a purchase! I'm glad you like Root! It's one that I'm dying to get a play in

7 months ago

I have definitely changed my tune on a lot of games because I did this, so I definitely am all about it. 

Supporter7 months ago

For sure!

7 months ago

It's all subjective. Captain Sonar is a great example. I usually over invite for that since you never know who might cancel last minute but sometimes everybody shows up so as the host I've sat out as the 9th person and just watched because it's such an exciting game to view from both sides. One group it was their greatest board gaming experience ever. Another group thought 'it was just ok'. I was stunned. Looking back the first group had more heated rivalries in the match up as opposed to the more laid back second group that didn't have as long of a history with each other. There are so many variables that go into the experience that we should just keep an open mind but of course we need to be discerning with our money. I think the more you play you become aware of what mechanics scratch your itch. I also generally will find a reviewer that has similar taste and let them guide me a bit but there is only one you.

Supporter7 months ago

Yep I agree. Some games really seem to be amazing with one group but fall flat with others. My one play of Viticulture was one such flat play but I’m really wanting to play again with a different varied group to really get a better sense. I’m still tempted to trade it away based on the lukewarm response of the one play.