5 Steps to Choosing the Right Board Game
By Trent Howell
Most people visiting board game sites are looking for new board games or card games to buy for their family. Or they’ve heard about a board game and are looking to find out more about it.
Once they visit, they can easily be swept away in considering so many great games to choose between.
So let’s cut to the chase and lay out How to Choose a Game.
Here are 5 simple steps, or questions to answer, when evaluating what game to buy.
- Who will you play the game with?
The first thing to consider is who is going to play the game.
Game publishers try to help out a bit by listing a few common features about a game to identify the target audience. The typical thing you’ll find out about a game is number of players, target age of players, and length of time the game should take to play.
While those are very important, they aren’t the only things to consider. Those are just numbers on a box. And we know that your friends and family members aren’t just numbers.
Don’t just go off of those simple-to-list numbers on the game box.
Think of the people themselves.
Who will you actually sit down and play the game with? Imagine yourself inviting them to play and actually sitting down to the table with them.
Which leads to our second step…
- What type of game experience will those players enjoy?
Beyond the number of players, age, and time for the game, a more important element to keep in mind is the game experience itself.
It’s not about the game, it’s about the experience.
Unfortunately, that can’t be put so easily on a box.
What type of game will give the experience you’re looking for when you play with those players?
The box artwork and descriptions may help with this question. But beware, because the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be applied to board games and card games as well.
That’s why written and video reviews of board games exist – so people can get a better feel for the game itself. Watching and reading reviews is the best way to find out what the game experience will be like.
Are the players you’re going to play the game with interested in deep thinking and strategy or do they prefer games that are full of luck? Are they interested in games that are heavily themed or do they like more abstract play?
When imagining the game experience itself, you should also consider the next question…
- When will you play the game?
Sure most games are played in the evenings, but that’s not all you should consider as part of this step.
Are you looking for a game to be played over a long holiday weekend when extended family get-togethers? Is it for a regular game night with friends or a special occasion? Is it for a lazy afternoon with the kids or just before putting youngsters to bed?
All of those situations may call for a different type of game. The same game you’ll want to play at a party definitely won’t be good for getting kids to bed. (Unless you like trying to put wound-up kids to bed.)
Part of this step is also figuring out how often the game will be played.
How often will you have a chance to play a game with the people you have in mind? Is it a game that you’ll play frequently or only once in a long while?
Picturing when and how often a game will be played is also a key part of the steps to follow…
- Do you already have a game like it?
This step may be more suited to my game buying process than the typical family. But it’s useful nonetheless.
With so many different types of games available, we suggest going for a variety of game options on the game shelf.
If you already have a good worker-placement, deck-building, or trick-taking game you enjoy, look for something different this time.
Think of it this way, given the same setting – players and time – would you choose to play a game you already have of this type or would you pull out this new game you’re considering. If you’ve watched a video review before this step you should already have a good feel of whether it will be a duplicate experience of playing something you already own.
I’ll add one caveat in this arena: Game expansions. Getting a game expansion for a game you already love may add to your fun gaming experience.
- Bang for the Buck
After going through the first 4 steps, you’ll know what you’re looking for in a game as well as what it’s worth to you.
Once you know what a game is worth to you, then take a look at the price. Then you’ll know if you’ve found a good value.
If you’re going to play a game a lot, it will be worth more to you and you’ll be willing to pay a bit more for it. If you won’t play a game as often, but when you do, the experiences will be fantastic; likewise you’ll consider it more valuable.
And on the other hand, even if a game only costs $15 it may be a waste of money for you if it’s not a game you’ll like playing.
So don’t consider the price of a game as a separate element. Instead, you should evaluate the price in conjunction with all the steps above.
Give these 5 steps a try next time you’re looking to buy a game.
Trent Howell writes about Family Board Games, Card Games, and Party Games onTheBoardGameFamily.com