So, a while ago, I wrote an article titled How to Review a Board Game, which has been really well received. Teachers, new board game reviewers, and a few designers have reached out to me, thanking me for creating that resource.
But I’ve been thinking about my favorite reviews that I’ve read lately, and I noticed something. All my favorite reviews are actually not reviews at all. They’re criticism.
Reviews are for consumers. They try to answer the question “is this worth your money and time?” But criticism tries to answer much bigger questions about how the work fits into world. And I think I personally just find the latter much more intersting.
And in spirit of that, I’m replicating my previous article’s format about reviewing board games, but this time, for criticizing them.
Keep in mind, these questions are super open ended, and a good piece of criticism might only try to answer one of them, or find it’s own approach that doesn’t include any of these questions.
Questions that Criticism can try to answer
- What is the cultural context of this game, and how does the game speak to that?
- What are the interesting choices the author made, and how do they ultimately effect gameplay?
- What were the authors goals, and how does that speak to the cultural context?
- Does the project create a cohesive vision? If so, how do they work together,? Otherwise, what prevents this and what sort of tension/emotional response does it illicit?
- Does the game illicit a range of emotions?
- Does the theme/visual assets contribute to creating those emotional responses?
- What about the game isn’t familiar?
- Does this have a lasting place in the cannon of board games and or history? Who will be playing this game in 10 years?
- Will this game have a lingering impact on the creative decisions of future designers/publishers?
Questions that criticism does not answer
- Is this game worth the money?