Recently I was watching a youtuber (@BoardGame_Co) discussing whether or not it was okay to review a game after a single play and of course the answer is never cut and dry, as with any of these discussion topics.
For example, a single use game, like the Exit series cannot be replayed so it would be difficult and tedious for a reviewer to go through it multiple times. However some games, like a legacy or campaign game offer alternate routes through them and only playing through the game once might mean that the review would be incomplete. In these circumstances I believe a reviewer needs to at least look at what content they missed and consider how that might have altered their experience.
I think the key distinction here is that a review and an opinion are two different things. How you feel after a single play is your opinion, where as a review should be more rounded, it should take a measured and considered approach, looking at the game from multiple viewpoints. Even if you don't like the game, it doesn't mean it's bad and multiple plays of a game can reveal your initial summation is wrong or confirm your original bias.
Some of the most prolific reviewers for Board Games are putting out multiple reviews a day, which begs the question, how on earth are they playing them all? And to what depth?
So, what about us here at Unboxed? What’s our magic number? Well, that all depends on which review series the game is being considered for.
The Unboxed Reviews
When I do a full Unboxed review I will play the game at least ten times and almost always write the review within a week of playing the game so that the experiences are fresh in my mind. If a game doesn’t make it to ten plays it likely won’t get a review and with more and more games coming out it’s harder and harder to get ten plays of anything.
Why ten? It’s an arbitrary number for sure, but it’s a nice solid number of plays that gives me a chance (in most games) to experience different characters and player powers and discover multiple paths to victory. It also lets me know if the shine wears off after a few plays and if a game, while fun, actually only really offers a singular experience.
In a few very rare circumstances I will review a game before I hit ten plays if I think I have already discovered everything there is to find in the game and likely won't be returning to the game once the review is out.
Many times when I know I wont be getting a game to the table again I do a First Impressions post, they are not always done after the first game, but they are, by admission, not a deep dive into the tactics and strategy. There are many reasons a game might only get a first impressions review, but the primary ones are complexity, play length and dislike.
If a game is complex I will find it harder to get to the table and will have fewer settings where players are willing to play it. With long games they tend to hit the table less just due to their length. Games like Battlestar Galactica, which I love, only hits the table once a year, so each game is a relearning experience which I feel makes me unqualified to write an indepth review of the game. Finally dislike, I tend not to write reviews for games I don’t like, it takes a lot of time and effort and unusually it just isn't worth it. However if I have been sent a review copy and need to put out a review then I will, but often I will label it as a first impressions review because I don’t feel I played it enough, I just know I didn’t like it.
Game Night Reviews & Weekend Warrior
The Game Night series is a series of reviews based on singular experiences, that is the game is being played as part of our monthly game night.This means that the review is not always of the game but of how it was received by the group. King of Tokyo, for example, is a game I love but the game night review of it reflects the time and group that was playing it. So for this series the review is done, usually after a single play, although I will have, oftentimes, played the game plenty of times myself.
Weekend Warrior is also an experience based series and so will often feature ‘reviews’ but in a more relaxed less structured form, often focusing on the experience and not the minutiae of gameplay and rules.
Lord of the Rings & Marvel Champions LCG
The two LCG’s that get a lot of time here are reviewed differently. The Lord of the Rings reviews are put out after I beat a scenario, which could be after a single play or anywhere upto 25 plays. However the review always spends some time looking at the scenario cards, even if they didn’t feature heavily in my own play throughs.
The Marvel Champions reviews have so far focused primarily on the Hero Packs and each review is released only after I beat all six currently available scenarios in solo with that hero. This generally means I’ve spent a week playing each hero and learning their strengths and weaknesses before I feel comfortable giving a review.
The 100 Club
Our final review series rather speaks for itself. The 100 Club is a series of reviews for games that I have played at least one hundred times and usually will have already reviewed previously. The 100 Club is intended as a series that looks back to an old review and considers how the game has changed over time and why it has stuck around in my collection long enough to hit 100 plays.
Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the inner workings of the site. How many plays do you think is enough for a review? Let us know in the comments down below.