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Subject: What Do You Look For in a Game? rss

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Matt
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What elements of a game do you look for before you decide to buy it? Is it the quality of parts, the artwork and colors, the mechanics? Are there other elements you look for before you buy?

Assume that you have never played the game and it wasn't recommended by a friend who may have the same tastes as you do. In short, you are flying blind, and only have your judgment to rely upon.

 
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Cynthia Landon
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Hi Matt,

I always look for mechanics first. To me, it doesn't matter how cute the components are if the mechanics are boring or just not fun to me. We greatly prefer auction/bidding games such as Ra or Medici so and we tend to dislike most games with dice or other elements that have a high luck factor. Therefore, I'd rarely consider a dice/luck game and almost always at least take a serious look at an auction game.

But that is the great thing about BGG. You don't need friends to recommend games because you have thousands of people on this site rating and reviewing games. We've made very few poor game purchases thanks to BGG. (We rarely consider a buying game with lower than a 7 rating - I'm sure we're missing a few good ones but we only have so much money after all!)

 
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Mike zebrowski
United States
Unspecified
Minnesota
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Assuming that I have zero knowledge about the game and don't have a chance to research it online first....

I look at the bits first. If I can use the bits for a different game, the odds of me buying the game without researching it first jumps sky high. Even if the game sucks, I can still use the bits.

Mike Z


 
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Mark Crane
United States
Orem
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It's hard to tell the mechanic from looking at the box, but I want something that plays well, isn't brutally heavy, and has cool theme and bits, something that can get play at home with my wife but not be insultingly simple to a more advanced group. for $20. With a thriving user community that creates free expansions.
 
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J Mathews
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Renton
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What I look for in a game has sort of evolved over the last few years. I used to look for awesome bits and intriguing cover art. As a result I ended up getting games that turned out to be dogs (read Eagle Games) Now I am a little more specific- I want games that are playable with 2 players and yet have multi-player possibilities, are playable in 1-3 hours, have interesting concepts/mechanics, and are easy to teach and learn. Since redefining my wants I have had a much more success buying games that get played and we have fun with.
 
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james napoli
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Westwood
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For me the mechanics, interaction and the theme are the most important aspects. i know that to please everyone in my group, who are by this stage pretty open minded a game should have a few key aspects. it should take under 2 hours to play, there should be a decent level of interaction and ultimately if it's gonna be a fun theme than it makes it easier to listen to a length rules explanation.
 
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Sandy G.
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For me, the first thing I look for in a game is that it plays with 2 players. I mostly play with my boyfriend, so 2 player is a must. Also, the theme must be appealing to me. I like shorter games, anything with game play over an hour or an hour and a half is just getting too long for me. Finally, I look to mechanic, for example, I know that I like tile laying/placement so if a game has that I am more interested in it. A combination of these things will make a game for me.
 
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Allen Reeves
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Akron
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Rather than "I buy games that have the following" for me it is usually a process of "I eliminate games that have the following."

First, does the very short blurb on the back of the box sound interesting. If the game can't be made to sound interesting by the maker, I just assume that it isn't fun. I use the same theory with movies; if they can't make a 3 minute trailer that is good I assume that 90+ minutes is going to be painful.

Second, quality of bits. I assume that cheap bits = (bad) cheap game. It doesn't have to have the greatest bits, but it does need to have a minimal level of bits.

Third, number of people required vs. time. Generally the more people it takes the less time it should take. Finding 4 people to play a 4+ hour game is about 50 times easier than finding 6 people to play a 10+ hour game (Advanced Civ anyone?) Beware - some games lie about how many they really play and how long they really take.

Fourth, mechanics. I'd rather play a really good game that has a mechanic that I don't care for over a really bad game with a mechanic that I love. Usually folded into this category is replayability. How much use do I think I'm going to get out of the game. Is it going to become stale after repeated plays. This is generally where party games and simpler senario type games fall down.

Fifth, cost as a function of the above. The lower the cost the more I'm willing to take a chance on a game.

Sixth, reviews, game reports, and other such information. It can help fill in the informational gaps but it also has to be taken in context as different people like different things.

Usually by this point I have plenty of things I want to buy and then just try and make a best guess.
 
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David Namaksy
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Dallas
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Simple - I would almost never buy a game with out researching it first. Either at BGG, friend, or playing it. The only exceptions to this; a game bought as a souvenir or memory of an event, or a game that was found at a thrift store that was really cheap.
 
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Mark Crane
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Orem
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I won't buy a game rated below 6.5 on this site, unless it's free/cheap.
 
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Skip Maloney
United States
Wilmington
North Carolina
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Reiner Knizia, Reiner Knizia, Reiner Knizia
Sid Sackson, Sid Sackson, Sid Sackson
Andreas Seyfarth, Andreas Seyfarth, Andreas Seyfarth (ET AL)
When I go to movies, I ignore the actors and actresses in the film, completely, and look to see who has a) directed it and b) written it. Familiarity with directors and writers will serve one far better in a search for a good movie than actors ever will (Some exceptions: when an actor has developed enough credibility to effectively choose only good films in which to act).
So, too, with games, IMHO. It's less about the bits, the mechanics and the balance between luck and skill (the 'actors' in a game) and more about the guy or gal who directed (designed) it. By the way, am I missing something? I could not, off the top of my head, come up with a female game designer. I'm sure it's just a gap in my education. Anyone care to enlighten me?
 
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Brian Thomas
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First, answer the question, "Who will I play this with?". A great game that does not get played is roughly the same as a $25 (or more) bookend. Except it's bigger, so your books wind up on some other shelf, or in a box - which is a big pain since you'll probably want to alleviate the pain of not being able to find people to play your new game by reading a good book. But I digress. Some games will almost find opponents for you, because non-gamers pick them up easily. But you will want to avoid, for instance, Twilight Imperium 3, if you don't know a few other TI3 fanboys already.

Second, as many others here have pointed out, you need not fly blind as long as you do a little browsing here on BGG. There are some great tools here to help you find others who have the same tastes as you. Once you do, look at what they've rated highly that you haven't tried yet.

Third, while the rating scheme here at BGG is far from an absolute measure of a game's value, a higher rating usually does mean more people like it, and therefore gives you a greater chance of liking it, and finding opponents (see first point). You can probably buy anything that seems interesting from the top 25 games, and like it. Once you've bought most of these, you'll decide you need to own most of the top 100. And by the time you buy all of those, you'll have a pretty good system for evaluating game buying decisions in place. As well as significant credit card debt.
 
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Seth Bell
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New Milford
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Every once in a while, I like to buy a game I haven't heard of, just for fun. When I walk into the game store, I usually have an idea of how many people I want to play the game with. The first thing that catches my attention is the cover art and theme, for obvious reasons. I check to see how many players the game accommodates. If it is the right amount of players, I read the description and look at the picture of the game. If it looks interesting, I check to see how long it takes. If it's longer than an hour and a half, I ditch it. I don't want to spend too much time on a game that I don't know anything about. I'll usually spend some time looking around and come back to about three games and then decide between them. This final decision is usually based on mechanics, if I can interpret them from the box. Otherwise, I just pick based on theme and bit quality.
 
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Matt
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I started the post so I'll weigh in now. Here is what I look for:

1. Box art gets my attention. That doesn't mean that I will buy the game, but it gets my attention enough to take it off the shelf to look at it.

2. I look for games that can be played with a minimum of two players because I play most of my games that way. If I need three or more, I won’t buy it.

3. I then look at the back of the box to see if the board and bits are interesting. I like boards that have nice artwork and seem to have allot going on. I like the bits to be interesting and well made for the money I am going to spend on the game.

4. Next is price. To date, the most I have spent on a game is probably around $30.00. The highest I would go would probably be around $50.00. The game would really have to look interesting though and the store would have to have a decent return policy if the game turned out to be a real flop.shake
 
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Jon David Faeth
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Step One: Find and read the rules. If a game has an interesting combination of mechanics that play to each other well, then I'm more likely to really look into the game.

Step Two: Will my group play this? Auctioning is touchy. It has to be something really interesting (Ra, for example). Bargaining, trading, negotiation, and chances for backstabbing is an almost guaranteed hit. Basically my group looks for player interaction, and plenty of it. Also, I usually have three players, and rarely do I ever have more than four. I love two-player games, but they almost never hit the table. I just get those for myself.

Step Three: Look at the bits. Where do the bits fit into my collection, as in, how can I use these when I'm making prototypes for one of my many unpublished games? OR Will my wife love these little pastel camels? caravan

Step Four: How much am I spending? Alas, I have a tight budget, and I really need to shop around before I make any big purchases. Most of my games tend to stay at or under $30. Most of the big games I own I found at a bargain or traded for. I also tend to look for ding & dent copies at the online stores. This is the final step, and usually the one that kills half of my intended buying.
 
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Andrew H
Australia
Brisbane
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essential ingredient: tension

Not all the following games are necessarily favourites but they all have tension which gives them at least some appeal.
Games from many styles/genres achieve tension and excitement in different ways.

Gambling/will they call my bluff tension: eg poker, bluff, auction games
Gambling what random act of chaos will come next tension: eg can't stop, poker, settlers, nuclear war etc
What are the other players going to do to me tension: citadels, verrater, meuterer, samurai, T&E
Will I be able to pull off this part of my plan tension: Chess, PR, T&E, Ticket to Ride
Something funny is about to make me laugh out loud tension: Apples to Apples, Balderdash/Dictionary etc
Paranoia everyone's trying to kill me tension: Werewolf(esp BGG style), Bang

I like the excitement and anticipation of not knowing what might happen next.
 
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Jennifer Stone
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Sedro-Woolley
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Because I don't belong to a game group at the moment and my opponents are mostly family members, I look for games that are family-friendly. My husband and 11 yo son are my primary opponents, so it also has to be something I think they would be interested in. Several games that were highly recommended here on BGG (i.e. Domaine, Hansa) flunked out big time with my 2 party-poopers. While I would love to try a lot more of the heavier games and popular games with auction/bidding mechanics, I know they wouldn't go over well with my family.

But there is always hope!

Some other things I take into consideration - theme, bits/quality, mechanics, is it different from what we currently have.

 
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K-Fresh
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Bellingham
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It has to have artwork that I like. A game might be a blast to play, but if I don't enjoy looking at the artwork, I'm not going to want to play it very often.

I recently picked up Skallywaggs -- inexpensive, takes up little space, pirates~! -- but looking through the deck, I grow more and more disenchanted with the art. Who knows if I'll ever get around to putting it on the table.

Carcassonne is one I resisted for a while because I don't like the cover art. The tiles are cute, though -- good enough!

Gloom -- the Gorey-rip-off-art honks me off enough that I've decided I don't like it, despite having never played it.

I only like Clue if it's the '70s version with the photo cards.

The Very Clever Pipe Game may be ten times better than my beloved Waterworks, but I'll never know, 'cause The Very Clever Pipe Game is too friggin' ugly to look at.

Etc.

--K
 
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Nate Cockerilll
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Greenfield
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Matt,
I am a sucker for theme. Though recently I've gotten this under control.
Now it's usually bits,designer,mechanics. I also am a fan of great artwork. This doesn't mean I won't buy a game with so-so art but if the art effects the gameplay I'm not buying.
Killjoy
 
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Matt
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Ah yes, themes. They get me too.
 
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