Fairway’s Review Rubric

In all of my reviews, I use a final score based on golf’s scoring system: Eagle, Birdie, Par, and One over Par.  Hypothetically, a game could get a “Hole in One” or “Double Bogie” or higher.  I thought I’d share my methodology and an explanation of how games get scores and why I don’t have a numeric ranking.

Relative Scoring

First, I use golf’s relative scoring terminology.  In golf, each hole is different and the number of strokes a player can take to score a “birdie” will vary.  On a “par 5” hole, a player is expected to get into the hole in five strokes (i.e., a par). A “birdie” on that same hole is four strokes.  On another “easier” hole, a par might only be three strokes.

I use the same relativistic terminology when scoring games.  What this means is that I’m judging games based on their competitors.  In this way, I can judge a light weight card game is judged against other light weight card games and not have to compare components with a heavy Euro replete with thick cardboard, lots of bits and bobs, and complex strategies.

The Scoring

For my purpose, I apply this relative scoring to derive a ranking for the following scores when comparing a game to its competitors.  A competitor is really any game in a category with similar game play, play time and anticipated complexity.

Eagle: The game is in the best games I’ve ever played and far exceeds expectations on design, mechanics, production, art, and replayability. There is a very high likelihood that someone who enjoys games in this category is going to enjoy this one.

Birdie: The game is better than similar games in its design, mechanics, production, art and replayability. Games in this category often demonstrate something that separates itself from a vast majority of games, and I think there’s a good chance that others will enjoy this game.

Par: The game is basically what you’d expect from the game. I don’t have any real faults in any of the main categories. Often games in this category live up to exactly their description. Players are likely to enjoy this one if they enjoy similar games.

One over Par: The game is not quite what was possible or expected in terms of design, mechanics, production, art and replayability. While there are likely players who will enjoy the game, it has a higher than average chance of disappointing others.

Other scores:  I’ve yet to have a two-over par or a hole in one, but both are possible.  I have had at least one game I refused to score (unscored) based on difficulty of completing my rubric during the review.

The Rubric

As hinted at above, there are essentially five, evenly weighted, items I look at:

What? Description
Design Is this a well-designed game?
Does it present any unnecessary challenges to the players or to game play?
Does it feel like this game was playtested?
Mechanics Does the game make good use of its chosen mechanics?
Does it fit with the art and theme of the game?
Are there good player choices?
Production Does the game use nice components?
Does it make good use of the components?
Art / Theme Does the game look good?
Is the art well-used throughout?
Is the graphic design pleasant, functional?
Does the theme make sense?
Is there an integration of the theme with the game play?
Does the theme impact the player?
Replayability Other than playing to learn the game, would I play this game again?
Would I voluntarily suggest this game to play at a game night?
Would I introduce this game to new players?

Impact of this rubric on previews

One note about game previews which do not always have the luxury of shipping with high quality components or complete art.

For these games, I will give a pass on component quality and look to whether they make good use of what they ship. If there’s a Kickstarter preview, I will some times look to what the publisher/designer says will be in the final production version.

Similarly, I will sometimes base my art scores solely on the art as it’s presented to me but will give it the benefit of the doubt where I know there will be changes when going to press.  Like components, I’ll sometimes look to a Kickstarter page to see what if any changes are likely.