MK here as your host again this week. Today we will tackle a tough topic!
I have been asked plenty of times by people who have been to our site at MKTabletop.com, "How do I pick the right game for (me/my child/my friends)?" So here are a few simple ways that you can feel confident that you are making the right purchase for your intended group or individual.
Short of going over the details of each game in depth, reading every single description and then combing through countless reviews online, you should start by narrowing your field of choices.
Let’s get down to business and I will walk you through the easiest way I know to narrow down the field when choosing a Game. Just ask yourself these 5 questions.
1) Who are you playing with?While most game publishers give you basic information listed on the box, these guidelines will not be everything you need to know about the game. The most common "target audience" identifiers include the number of players, recommended age of players, and the approximate amount of time the game should take to play. These are very important bits of information to have, but they are not the first thing to consider.
It can help you to know that you have six people to play, so a game that supports up to four will not be sufficient. Sure it gives you an age range, but this is based not on the game itself, just on the mental requirements to understand the game play. Yes, it is great to know you will be filling a 1 hour block of time, so a game that plays in two and a half hours is not worth breaking out as you will spend your entire time learning the game and not be able to enjoy it.
So for now, forget those numbers on the box. It's time to really ask who are you playing with?
Will it be your family? Some close friends? Are you bringing a game as a way to pass time with some classmates? How many people will be there? Think about exactly who might be there and willing to play a game. Now picture yourself actually sitting down to the table with them.
Got it? Now you are prepared for the next question!
2) What kind of game do those people prefer?Let's leave the numbers on the box alone for another minute as we think about the group around the table. Playing a game in this manner is not about what game you have out to play. It is really all about the experience you have with the people playing the game! Again the manufacturer will have a few hints about the game on the box with elaborate artwork and some catch phrases on the front and a few shots of the game with some flavor text on the back. These might actually help you out a little!
If you know the group you will be playing with are big fans of Game of Thrones, looking at the numerous games based on the books and television series could be an easy way to get them interested. Knowing the interests of the people you plan to play with can really help, but do keep in mind that Tabletop Games, just like any other product on the market, has been designed the way it was in order to sell the product. Just like picking out your next Netflix title, or looking for a replacement novel series for the one you just finished, you are judging by the cover! This (as many of us know from MANY poor decisions based on the cover) method will not always pick you a winner.
If you have a game in mind that is based on the box or description this would be a good time to read one or two reviews, or watch one or two videos on YouTube about that specific game. You don't need more than a couple sources to get a basic feel for the game itself and be able to decide if the one you are looking at is still in the running. I do highly suggest that you look at more than one review! If you can find opposing reviews, even better! If one guy you have never met made a five minute video about how amazing this game is, he might have very different tastes than you, he might even be getting a kickback from the company he is reviewing the game for. If you find someone who almost always seems to recommend a winner, stick with them!
More important things to consider include game style. Do you think the people you are playing with would prefer a game of deep woven strategy where as long as they keep mentally ahead they can win, or is more fun to be had in the random-anything-can-happen stylings of games such as Quelf? Would they even like a game with a theme such as horror or superheroes? Perhaps an abstract game that is unattached to a theme?
Got it? Moving on to the next question!
3) When will the game be played?Knowing the time of day is great and can be useful in some situations for example, a horror game would be best played at night. But the hour in which you play is not the only things to consider. How long will you be playing the game? Are you getting together for a few hours? Sitting in a secluded cabin all weekend and there is a chance of rain? Will you be playing regularly, or once with this group? Is this going to be your pre-bedtime game so you need to keep it calm, or are you looking to liven up a party?
Each of these situations might call for a different game. So ask yourself, how often will I be playing this game? If you plan to play the game a lot, you might want to make sure your game has plenty of replay value. You don't want to play the game half a dozen times and be over it, or have seen everything it has to offer. In the same vein, if you think it will only get played once, aim for something that is not overly pricey, and may not have any replay value. I once played a great game of puzzles and riddles that, while a whole ton of fun, only had one set of brain teasing situations to play through and therefore had no replay value.
Got it? Here comes the next question!
4. Is this game any different than the one I already have?This might seem like a silly question, but if you are buying the game for yourself, or for someone you know that loves games, knowing what they/you already have is quite important. If your friend is always raving about how much they like Cards Against Humanity, than perhaps getting them Apples to Apples is not going to be the best choice. Not only do they already have a game that is very similar, but they have one that is far more edgy and can make the other one seem ...tame. On the other hand, if you know they prefer card games over board games, you have just eliminated a LOT of options! Find out what they have, or want and it becomes even easier.
If you are wanting to buy a game for a group get-together and you already have one at home very much like the one you are considering, can you not just bring the one you already have? Maybe you have already played the game so many times and are afraid it will get old? Have you checked to see if there is an expansion for it? This could be a cheaper choice than buying a whole new base game you know nothing about while giving longer, fuller life to one you already own and love.
Got it? Let's go ahead and hit the last question!
5) Will this game give me my moneys' worth?I hope by applying the first four questions to your wish list it has shortened. Maybe it wasn't that long to begin with! Regardless it is time to apply everything you have put together so far. By now you should have a decent idea what kind of game you are looking for. If you haven't applied those numbers on the box yet, now would be the time!
Take a look at your remaining list. Now that you know it will fit your group, that it will properly fill your time slot, and that it it is a game that does not duplicate something you/they already have, it is time to put a price tag on entertainment.
DO NOT look at the price tag on the game yet. Take a moment to think. What is it worth to you to have this game on the table? When it comes to your pricing, think what you would pay for a piece of entertainment that either is a one shot deal (price of a movie with popcorn and a soda) or is this something you want to settle in and play for a while (a TV series lasting many hours over numerous sittings)? If the game has a lot of replay value, has some amazing artwork and quality game pieces that you know will keep you playing it for years it will be worth more to you than another game you might play once and let live in the closet for years before it again sees the light of day. Do not consider the price a separate topic! It is a part of the whole process in determining the perfect game to buy. You should be willing to pay more for a game you will want to play a lot. So if you know it is going to be a good game, what is that worth to you?
Do you have a price in mind? Now compare your price to the one listed. If it is equal or below what you had in mind, go for it! If it is above your price you can either remove it from the options, or ask yourself why. Does it offer an experience above what you thought it did? Is it just overpriced? Have you compared the price to other games? How does it compare? Sometimes the quality of the game and the pieces within it make a big price difference. Sometimes the difference is that they payed for the ability to put (insert favorite trade marked theme here) on the box.
I would suggest when your list gets small enough to not feel too daunting, hit the web for reviews. Nothing will give you a better idea of what is in the box than a detailed breakdown of the contents and the game play. The review might also affect the price that you personally give the game! It might make you more excited, or less enthusiastic.
I do hope this has been helpful. I know with all of the different options out there it can be a touch intimidating. But next time you face the issue, just think of these five questions and see how well it works for you!
With all of this said there are flow charts that can help. There is no way that anyone could conceivably create an all inclusive version as games are released almost daily worldwide, and many thousands of games already exist. But here is a good one from Silver Oak Casino!
Until Next time ...Game On!