The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A brief thought on game ratings

I believe actions speak louder than words, so a rating system should reflect it. I mean, BGG has a difference between 6 and 7 and 8, but these are pretty fine grained. For me, anyway.

I’m comfortable with Michelin style ratings. Why not port it to board games, although I do think (unlike Michelin) there’s value in distinguishing “Mediocre” from “Crappy.”

How about
Zero Stars — I avoid this. This is a truly bad game.
One Star — I’ll play this, but not often (and perhaps only to be polite).
Two Stars — I’ll suggest this, and play it frequently. I own it (or would if necessary, or possible).
Three Stars — I play this often, and frequently suggest it. Worth scheduling a game day around, if longer.

We could add “Four Stars” for a lifestyle game (one played to the near exclusion of all others), but that’s fine. Perhaps I should adjust it so that “No stars” is neutral. Borrowing a page from Fudge, let’s make these adjectives.

  • Avoid — I won’t play this
  • Indifferent — I’ll play this out of politeness, but won’t suggest it
  • Suggest — I like this game, and suggest it
  • Enthusiastic — Play this often, suggest it.

The great thing about the guide (for me) is that I’m constantly thinking “Is this game a 6 or 7?” but I have no trouble at all looking lumping games into those four categories. (I’m pretty quick to avoid a game; but I have a large, varied game group where people don’t take offense …)

Another thing is “How do I feel about games I haven’t played before and have heard little about?” 5 Years ago, my default was “Suggest” but now I’m leaning towards “Indifferent.”

As for BGG, well, the ratings roughly map

  • Avoid is 0-3. Why that needs 3 ratings is beyond me.
  • Indifferent is 4-5, maybe 4-6. I do think having subratings is fine.
  • Suggest is 6-8 (some overlap, because I do think there may be boarderline cases where I’m indifferent if I’ve played it recently, but it’s OK every now and then)
  • Enthusiastic is 9-10.

Written by taogaming

December 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I like this approach, and agree that it accurately reflects the real world sorting that goes on in my head when looking at game collections. However, your comment about games I’ve never played before made me go check my BGG ranks, and I now realize that my default rank for a game I’ve never played before is ~6.5, which I find very interesting. It brought to my attention that there are a lot of 6s that I really don’t care if I never play again, a rating that in my head was a 5. So for me Avoid is 0-4, Indifferent is 5-6, Suggest is 7-8, and Enthusiastic is 9-10.

    Lou W

    December 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  2. Why not just use BGG ranks rather than ratings? Then you get all of the nice benefits of per user rating normalization, small sample size bias removal, and a meaningful reminder of the opportunity cost (according to the population, there are 350 better games than this one).


    December 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    • I am not sure what you mean by “BGG Ranks”

      Like, this game is ranked #1 at BGG? That doesn’t do anything for my personal rating…(although my personal rating counts towards it). This is just a way to quickly rate games in a way that is useful.


      December 3, 2011 at 8:10 pm

  3. The 0 to 3 stars system is clean. Kind of like the Love / Like / Neutral / Not-for-me system that the Opinionated Gamers use. Whether a game is “good” is very subjective though, and because of that, I think the reader needs to understand the preferences / tastes of the writer before he interprets the number of stars (or rating) given to a game. E.g. when interpreting the BGG ratings, we have to be aware that most raters are tilted towards heavier Eurogames.

    Hiew Chok Sien

    December 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm

  4. I’ve felt the same thing about BGG’s 10 point scale so I’ve never bothered to rate any games. However, if everyone else uses it, I find some value when looking at games ranked 7.3 and above (sort of my benchmark for good games) and 6.9 and under.
    I had my own 5 point scale but it wasn’t that useful. The best scale for me is the opinionatedgamers 4 point scale (love it, like it, neutral, not for me). Those are the only four categories I need to assess a game’s value to me. Ultimately, one’s opinion will fall into one of those categories.


    December 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    • I suppose my scale is effectively the same as the Opinionated Gamers, although for their name “Not for me” is kind of a wimpy way of putting it.


      December 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

      • There was actually a LOT of discussion about the rating system we wanted to employ on Opinionated Gamers, but I think the 4 point scale we eventually agreed on has worked very well. The wording of the “Not for me” rating was carefully considered. It allowed us to be negative about a game without being judgmental, as a game could get that rating because it didn’t suit the rater or because it was genuinely bad. It was deliberately “wimpy”, as you put it, because we wanted to be able to give a thumbs down without actually insulting anyone. Part of that was because we all know a lot of people in the industry and part of it was that we simply didn’t want the responsibility of being that harsh. Whether that makes us cowardly or just not that full of ourselves is up to you to decide.

        My original proposal was for a five-point “Love”, “Like”, “Meh”, “Dislike”, and “Hate” scale, but I’m glad we went with the one we currently use. (Okay, what I REALLY proposed was a 10-point scale from 7.0 to 7.9, but those fools at OG didn’t understand the wonderful subtlety involved!)

        My personal rating system is a 15-point scale, with all the integers from 1 to 10 and all the halves from 5.5 to 9.5. I have a very good feel for what each of these represents and, like you, it’s based on how much I like the game and how likely I am to suggest it. That does a very good job of presenting my relative ranking of games, but if you’re trying to convey to someone what you think of a game, a four or five point scale probably works best. It’s just too hard getting someone to understand how you differentiate between a 7.0 rating and a 7.5 one.


        December 5, 2011 at 12:07 am

  5. I like the scheme, and yes, my default has moved from Suggest to Indifferent over the years as well.


    December 4, 2011 at 12:47 am

  6. I’ve long been a fan of a four-point system virtually identical to the one you propose. Until recently, it was usually met with derision or indifference. As you state, I think one of its strengths is the certainty of a game’s rating. Given only four “buckets”, it’s clear into which I would place any game. With ten, I’m far more likely to be indecisive based on the most recent playing, my mood, etc.

    Greg Aleknevicus

    December 5, 2011 at 2:53 am

  7. I love this system. I will use it for all time. I do not look at a single BGG rating anymore, as the comments already here suggest; it is far too squishy and subjective to be of any use. More than a few buckets just indicates that the user would like to spend more time bucket-fiddling. I’ll take this simple, clear approach over anything. Thanks!

    Charley Eastman

    December 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

  8. I don’t tend to think about BGG’s ratings overly much, primarily because I don’t consider them hard and fast and I certainly don’t have a problem with changing them. I agree that it is probably over-precise, and you’ve articulated well why. Still, some people enjoy that unneeded precision and a site like BGG has a tough time getting a one size fits all system.

    If you confine yourself to rating things either 1,4,7 or 10 on BGG I think that captures your system pretty well.


    December 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm

  9. I used the 0 – 3 stars system on my website years ago, before BGG fired up. It did the job just fine.

    3 stars – top shelf stuff, I own/want to own this game.
    2 stars – solid, happy to play this game.
    1 star – okay, take it or leave it stuff – have to be in the mood.
    0 stars – broken.

    I ported my reviews and ratings into the BGG comments/ranking system, but greatly prefer a simpler system. I guess we’re not going back now.


    December 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    • Doug, do you own games you would rate a 1? And does a game have to be “broken” to be a 0? Are there games you strongly dislike for whatever reason besides being broken is what I’m wondering. I like your system, but it’s not quite clear to me.


      December 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: