Review Scores, Explained

It's impossible to boil a game down to a single number without losing all the nuances of the experience, and two games with identical ratings can have vastly different qualities with little or no overlap. That's why I don't like review scores.

But review scores are still important. In-depth reviews aren't always easy to parse, so having a final score can help bring everything together and make sense of all the nuances that may or may not impact the big picture of a given game.

Plus, when you're short on time, you may not be able to read every sentence of a sprawling review. Quick-glance scores are certainly useful then!

All of that to say, I strive to end all of my board game reviews with a score—more specifically, a star rating—that summarizes the pros, cons, and little details that make a game what it is. This score isn't meant to be a replacement for the review itself! You'll need to read the full thoughts to get the full picture.

Why I Use a 5-Star Scale

Since review scores are little more than summary values, I find 100-percent systems to be impractical. There's no meaningful distinction between, say, a game scoring 74% or 76%. To most people, both are "mid-70s."

A 10-point scale with decimals is the same thing—so that system is thrown out, too. (A game that scores 7.4 is no different than 74%.) If I were to use a 10-point scale, it would be with whole numbers only. But there are biases at play that tend to skew 10-point ratings, resulting in 7 points being "average."

That's why I prefer to use a 5-point scale with half points. And since most are familiar with the 5-star format used around the world, I'll stick to that.

What the Stars Mean

  • 0 Stars: Defective. A game that fundamentally doesn't work or is otherwise so deficient that I actually regret playing it.
  • 1–1.5 Stars: Substandard. A game I can't recommend because it sparks zero joy, feels tedious to play, or isn't worth the effort for the experience. I would actively avoid playing this if someone suggested it.
  • 2–2.5 Stars: Mediocre. A flawed, uninspired, or forgettable game that I could be convinced to play under the right conditions.
  • 3–3.5 Stars: Approved. A satisfactory game that's enjoyable enough, but doesn't have anything special to set it apart from others of its kind.
  • 4–4.5 Stars: Recommended. An engaging game that's greater than the sum of its parts. I would gladly suggest this over other games of its kind.
  • 5 Stars: Excellent. An impressive, best-in-class game that delivers an unbeatable experience. The kind of game that won't leave my collection.

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