Why the Rubric? Part I

In the youtube comments we have had a fair few people voice the question; why do Sean and I use the rubrics we do and how did we come up with them. As it has also been noted in comments; Sean and I have different scoring rubrics; and I would argue so does pretty much everyone else who plays games, even if on a subconscious level.  Even if we had the same categories we would look at them differently as no two gamers are exactly alike.  Many of you have been asking why our rubrics are designed as they are and how we interpret them as we run a game through the scores; so here is my reasoning behind my rubric; part 1  Visuals, Skill/Luck and Pacing with part 2 soon to follow.

First off; why a rubric?  Shouldn’t the only factor be how fun the game was?  I wish I could say yes; but in reality more goes into my, and likely your, enjoyment of a game than fun, one could argue I am splitting hairs by differentiating the words fun and enjoyment; but I will explain that more in part II. For now let us just jump into the Rubric and I will explain as we go.

Visuals: I am more or less obsessed with good visuals; that doesn’t mean a specific style but rather that the visuals are consistent, understandable and non-distracting.  Some games use a minimalist theme very well; the recently reviewed Turbulence is a great example of this.  Other games utilize much more complex design schemes but do so fantastically; such as anything by Fantasy Flight Games. Both of these styles would get a great review from me; assuming the text is easily readable, the images make since and the art supports the game play.  Other games meanwhile (such as one in particular to be released soon) have more art styles than mechanics.  Often this occurs when the designer found many artists with varying styles and took images from them and put them wherever the game designer felt like it; with no rhyme or reason. Games such as this will always receive poor scores from me in the visual arena. the main key of the game’s visuals, however, should be to support the game without distracting the player. The text should be easily readable when present and the images should match the theme and actions of the game play.

Skill/Luck: This is not a scale of Skill = 1 Luck = 0; or vice versa. Rather this is asking is there enough skill that I can develop a strategy yet enough luck that a first time player feels they stand a chance against a well practiced opponent.  Personally I love games that utilize dice; they are an instant randomize; but add a manner to alter your roll via modifiers or increased dice count and now we’re talking!  Games that are entirely luck based are hardly games in my opinion; sorry candyland… but the same can almost be said of luckless games; sorry chess.  Both of those examples would score poorly for me; as candy land can play itself essentially and chess is only fun when playing someone on the exact same level as you.

Pacing: This is much more straight forward; does the game flow well?  Some games go so fast I don’t enjoy them; no office to those Dutch Blitz fans out there but I don’t like it; there isn’t enough down time for me to enjoy the game; Pit meanwhile is similar in the fast pacing but a round can take awhile as you hilariously trade cards back and forth blindly hoping you get what you need in a trade. Personally I like a much more moderately paced game. But on the other end of the spectrum you have analysis paralysis. Some games feed AP, these games will score poorly for me; while I enjoy that down time; that time you can sit back and breath while another player places their track in Ticket to Ride or plans their movement in Eldritch Horror it can go too far in games such as the occasional Risk game where you find yourself not attacked between turns while two other players spend an hour battling over Irkutsk after the aggressor has spent a few days determining the precise number of men to invade each surrounding territory to maximize his chances while minimizing risk. So like skill/luck this is a spectrum I don’t want my games too fast nor to slow; I’m just not a fan of my steak being rare nor well done… and now I want steak…

I hope that at least begins to explain why my rubric is structured as it is; you will notice as we walk through our rubrics we explain why we give the games the scores we do so as to enable the viewer to interpret their own scores for those areas and better determine if they think the game would work for them.  Next week I will explain my views on Theme/Immersion, mechanics and fun. And yes I will finally address the question posed to all reviewers; shouldn’t the only thing that matters be was the game fun…

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