One of the most difficult things to do when purchasing games is how to know if a game is any good. You can watch game review videos, read reviews online (hopefully here), and pay attention to the general zeitgeist around what others are thinking. What you should really know about purchasing games is that there is no magic wand that can tell whether or not a game is for you unless you have the benefit of perspective. For me, that has only come with many years of playing games, mostly good games, but more importantly, games that represent the pinnacle of that genre or mechanism in game design.
If you asked me “I hear a lot about Carcassonne. Would I like it?” The only answer I can give is “Have you played a tile laying game before?” There are some qualities in tile laying games that all games of that genre share. When you have played one, you gain a certain amount of experience and perspective to know what another game with the same mechanism will be like.
One of the goals of this column is to give gamers tools by which to judge games and understand why mechanisms work in games and why they don’t. Gaining the ability to use this perspective arms you with a much greater ability to judge if games will be right for you and what you will like or dislike about them. As reviewers, we can tell you an opinion and where that opinion comes from. And if you analyze the patterns of our opinions, you can start to see where they align or deviate from your own.
This perspective, experience, game-wisdom, whatever… is what everyone needs to beat back the hordes of hype and really get to know whether a game gives you joy.