I want The Thoughtful Gamer to be a trusted source of reliable and clear board game reviews. To that end, I will do my best to make sure that I adhere to these three principles:

1. Honesty

This is the single most important attribute when it comes to reviewing. I want to always be honest about my experiences and thoughts regarding the games I play. If I don’t like a game, I will tell you. Criticism is valuable.

2. Optimism

A commitment to honest criticism does not mean a commitment to pessimism. I don’t play a game looking to find faults and criticisms. I, like you, come to a game expecting to have a good time. In nearly all of the modern board games I’ve played, I have fun even when I see significant faults. Partially this is because I research a lot before I purchase a game and only try to buy games that I will love. I also try to meet games with the proper expectations. I will have a much higher burden for what constitutes too much obfuscation in a historical GMT game than I will in a mid-level Euro, for example. This is because I know the GMT game will care much more about historical accuracy and simulation than the Euro, which will be more about elegant and balanced mechanisms.

3. Humility

I will mess up in reviews. I know this. I am completely ready for this to happen, and I will strive to be as humble and truthful as possible. I know that I am not the most experienced boardgamer in the hobby, nor do I have anywhere near the largest collection. I do believe that I can contribute some valuable insights into the hobby, but I want to remain humble in that endeavor. To that end, I want The Thoughtful Gamer to be the source of great discussion, and I will do my best to respond and contribute further to the discussions I start with my reviews and commentaries.

Reviews vs. First Impressions

In addition, in an effort to provide the very best board game information, I will be providing two different sorts of reviews: first impressions and full reviews.

The distinction between the two will be subtle but important. I will only post a full review if I am confident that my opinion of the game will not significantly change in the future. Conversely, I’ll be using first impressions to talk about games where I understand the basics, but I am unsure what the long-term prospects are for the game. Board games can change dramatically, both for better and for worse, as you continue to play them and start to understand them more. A game that first seems dull may open up as the players discover new strategies and lines of play. More commonly, games that seem fantastic the first few plays may reveal themselves to be imbalanced or too predictable once everyone knows the cards/tiles/strategies well.

On multiple occasions I have seen board game reviewers give glowing reviews to games that I know fall apart after even a few plays, once the flaws in the game reveal themselves. I want to do my best to not make the same mistakes. I want to honestly communicate my level of understanding of the game I am reviewing. I hope you find this valuable.

Learning Curve and Brain Burn Ratings

I will be rating the difficulty of every game I review with two metrics: Learning Curve and Brain Burn. This is to avoid problems ascribing a “weight” to certain games that might be easy to learn and difficult to master, or vice versa. Here are some rough guidelines to show how I will be using these ratings.

Learning Curve:

1: People who don’t play games will have no trouble (Codenames, Tsuro, Lost Cities)

2: People who are interested in modern board games, or have some experience will have no problem (Dominion, Memoir ’44)

3: People who have played at least the modern classics and are interested in more will be fine (Puerto Rico, Battlestar Galactica, Kemet)

4: Even experienced board gamers might find it tricky (War of the Ring, Through the Ages)

5: Commitment Required (Fire in the Lake, Mage Knight)

Brain Burn:

1: Very minimal thought required (Love Letter, Tsuro)

2: Casual, but you need to pay attention (Smash Up, 7 Wonders)

3: A thinky game, but not too intense (Five Tribes, Viticulture)

4: Full attention and long-term planning required (Terra Mystica, Agricola)

5: Very deep. Will cause brain burn. (Fire in the Lake, Go)