There was quite the Twitter conversation a few days ago based on what games (if any) deserve a 10 on the Board Game Geek 10-point scale. So that’s the question today: what games do you rate a 10? Answer in the comments! (Special thanks to @benny275 for the question.)
I had a professor in college who never gave a perfect score on papers because he wanted to let his students know there was always room for improvement. That’s why I counted it among my best moments at college when he gave one of my papers a 96—the highest he would possibly go.
But listen, folks: this isn’t college, and we’re not trying to keep entitled college students humble. We are part of a hobby that is supposed to be fun. Saying “There is no perfect game” with our noses in the air isn’t exactly inviting to newcomers. And while I agree that there is likely not an absolutely “perfect” game that fits every situation and group, that’s no reason to avoid giving a game a 10. This is also why the discussion of late about “serious” board game criticism is not attractive to me. Have we forgotten the joy of the hobby? There is such a thing as overthinking it or too much self-reflection, and we’re in serious danger of it when we travel these waters.
I don’t exactly hand them out liberally, but when I look at my list on Board Game Geek, the games I’ve given a 10 are El Grande, Dominion: Intrigue, and Dominion: Prosperity. There are a few games at the 9.5 level (Dominion and Dominion: Hinterlands), and many at the 9 level. Actually, my ratings appear to follow a fairly standard distribution: five 10s, twenty-one 9s, thirty-four 8s, twenty-four 7s, five 6s (and then a few fall in the 3-5 category). Do my ratings skew high? Probably a bit, but there are a few explanations for that. First, I do a lot of research before I add any games to my collection. With a limited budget, I can only add to my collection periodically, so every purchase counts. I usually only buy a game that there’s a good chance I’ll like. Second, I try to evaluate games based not on my favorite game but based on how well it fits a situation. I rate The Resistance a 9; that doesn’t mean I always want to play The Resistance. And third, I try to keep gaming as a hobby, not an all-consuming passion. This can be difficult at times, but when I approach board games looking for fun, I can usually find it—even in Cosmic Encounter.
It all depends on the target “audience” per say when handing out ratings. When I rate games as far as how I feel about them, there are definitely a few 10’s – Cosmic Encounter, Twilight Imperium for certain, and a few others that will probably make the cut once i’ve played them more (such as Battlestar Galactica or Rex… holy crap those are all FFG games. Not on purpose. Dominion (w/expansions), Smallworld, phew, there’s a few non FFG ones.) Plenty of 9’s (I find it rather funny that no matter what scale of rating system we use, we will almost certainly want to add a “.5” in there somewhere). These are games that I greatly enjoy and love playing and have no reservations at all about playing them.
But rating publicly, I feel I need to be more objective. Do I think any of these games is truly flawless? Twilight Imperium certainly lasts too long and has a few finicky issues, especially without expansions. Cosmic Encounter has a few unbalanced powers, and some games end too quickly, go to long, or just fall flat. Dominion has a few weird uber-strategies that might come into the mix, and is not extremely interactive between players (although more than some would claim). Smallworld might just last a little too long. These are things that should objectively knock off points from a public review. Or should they? What do you think?
Another thing about the number rating system is that it’s wildly arbitrary. A number can be based off a whole slew of conditions, including the person’s emotional state at the time of rating, based on a play with annoying players (or even a bad day having nothing to do with the game itself). Which is why you should find a trustworthy review site and read what they have to say about the game, and not just go on the numbers.