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Ideal Ideals - Board Game Benchmarks and Expectations
When reviewing games, you look at rulebooks, components, complexity, playing time, illustrations, setting and many other things, but ultimately you focus on the experience you got when playing the game. The thing is, what you enjoy playing changes over time. In this article, I want to look at whether we should compare games against our expectations or whether it would make more sense to check them against some other benchmark. (This topic was inspired by the always wonderful Bez.)
My expectations for a game, however, can range pretty widely. I appreciate that Friedmann Friese and his US publisher(s?) have maintained a very consistent art and design aesthetic across a very broad spectrum of games, but they all "feel" like like they were made by the same person, which adds a lot in my book. Old FFG games felt the same way in a lot of cases, you know you were getting reams of cardboard punchouts, those little decks of cards, and often those spinner dials they must have gotten at wholesale because they included them in EVERYTHING! I'd hate to be the company putting out faithful repros of AH games with paper maps, half-punched chits on little more than heavyweight paper that blew away in a faint breeze/sneeze, and the old 1.23.445.678 style rulebook reference system because component quality expectations have DEFINITELY seen some inflation since the 70's!
I don't do much kickstarter anymore but I imagine there must be fans of specific designers or publishers that have a built in audience (you can certainly see it whenever GMT puts up P500 games from Volke) regardless of the theme or mechanics they pick (or perhaps because they stick closely to well tested popular themes and mechanics?).
In addition, I think some folks just want comfort food gaming. They don't want to be challenged by new concepts and mechanics, they just want something new and shiny that gives them the same warm fuzzies they had with an older, now somewhat duller and more clunky, game. So as long as a game ticks off the right boxes it's all good.