How we test board games and tabletop RPGs at GamesRadar+

Descent: Legends of the Dark
(Image credit: Future)

Our tabletop coverage is designed for everyone; rather than just aiming at longtime fans, we serve more casual players as well. This means we don't ever assume knowledge or lean on insider references that may leave general audiences feeling lost. As with all GamesRadar+ hardware content - as lined out in our Hardware Policy -the goal is to educate, entertain, and inform without judgement.

We learn their ins and outs

It doesn't mean we avoid criticism, though. Some of the best board games and TRPGs can be expensive, but they're also a significant time investment. That's why our reviews focus on informing you about whether a product is realistically worth the effort to learn, not to mention how complicated this process is. Setup time and game onboarding is a focus for our reviewers as a result, and it's every bit as important as replayability.

With that in mind, absorbing the rules and running through a game multiple times to get a full understanding of how it works is our priority. Although completing every part of a hundred-hour experience with a full complement of players isn't always practical, we'll have run through enough to definitively comment on whether it's a worthwhile purchase or not.

Similarly, getting a group together and taking them through the entirety of a written Dungeons & Dragons campaign might not happen (they can literally take years to finish, after all). However, we will have read, analysed, and pulled apart a TRPG book from cover to cover. If possible, we'll also have led a session using those materials.

Total War: Rome board game

(Image credit: PSC Games)

How does the competition stack up?

Another focus for our tabletop reviewers is design quality and how it compares to the competition. For example, has a particular idea been done better elsewhere? Our aim is to give the best possible advice, and this includes weighing up where a product falls in the wider world of board games and tabletop RPGs. There's a lot of choice out there, so we want to make sure the investment isn't going to give you buyer's remorse. Are the game's tokens of a suitable quality or do they pale in comparison to rivals from the same price range? Does it offer a similar experience, but at a lower cost? We aim to find out.

Is it good value and available?

We don't limit ourselves to the biggest and most expensive projects by well-known studios, either. By the same token, we won't rigidly stick to tried and tested options. Our team is always on the hunt for cool new ideas to shake up games night, and it doesn't matter whether they're from AAA developers or indie publishers and if they cost a premium or if they are great value for money, budget games. What matters is getting the best products in front of you.

On much the same note, we try to cover games that are readily available in your area - it's all good and well waxing lyrical about a beloved classic, but that advice isn't much help to anyone if the product in question has gone out of print.

Finally, we do revisit reviews if updates are added to the original game. Tabletop is a world of constant iteration, and it's common for new additions to hit the shelves with quality-of-life improvements. As such, it's only fair to make sure our critique reflects this.

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to lists of the very best Lego. I've also been writing about games in one form or another since 2012, and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.