Review Criteria

Part of what we do for Fifth Level Nerd is review games, books, events, and a whole bunch of other nerdy stuff. The problem with that is that sometimes people aren’t really sure of what reviews actually mean. This page helps define what we mean in our reviews.

General Principles

When you see a review on Fifth Level Nerd, it’s going to be a review out of 10, with the criteria being rated out of 10 as well. The overall rating doesn’t always equal an average of the criteria. After all, sometimes a game is so fun that we just don’t care that it’s flimsy and ugly. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

We also rate how much we like the criteria, not the objective level involved. For instance, a Role-Playing game may be insanely complex and we might still rate it at a 1. That’s because for that game we just don’t like how complex the rules are. It isn’t the most objective system, but that’s what Board Game Geek is better for anyway.

Our 10 point scale evaluates every criteria based on this metric:

  1. Really? Why? Just why?
  2. I Hated This
  3. I Really Didn’t Like This
  4. I Wouldn’t Recommend This
  5. Meh, This is Fine, I Guess
  6. This is Nothing Special
  7. I’d Recommend This
  8. I Liked This a Lot
  9. I Loved This
  10. You Can’t Get Better Than This

Board Game Reviews

When we review board games we look at a lot of factors, including packaging, how sturdy everything is, how easy the game is to learn, how much the theme appeals to us. Most importantly, however, we look at how much fun the game is.


  • Components: How sturdy is everything in the box? Does it feel like a quality game? Is the box itself of high quality? What about the box insert, is it any good?
  • Gameplay: Is the game easy to play? Do turns transition smoothly? Does everyone have a chance to do something meaningful?
  • Theme: Does the gameplay really evoke the theme of the game? Does the theme help the game? Can you get immersed in this game?
  • Fun Factor: How much fun did we have playing this game? Would we play it again?

Role-Playing Game Reviews

When we review Role-Playing Games, we look primarily at how the core book holds up. We’re not just talking physically. We want to know if the book is well-organized and accessible for players, do we like the mechanisms, is it crunchy enough to keep us interested or cinematic enough to keep us coming back for more? There are many questions we ask ourselves, but again, the most important is how much fun we have playing it.


  • Complexity: Is this game pleasantly crunchy? Does the cinematic nature of the game really make it feel like combat doesn’t get bogged down? Is it easy for a newbie to grasp how things work?
  • Theme: Does the game have a strong theme? Does that theme appeal to us? How much do the mechanisms of the game support that theme?
  • Mechanisms: Do we like how the mechanisms of the game work? Does play move at a reasonable pace?
  • Fun Factor: Did we have fun playing it?

Live Game/Event

We go to conventions and participate in a number of events where we’re not sitting around a table playing games. At least we’re not sitting around our kitchen table playing games. When we attend any kind of event or live game, we look at the atmosphere and amenities. As with everything else, we also look at how much fun we have.


  • Atmosphere: Is everyone friendly? Am I comfortable being here? Is there anything special about the venue or decorations that really makes me happy?
  • Amenities: Are there bathrooms and drinking fountains around? Are there snacks? How about free stuff? Who doesn’t like free stuff?
  • Fun Factor: How much fun did I have at this event or live game?

Video Game

Sitting on a couch or in a chair playing a video game is a great way to unwind. Playing games with friends next to you or online is a great way to bond with them. When we review video games we look at how much money or effort you have to put into playing them, how much or little they let you bond with others, and how much fun they are.


  • Entry Cost: How much does it cost to buy the game or to get enough content to make this game fun? Do you have to play when the kids aren’t around? Really, the question is: how much effort do you have to put in to play this game?
  • Bonding Potential: How much interaction is encouraged with your friends, whether online or next to you on the couch? How much does the game encourage you to work together?
  • Fun Factor: How much fun is the game?


We are all avid readers. We may not always have the time to flip physical pages, but we get our reading in wherever we can. When we review books, we look at whether the story is engaging, whether we like the characters, whether the world is cool, and just how much we thought the book was fun.


  • Engagement: Is the writing style approachable? Was I able to get lost in the story?
  • Characters: Did I hate everyone in the books? Did I love to hate everyone in the book? Was there someone I just identified with completely?
  • World: Did the world-building set my imagination running? Did I enjoy the setting? Would I want to read more books in this setting, even if the characters in this book weren’t in it?
  • Fun Factor: Did I enjoy reading this book?

Questions or Concerns?

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us!