I keep hearing people talk about replayability in board games. I’ve talked about the topic a few times in the past. I’ve also clarified the difference between variability and replayability. However, as the topic keeps popping up from time to time, I thought I’d share some more of my thoughts. After all, I think replayability is an important criterion when it comes to buying board games.

Let me temper this a little though. Of course, replayability isn’t the only factor when deciding which board game to add to your collection. Price, complexity, play time, component quality, theme or setting and even artwork all play their part. Yet, replayability does play an important part, at least in my view.

Also, while variability and replayability are related, they are very different things. So just because a game has hundreds of different starting setup combinations, doesn’t mean it’s endlessly replayable. Games with the same setup can be much more replayable than some games with multiple factions, maps or other variations.

Now, with that out of the way, let me start by setting out why I think the topic of replayability keeps coming up in our industry.

Replayability and Art

One argument says that the board game hobby is unique in putting so much emphasis on replayability. It is often felt that people use replayability as the main or most important metric to decide whether a board game is worth their money. The suggestion is that, as a form of art, board games should be judged in the same way as books, films, music or even paintings, sculptures or similar. After all, reviews of other forms of art never mention “replayability”. There is no star or tomato rating for how often you can watch a film before it gets boring.

Other forms of art are judged on how well they were crafted. A book’s writing can be formulaic or revolutionary. It can be engrossing or very hard to understand. A film can have amazing effects with a clever storyline and interesting character arcs. Paintings can be realistic or abstract. They can easily convey their meaning or they have a different meaning to different admirers. Whatever it is, there is never any mention of “replayability” or its equivalent.

So it is quite right to ask why board game reviews often talk about replayability. Board games are just another form of art that should be judged in an equivalent fashion. At least that’s how the argument goes.

Product Reviews

So while the experience of seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time or watching a film is definitely not about “replayability”, when I buy a painting and hang it on my wall or buy a film on DVD, if you remember what these ancient discs are, then I do think about “replayability”. Now, the piece of art has become a product.

I certainly wouldn’t expect an art critic to tell me how often it is worth going to see the Mona Lisa or a film critic to tell me how many times I can rewatch a movie and still discover something new or have a different experience. However, when these forms of art are looked at as products, the situation is different.

Now I want to know that I won’t get bored of seeing the same painting on my wall every day. I want to know if the DVD will still work after I watched the film for the hundredth time. “Replayability” is suddenly really important.

I think that’s where the argument that board games are another form of art and should therefore be evaluated in a similar way splits off in a different direction. I agree that board games as art should not worry about replayability. Yet, when they are seen as products, then replayability and component quality, which often equates to durability, do matter.

a pocket watch on a chain opened up in someone's hand (Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash)
keeping time (Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash)

Replayability in Reviews

I must say, I don’t often talk in detail about replayability in my reviews, even though I do mention when I think a game is likely to keep you entertained for a long time to come. Some games are great for playing multiple times back to back, maybe even several days in a row. Other games you want to play once, then leave for a week or two, but then you can’t wait to play it again.

Sometimes the game experience is the same every time, which is especially true for many card games, but that doesn’t mean the game is boring. It can still be very replayable. Other games are different every time, not necessarily because of their inherent variability in setup or faction selection, but because of the players’ choices and decisions.

Either way, the reason why I think replayability is so important is because games cost money and even if they were free, nobody likes our modern throw-away society. We want things to last and replayability is one of the key metrics here, apart from the durability of components, of course. Games you only ever want to play once have their place, but even legacy games usually last several scenarios, meaning they’re also replayable, even if that’s in a slightly different sense.

Reviewer’s Fickleness

Of course, as a reviewer, I rarely get the chance to play games more than maybe half a dozen times, often much less. I am always onto the next game that’s waiting to be played and written about. There are some games I do play repeatedly and I do sometimes cover these games in a sort of re-review or what I call my “Takeback” reviews.

However, even so, I do critically evaluate whether I think a game is likely to get boring after a few plays or will continue to feel fresh and exciting even after many, many plays. After all, my reviews are here to give you an impression of how a game feels, so that you can decide if you want to add it to your collection or not. I think letting you know when I think a game is going to last you a long time, because it’s replayable, is important. It’s one of the factors you will take into consideration when you decide whether you want to spend money on a game.

How About You?

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe you don’t care if a game is replayable. Your criteria for choosing games might be very different. So let me know in the comments below how important you think replayability is for board games. Do you think it’s overrated? Do you like to move from game to game a lot? Or do you prefer to play the same game over and over again? I’d love to hear what you think.

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Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Music: “Around” by AShamaluevMusic.
Website: https://www.ashamaluevmusic.com


These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this topic discussion article:


  1. With the cost of some boardgames now, re-playability is an absolute must when considering buying a new game, as is the inclusion of a solo mode.

    1. Hello Carl. Thank you for your comment. You’re absolutely right. Many board games are just too expensive that they warrant playing only once. It’s important that you can replay them several times. I also like your comment about solo modes. I’m not a solo player myself, but I can see why it’s important. Mind you, I don’t think every game lends itself to a solo version, just as much as many solo games don’t lend themselves to multiplayer options.

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