Choosing a new game can be daunting (and addictive) so if you can go to a public meet up, board game café or a friends house and try the game you want to buy or atleast a similar game do it! Try before you buy if you can and check if your group is already planning on getting a copy.
Next a lot of new games are being released and some of them generate a lot of hype and attention, it can be wise to wait until a few more reviews and more feedback has come in before leaping on board.
When I buy a new game I ask myself the following questions, please note this is personal and subjective and you will have your own criteria.
Do I find the theme interesting?
I tend to go with themes and games which tell stories or let stories (and laughter) emerge whilst playing. Be aware some themes may not work for your group, they maybe they too dark or scary or just a turn off.
Personally I would rather teach a new player a slightly more complex game based on a theme they can really get into than an easier one they may not ‘enjoy’ so much.
How much interaction?
Some games are head to head with players actively blocking or even attacking each other, others are much more passive and you can almost play your own game and not worry about what else is going on.
Personally I am fond of a good betrayal, and following evil glares and laughter, we all know it is a game and don’t carry grudges, but your group may not want confrontation so judge what level and type of game is right for you.
Is there something new and exciting in the rules or the way the game works?
I am a bit of sucker for interesting twists on a classic. For example in Village your workers age and die so you have to time and plan where and how you use them as the moment of their death is key as they go into the chronicles to be remembered. Hanabi is a cooperative game where you cannot see the cards in your hands only the cards in everyone else’s, so communication is key!
I find learning new rules exciting, but you or your group may find constantly learning new games a drain.
Do I have something similar / better?
I have a lot of games which play 3 to 5 players in around two hours, for a new game to be added to thst slot it needs to be something a bit special (See above question)
Who am I going to play it with?
I buy games to play them, not collect them, if a game doesn’t get played I sell it on, work out where when and how often this game will get played, be brutal. Include both required optimal numbers of players and time needed.
One warning sometimes with games which have a wide supported player range for example 2-6 the game at the maximum and minimum player count may be very different normally good different but sometimes not, perhaps research on boardgame geek to see what the recommended best player count is. Optional / different rules are sometimes needed for two players.
Is there a limited chance to buy this game and will I regret missing out?
Games can go out and print and kickstarter can be loaded with exclusive content, there is no right or wrong answer, some people love the extra other feel betrayed or annoyed they missed out. I tend to look carefully at the extras to make sure they really are added value and not a last minute addition which might unbalance the game. Don’t buy games as an investment it rarely works, although second hand valley of well looked after games remains high.
Can I afford it?
Boring question sorry, but health and safety say I must include it!
For newer players who are still totally lost, Days of Wonder is a reliable company as in all of their games are solid and they very much aimed at the newer player but will plenty of depth to keep entertained for a long time and enough meat to invite ‘hardcore gamers’ over and be proud. https://www.daysofwonder.com/en/
They also have digital versions available to play of most of their games which can be a good way to trial or demo it, some include solid AI opponents so great for long train journeys.
Lots of and lots more information on games available on www.boardgamegeek.com