How we test board games, card games, tabletop RPGs, and wargames at GamesRadar+

A collection of classic board games on a wooden table
(Image credit: Benjamin Abbott)

Curious about how we decide on scores for our tabletop reviews? Wondering how we actually test the products we recommend (or advise against) each month? That's fair enough. These critiques are supposed to help you decide whether you should or shouldn't buy something, so they're pretty important.

To make sure we're being as transparent as possible, I - Tabletop & Merch Editor Benjamin Abbott, AKA the person responsible for this side of the site - am here to take you through our process. While there's some crossover with our wider review policy, you'll also find specific details on how we tackle this unique and vibrant industry. 

On a surface level, our tabletop coverage (be it about board games, card games, wargames, or tabletop RPGs) is designed for everyone. Besides aiming at longtime fans, we strive to 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+ content, the goal is to educate, entertain, and inform without judgement.

We learn their ins and outs

The One Ring Starter Set rulebooks, dice, cards, and map laid out on a wooden table

(Image credit: Benjamin Abbott)

'Inform without judgement' doesn't mean we avoid criticism, though. Some of the best board games and the best tabletop RPGs 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 big 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 more than enough of it to definitively comment on whether it's a worthwhile purchase or not.

Here are more specific details on how we approach each type of tabletop game.


Board games
Our top priority when reviewing board games is letting you know whether a product is actually worth the time you'll spend learning it - and if it's easy to get your head around in the first place. That's why we always include complexity ratings in our work. The idea is that you can get an idea of what you're letting yourself in for before hitting checkout.

What's more, we discuss how long an average session will last... and whether you'll be happy playing it again once you're finished. Our reviewers build up this expertise by playing a board game as many times as possible with a variety of different people.


Tabletop RPGs
Taking a group through the entirety of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign might not happen right away (they can literally take years to finish, after all), but we will have read, analysed, and pulled TTRPG books apart before settling anywhere near a score.

If possible, we'll have led multiple sessions using those materials too. Then our players can give feedback on what the experience is like from the other side of the Game Master screen.


Card games
We'll always play numerous matches with the latest card games or trading card game sets before committing to an opinion on them.

While it's not practical to write up a detailed analysis for every single one of the 300+ MTG cards within a release, we'll also have examined each of them behind the scenes to make sure our copy is as well-informed and holistic as possible.


Our team will always construct each model within a wargaming box-set so that we're able to give input on how easy the process is, how long it takes, and what to look out for when building your own miniatures. We'll then play as many of the included missions as possible (if there are any) after reading featured rulebooks from cover to cover.

Time permitting, we'll paint those models as well so we can provide tips for readers - though we'll always make sure photos of the kits are included to show what you get in the box without alteration.

How does the competition stack up?

A Striking Scorpion Exarch and Space Marine Scout face off in Kill Team: Salvation

(Image credit: Benjamin Abbott)

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, wargames, card 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 with each and every write-up. That's why you'll often see 'VS' pieces on the site.

Is it good value, and available?

Three cards from the Elven Council deck in MTG Lord of the Rings

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)

We don't limit ourselves to the biggest and most expensive projects by well-known studios; part of our job is to surface lesser-known gems you might have missed. 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. We'll look at both premium titles and value-for-money budget games too - what matters is getting the best products in front of you.

Keeping it topical

The cover for The Deck of Many Things, showing a woman holding cards

(Image credit: Joel Franey)

For every kind of game listed here, we make sure we're up to date on the latest products and trends. Art is never created in a vacuum, so understanding its relationship to competitors is important.

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 on an annual basis, especially 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.

For more insight on our process, be sure to check out the guides below or the wider GamesRadar+ hardware policy.

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 the latest Lego news. I've 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.