Lately I have heard several people complaining about the structure of board game reviews. Specifically the fact that they usually start with a mechanical overview or how to play.
However, I think this part of a review is integral to a board game review. People usually compare board game reviews to reviews of other media. Books, Movies/TV, and Video Games being the most popular.
My issue with that comparison is that board games are consumed fundamentally differently than those other media types, specifically because of the mechanics of how they work.
With few exceptions, the mechanics of reading a book are, you read it, in order. Watching a movie or tv show, also, you watch it, in order. There is no need to explain the mechanics of the medium because it is always the same. The few exceptions, like choose your own adventure books and movies, do have reviews that lead with that mechanical difference.
Video games are much closer to board games in that they have mechanical differences to how they work. But there tends to be a lot of games in each mechanical group with less mixing of mechanics. So saying it’s a first person shooter or platformer gets across the mechanics pretty well. Also, the fact that the computer manages most of the mechanics makes it less important for the reader/viewer/listener to know the details.
Board games have a variety of mechanisms and they are often mixed to form new systems. These systems must be managed by the players with a few app assisted exceptions. So knowing the mechanical substance of a game is integral to a review. If you have already played a game and just want someones opinion, I can understand wanting to skip the how to play. But not everyone has played the game or even heard about it.
If a reviewer only talked about their opinion and enjoyment of a game I may be interested, but if I buy it on that recommendation and find out it involves several mechanics that I don’t enjoy, I will be disappointed.