Boardgamegeek.com has two main functions; to provide a public database on games; to support a gamers community with forums, guilds and such-like. If you just want to look at games, there are various ways to navigate the site.
The most obvious way to find a game is to use the basic search box at the top of every page. By default, it will search for boardgames only, but use the drop-down menu to the left of the search field for other searches. You can enter a word and hit enter or click Go, and the site will return any matches it finds. If there is only one result, that page will be shown. More than one result, and you get a list to click on.
You do not need to enter a full word, or to use accents or umlauts, and you do not need to put ‘the’. The search uses a range of fudges to return good results. Once you get used to using it, you can often get the exact game you want with just a few letters. Just putting in ‘carc’ gets Carcassonne as the top result for example, and then loads of the expansions.
But if you have the spelling wrong, it will not suggest possible results (as Google does). Putting in ‘seidler’ gets no results for example.
When you click on the drop down menu, you have several other things you can search on. The most useful are Designers and Publishers. If you search on a designer name (again you only need part of the name correctly), you get the same returns, either a list of possible designers or the one page. Scrolling down a designer’s page, you’ll find a list of their published games (and this can go to several pages). So if you like one of their games, you can research more that they’ve done. Some designers like to re-use ideas and you may be comfortable playing similar games from one person. You can also see if the designer is a User (registered an account on BGG), which means you can send them messages, in the public forums or privately, and often get rules clarified directly.
Similarly, many publishers focus on types or styles, and particularly on customer base. For example, German publishers like Zoch, Queen, Ravensburger, Kosmos, publish good solid family games, not too hard but interesting with a lot of replay value. Whereas a publisher like Fantasy Flight does bigger box games with lots of figures and dice, more popular with laddish teens of all ages. So if you like a certain game by a publisher, there’s a good chance you’ll like more of their games, and you’ll find these listed on their publisher page.
One other item on the drop-down menu you could try: Users. These are people who have registered accounts on BGG. They have a username (never changes) and a First Name Last Name (anything you like and often changing). Some people put their real first and last names in, and you can find them by searching, but lots of users put messages or jokes in there. So it’s better to search for a username if you know it. The club has an account bmyork, and lots of your fellow players are on there too. You can see what games they own, and their ratings and comments, you can send them a message, add them to your GeekBuddies, subscribe and lots more.
That’s the kind of thing you can do with basic searches.
Just to the right of the basic search box is a link to Advanced Search. This gives you a wide range of values to search on, and is useful for finding a selection of games that suit your criteria. So if you need a recent game for at least 6 people, but plays in under 30 minutes, this will get you results.
Advanced Search includes a tickbox to make the search only on a User’s collection, and if you are signed in, it will default to your collection. Very useful if you are choosing games for a game session in your home. There’s also options for selecting categories, mechanisms and subdomains, but more on those later.
Next… what’s on the game pages.