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Jackwraith
May 17, 2021
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TabletopIsland
May 17, 2021
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oliverkinne
May 14, 2021
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thegiantbrain
May 13, 2021
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Medium Board Game Review

Board Game Reviews
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boardgameinquisition
May 13, 2021
317 0
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oliverkinne
May 12, 2021
503 0

Canvas Board Game Review

Board Game Reviews
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whowhatwhycast
May 12, 2021
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adamr
May 11, 2021
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Ragusa - Punchboard Reviews

Board Game Reviews
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oliverkinne
May 10, 2021
630 0
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Jackwraith
May 10, 2021
826 0

From the Depths: Runewars

Beyond Reviews
MB
Michael Barnes
May 07, 2021
1035 0
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oliverkinne
May 07, 2021
602 0
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Andi Lennon
May 04, 2021
657 0
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oliverkinne
May 04, 2021
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Matt Thrower
May 03, 2021
1365 0
MB
Michael Barnes
April 30, 2021
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Right to Reply - When Reviews are "Wrong"

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13 Apr 2021 11:02 #322006 by oliverkinne
Let me start by saying that every article on my...

I love writing reviews, even though that was never the intention with the blog, when I first started. I've now written over 135 reviews, which is amazing, given it was something I only started doing once the blog had already been going for a while. There are a lot of things I learned over the years when it comes to writing about board games, but what I knew from the start was that reviews are always just an opinion. Opinions vary from person to person, so chances are that someone reading one of my reviews will disagree with me. Their opinion of a game will be different and in this article, I want to talk about how my opinion might be perceived by others. (This article was inspired by We're Not Wizards.)

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13 Apr 2021 13:20 #322007 by fightcitymayor
I just wish there was a way for people to understand the difference between a real, proper "review" and a mere opinion. Somewhere during the last decade's boardgaming boom every person with access to a keyboard and an internet connection decided to fancy themself a "reviewer" and most are not. They are a person with an opinion. Which is fine, but of drastically less utility than a person well-acquainted with the hobby as a whole.

Some people applaud the internet age for "getting rid of the gatekeepers" and all you have to do is look at the amount of wannabe "boardgame reviewers" polluting the world to see maybe "getting rid of the gatekeepers" was a bad idea. (See also: Music, movies, food, books, magazines, print journalism, political commentary, and a million other arenas formerly occupied by capable, knowledgeable folks now occupied by shills, dorks, morons, and grifters.)

A good reviewer is a valuable thing.

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13 Apr 2021 14:33 #322013 by Gregarius
Yeah, I'm reading a book about this right now: The Death of Expertise. It's a light, entertaining read, but kinda depressing.

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13 Apr 2021 14:55 #322014 by Jackwraith

fightcitymayor wrote: Some people applaud the internet age for "getting rid of the gatekeepers" and all you have to do is look at the amount of wannabe "boardgame reviewers" polluting the world to see maybe "getting rid of the gatekeepers" was a bad idea. (See also: Music, movies, food, books, magazines, print journalism, political commentary, and a million other arenas formerly occupied by capable, knowledgeable folks now occupied by shills, dorks, morons, and grifters.)


One of the usual defenses for this phenomenon are that "the good will out"; as in, the cream will rise to the top and the actually "good" stuff will be the stuff that gets noticed. But I don't think that's actually true, simply based on the number of voices out there. In the old days, pro writing kinda sucked because there were only a few outlets ("gatekeepers") and those outlets determined who was actually seen and heard. In the now days, pro writing kinda sucks because there are so many outlets that a lot of stuff gets drowned out by the sea of shit. What's even worse in the board game niche is that a significant chunk of the audience thinks that everyone should be providing their work for free, since it's just tapping on a keyboard like anyone can do. This is, of course, an issue that has often followed writers around through much of the modern era. I remember Peter David overhearing a child explaining to their mother at a convention that "the writer is the guy who just puts the words in the bubbles."
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13 Apr 2021 16:01 #322016 by Shellhead

Jackwraith wrote: I remember Peter David overhearing a child explaining to their mother at a convention that "the writer is the guy who just puts the words in the bubbles."


Traditionally, comics did have a professional who put the words in the bubbles, but that was the letterer, not the writer. Or sometimes the artist would put the words in the bubbles. The much-maligned Comic Sans font is based on comic book lettering.

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13 Apr 2021 16:19 #322019 by Sagrilarus

Jackwraith wrote: One of the usual defenses for this phenomenon are that "the good will out"; as in, the cream will rise to the top and the actually "good" stuff will be the stuff that gets noticed. But I don't think that's actually true,


It's patently false, and I think the last 20 years of the Internet are all the proof you will ever need that "wisdom of the masses" is complete bullshit. The trick is to look more polished than anyone else, regardless of your content.

The boardgame industry is absolutely no exception, and the number of cheesy-ass white guys standing in front of a wall of games with a dapper hat on is a pretty solid indication that best-practices don't involve intellectual content very much. The vast majority of video downloads fit into the highly-polished-drivel category. "Look at the thickness of that cardboard!"

Sorry for sounding pissy; it's 36 minutes before happy hour. But honestly, the number of times I've heard reviewers explain things about games that are just plain wrong, that are a clear indication that they've never played so much as two turns is a pretty good indication that there isn't much focus on the actual game for a lot of reviewers that have $3500 worth of recording gear.

I read Matt's reviews here because he describes how the experience affected him. I read Barnes here (in spite of almost universally disagreeing with him) because he finds a way to slot the product into its bigger implications in the industry and even the culture. I read Wade because, damn, he's just fun to read. I have as much fun reading his stuff as I have playing myself.

I know y'all like Tom Vasel, and he seems like a nice guy. But seriously, he's Mayor McCheese. He's bringing as safe, as dependable a product as can be had while keeping costs down. Most of the wannabes are looking to duplicate him instead our guys here, because he's slicky enough to generate traffic in as short a period of time as possible.
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13 Apr 2021 16:22 - 13 Apr 2021 16:23 #322021 by Gary Sax

Sagrilarus wrote: I know y'all like Tom Vasel, and he seems like a nice guy. But seriously, he's Mayor McCheese. He's bringing as safe, as dependable a product as can be had while keeping costs down. Most of the wannabes are looking to duplicate him instead our guys here, because he's slicky enough to generate traffic in as short a period of time as possible.


God damn dude, shots fired.

But yes, I agree with you.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2021 16:23 by Gary Sax.

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13 Apr 2021 16:25 #322022 by Jackwraith

Shellhead wrote: Traditionally, comics did have a professional who put the words in the bubbles, but that was the letterer, not the writer. Or sometimes the artist would put the words in the bubbles. The much-maligned Comic Sans font is based on comic book lettering.


Having written, edited, and published them for almost a decade, I'm aware of that. That, of course, wasn't my point or David's. I often did the second part of the letterer's job, in that we used a specific font for the words, but needed a way to transcribe them to the original art. So I'd cut them out with a craft knife and glue them into the bubbles; often on my own work/scripts, so I was doing my own work twice, according to that kid.

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13 Apr 2021 16:35 #322024 by Jackwraith
To Sag's point, while I agree that most of the regulars here find Vasel to be rather vanilla in his presentation and opinions, he does provide value to an awful lot of people because he gives them information about games that they don't know about. I think with the continued volume of production, expecting that enough people will know what Sleeping Gods is and how it's played and then come here or go to Charlie's site to get his opinion on what it's REALLY like may be a fool's errand. My oft-cited complaint is that people aren't willing to pay for the insight/entertainment that many reviewers (like both Vasel and Charlie) are providing, but they are willing to toss away hundreds or thousands on games on Kickstarter that may be not even worth a single play or certainly not worth the one or two plays they'll get before spending months or years on a shelf, untouched in the face of the newer, hotter thing.

So, yes, I agree that Vasel is not providing the critical insight that MB or Matt or Wade or Andi or others provide here. But he is providing a general look in and entertainment for a much wider audience that aren't as niche as we are in our already niche realm. He's also found a way to make a living doing it, which I can't particularly fault anyone for, as long as they're not hurting someone else while they're doing it.
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13 Apr 2021 20:56 #322029 by drewcula

Gregarius wrote: Yeah, I'm reading a book about this right now: The Death of Expertise. It's a light, entertaining read, but kinda depressing.


My Ivory Tower made faculty read it. It wasn't my favorite, but it did make me appreciate that we're collectively screwed.

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13 Apr 2021 22:24 - 13 Apr 2021 22:54 #322031 by Jexik

Gary Sax wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote: I know y'all like Tom Vasel, and he seems like a nice guy. But seriously, he's Mayor McCheese. He's bringing as safe, as dependable a product as can be had while keeping costs down. Most of the wannabes are looking to duplicate him instead our guys here, because he's slicky enough to generate traffic in as short a period of time as possible.


God damn dude, shots fired.

But yes, I agree with you.


The funny thing to me is that I find I agree with his sentiments (when he does express them even more excitedly than usual) more often than I do just about any other reviewer. He puts Cosmic Encounter, Heroscape, and Summoner Wars near the top of his big list all the time, and I also hated Hawaii...

I appreciate Barnes' perspective, but I rarely agree with his opinions. He's much more willing to play board games solo, as was evident even back when he had nice things to say about Mage Knight. "Great game. 1 hour per player. Maybe best played solo." I knew it wasn't for me at that point.

I tend not to buy a whole lot of games, so when the stars align and pretty much everyone is saying great things (like with Root), I perk up. Otherwise I stick to games I know I like already.

Another kinda weird thing that I do (and I think others do too) is seek out reviews as a form of affirmation. I already know how I feel bout Summoner Wars 2e, but I am basically on the edge of my seat waiting for Dan Thurot (space biff) to say nice things about it in a more coherent way than I do. I think this is probably why negative reviews often get so much flak, especially on BGG. I got way fewer thumbs for my negative or lukewarm Dominion expansion reviews than I did for the ones I was excited about.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2021 22:54 by Jexik.
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13 Apr 2021 23:10 #322033 by ubarose
Anyone can review a great game and anyone can review a terrible game. But a really outstanding reviewer is able to provide critical insight on all the games that are in between. That's what sets the people who contribute here apart from the vast majority of the other reviewers, including several of the super popular ones.
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13 Apr 2021 23:22 #322036 by dysjunct
I don’t follow Vasel anymore but he always seemed very consistent, which was a good benchmark. I can almost always triangulate off his opinion on something to get a good guess on if I’ll like something or not.
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14 Apr 2021 05:22 - 14 Apr 2021 05:43 #322045 by Erik Twice
So much I would love to talk about here.

First, I don't think artists should comment on reviews of their work. It's uncoth and makes you look petty. In all other art forms, artists are recommended to ignore reviews. After all, critics are just members of the audience and often amateur or unpaid. The trend of game designers to dunk on BGG comments is sad and shows how insecure the medium is and makes you look like shit. Seriously, at least go for the big guys.

David Cage is a joke for several reasons, him calling critics to complain about reviews is one of them. And I've never played a David Sirlin game (sadly) but I'll always know him as the guy who complained about a 10/10 review from Barnes. If you are a designer, you don't want to join these two.

fightcitymayor wrote: Somewhere during the last decade's boardgaming boom every person with access to a keyboard and an internet connection decided to fancy themself a "reviewer" and most are not. They are a person with an opinion. Which is fine, but of drastically less utility than a person well-acquainted with the hobby as a whole.

I've ran into reviewers who haven't played Magic: The Gathering or a single roleplaying game. People who, most importantly, don't believe not having played these games impairs their ability to review and analyze games.

Sagrilarus wrote: Sorry for sounding pissy; it's 36 minutes before happy hour. But honestly, the number of times I've heard reviewers explain things about games that are just plain wrong, that are a clear indication that they've never played so much as two turns is a pretty good indication that there isn't much focus on the actual game for a lot of reviewers that have $3500 worth of recording gear.

It's an open secret that most reviewers barely play the games they cover.

It's no surprise, either. Just playing them takes a long time and you need other people to do so. It has proven difficult for me and I have the advantage of not writing reviews weekly. Like you say, you can sometimes tell when details are wrong. For example, I remember a review of a videogame called A-Train 9 that said you couldn't build curved track. Erm, yes you can and it's impossible not to see how unless you haven't even tried to because it bends like spagetthi.

There are also some problems with games that are ignored completely and that's suspicious as fuck. Seriously, did nobody else notice Deep Sea Adventure is broken? Half of the posts on Boardgamegeek about the game are about how broken it is and the game has been refused publication by some publishers because of it. How can I have on of the few negative reviews of the game? I'm not some sort of critical genius seeing what others can't.

Sagrilarus wrote: I know y'all like Tom Vasel, and he seems like a nice guy. But seriously, he's Mayor McCheese. He's bringing as safe, as dependable a product as can be had while keeping costs down. Most of the wannabes are looking to duplicate him instead our guys here, because he's slicky enough to generate traffic in as short a period of time as possible.

I have nothing wrong to say about Vasel as a person. From what I little I know of him and I've heard of others he's kind. I have no personal beef with him and even appreciate him sharing one of my articles.

However, I think he's unethical as a reviewer. He does yearly kickstarters were game companies pay him and put pictures of his staff in their games as a way of promotion. That's just so ludicrous! I remember John Walker (Rock Paper Shotgun) talking about how he accepted buggy rides from the makers of a racing game and it looks dumb when the largest boardgame reviewer is getting checks from every established publisher on earth. How can he not be Mayor McCheese when he has a vested financial interest in keeping things that way.

You guys know better than I do, but the vast majority of publishers seem to think it's okay to ask me my fees or tell me when I should publish my reviews or other plainly unethical crap. And they do because people like Vasel have normalized the idea that it's fine to get money from publishers. The question I get asked more often in my club about my blog is how much publishers pay me. And they don't even realize that what they are asking is offensive or wrong.

There's a serious cultural cost to this kind of corrupt criticism. It harms the art form and those who care about it. That his criticism is softball and lacking insight is just expected.
Last edit: 14 Apr 2021 05:43 by Erik Twice.
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14 Apr 2021 10:20 #322056 by Vysetron
Erik is, as usual, on point. I'd go so far as to say that outlets like TDT and SU&SD (I haven't forgotten how they conveniently threw all their principles out the window for Blood on the Clocktower) acting openly unethically have made even approaching the discussion in the board game space uniquely challenging. At least in other fields of criticism there are good examples of high profile creators that operate on the up and up, but in board games people will jump down your throat if you so much as mention a potential ethical issue or even a personal code of conduct. And as the line between hobbyist and professional continues to erode to the point of nonexistence it's getting worse.

I see sites like Dicebreaker attempt to break into more traditional forms of coverage only to be met with indifference on all of their content that doesn't resemble The One True Format board game consumers have come to accept. They don't want critique or analysis, they want buyers guides. They want to be told that they're good somehow for purchasing a thing, that they'll be happier for having it, and to post about it online to the applause of other people doing the same. Tantrum House and Man VS Meeple are practically infomercial networks and they continue to succeed because, moreso than any other hobby I've ever seen, people are dying for an excuse to spend their money and just want to be told where. Doesn't matter how many times someone gets caught shilling for an undisclosed sponsor, or is demonstrably incorrect about a game, or whatever anymore. Just keep producing and people will keep buying.

Reviews are a niche form of entertainment in and of themselves, and critique is a niche within a niche.
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