How to be a better game reviewer – 20 tips

Since it’s full of good advises and common sense, I share back this article published back in March 2016 written by Dave Banks from Geekdad who has published on Stonemaier an excellent Guest Post about tips & tricks on top 20 ways to be a better reviewer, whether your platform is a blog, podcast, or video:

  1. Play lots of games. It’s important to have knowledge of different mechanics so you can compare other games with shared mechanics to the game you’re currently reviewing.
  2. Organize your reviews so they are easy to consume. At GeekDad, we have a number of people writing reviews, but we try to maintain the same format among writers. Readers value consistency and including elements like subheads that are easy to scan to find relevant information really help readability.
  3. Write for your readers, not for the game publisher. Know your audience and write for them. You might feel an obligation to the publisher because they sent you this neat, new, shiny thing for free, but if you’re not honest with your readers, you’re not doing anyone any favors. What do your readers really want to know? GeekDad’s readership includes a lot of serious gamers, but also new and family gamers. I try to anticipate the questions they’ll have about a game and address them.
  4. Find your voice. This takes time and practice. Write like you’re talking to a friend you want to entertain–tell stories and give specific examples and don’t be afraid to go into detail. Write the review, then let it sit for a while. Go back and read it again and then edit, edit, edit. It’s amazing how often you leave something out because you’re too close to the review.
  5. Read other people’s reviews. (But save reviews of the game you’re reviewing until after you’ve published yours.) Reading other reviews will help you look at games in different ways and help you become a better reviewer.
  6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. There is nothing that will make me stop reading a review faster than typos, bad grammar, and other preventable mistakes.
  7. It’s OK to turn down a request for review. If it’s not your thing, you don’t have to say yes. And just because someone is offering, doesn’t mean you have to take it.
  8. If you request or accept a review copy, you should review it. It costs publishers money to make and ship these games to you. If you take it and don’t write it up, that could hurt other people genuinely interested in reviewing that game, not to mention damaging your relationship with the publisher.
  9. Be aware that gaming is some people’s livelihood. I’ve played some pretty horrible games. But GeekDad has a pretty big audience; we reach a lot of people and there’s some responsibility that comes with that. So when a game (or other product) comes along that’s so bad that there is no way for me to honestly tell my readers they should possibly buy or play it, I contact the publisher tell them my thoughts. Sometimes they ask me to go ahead and run it with my honest thoughts. Other times, they thank me and ask me to just let it go. It’s a bit “inside baseball,” but I’d rather tell my readers about awesome, fun games they should play, rather than bad ones they should stay away from.
  10. Love reading rulebooks. This is a labor of love–if you don’t enjoy reading rules and teaching, don’t be a reviewer. Yes, many rulebooks are written (or translated) poorly, but you have to understand them to not only play the game, but explain it to your audience.
  11. Ask questions!If you don’t understand a rule, look it up or ask the designer/publisher. It’s OK to rip on the rulebook if it’s not clear, but don’t write off a game because you didn’t understand how to play it. Your questions may lead to an official errata (list of corrections) update and endear you with the publisher!
  12. Play a game a lot more than once before reviewing. Maybe you misunderstood a rule, had a bad (or good) night, or another player was having a really good (or bad) night that influenced the outcome. One playthrough is rarely ever enough to form a complete opinion. Also, I try to mix up the groups I play a game with. It’s good to hear many other people’s opinions.
  13. Network with designers and publishers online and at conventions. Most people are friendly and want to share. Plus, you likely have a common love: board games! Find common ground and find out what makes them tick. These bonds might even lead to early access and inside information!
  14. Share your review when it goes live. Promoting your review on social media helps your site’s stats. Make sure to tell the publisher that the review is live, but don’t be pushy about them sharing it. They should share it, but it’s not your place to tell them to.
  15. Don’t be afraid to dumb it down. Our hobby is in a great state of growth. However, not everyone knows what 4X (genre of game that includes elements of exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating) or even a d6 (a six-sided die or dice) means. Spell it out the first time in every review, as each review might be the first review someone reads.
  16. Try to be timely. It’s tough because there’s a learning curve to a game and you want to play a few times before taking the time to write it up or create your review. Ask the publisher if there’s a deadline (Kickstarter launching or ending or a pending release date). You’re writing for your readers, but in the publisher’s eyes you are part of their marketing plan.
  17. Be quotable. If I really like a game, I try to include at least a sentence or phrase or two that could be used as a pull quote.
  18. If you reviewed a pre-production copy, don’t be afraid to ask publisher for a finished product. Your reputation is out there and it’s nice to do a follow up to make sure that what you preview turns out to be a good, real thing. You can also do a follow-up post, which the publisher will appreciate too!
  19. Don’t be snarky. Board gaming is a small industry. Being mean or snarky for the fun of it may very well make you enemies you don’t want to have in this small industry. Plus, is that the type of person you want to be?
  20. Stay positive! While I can usually find a thing or two about most games that I wish had been done differently (and I almost always point those out), I try to keep the overall tone positive. If a reviewer’s tone starts out negative, you can bet it’s not going to improve anytime soon and how boring is that? Games are awesome! Focus on the things that keep us coming back: what makes games fun and the joys they bring all of us!

Censorship also for boardgames

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Polish board game Queue was taken out of Russian stores, with Russian authorities alleging the game disseminates anti-Soviet content. In Queue players experience shopping in communist-era Poland, where they attempt to track down the items on their shopping list from understocked shops or the black market. Russians had allegedly been filing complaints to the Russian State Office for the Protection of Consumer Rights “Rospotrebnadzor“.

The that the game contained a negative description of the communist system as  well as implied that the Soviet Union had forcibly installed a communist regime into another country.  Queue was released in Poland in 2011, with the Russian version hitting shops in November of  2015.

Some months after going on sale in Russia, Rospotrebnadzor contacted Queue’s publisher TREFL with a requirement to change the historical content or the game would be removed from shelves. The Polish historical institute responsible for the game, IPN, refused to make the required changes and Queue was removed from Russian stores.

 

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The Queue Board Game: How It Works

Excerpt from the TREFL Website :

We say NO to the machinations of the speculators!

The Queue is a board game that tells a story of everyday life in Poland at the tail-end of the communist era. At first glance, the task of the 2 to 5 players appears quite simple: they have to send out their family, which consists of 5 pawns, to various stores on the game board to buy all the items on their randomly drawn shopping list. The problem is, however, that the shelves in the five neighborhood shops are empty…

The players line up their pawns in front of the stores without knowing which store will have a delivery. Tension mounts as the product delivery cards are uncovered and it turns out that there will only be enough product cards for the lucky few standing closest to the door. Since everyone wants to be first, the queue starts to push up against the door. To get ahead, the people in the queue use a range of queuing cards, such as: “Mother carrying small child,” “This is not your place, sir,” or “Under-the-counter goods.” But they have to watch out for “Closed for stocktaking” and “Delivery error” cards, and for the speculators – black pawns standing in the queue. Only those players will come home with full shopping bags who make the best use of the queuing cards in their hand.

 

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On the product cards there are photos of sixty original objects from the communist era. The merchandise includes Relaks shoes, Przemysławka eau de cologne, Popularna tea, as well as other commodities that were once in short supply.
Though the neighborhood also has an outdoor market which sells everything, the prices there are steep – unless, of course, you manage to strike a deal with the market woman. In this historical board game you really have to be savvy to get the goods. Are you brave enough to confront the everyday life of the 1980s?

 

Lesson about protecting your game mechanic …

pic1599343_mdAt the start of May a federal court in Texas, USA ruled that the structure and game play of a card  game is not protected by copyright law. You will find the judge decision over here. This was as a result of the copyright case between DaVinci Editrice S.r.l (DV Giochi) vs. Ziko Games LLC.  DaVinci had sued Ziko Games alleging  copyright infringement.

The assertion was that the Ziko Games title Legend of the Three Kingdoms copied protected features of Davinci’s Bang! USA copyright law protects original expression, but not ideas, procedures, processes, systems or methods of operation.

The court ruled that Ziko’s game did not infringe on any of the copyright protected elements of Bang! The game play and character interactions in Bang! were not detailed or developed enough  to be considered protectable content.

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Here’s the Publisher blurb (Ziko Games English Edition) about the game:

Throughout the rich history of ancient China, the Three Kingdoms has always been a chaotic and awe-inspiring time period. Larger than life characters such as the fierce SHU general ZHANG Fei, the cunning WEI warlord CAO Cao, and the legendary SHU strategist ZHUGE Liang have inspired generations of people with their stories of valor, deceit, and strategy.

Legends of the Three Kingdoms replicate this historic age and allows players to assume the identities of these fabled heroes. Combining these heroes with role play, battle, deception, and other elements, we created a fun and exciting game that can be shared with many. We hope you will have as much fun playing as we had bringing this game to you.

 

Spiel des Jahres 2016

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The announcement was done not long ago with the ranking over here. The game Codenames has won the 1st place on the podium. You can expect multiple prints of those games to be made available during the Spiel 2016 that takes place between Thursday, 13 to Sunday, 16 October 2016.

I’m a bit disappointed that Karuba did not win the price this year, it has excellent reviews everywhere you find one. Here’s the game pitch :

Adventurers come to Karuba in search of jewels, gold and ancient temples. To get to these treasures, players must move each of their four explorers from the beach through the jungle via their own pathways. To do this, players lay path tiles on free spaces on their own island cards – everyone uses identical tiles each round. But an extensive path network isn’t enough. Tactical jungle planners need a movement strategy. If you discard a tile you can move an adventurer forward. The more pathways are shown on the tile, the further you can go. And the earlier you reach a temple, the more valuable its remaining treasure is.