Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Game Reviews as Matchmaker...

Ok, so our friend over at the Necropraxis blogspot posted about game reviews; specifically, what constitutes a good (and useful) one.  This is well worth reading.  Potential buyers depend on reviews to make informed decisions, and while we all have opinions, reviewers just might have a responsibility to help their readers along.  And so in the interest of full disclosure, we offer the following (not at all surprising) admission... 

We haven't always written "pure" reviews.  Often, we're just gushing about something we personally enjoyed.  But to our credit, we've always tried, at a minimum, to explain what the product is (and what it isn't) and to identify precisely who might be interested.  This goes without saying, but if we're going on about how "rules-lite" a system is, then it might not be to your liking if you don't like rules-lite games!  Anyway, we've always felt like we had some obligation to those who might put their money down on our recommendation. 

So read the Necropraxis post.  We'll take it's advice on board for future reviews because we want to help (and not confuse or mislead) others.  But we want to add something to the discussion; namely, that "good" and "bad" are sometimes subjective.

I'm sure everyone understands this.  Yes, it's possible for a game to be broken beyond the point or repair in it's present form; but some so-called failures are only failures to certain people based on personal preferences.  And to provide a couple examples... 

(a) The monsters are rote and derivative.  That's bad, unless the reader wants something more traditional or something "blank" they can put their own stamp on.*

(b) Magic requires too much book keeping.  A no-no in my book, but quite a few people actually get off on this, and telling readers I was turned off isn't the same as saying rules-lite gamers may be turned off, but fans of crunchier systems might be interested.    

As Necropraxis said, take the time to explain the what of a game minus any snark or personal broadsides that might detract from a review's usefulness.  But if I'm posting this for any reason, it's to offer a single addendum: in our reviews, we should try to identify who a particular product is likely to appeal to, and who it isn't.  On more than one occasion, I've bought (and enjoyed) a poorly-reviewed product because its supposed failures were actually strengths in my biased eyes.  I'm not sure the reviewers meant it that way...

Which is really just a fancy way of reminding would-be reviewers that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  Good reviews inform and (in extreme cases) serve as a warning to others.  But when so much comes down to personal preference, the goal of any review should also be to get the right games into the hands of the right people.  Our preferences can't possibly be the standard.  At best, we're more like old-time matchmakers!  

*And really, how do we objectively define this?  Remember, one man's trash/treasure...


  1. I tried adding an explicit "Personal Use" section to my reviews, which detailed how I'd personally use the game or setting (the other sections are "Description," "Setting," "Characters," "Mechanics" and "Thoughts" in that order).

    Although, even so labelled, one creator got upset that I wanted to use the game in a slightly different setting because of an entirely personal preference for that earlier period. He took it as a criticism of what he did with the official setting.

    [Since almost never use a game as is (and the Experimental Games Group stopped meeting with my move), I stopped reviewing games though.]

    1. That's unfortunate. Designers hand off their work to others and just have to accept that inevitable loss of control...