Guide to board game reviewing, part 1: Getting started

Statler and waldorfWith 60 board and card game reviews under my belt, I thought it was time to write some articles about following this particular path of writing.

If nothing else I’m still at it, so that has to count for something. And I find it incredibly rewarding, so any chance to give something back feels good.

This isn’t about how I do my own reviews, or about my own particular style and layout: these are things I think anyone should get a handle on before they undertake reviewing of any kind (not just games). Please feel free to correct me where I’m wrong, or point out things I should add, in the comments below.

1. Want nothing

Seriously: don’t go into this with any expectations beyond knowing you’ll be able to read your own reviews on the internet. No one may read them, no one may comment, no one may care; you may never get a thank you or acknowledgement, a free game, or a free anything, and you will likely never make a dime. Still here? Excellent.

2. Is writing for you?

Not everyone is gifted with writing skills – or proofreading, laying out posts, taking photos etc. Today we have simple access to a host of audio and video mediums, which in truth can get you a lot more visits and followers too. I have been blessed with a face and a voice for the written word, but you may find your skills are in other areas. Give them a try.

3. Read what’s out there

Whichever medium you choose, study the form. What are others doing? Who stands out, and more importantly why? Or even better – what isn’t being done, or being done well? Think about what you’ll add to the many voices that are already fighting to be heard. Constraints can be a powerful shaping tool, but certainly aren’t for everyone.

4. Find your voice

Your individual voice, layout and style will make you, so be sure you’ve found them before you begin. And if you have, will it suit the audience you want to be speaking to? For some 100 pithy words will do; while others will prefer sprawling rants bereft of punctuation. If you find your style, and stick to it, people who like it will come back – and keep coming back.

5. Set yourself standards

It doesn’t matter what they are, but it can really help to discipline yourself. I will write 400-600 words. I will do a review each month. I won’t swear. I will not rest until no word is underlined in red (or blue). I will compare it to at least three other games. I will play every game I review 10 times. You’ll be proud of your reviews if you have something to aim at.

6. Start with what you know

While being the first person to review the hottest new releases may help you get followers or views, when you start out is is probably unrealistic to think you can achieve this – and it’s probably not even advisable to try. While finding your voice, review games you know really well: you’ll be – and sound – comfortable, confident and knowledgeable.

7. See both sides

I don’t care how much you love – or hate – said game: someone has the opposite opinion. I’m still amazed at the love some games get that I openly despise, but hey – get used to it. And more importantly, cover it. Look for criticisms or love, consider them, and work them into your review. Try and say good and bad things about every game.

8. Don’t mistake opinions for facts

On rare occasions, games are broken or unplayable; but the rest of the time they fall into the 3-9 out of 10 category. Phrases such as “I think” and “in my opinion” are your friends – sweeping statements (“this is crap”, “this is the best game evs”) make you look stupid. You don’t have to be arrogant to show you have an opinion – it’s just lazy grandstanding.

9. Check your facts

Check EVERYTHING before you publish – or better still, also get it proofread by a friend. Proper nouns are most important, but also check everything from component numbers to age ranges to turn and round names. Gamers can be a pernickety bunch, but more importantly you should have a sense of pride in your work – else why do it?

10. Be truthful

And one final thing, be honest. This is more likely to come later when you’ve been sent something for free – or something from a friend. The worst thing you can do in this case is be dishonest: you are doing your readers a disservice if you don’t give a stinker both barrels. If it’s that bad, and you don’t want to say so, simply don’t review it.

2 thoughts on “Guide to board game reviewing, part 1: Getting started

  1. With a slight tinker (a little tinker?) these rules could quite easily apply to writing a blog full stop. I look forward to your further elucidations on the art/craft of board game reviews, most of which I intend to shamelessly plagiarise.

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