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Top Ten of Written board games journalism
Simon DeSmet
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The top ten of written board games journalism


What is good board games journalism, or reviewing? I'm only interested in the written format here, and I'd suggest that most written board game reviews or commentaries on this site and many others are decades behind that of video games and other media. Why? Well most board game reviews consist of a rules rewrite followed by a few likes and dislikes. The likes and dislikes can on occasion be useful, but all together this is boring and fails to explain what playing the game actually feels like. Knowing that you get 3 actions on a turn is sort of meaningless, the real question is what effect did this limitation have on the writer whilst they were playing? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_journalism. Most of the way down this wiki is a short note on New Games Journalism, coined by Kerion Gillen in 2004, it suggests that games are subjective experiences and perhaps writing about them in a more similar way to travel journalism, as an experiential piece is more meaningful.

The basic criteria for inclusion on this list is;

> Does not just rewrite the rules

> Understands the subjective and personal

> Is entertaining to read

> tries to communicate the experience

> Is able to be analytical about games and games culture

> I've heard of them

With this in mind I present a top 10 in alphabetical order (although Paul and Quinns share an entry so 9) of written board games reviewers;
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1. Board Game: KenKen [Average Rating:3.75 Unranked]
Simon DeSmet
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Ken. B – A questionable start to this list due to his love of deck builders and repeated 'comebacks'. However he is concise and engaging. He references the mechanics just enough to explain the game, rather than boring us with a detailed rules rewrite.

http://fortressat.com/reviews-toc/3359-next-of-ken-volume-51...
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2. Board Game: Barn yatzy [Average Rating:2.80 Unranked]
Simon DeSmet
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Micheal Barnes – Has also been writing for what was gameshark and now nohighscores, for longer than I know of and his experience as a writer and critic show. The second link below heads in a similar direction to what Kerion Gillen was suggesting back in 2004 (see the wiki link above).

http://www.nohighscores.com/2013/01/17/cracked-lcd-aegs-temp...

http://www.nohighscores.com/2012/07/19/cracked-lcd-the-day-b...
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3. Board Game: Defenders of the Realm [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:307]
Simon DeSmet
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San Il Defanso – Best new kid on the block. Most of the other people on this list have been doing this writing thing in some form or another est ages. Sans blog isn't that old.

I have two links for him. The first demonstrates what video game reviewer, film reviewers, and sometimes even music reviewers have known for decades, that an analogy can say most of what is necessary to say about a given experience very effectively.

http://sanildefanso.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/warp-one-alloca...

http://sanildefanso.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/creatures-of-em...


The second shows that San is happy to question perceived norms.
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4. Board Game: Shut the Box [Average Rating:4.98 Overall Rank:13653]
Simon DeSmet
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Paul Dean / Quintin Smith (Shutup and Sitdown) – Being video games journalists in another life, both these guys write experiential pieces. They typically use a conversational format that brings you into the game, and helps you took around it.

http://www.shutupshow.com/post/36299908766/retrospective-amb...

http://www.shutupshow.com/post/20112815327/review-the-mines-...
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5. Board Game: Drake & Drake [Average Rating:5.54 Overall Rank:10703]
Simon DeSmet
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Matt Drake – Matts writing is very funny, and he is possibly the easiest reading on the list. There's a reason why he still gets sent free games after doing this for years. Reading one of his reviews is zero effort, it carries you from start to finish because he has economy of words and delivers the feel of a game.

http://drakesflames.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/board-game-review...
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6. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Simon DeSmet
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Chris Farrell - Chris writes what are probably the most insightful, from an analytical point of view, comments on the internet. He manages to extract what matters about a game really concisely. He has a well defined consistent opinion that whilst I may not always agree with, does help me to understand what a game is about at its core. The other thing really going in Chris's favour, is that he's comprehensive in the games he plays. Whilst he is a Kinzite, he plays some really solid war games, and some Ameritrash as well. What you get with Chris is a sound assessment of the game system under that mesh as well as a true appreciation of the subject matter.


http://illuminatinggames.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/rex-final-da...

I also highly recommend his BBG comments list.
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7. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:95]
Simon DeSmet
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Robert Florence – Has produced the most entertaining pieces I’ve read on board games. Being also a video games journo (I don't think he accepts this title) understands that its about story and the personal experience. This comes across in his rather esoteric writing.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/01/28/cardboard-childre...

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/09/30/cardboard-childre...
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8. Board Game: Super Farmer [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:7880]
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Superfly Pete – Like all good entertainment journalism, there's a strong element of the personal in his writing. By explaining where he's coming from you can understand the conclusions and observations he draws from the game.

http://superflycircus.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2012...:59:00-07:00&max-results=1&start=3&by-date=false
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9. Board Game: Crossbows and Catapults [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:2606]
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Matt Thrower – Now writes at no high scores.com. Like the others on this list, Matt's writing is both personal and analytically engaging. He can make an objective comment (I include the links below particularly because of the comparisons he draws between games in the series, some of these comparisons are objective, I.e. more new mechanics with each expansion or not, but what is drawn from this observation is what is interesting.) but develop it with his subjective views.

http://www.nohighscores.com/2012/05/18/commands-colours-napo...

http://www.nohighscores.com/2012/06/29/commands-colors-expan...
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