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Subject: Voice of Experience Reviews Contest 2015: Prizes! rss

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Martin G
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Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to the third (almost) annual Voice of Experience Review Contest!

The aim of the contest is to promote critical commentary on board games, founded on in-depth exploration. Users new and old, patrons and non-patrons, lurkers and site celebs are all invited to participate. If you are not inclined, or just too busy, but still appreciate well-written content about boardgames, you can support this contest in a number of ways listed at the bottom of this thread. Anyone can get involved, and everyone is encouraged to.

For inspiration, here are previous winners of the contest:

Voice of Experience Spring 2012 Review Contest - Results!
Voice of Experience 2.0 Review Contest - Results!

Goals and Participation

The aim of this contest is two-fold:

• to promote critical analysis of board games that goes beyond a summary of the rules, pictures of the components and a brief opinion of the game;
• to encourage in-depth exploration of games in a community that tends to be dominated by first impressions.

As usual, the requirement for Voice of Experience contests is that you must choose to review a game you have played at least ten times. That's the 'experience' part of 'Voice of Experience'. Otherwise, it's completely open.

Prizes!

Prizes are available in three types:

Grand Prize: 100GG
Silver Prizes: 30GG
Bronze Prizes: 10GG

For this instalment of Voice of Experience, there will also be a Special Jury Prize of 50GG for the best negative review submitted. We're not just interested in games that you played a lot and loved, but also the ones that you ended up disappointed by. This is an optional extra - you do not have to submit a negative review to enter the contest.

If you are submitting a negative review, which you must indicate at the top of the review, the experience requirement will be relaxed to games you have played at least five times. If you are feeling particularly inspired, you may enter two reviews: one positive, one negative. Negative reviews are still eligible for the main prizes as well.

The number of prizes awarded will scale with participation, with 10 contestants being the minimum necessary for launch:

10-14 users: 1 Grand, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze
15-19 users: 1 Grand, 3 Silver, 6 Bronze
20-24 users: 1 Grand, 4 Silver, 8 Bronze
25-29 users: 1 Grand, 5 Silver, 10 Bronze
30+ users: 1 Grand, 6 Silver, 12 Bronze

Submissions

• Games reviewed for this contest must be published and ranked. That's it. New or old, obscure or mainstream, simple or complex: it's up to you.
• To sign up, simply post a comment to this thread that begins with I'm in!. Once you have chosen a game to review, you can also add an entry to the contest geeklist, where you will post a link to your final review when it’s ready.
• Reviews may be submitted any time before the final deadline of Monday, April 6th (midnight GMT).
• Feel free to comment in this thread as soon as your review has been submitted to geekmod. Everyone subscribed to this thread is encouraged to mod submissions. Let's help these reviews hit the front page running.
• Contestants must include the phrase "[Voice of Experience]" at the beginning of the review’s title. This will help draw attention to your review and raise the contest’s overall visibility. Feel free to remove the [Voice of Experience] tag once the contest has ended. If you want your review to be considered for the special prize for negative reviews, please indicate this at the start of the review.
• If you wish your review to be considered for the Special Jury Prize, please indicate this at the beginning of the review.
• This thread will function as the contest discussion thread. Comments, questions, constructive feedback, general anticipation, digital high-fives, and friendly discussion are all encouraged from contestants and supporters alike. Let’s keep this thread active.
• Winners will be announced by the end of April. Aside from that, ranking of submissions will be kept private.
• Once prizes are announced, a separate announcement thread will be created and linked from a reserved reply-space below.

The Judges

• Submissions to this contest will be reviewed by a panel of judges. Each of these individuals was asked to participate because I admire their writing and because they have shown an interest in exploring games in depth and raising the level of critical discourse in the community. Two of this year's judges are previous winners of the contest.
• Each judge has provided some insight into what they look for in reviews, available below.
• Here are the judges, presented alphabetically by username:


Jack
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A review from Jack: A Look at Wallace's Quirky Keeper

I love a good review. Invariably, reviews that capture my attention are ones that follow some or all of this advice:
• Be substantive and insightful. Get inside the game and show us what’s so engaging about it.
• Be specific, and connect your opinion of the game with how it works. Readers should be able to determine if the game fits their preferences and style, even if they don’t share yours.
• Be organized. Choose a clear structure and support it with clean formatting. Think about how you want to lay out the information. Make sure that the most vital sections of your review are not lost amid a procedural, checklist style approach.
• Go in-depth. Get carried away.
• Above all, resist the temptation to describe your reaction to the game ("tons of fun!" "totally sucked!") without exploring the context that generated that reaction. You can get away with that among long-time friends who know you and know what you're really saying. We don't. So let's hear what all the fuss is about. Tell us not only the 'what' but also the 'why.'

Martin
Martin G
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Martin's blog: QWERTYUIOP
A review from Martin: 10 points after 10 plays: why I’m mostly done with CM2008

Both parts of the title of the contest are important.

Like several of the other judges, I’m looking for pieces with a strong critical voice. The best reviews let me know who the reviewer is and where they’re coming from, so that I can judge whether their opinions are likely to dovetail with mine.

I’m also looking for reviews based on real experience of a game, not just what’s in the box, what’s in the rules and how it played the first time round. What makes the game different? What does the design attempt to achieve? What types of decisions are involved? What skills do you need to do well? What kind of investment by the players is needed to make the most of it? How did your opinion of it evolve?

I'm a big fan of well-argued negative reviews that deconstruct a game and why it didn't work for the reviewer. The hallmark of a good negative review is that it stands up to scrutiny by fans of the game -- it's not just full of unfounded assertions based on shallow exploration. The link above is to a review where I hope I achieved this standard.

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A review from Pablo: [Voice of Experience 2.0] It's All About Bluffing - A Review of Truco Mineiro (variant of Brazilian Truco)

The idea behind the "Voice of Experience" is to incite deep-thought reviews; reviews that go above the first impressions and dwell in the intricacies of the game's system or how the players are engaged and pulled inside that game's world. Or both, or none. It's up to you to come up with the best way you can describe a game, being as legit as you can be.

For me, even though my style of reviewing games is quite systematic (bullet description, components, gameplay, personal opinion), I lean towards more free-form reviews, the ones who are more interested in how to convey the information instead of just shoving it in without engaging the readers. I can live without knowing how every little mechanic interacts, but I like knowing how you as a player interact with them (or how they force you to interact).

In general I'm pretty flexible with the kind of review I like. Some of them you can find in this geeklist I created some time ago.

For everybody trying to tackle a negative review, my sugestion is: don't let fanboys deter you from writing what you really think of a game, but be careful to be thoughtful. The community as a whole is mature enough to withstand negative reviews which are informative and well-thought-out, but bashing reviews without any content are seen with scorn, as they should be.

Samo
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A review from Samo: [Voice of Experience] Performative Co-op VS. Immersive Co-op, Comparison review of Pandemic and Arkham Horror

The heart of any review for me is an insight of a writer into the experience the work provides. A review goes beyond a description and an opinion into the dialogue between the writer and a game, between the writer's gaming experience and the entry points provided by the game. I remember a former theatre reviewer I worked with stating how he considered it a success if the readers (and authors) couldn't decipher whether his review was a positive or a negative one - because his focus was in developing a line of thought. So it's the unique insight of the writer I'm most interested in - what thoughts arose in you while playing the game, where did they lead you, how did you develop them? For me a good review is both a piece of thinking and a piece of writing, it's in figuring out what you have to say, saying it and guiding the reader along the way.

From past experiences of writing theatre reviews for a newspaper, negative reviews were hard(er) to write, because they had to be watertight. When writing a negative review ask yourself: how would I go about writing it if I know I'll meet the designers and publisher at my gaming night next week? Yet at the same you are contributing to the public discussion, you are giving service to the potential audience and you owe it to your inspiration to get your thoughts out. Doing a negative review might be a good exercise precisely to focus on arguments and your line of thought - you get away with a negative review by not making it about you or the designer or the publisher, just focus on the game itself. Do a proper evaluation or analysis or contextualisation or an essay or whatever that material in your head wants to materialize itself as. Let your mind fly, let it bounce of the ground in interesting ways. But develop these thoughts in writing and enjoy writing it (that's advice, not an order).

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Vivienne's blog: The Slow Gamer
A review from Vivienne: Hyperborea: Why Tom Vasel is wrong about this one... [WITH PICTURES]

We’ve all played a new game and hated it, only to uncover its magic with another group. Or fallen in love with a game, and out again, within three plays. Many of the BGG Top 100, such as Twilight Struggle and War of the Ring, reward mastery, and even One Night Ultimate Werewolf differs between a chill winter night and a sunny afternoon outside the pub.

The "Voice of Experience" invites us to explore a game in depth, and report back on the experience. For me, this means going beyond what’s written in the rulebook, or even the basic mechanics. Sometimes you don’t even need a rules section. I prefer reviews with a 'hook' and an argument, especially negative reviews, or which give a fresh angle on a much-reviewed game.

An excellent example is here. It makes a clear argument – Le Havre is a landmark title, which builds on other modern classics. The game is placed in historical context. The rules explanation and pictures are woven into the text.

Anyone can tell you to buy a popular game, but it takes a well-reasoned argument to explain why you shouldn’t. Negative reviews are among the best, and most thought-provoking, on BGG. They’re not as scary as they seem, provided you don’t assume every gamer is – or wants to be – you. Games can fail for many reasons: personality, player count, expectations of play. Think and experiment before applying fingers to keyboard, and you’ll be fine!

Supporting This Contest

• Please subscribe to this thread and leave encouraging comments!
• Please subscribe to the contest geeklist and watch the front page for tagged reviews.
• Any Geekgold tipped to this thread will go toward prizes.

Alright, folks. Let's do this! Go, go, go!!
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Martin G
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I review games that the judges rate highly or have played?

You certainly may end up reviewing games that we like, dislike, have played, or haven’t. In any case, we will try our best not to be biased. I can’t speak for the other judges, but you’re not getting my vote for the grand prize just because you rate Tigris & Euphrates a 10.

2. Are video reviews eligible for this contest?

This contest is limited to written reviews only, but feel free to use photos, diagrams etc. if you feel they would help make your points.

3. Are Thumbs Used In Any Way to Evaluate Submissions for this Contest?

No.

4. Can I submit my review in a language other than English?

I'd love for us to be able to evaluate reviews in any language, but unfortunately the five of us are limited to English as our common ground. You are welcome to post a review in another language alongside the English version though.

5. Does this contest extend to RPGGeek and VideoGameGeek?

This contest is boardgame-only.

6. Can I enter a review that predates this announcement?

No. All reviews must be written and posted between February 22nd and April 6th.

7. Can one person enter multiple reviews in the contest?

If you wish you may submit two reviews, but if you do, one of these must be a negative review entered for the Special Jury Prize.

8. Can I say "I'm in!" and then not submit anything (if anything stops me writing that review in the next month)?

Yes. Obviously we'd love it if everyone who enters follows through, but if you end up not having time, just let us know and remove your item from the geeklist.

9. I entered a previous Voice of Experience, can I join again?

Yes. This contest has no restriction on who can join in.

10. I don't feel completely comfortable being a "voice of experience" on a game, should I be worried about this?

No! We're not looking for expertise, we're looking for experience. As long as you've played 10 times (5 times for a negative review) and can speak competently about the game, you're good.

11. Is it possible to do a comparative review? (1 text, 2 games of same genre)

Yes. Submit the review to the forum for one of the games and post a link in the other.

12. I'm going to probably write more than one review and decide at some later point (before the deadline) which is my 'real' entry. I assume that's OK? I assume that I should use the tag before all such reviews?

Write as many reviews as you like but please only tag your official entries with '[Voice of Experience]'. It's also fine to put an entry in the geeklist for one game and later change your mind about which game you're reviewing - just update your item as you go.

13. Is it OK if I write a review of X? Someone else has already marked this as hers.

Multiple reviews of the same game are fine.

14. Are expansions eligible?

Expansions of ranked games are fine if you have played at least 10 games with the expansion included.

15. Can I focus on a particular player count?

Sure - feel free to take what ever angle you desire.

**Note: I will update this area to answer questions asked below.
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Martin G
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Voice of Experience 2015 Review Contest: Entries
 
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Martin G
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Voice of Experience Review Contest 2015 - Results!
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Zoe M
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I'm in! My first thought is to write a review of Trains: Rising Sun, and also a negative review of Suburbia Inc. But I don't know how sure I have to be about these choices before posting in the GeekList.

I've also just posted about this challenge in the GL for the challenge to review 10 games played 10 times each, because I imagine there's a lot of overlap in interest.
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Martin G
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Dunyazad wrote:
I'm in! My first thought is to write a review of Trains: Rising Sun, and also a negative review of Suburbia Inc. But I don't know how sure I have to be about these choices before posting in the GeekList.


Don't worry about that; go ahead and add an entry, and feel free to change it later.

Quote:
I've also just posted about this challenge in the GL for the challenge to review 10 games played 10 times each, because I imagine there's a lot of overlap in interest.


Good idea, thanks!
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Zoe M
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Okay, GL entries posted, thanks!
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Lucas Smith
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Some questions:
1) I understand this contest is about written reviews. Will the jury consider photos (taken by the reviewer) as a part of it?

2) Is it ok to focus on a certain player count (e.g. 2 players)?

3) I assume a bilingual review with non-English text below the English text would be ok?!

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Martin G
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smithlucas wrote:
Some questions:
1) I understand this contest is about written reviews. Will the jury consider photos (taken by the reviewer) as a part of it?

2) Is it ok to focus on a certain player count (e.g. 2 players)?

3) I assume a bilingual review with non-English text below the English text would be ok?!



Yes to all three! FAQ updated.
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Kevin Garnica
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So wait, I'm confused. Does the review have to be negative, or is that just a "special" category? Also, is there a theme this time around, or a certain "weight" the game has to be or anything?
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Martin G
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pacman88k wrote:
So wait, I'm confused. Does the review have to be negative, or is that just a "special" category?


It's a special category that you can choose to attempt, not compulsory.

Quote:
Also, is there a theme this time around, or a certain "weight" the game has to be or anything?


No, we decided that limited things too much last time, so it's open to anything but with the special category within that.
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Martin G
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Thanks for all the thumbs, but I'd like to see some more "I'm in!"s too
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Matt Green
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I'm in.
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David P
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qwertymartin wrote:
Thanks for all the thumbs, but I'd like to see some more "I'm in!"s too


I'm sure I'll write something for this, but I have no idea what or when yet.
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Albert Jones
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I'm in...thinking maybe Puerto Rico or maybe something more obscure like Shotten-totten? Then again, maybe Trajan...I don't know, I'll have to sit down with my games and see which speaks to me.
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Best panel yet. Bravo.
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How do you define a negative review, and why are we more encouraged to write them?

In my opinion, a good review should be critical, not negative. Negative reviews, just like positive ones, are by definition one-sided and biased.

And a more practical version of the question: if I reviewed a game I like with ample discussion of who and why might not like it, can this review be considered negative for the purpose of the contest?

What about if I review a game I don't particularly like for some reasons, but I can see and describe how other people might like the very things I don't?

Thanks

PS: great contest, I'm in regardless.
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Martin G
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Th334 wrote:
How do you define a negative review, and why are we more encouraged to write them?


I would define it simply as a review of a game that on the whole you did not enjoy. It's not surprising that most reviews are written about games the reviewer liked a lot - they want to share their enthusiasm. But a well-written and thought-out negative review can be extremely useful too. That's why I'd like to see more of them.

Quote:
In my opinion, a good review should be critical, not negative. Negative reviews, just like positive ones, are by definition one-sided and biased.


We would certainly hope that all reviews submitted to this contest are critical. I think you can have negative and positive critical reviews; and negative and positive uncritical reviews.

Quote:
And a more practical version of the question: if I reviewed a game I like with ample discussion of who and why might not like it, can this review be considered negative for the purpose of the contest?


Interesting question. Most reviews I enjoy share some of the perspective of the reviewer him or herself, rather than attempting a completely dispassionate analysis. So I'd consider a review for the negative category if it explains why the game didn't work for the reviewer in question.

Quote:
What about if I review a game I don't particularly like for some reasons, but I can see and describe how other people might like the very things I don't?


...so yes, I think a review like this would count.

Thanks for the questions.
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Just spent lots of hours writing a Dominion review, and finally submitted it on the 21st of February ... exactly one day before this contest launched shake

Probably shouldn't be playing any dice or card games this week ... with my stellar luck
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I look forward to Fifty Shades of Negative.

The word has strong connotations and suits the marketing needs of the competition (last year's slant didn't feel as compelling).

I'm sure we will see a spectrum of negativity, from the obvious and risky hating review to the more subtle disappointment.

How each reviewer, and judge, considers negativity worthwhile is the irresistible part of the competition.
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qwertymartin wrote:
I would define it simply as a review of a game that on the whole you did not enjoy.


Fair enough. Despite what I've just said 5 minutes ago ... ... I do think there can be a subtle difference between assuming that some people might have big problems with some elements of a game you like, and actually having these big problems yourself.

I agree now that a critical negative review could be very useful indeed (I'm still yet to read a good one ... or maybe write?).

Thanks for this quick but interesting discussion
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Samo Oleami
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I've started to respond to this before I saw Martin's response, so I might as well give you my take as well.

Th334 wrote:
How do you define a negative review


I guess anybody is free do define it as they wish. Just let us know your entry is for this category.

It's by no means limited to "pure negative" review, it can be a game you like in some ways, but not in others, it could be about a game you find mediocre or problematic in any way (but not necessarily in all of them).

But, yes, as Martin said, it's about a game you don't completely endorse or did not completely enjoy. It's about thought wiling to be polemic.

Th334 wrote:
why are we more encouraged to write them?


We decided to add the special prize as we wish to have a particular focus each time around which would respond to what we feel is going on in boardgaming/bgg community (either by being popular, polemic or absent).


The original idea, going back a year or two, was framed as "A voice of discontent" and it was about voicing an view of the game which wasn't a positive one.

Mostly we are responding to bgg/boardgaming environment, where it seems a lot of people fear the backlash for posting reviews which do not wholeheartedly endorse a game. And thus such opinions/evaluations are hiding in the safety of user comments section and I think it would be neat if they would come out of the closet. All proud and articulated, of course.

The other side of the coin is that a lot of reviews are just positive endorsements of a game without daring to be critical. I hope levelling the emotional field (positive VS negative) can bring forth the idea that reviews don't need to be either, but are first most in depth analysis/evaluation/contextualisation of a game.

Funnily enough - this was a hot topic this month:
Negative reviews, yet another rant
The 5 Stages of Negative Review Grief
Why do people get so grumpy over the word "flawed" in reviews?
(this was after we already decided on this topic)

Th334 wrote:
In my opinion, a good review should be critical, not negative. Negative reviews, just like positive ones, are by definition one-sided and biased.


I don't think one can ever escape being subjective in a review - you do try to be dialectic, at least I do, to go over myself and have a fruitful encounter with the work I'm reviewing and hopefully some new ideas and thought will emerge. I think any response one has to the work (I'm coming from theatre reviews) is okay, it's a gut feeling or a first impression, but that's just the starting point. This response is then a material for thought who tries to understand it, position it, and so on.

As Martin said - negative and positive are on different coordinates than thoughtful and unthoughtful.

The idea here is about not holding back an opinion or an a certain viewpoint just because it might not be popular. Communities and discussions which are populated by different opinions and viewpoints are richer, they can delve deeper in whatever is the object of inquiry/discussion. Reviewing is for me doing a service to the community and it's about providing a different viewpoint which can thus enter the public discussion.

Quote:
And a more practical version of the question: if I reviewed a game I like with ample discussion of who and why might not like it, can this review be considered negative for the purpose of the contest?

What about if I review a game I don't particularly like for some reasons, but I can see and describe how other people might like the very things I don't?


Agree 100% with what Martin said.
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David
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Will try and write something. Thanks for organizing!
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Albert Jones
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I have a question. I was thinking of writing a meta-analysis of all of the Puerto Rico reviews. I would collect, organize, synthesize, summarize and analyze all the 5 pages of reviews written so far in an attempt to tease out both the arc of the gaming experience over time, and to create a review that encompasses all that has been said about the game, albeit much more succinctly.

My wife says that I missed the point of the competition. Curious if I have gone off the deep-end with this one or if it sounds interesting to anyone?
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Ldayjones wrote:
I have a question. I was thinking of writing a meta-analysis of all of the Puerto Rico reviews. I would collect, organize, synthesize, summarize and analyze all the 5 pages of reviews written so far in an attempt to tease out both the arc of the gaming experience over time, and to create a review that encompasses all that has been said about the game, albeit much more succinctly.

My wife says that I missed the point of the competition. Curious if I have gone off the deep-end with this one or if it sounds interesting to anyone?

The competition aside, that sounds like a really good idea. I mean for me, as the reader. For you, as the writer, well, if you're doing a PhD on board gaming, that's a good thesis topic

I'd have to agree with your wife though, I'm not sure how the judges will be able to compare your work with other submissions. But if you really do it the way you described, to a high standard, I can't see how you could not win the contest
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