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Subject: Buying Games WITHOUT WATCHING REVIEWS...? rss

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Shane Laporte
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I watch (and read) a lot of reviews on board games. I do this to help me decide on the next great game to buy. And to hopefully avoid the not-so-great ones. Money is tight. And so is shelf space.

Sometimes I'm interested in a game, but then a negative review will dissuade me, or make me think twice about it. Sometimes a game I never would have given a second look to, GETS a second look from me because reviewers rave about it.

I've bought games that received rave reviews, and have been disappointed. I've also avoided games that were "poorly" reviewed, and they've become a favorite after trying a friend's copy.

It's all very subjective, of course. I know this. So sometimes I feel that I just need to find that reviewer that shares my taste in games. A reviewer I can "trust" to help navigate me through the myriad choices that are out there. THERE ARE SO MANY GAMES!!!

But then I remember when I first got into the hobby, about 15 years ago. We didn't have a million YouTube channels devoted to game reviews. BGG was still young.

When I wanted to buy a game, I went into my local store and I browsed the shelves. It was a fun activity. An adventure. Nothing looked familiar because I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING!

I picked up games that LOOKED INTERESTING (to me). I looked at the back of the box, at the components, and if it sounded like something I would like, or promised the kind of experience I was looking for... then I bought it.

I still remember the experience of opening up the box for the first time, reading the rules, setting up the game, handling the components... and going through that first play not knowing or expecting what was going to happen.

It was a moment of discovery. We were going to explore the game and either like it or not. And yes, sometimes we were disappointed. BUT RARELY.

You know why?

Because the reason we picked up the game was because something about it spoke to us. The art, the theme, the kind of experience described on the back... the look of the components... qualities that add to the experience of enjoying a game. And we didn't have anyone looking over our shoulder and whispering... "actually I find the special abilities on the cards not really balanced and the scoring is a bit wonky and fiddly and the theme is just pasted on and it's only good at four players..."

Some games were better than others, sure. And maybe we passed on a game that didn't look all that great, not knowing that inside was actually a fantastic game. Our loss.

Or maybe... not such a big loss? There are SO MANY GAMES. We can't try or play them all anyway. Good or bad.

But a part of me misses that feeling of discovery. Of taking home a game and wondering what it's going to be like. Sharing an experience of learning a game from scratch, with no prior knowledge OR PRECONCEPTIONS.

So I'm wondering...

1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?

2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?

3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?


I would love to know!


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J J
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mainshane wrote:
1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


No. Not ever. Have not, do not, will not.

Quote:
3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?


None, because I tend to buy on the strength of negative reviews. Positive reviews generally tell me very little about games; the summarise the rules, they gush over the components, and they vomit endless praise on the gameplay and the designer's brilliance, but they don't actually tell me much about how and why it works.

Negative reviews, though... They tell me quite clearly how and why a game works (or doesn't). They make complaints, they make comparisons, they detail (alleged) flaws, and overall give a very clear picture of how all the moving parts come together, what they do, and how it all feels.

Simply put - a positive reviewer tends to say only that "I liked the game". A negative reviewer tends to say "I didn't like it, because it requires you to attack your opponents' developments". One of those two statements is vastly more useful to me in learning about a game.
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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Sure, I'm old enough that I bought many games before there was any real 'net availability of game reviewing, and that habit persisted even in the face of new resources. I rarely go in for a big purchase without exploring reviews these days, of course.

I often buy steeply-discounted games (e.g. at 75% off B&N clearance tables, or thrift store finds) without the benefit of reviews. I don't carry a smartphone, so I'm not in a position to check reviews while brick-and-mortar shopping. Some winners I have obtained this way include: FITS, Abalone, Kamisado, Survive: Escape from Atlantis! and Ace of Aces: Powerhouse Series.
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mainshane wrote:


1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


I don't even ever buy games until I've had a chance to play them.

There is no reviewer better than myself. That guy knows exactly what I like.
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April W
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1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?
I think I've done at least a minimal amount of research for most of my game purchases, but I sometimes intentionally try not to learn too much about a game before purchasing for the very reasons you state- the sense of discovery! I don't always want to know everything that's in the box before I open it.

2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?
It's been a long time, but I THINK we bought Firefly: The Game without really reading reviews, and it ended up being an all time favorite. It was what really got me into the hobby.

3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?
7 Wonders Duel - I still don't understand its high rating. So very disappointing.



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Ian Gill
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Starting with proper boardgames (ie not Monopoly etc) in the 1970s the whole situation was buy what you like the look of.
Some were great, some were poor, but the choice was incredibly limited by today's situation.

Unfortunately now, so many games hit the market every year, and many will only see a limited print run, that it does feel you could miss a gem.

Also reviews etc are readily available, even on your phone in a shop, so it is difficult to resist doing some checking out to avoid what might be a turkey.

Additionally, as I nearly always buy on-line there is loads if time to check out both prices and opinions.

Is this a good thing ??

Firstly, no other person is going to exactly match your own preferences. Regular reviewers can be helpful if you understand, over time, whether your tastes match to a reasonable extent. However, you can still make mistakes as your opinion can be very different after purchase.

Similarly, ratings can be a bad guide, eg the top 100 games often have a large number of Euro games but if you prefer lots of randomness then you might be misled if you thought buying all the top 100 would work.
Also, a game that is poorly rated but is later fixed by an expansion or revised rules into a great game may never recover its rating, even though it deserves to.


What I do think is most important is initially playing many different types of games and honestly recognising what works best for yourself and your friends. Then, you can watch/read reviews and look for those elements that you particularly enjoy. Even if a game has a poor critical reception it may still be great in your eyes.

1 I used to all the time but now I usually do some checking even if it is just about accurate playing time etc.

2 13 Days, because I bought it in store. However, even then I had probably seen some positive comments but had no plans to buy it as I don't regularly look for 2 player only games.

3 Polis, Splendor, Gloom of Kilforth



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J C Lawrence
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mainshane wrote:
1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


That's the default case. I buy the Winsome Games collection every year, when the only thing that's known about them is 2-5 sentences per game. eg for this year all that was known (there weren't any pictures, let alone reviews, and the entire year's run sells out in a few hours):

Newcomer Matthias Burtt has provided us with a simple yet treacherous railway game set in Spain & Portugal. IBERIAN RAILWAYS features Loans, Interest and Insolvency as investors look to maximize their profits. Starting railways, expanding railways, merging railways are tactics used, with the outright purchase of Business Interests fueling the engine of money & power. This game lasts about an hour and the most Victory Points wins the game. For 3-5 players.

The talented Tom Russell returns with another of his twisty-tricky train games, this one also set on the Iberian peninsula. IBERIAN GAUGE is for 3-5 players and stock ownership is an important factor in this game, with each shareholder expanding the railroad. There are 5 railroads in the game and leased track, stock value bonuses and connection bonuses adding to the drive for expansion. Most cash + stock value wins this game, which lasts about 90 minutes.

Eddie Robbins has created an 18XX game for experts, set in Uruguay. As usual with our Winsome 18XX games, a copy of 1830 is required to play, largely due to the need for the tiles. 1868 has a shorter playing time than 1830 and includes a number of little companies, a delayed fifth railroad and a bit of South American history. For 3-5 players for about 3 hours. Most money wins, of course.

The Age of Steam: Sicily expansion is a bit more cutthroat than usual. This new expansion is for 3 players.


Which turns out to be quite enough for me to buy the collection every year. Sometimes I have more data before I buy a given game, often even less. Fairly frequently the only things I know going in to a game are the name/title and the designers.

Quote:
2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?


I read extensively, everything I can find anywhere about most games I buy, every review and rating comment and geeklist entry and strategy article and everything on the first 3 pages of Google matches and everything I can scrape out of twitter...-- its just that in most of the cases there's only a couple names or a handful of sentences.

Quote:
3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?


I haven't bought any games because of reviews. First, I don't read that many, second I don''t care about reviews or give them that much attention, and lastly most of the games I buy (and play) don't have any reviews or other commentary.
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Ryan Keane
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I enjoy that discovery of a new unresearched game. I get it by playing with friends that also buy games. They introduce me to plenty of games I know little to nothing about. I don’t really like shopping, so buying an unresearched game doesn’t give me any extra pleasure.

I have bought several games based on positive reviews that were disappointments, but not a lot. Basically most of my “previously owned” games. I now try to avoid buying any game unless I’ve already played it and must have it.
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Josh Kaplan
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I do often buy games before the reviews are out, though I will also buy games just because of multiple positive reviews after they've been out for a while.

I am also a YouTube board game reviewer myself. I'm not entirely sure if that makes me more or less qualified to answer the question.
 
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Brad Miller
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I don't watch reviews.

I don't make a huge effort to read reviews.

I do read comments. I start at the bottom. Way more reliable.
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Kevin Garnica
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JasonJ0 wrote:

Simply put - a positive reviewer tends to say only that "I liked the game". A negative reviewer tends to say "I didn't like it, because it requires you to attack your opponents' developments". One of those two statements is vastly more useful to me in learning about a game.


I don't think that's entirely fair. I've come across plenty of positive reviews that articulate why a reviewer thinks the game is good. Where are you getting your reviews?
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Kevin Garnica
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I appreciate where you're coming from with your post, Shane. And yes, I've bought games unknown to me before, but they're usually been smaller games, card games and such. They sting is less painful if it turns out they suck. Games in this particular hobby are a luxury item for me, and not nearly as inexpensive as monopoly or farkle.

Unknown game I've bought that turned out awesome was The Banishing, The King is Dead.

Unknown game I've bought that turned out to be a dud was Yamataï, Rockford Ventures.
 
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Darryl
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Sure I'll buy games without watching a review. I come from the pre-net days so it's not a huge issue for me.

Although I will say that the price of the game will impact things. If it's an expensive one then I'll likely wait to do some research.

I made a bit of a spur of the moment purchase for Archipelago. It wasn't a good fit for me and my group. I am not sure if a game review would have made that obvious or not to be honest. I mean, the game LOOKS like it should be awesome but for whatever reason it never clicked.

On the other hand, I picked up Doom (2016 version) more or less just based on the box alone and my group has really enjoyed it.

For inexpensive games good grabs have been patchwork, Hero Realms, and Sushi Go. Poor choices for me have been Gloom (although my kids like it so it's maybe just a 1/2 poor choice), Epic Spell Wars, and Aye Dark Overlord!

 
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Trent Boardgamer
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@ OP. Interesting topic, I know exactly what you mean. I used to run a game shop about 20 odd years ago and I'd be going in blind for a lot of games (As there wasn't the review sources available back then). I do miss that raw virgin discovery.

On the same note today, I don't have the free access to games I did then, nor the same amount of free time to spend on games that aren't up to muster.

Quote:
1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


I used to, but not really these days.

Quote:
2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?


Axis and Allies was one of the first games I ever bought blind, when I was about 10. Absolutely loved that game as my brothers and I played it heaps back then. It's still a great game today and I'd still happily play it.

Quote:
3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?


Probably just the D&D adventure games. I mainly use them for components for the D&D RPG, but as stand alone games they are quite disappointing. They really don't deliver much in the way of a good dungeon crawl experience, the levelling sucks, and the looting is really unrewarding.

Most reviewers seem to be a little more favourable towards these games than I am.
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Brad Johnson
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1) I never watch videos. I do read some written reviews. I frequently buy games without looking at reviews because I'm impulsive, I guess. In the old days when I bought just about anything that came out because not that much came out very often, and there were almost no reviews to look at (I'm talking about the 80s and even early 90s), I was frequently disappointed.

2) Even though I only sporadically use reviews as a means for decision-making, I still usually know *something* about a game I'm buying. If nothing else, from the back of the box, or some hearsay. One game I love that I bought without knowing anything more than what was said on the box was Kings Cribbage. Totaly impulse buy, and it's a family favorite. Bad example for this forum, though, I know.

3) My most recent disappointment was probably Terraforming Mars. The positive buzz on this game was astronomical, and while the game when I played it wasn't unenjoyable, I just couldn't see how it got so much hype. Also, come to think of it, probably 9 out of 10 games I've bought on Kickstarter are terrible disappointments.

Game reviews are a lot like movie reviews - I go see movies all the time that have mediocre reviews, and sometimes even really enjoy them. And a heck of a lot of critically-acclaimed movies just have no interest for me whatsoever.
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Edward Uhler
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Find different reviewers. And/or watch play-throughs of games. Allows you to make an informed decision by watching the game being played and see the thing yourself.

Don't discount podcasts, as you're missing some amazing reviews.
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mainshane wrote:

1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?

I don't watch reviews, and I seldom read them. But I read the comments, especially those accompanied by a low rating.

Quote:
2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?

When I started in the hobby, I was going almost purely by "gut feeling", buying games that appealed to me visually and thematically. I still keep and enjoy many of them, including Domaine, Nautilus, Through the Desert, Mexica, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (my first Carcassonne and the best of them) and the holy grail Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit.

Quote:
3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?

None. I've never bought a game because of positive reviews (or comments). But I did play games because of that - to most often be disappointed. However, in rare occasions, I may listen too much to criticism and not buy a game because of that. Case in point: I had decided to pass on Battle Beyond Space due to negative comments. I eventually bought it, but over a year later. And the game turned out to be everything that I expected from it.
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Even back in the 80s, we bought things based on video reviews ... reviews called "TV commercials"
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1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?
Expansions, yes; games, no.

2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?
I can't bring myself to buy a game I know absolutely nothing about.

3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?
Early on, everyone raved about Lost Cities as perfect for 2 players, so we tried it and hated it.
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Michael Debije
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I alomst never read reviews as being among the first adopters. I read rules, am aware of the designer and publisher, have a lot of experience, and rarely make mistakes in choosing games I will like.
 
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Momo Momo
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MWChapel wrote:
mainshane wrote:


1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


I don't even ever buy games until I've had a chance to play them.

There is no reviewer better than myself. That guy knows exactly what I like.


I used to do the same, until I realised that most of the games I'm interested in I would never even get a chance to play.
 
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mainshane wrote:
1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?
Yes, because I don't believe in sucking every last bit of fun, enjoyment and surprise out of a purchase.
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Steve Greasby
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If I see a really good deal, I will get a game within checking reviews. Most recently I picked up kingdom builder for $8. Even then I think I check the geek rating to make sure it’s not a total stinker.

I have not been disappointed with any such purchase. Not sure any really stand out either though.

I have been disappointed by games that had high reviews. 7 wonders disappoted me from the get go with terrible card quality for a game that is all about cards. The game was not much fun either. Isle of sky and star wars rebellion were okay but I expected more. I got the small world app and found it incredibly boring so I am happy I never got the game.
 
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Alexandre Piquet
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mainshane wrote:
1. DO YOU EVER BUY GAMES WITHOUT WATCHING OR READING REVIEWS?


Yes. For example crowd-funded games, games from a series I have enjoyed (Legendary), games with a mechanism I always enjoy (deck-building), ...

mainshane wrote:
2. WHAT ARE SOME GAMES YOU'VE BOUGHT NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM, AND THEY'VE TURNED OUT TO BE REALLY GOOD?


Star realms, Automobiles, Viceroy, Vinhos (2016), Lisboa, The Gallerist, Brass ...

mainshane wrote:
3. WHAT GAMES HAVE YOU BOUGHT BECAUSE OF POSITIVE REVIEWS THAT LEFT YOU DISAPPOINTED OR UNDERWHELMED?


Arkham horror LCG.
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Bryan
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I don't watch reviews to see whether or not the reviewer likes the game. I watch reviews because they typically have rules explanations and gameplay examples. I can make my own conclusions from that. A lot of the time I don't even watch the "final thoughts" type of endings because I don't care what they think. I wouldn't buy a game without watching a couple of videos to learn about it.
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