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Subject: What qualifies as a Review? What makes it good? rss

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Kevin Peters Unrau
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In one of the game review threads there is a side discussion as to whether or not a review based on a single play qualifies as a review or whether it should be filed under something else -- general, session report, etc. (original thread here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/425100)

The reason I'm starting a new thread here is because that is not the only issue that I've seen come up in debating whether or not a post qualifies as a review. Here is a short list of content issues that I'm aware of:

1) Number of plays before reviewing
2) Playing with variety of player numbers (2, 3, 4, 5 player games)
3) Description of game play
4) Description of components (including rules)
5) Personal Opinion/Evaluation
6) "Full Disclosure" (I produced the game, got a free copy, etc.)

My personal take on this is that anything that offers an opnion and/or evaluation of a game qualifies as a review and should be in the review forums. I don't care if you've only played it once; if you've got an opinion after one play (especially one that hasn't been stated in another review already) I want to be able to know about it. So if I have to search all the forums looking for review-like-but-not-actually-qualifying-as-a-review posts then I'm going to get frustrated.

The reason I am rather inclusive in my definition is because BGG has tools to help the good stuff float to the top and to counter ill-informed opinions. The first tool is the thumbs system. A well-written review will hopefully gather more thumbs and I'll know that this review is one I should probably read. The second tool is the fact that people can respond to posts. If I see a review that has zero thumbs but 20 replies I'll make an effort to read it. It might not be a great review but it clearly has something that sparked conversation.

That said, I think the better reviews start by telling me how many plays they are based on and with what range of number of players. They tend (but not always) to be written after multiple plays, with a variety of number of players. They let me know if the review received a free review copy or if the reviewer is connected to the design/production/sale of the game.

I used to like lots of detail in the description of game play, but if the rules are available online a succinct outline is best. Good reviews let me know about the component quality and how easy the rules were to decipher. (A couple well-chosen pictures can be nice.)

Good reviews tell me why the reviewer liked or hated the game, being as specific and personal as possible. (If you say the auction didn't work well but that you like auctions in games generally that says something different than when you don't like auctions period.) They tell me with whom the reviewer thinks this game is best played. (I rate Gulo Gulo an "8" and I think it should be played with kids. I don't suggest it to adult gamers as an alternative to Caylus.)

And finally, good reviewers do the best they can with the language skills they've got. Not everyone was born to write but good reviewers make an effort to do some basic editing. If you're 10 years old, or English isn't your first language, let me know so I can appreciate your writing for what it is. I can put up with a lot of bad spelling and grammar if it isn't from simple lack of care or attention.

So that's what I think qualifies as a review and what separates the good from the bad.

What do you think?
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Paul DeStefano
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PrairieBoy wrote:

What do you think?


I think attempting to quantize what a good review is is a very, very bad thing.
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David Kahnt
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Geosphere wrote:
PrairieBoy wrote:

What do you think?


I think attempting to quantize what a good review is is a very, very bad thing.


While I agree with Paul, quite a bit. I would like to see more of this that the OP stated:

PrairieBoy wrote:
6) "Full Disclosure" (I produced the game, got a free copy, etc.)


I'd like to know if the review is getting positive marks or negative marks based upon the reviewer paying for it or getting the copy for free.

-DK
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Kevin Peters Unrau
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Geosphere wrote:
I think attempting to quantize what a good review is is a very, very bad thing.


My understanding of quantization is rather limited. I'm assuming you're using the term with respect to how it's used in digital processing, math and physics. (If you're using quantize in the linguistic sense then you'll need to say more since I don't really understand it in that context at all. blush )

My intention wasn't to divide reviews into two distinct states, either "good" or "bad." My intention was to get people identifying the qualities they find helpful in a review and to suggest that the definition of a review should be rather broad. So to try again a different way:

What qualities do you find most helpful in a review? What, minimally, do you look for in a review?

edit: fixed emoticon
 
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Thomas Staudt
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PrairieBoy wrote:
If you're 10 years old, or English isn't your first language, let me know so I can appreciate your writing for what it is. I can put up with a lot of bad spelling and grammar if it isn't from simple lack of care or attention.


Actually, most of the time when someone mentions that their English is not adequate, I wonder what kind of language geniuses they have to be surrounded by. If a good review includes telling everyone how bad your English is, there are a lot of good ones out there ...
 
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Paul Lister
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PrairieBoy wrote:

My personal take on this is that anything that offers an opinion and/or evaluation of a game qualifies as a review and should be in the review forums. I don't care if you've only played it once; if you've got an opinion after one play (especially one that hasn't been stated in another review already) I want to be able to know about it. So if I have to search all the forums looking for review-like-but-not-actually-qualifying-as-a-review posts then I'm going to get frustrated.

The reason I am rather inclusive in my definition is because BGG has tools to help the good stuff float to the top and to counter ill-informed opinions.

What do you think?


Kevin, thanks this is an excellent description of a good review. I agree with everything you have said, except the bit quoted above. GG is awarded for reviews, as are micro badges. The 'Geek recognises that there is something special and worth rewarding about review contributions. So my personal preference (and i try to follow this when writing my own reviews) is to keep opinion, when not wrapped in a review to other forums.

I think the Geek has loads of sections where an opinion or evaluation which is not a review (as you have described it) can be posted. The first that comes to mind is a session report, a lot of posters use this area to air impressions after one play. Then there is the general section and the strategy section. If the post is clearly titled it should not be too difficult to find. Moreover a lot of posters already use these sections for airing game likes / dislikes so they are not all under one roof. Another area that i find great for finding likes / dislikes is the comments gamers make when rating a game. Reading the comments next to the 'six' scores for a game can be more illuminating than reading a lot of gushing or super critical reviews.

Maybe there is room for a new forum for games called 'Sound off' or 'opinion'?



 
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Rauli Kettunen
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PrairieBoy wrote:
What qualities do you find most helpful in a review? What, minimally, do you look for in a review?


Dependant of course whether we're talking about a game or an expansion.

If an expansion, list components and what it adds to the game play. I don't mind about rules, unless they significantly alter the base game. Even in that case, I can hopefully read the rules beforehand myself. I don't really care how one ranks it in numbers.

If a game, components should be a must (at least a list, if not list + description for each section; say board, counters, cards, etc.). If there seem to be quality issues, make a note of them, otherwise doesn't really matter to me. Overview of the rules is appreciated, but don't want to read about the rules in too much detail, again, I'll try to read the rules beforehand if possible. Learning curve issues, if any, possibly comparison with another game that you feel has similar learning curve. Unless the game is clearly defined as, say 2-player only, scalability deserves comment. Reviews after one game are fine, but unless you're an obsessed freak like me (who reads the rules and most of the rules threads on BGG before buying a game blush ), there will probably be rule slip-ups. For brand new games, my approach doesn't naturally work. Play time is helpful. I know the game listing includes those, but still. Pictures I can actually do without, if I want them, I can check them in the Image section of that game.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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PrairieBoy wrote:
My understanding of quantization is rather limited.


Change the word quantize to describe and identify.
 
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Just Another User
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I have seen several "reviews" submitted for Geekmod that spend more time talking about one particular game session than describing anything about the game itself. I reject all of these; if you're going to review a game, then you should talk about why you like/dislike that game in general (see above posters for good ideas). Or, if you have no opinion either way (I would not understand this, but I'm sure it happens), then describe the game and tell us what it's all about.

If you want to talk about something strange/funny/exciting that happened in your last game session, submit that writeup as a session report. Of course, any game review could contain examples from a previous play session, but in my view these should be few and far between, and only used to prove the point you were trying to make in your review (and some kind of conclusion based on this experience would be ideal).

My 2 cents' worth.
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Geosphere wrote:
PrairieBoy wrote:

What do you think?


I think attempting to quantize what a good review is is a very, very bad thing.

My comment-o-meter gives this post a solid 8.7.
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Mike Hoyt

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I like your list of things to include in the review, but I'd like to add one caveat.

I had a review rejected because I did not include a list of components or state who the publisher was. It seemed the Moderator felt the review should be a completely stand-alone piece of work, wheras I saw it as an addition to the exisitng game entry, which already had a list of components and the publishers blurb from the back of the box.

I don't see much point in copying and pasting the component list into a review, and I especially hate it when I'm reading the 4th or 5th review of a game and they ALL include it! If the reviewer has an opinion of the componenets that's one one thing, but just listing them over nad over seems pointless. And frankly, if you are the 4th or 5th reviewer and you agree with the prior reviewers on some point, just say so, no need to waste three paragraphs restating what has already been said.

So my main suggestion would actually be to the Moderators. Please judge a review in terms of what it adds to the existing game entry in toto, don't treat it as if it's the only source of information.
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Zoe M
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blockhead wrote:
I don't see much point in copying and pasting the component list into a review, and I especially hate it when I'm reading the 4th or 5th review of a game and they ALL include it! If the reviewer has an opinion of the componenets that's one one thing, but just listing them over nad over seems pointless. And frankly, if you are the 4th or 5th reviewer and you agree with the prior reviewers on some point, just say so, no need to waste three paragraphs restating what has already been said.

So my main suggestion would actually be to the Moderators. Please judge a review in terms of what it adds to the existing game entry in toto, don't treat it as if it's the only source of information.

Agreed! I'm tired of reading lists of game components and extended explanations of the rules. I want to know what the reviewer thinks about the overall game experience, and why.
 
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