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Subject: What makes a good review? rss

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Brent Mair
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I've asked this question elsewhere but I haven't received a satisfactory reply. What makes a good review?

Personally I like information about the game, how it plays, and information that clarifies and fills in information missing from the box. Box says 30 minutes but it always takes 90? Box says 12 and up but many eight year olds can play it?

I also like reading the personal opinion of the reviewer. But therein lies a problem. Just because Greg dislikes it doesn't mean I will. Just because Tom ranted about it doesn't mean I'll agree with his assessment.

Reviews are inherently subjective but what neutral information can we get from the reviewer that will help us decide what games we will most likely enjoy?

One possibility I see if that the gaming population can be divided into different segments and that part of the population can be addressed in the review.

Tigris and Euphrates:

Gamers: Like
Families: Dislike
Causual: Dislike

I don't know how well this helps clarify reviews.
Any other suggestions?
 
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Steve H
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If you could create the ULTIMATE formula for quantification of the 'good review', you will have put yourself at the front of the line of any marketing group

Agreeing to what constitutes a good review would probably be more difficult than a concensus of what makes a 'good poll' when questioning the populace about the presidential election.

I've found just reading the reviews themselves (User Reviews and Session reports) offers little nuggets here and there that help me in my purchasing decisions.
 
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Ubergeek
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It sounds like what you need is a good session report and a FAQ.

I like to address the target audience of the game and for that you have quite a spectrum to choose from. Who's going to like the game I review? If it's a boardgame, I'll cater to Euro and casual board games. If it's a war game, then it could include the former category to the purist Grognard. Miniatures and card games are another group of gamers. But for my reviews I like to create an atmosphere where if a reader can find themselves immersed in that atmosphere, they'll probably like the game. Granted I also like to cover, quality, components, rules presentation and comprehensibility, strategy versus luck, cooperation versus solitaire, kingmaker possibilities, cut-throat play, flavor, offensive or offending elements, and length of play to name a few. Of course in great reviews, reference should always be made to the fart-factor of the game box.

Personally, I don't like reviews that spend half the review repeating the rules. A simple explanation of the game mechanics should suffice. If it's a bidding game, I'm not going to go into detail on the type of bidding involved. Luckily, many games now have the rules posted on the web so you can get a feel for a game from reading them. I also don't like reviews that turn into a session report. A detailed replay of a game can be an excellent learning tool but just bogs down a review. Of course, a few snips from some game play to give insight are never amiss.

A good review is one you disagree with certain elements. A great one will have you nodding your head in total agreement. This should apply whether you're agreeing about purchasing the game or giving it a miss.

Granted that's all pretty general, but realize that no matter how neutral you try to be, there's always some subjectivity in a review. One of my cardinal rules is never compare one game to another in a review, even if just in passing, unless reviewing two games at once. In this manner you can compare and contrast the two. I try to rate a game based on its own merits and not what may have come before it. Even then, there are times this approach will fall flat when reviewing a follow-on game with the same mechanics as its predecessors. (i.e. Battle Cry/Memoir 44, Mage Knight/Mechwarrior, Trivial Pursuit/Trivial Pursuit #210, Axis & Allies: Europe/Axis & Allies: Pacific, etc.) Many games often borrow mechanics from others so a certain amount of reference to other games can occur in a review, but it should all help the reader better decide if this is their type of game.

Reviews and ratings often generate hot topics in any discussion group. Credibility of the reviewer is important. And that's something that's hard to come by, even in the board gaming world. The internet has given everyone a voice and avenue to express their opinions. Sometimes you just need to sort through the chaff.
 
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Tony
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One thing I'd love to see become standard here is a complexity rating system. I don't know if the best place is in the body of the review, or maybe just an additional rating field that will allow gamers to voice their opinion about how complicated they think the game is.
 
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Dwayne Hendrickson
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One thing that might help (and I probably need to start doing this as well) is to mention why I like parts of the game. For instance, I'm a sucker for 3-d boards (Fireball Island, 13 Deadend drive), games where you construct the board or it always changes (Settlers, Survive, Betrayal, Zombies, Omega Virus), games with lots of scenarios (Battle Cry, Memoir 44) but I dislike games that are basically a race and there is nothing that you can do to slow down or stop your opponent (Dark Tower)

Understanding our 'weaknesses' (or what we are 'suckers for') and letting folks know that as well, will probably make for better reviews.

hmmm, now to incorporate that into my upcoming reviews.

On a side note, I do like your idea of how other folks react to a game as well.
 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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I Can Read the Rules Myself, Thanks
One thing that I DISLIKE in a review, is a word-for-word breakdown of the complete ruleset. Thanks, but no thanks. I certainly want to hear about interesing mechanics, but not every little tiny detail from start to finish. I also want a breakdown on more than just gameplay. I want to know about quality, play-time, theme, colors, price, size, et cetera.
 
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Todd Derscheid
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Good question!
I expect you to tell me something I don't know, and make me care enough to keep reading, with descriptive and engaging writing that adeptly tells me your preferences.

I want to know more about the game, and I want to get the sense you gave it your best shot, whether you liked it or not-that you went in willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt.

I want to know if the game is going to work in my play group-how did all your players react? Unless the game absolutely stank, I expect you've played it several times with players varied in number and attitude each time.

If you were disappointed in anything, I want to know.

I want to know if I should buy the game or not, especially if I already have other games that may fill a similar niche.
 
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