A Brief Interlude – Procrastination!

Interlude

“A pause between the acts of a play.”

Or in this case, between posts!

I’m currently doing my best to tie myself up in knots. Too many things on the go at once and hence, making little headway in any of them!

I’m part way through the writing of a post that explores the use of Artificial Intelligence in games, I keep adding bits and pieces to my TSM Geek post, due for the end of this month, and I’ve had several ideas for future posts that I keep adding to before I forget what I wanted to say.

On top of this, I have developed a backlog of finished miniatures that I want to talk about, including some factions from Scythe and the Brute from Gloomhaven, and my daughter has progressed her D&D campaign, so I need to write up the next chapter of Valthana’s adventure; I also want to make inroads into reviewing all the games I have.

Of course, all this has to be fitted in around the normal goings on in life, and me being me, I keep flitting from one thing to another, where as I should really be concentrating on one thing at a time and getting something finished.

So, see this post as a delaying tactic; something I’ve thrown in to distract from the fact that there may not be a solid post from me this week!

But, why I’m here I may as well ask a couple of questions, one of which has been playing on my mind for sometime, and that’s review format.

Firstly, though, I’m trying to decide which games to review next. You’d think it would be fairly easy, but as I’ve already alluded to, I tend to bounce from one game to another in quite quick succession, but when I’ve made up my mind to review a game then I like to concentrate on it and play it to death first.

At the moment though, there are a few games that are getting more play than others, and so it would make sense to choose one of them. They are: Scythe, Museum, Tainted Grail: The fall of Avalon, The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, and Teotihuacan: City of Gods.

Decisions, Decisions!
Decisions, decisions!

But there are also several older games, which I think I should really have reviewed by now, and they are certainly deserving of some attention – Pandemic, 6 Nimmt!, Eldritch Horror, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and Suburbia.

I also have Tiny Epic Tactics sitting on my shelf, unopened, after arriving from kickstarter fulfilment sometime before Christmas! And, of course, there’s the one I’ve been putting of for some time now, and that’s Gloomhaven – I keep thinking about a review on this, what is probably my favourite game of all time, and even penned one up, but, even though my reviews are usually pretty lengthy, I scrubbed this one after passing 10,000 words!

Tiny Epic Tactics

So, indecision has set in, though I’m currently leaning towards games from the first group mentioned above, but if anyone has any preferences, then please let me know.

Okay, review format. I’m pretty happy now with how I lay out my reviews, apart from one little aspect – How Does It Play?

This has always been a sticking point for me, and I’ve never been happy with it. I think a game review should always include an overview of how you actually play the game. This gives the reader a point of reference when you go on to say why you liked, or didn’t like, a certain aspect of the game.

Unfortunately, I think this is something that is difficult to do well in the written format. In a video you have the visuals to back up what you’re trying to say, whereas in a written overview, especially of a complex game, it could take thousands of words to get the same ideas across.

I’ve always lumped for attempting a condensed version of the rules, where I try to get across the main structure and key concept of the game play by giving an idea of the setup and turn structure. It’s tedious to write and very dry to read, I also don’t know if really works.

I’m currently toying with a couple of ideas…

Magazine reviewers, who are limited by their editor to a certain number of words, often home in on particular aspects of the gameplay, ones that they believe give a feel for the game, for example:

‘The player starts the game with a player board and a number of workers, and during the game they will aim to use these workers to build several types of building, which will then generate an income.’

This method is fine if you’re already slightly familiar with the game. But the trouble I find with this is, after reading the review, I often find that I still have no idea about what you’re supposed to do during the game, how the turn structure works, or how the game’s mechanisms function – will I actually like this game? It does, however, make for easier and more entertaining reading, so there’s the play off.

I also think that the gameplay should be totally factual and unpersonalised – having no personal thoughts spliced into the writing of it – so that the reader can get an ida of the game and how it may play out without being influenced by the writer… that comes later in the review!

I have though about leaving this section out altogether, which would be fine if I was only publishing my reviews on BoardGameGeek (BGG), where there are plenty of videos available that explore the gameplay to great depth. A fair amount of written reviews posted on there give a purely personal opinion of the game, as it is often assumed that the reader is already familiar with the gameplay. But I don’t want to jump to such assumptions; I want to cater for those new to the hobby, who are looking for new gaming experiences, and not just those already submerged into the culture.

So, there’s my current dilemma.

If you’ve ever read any of my reviews, what do you think?

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated – please leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “A Brief Interlude – Procrastination!

  1. Well, why put off until tomorrow when you can put off ’til the day after! 😉 Get a mini painted and then review Scythe! I quite enjoy your reviews as they are – I’d rather know about what the game is about and how it feels to play it, rather than the nuts and bolts of the mechanics I think! But . . . they are your reviews to do with as you like!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John,
      It’s always good to get a different perspective on things.
      It’s finding the right balance really; I’m quite happy with people skipping the ‘How Does it Play’ section if it isn’t their cup of tea. But, for those who like to get an idea of the the game’s mechanisms, then I want to work out a way to present it that isn’t too dry and yet contains an unbiased description that reads well.
      Feedback is the best way to fine-tune things, in my opinion, so thanks again for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Justin! I usually don’t write comments, just rather thumb your geeklist on BGG as a sign of thanks, but since you asked your readers a question it seemed only polite to answer with a real answer… 🙂

    Procrastination is a thing. Maybe that’s a part of today’s culture – in the days of old people sung songs together while spinning yarn. Nowadays we procrastinate. We have the time to do so, after all.

    Anyway. Of those games you mentioned, I’d be interested in your thoughts on Pandemic, Gloomhaven. and Scythe.

    About the reviews: I have to admit that I mostly skip the description of how to play. For that I watch the videos on BGG/YouTube, because I understand gameplay best by seeing it. What I’m personally interested in is what you think about the game and gameplay: Which points did you enjoy? Where was the game tedious or unclear? How does it play solo? These are the points I look for.

    While I’m writing this, I realise that I do like a short description of how to play the game or the mechanics, at least. I remember reading your review on 1066, and while I don’t remember what you wrote exactly, I remember (I think?) that you talked about the two opposing armies and described what you did. (And I remember the pictures you made! The vivid red blood tokens shaped like (tear) drops. I guess I’m a visual person and I like stories.) I do know that reading your description I knew that 1066 was not a game for me. Sorry, this is incoherent… I hope this helps?

    Thank you for your post, reviews, and pictures! ^^

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comments Suzana, much appreciated.

      Pandemic is a game I should have reviewed long ago, but for some reason it slipped through the net – it’s such a great introduction into the hobby and a game I know very well, so expect to see a review soon.

      I agree that it is so much easier to pick up a game’s mechanisms from video, and it’s where I go to find these things out; I too pick things up better visually, but I know some prefer it written down.

      I do try to back any criticism up with examples, so hopefully that gives an indication into how the game works too.

      1066 certainly sticks in one’s mind for the vivid artwork portrayed throughout the game, thanks for the observation, and I’m happy to have helped make your mind up about the game – definitely not for everyone!

      Thank you too for your support on BGG – a thumbs up from you always makes me smile – I use it as an indication that I’m ticking some of the right boxes, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As far as my preference goes… I like to have someindication of how a game plays. There’s no amount of theming that will convince me to play a game where the mechanics are not to my liking. It doesn’t need to be a full on in depth analysis of everything, but a few paragraphs or an example turn work for me, enough to get an idea of how a turn will flow and whether I could convince someone else that the game will be fun.

    For example, Black Orchestra feels like a game I would like and could maybe convince a couple of people to play, based on your description of how it plays. But 1066, based on your description, is not for me or my likely opponents.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comments Martin.

      I find it’s the theme that draws me to a game, but then I try to balance things with the game’s mechanisms. If it does have a strong theme, one that really interests me, then I sometimes overlook game mechanisms that don’t always appeal to me. More often than not I’m happy with the game, but sometimes it does bite me on the bum – 1066, and Star Wars: Outer Rim come to mind!

      I like the idea of an example turn; I will give that a fair mulling over and maybe try it out next time – thanks for that.

      I reckon you’d really like Black Orchestra, it’s a good game to get you thinking and working together, but it isn’t too deep that it takes hours to play, so it’s fairly easy to convince people to give it a shot (pun intended!).

      Thanks again Martin.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First off, thanks for the blog. I really do enjoy reading what you post. As for your question, I’d like to see a review of Teotihuacan: City of Gods or Museum. As for your reviews, the How to Play section is part that I will sometimes skim over even if I haven’t played the game before. It is the most technical and sometimes visual references would better help get the information across. I like more “Reader’s Digest” descriptions. Basically a summary of what you do versus a detailed description of each step. I compare this to a player aid vs. the rulebook. You could always move the How to Play section to the bottom. That way people can read and get your opinion of the game then read the detail if it still interests them. If you leave the section out, you can include a link to the BGG listing and let readers know they can find videos and other information there. But whatever you do, I’ll still be reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael.
      It would appear most people skip that section, so there is some grounding for me to ditch it, however, I’m toying with using an example turn to highlight the gameplay, which may make it easier to digest.
      I do include a link at the end to my favourite video review, and that usually includes a decent description of the game play, especially if it’s a Tom Vasel review. I also link to the game’s BGG page, as you say, there’s lots to find there that may be useful.
      At the end of the day I’m happy if someone just glances at my reviews – if that’s enough to get someone interested in the game, and then they jump to BGG to find out more, then that’s good enough for me.
      I will probably review Museum before Teotihuacan, I need more play time on the latter, especially the solo game, but I’ve played Museum plenty and my findings are quite interesting…
      Thanks again for your comments, much appreciated.

      Like

  5. As you say, it can be difficult to get the nuance and detail across, so I’d just say continue with the reviews and your opinion on how things play as you are and just keep tweaking it until you become mroe comfortable. Speaking for myself at least, reviews like yours, and others on WordPress serve to pique my interest or give me another …data/opinion point as I usually will read a few reviews and also watch a few videos to see how a potential $100+ purchase works before dropping the money – so the different persepctives and advantages of different media all work together if we (as buyers) use them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the ‘meaty’ feedback, much appreciated, Azazel.
      Yeah, I’ll just continue to tinker with my usual format – I’m in the process of writing a review of Scythe, and I’m going with a turn-based example of how the game plays. I think that will give a better feel for the gameplay.
      I think it’s important, as you say, to be able to look at a number of trusted opinions before laying out our hard earned cash, so I like to do the best job I can when it comes to providing an insight into a particular game.

      Liked by 1 person

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