Archive for October, 2013


Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Well, I feel okay now. I didn’t for a while; I spent a week being sick, which I wrote about in the style of Ogden Nash. I really like Ogden Nash; I have a 6-volume hardcover set on a shelf in my office, and various of his other books scattered around. He was one of the poets I grew up on, along with Frank Jacobs*, which probably explains a lot about my poetic sensibilities. It was only later that I got into hip-hop. I’ll be performing somewhat less doggerel-esque poetry this Saturday at Greenfield’s WordFest.

To continue briefly from last entry, one reason so many reviews are positive is that in order to properly review a game, you have to play it a few times. So far this month, I’ve played three new-to-me games, but only once each. One I loved (Terra Mystica), but don’t know when I’ll get a chance to play it again. One I liked (Asgard’s Chosen), but need to try it with more players before writing up a fair review. And the one I didn’t like (Chicago Express) was not a review copy, nor is it a new game, so my motivation to play it a second time is minimal.

I think about food a lot. Not just because my column this week was about the Wrath of Grapes, but I am just someone who really enjoys good food. My latest kick is inspired by Larb**, but as I’m too lazy to grind rice or chicken, I’m using crushed peanuts and shredded chicken, which over rice and lettuce, with a chili lime fish sauce, is pretty danged tasty. I guess you could say I’m a Larb guy.***

*The Maven of Mad Magazine, who wrote many brilliant parodies of which the one that most sticks in my mind is “Quoth the Reagan”.

**What is Larb? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more. Larb is a dish that originated in Laos. I’ve got nothing but Larb for you, baby. If you want to know more, hey, you’re on the Internet. Larb conquers all.

***And I wish you would say it out loud, because Larb Gai is chicken larb, but that joke doesn’t work well written.

Tough but Fair

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

This largely describes how I try to be, as a reviewer. I really like reviewing things, because I feel like I do a good job of objectively laying out pros and cons. My favorite evidence to support this opinion is the fact that numerous times, after writing a boardgame review on BGG, I’ve had people respond to the same review with opposite reads. Someone saying “I agree with all your points, this game was missing the wow factor,” and someone else saying, “I agree with all your points, I love this game.” Or another review where someone replied that the review convinced them to buy the game, and someone else replied that the review convinced them not to buy the game. While I’ve enjoyed reviewing books and restaurants as well, I feel like I especially excel at analyzing games and picking out what people will enjoy or not, and so I really like reviewing them.*

If any of you know much about the review world, or the game world, then you know that there’s a lot of cases where reviewers are pressured to give strong reviews to weak products. This is most obvious in the video game world, where there are stories of all sorts, including a reviewer being fired for being one of the only ones to give a bad review to a game that most players agreed was bad. If it often seems like a reviewer is positive about everything, it may be because there’s the very rational fear that if one gives negative reviews, the review copies will stop coming.

I’m certainly not saying that’s the reason why most companies have stopped sending me review copies of board games — I’m pretty sure my removal** from’s game subsite is the main reason for that –but just to note that many reviewers feel like they have to give only positive reviews. I pride myself on giving fair reviews, which means some of them are glowing, some of them are eviscerating, and most fall somewhere between the two. And I’ll admit, the first time I posted to BoardGameGeek a really scathing review of a boardgame I’d been sent a review copy of, I wondered if I’d stop receiving review copies from that company. So far, that hasn’t happened, even after a few more negative reviews. It’s not that I like being negative about games. It’s that I have to.

That way when I say good things about them, you know you can believe me.

*The games, not the people. I could probably offer objective reviews of people as well, but that seems somehow distasteful.

**A while back, decided to lay off all 72 of their subsite associate editors, so while I don’t take the removal personally, it still was an annoying loss of platform. Sort of like that Super Mario level with the donut blocks that drop.