A solo review conviction
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Once upon a time I was reading reviews and less structured thoughts on Instagram, and I was getting annoyed at how often I got excited, only to have my hopes crushed as I checked on Boardgamegeek to find a player count of 2-4. Why didn't anyone shout at the beginning of their review/overview/unboxing/highlight if this was a solo game or not?!
Well, because not all gamers are solo gamers, for one. So I figured: why whine when you can do something about it, and I started to always include designer, player count and publisher in my posts. But the majority of stuff I read was still not quite what I was looking for, and even though there are plenty of gamers reviewing games, and even – thankfully – solo gamers reviewing solo games, I felt like there was something missing from those reviews for me. And that's when I started my first template for solo reviews.
It had to include player count at least, but also set-up time and play length, because so many games didn't make it to my table because of a bad set-up/play ratio. You don't want to take half an hour to set up a game that only lasts 40 minutes in solo play. So I started timing set-up time and play length, because in solo they are more often than not vastly different from what you'll find on the box.
It also had to involve something I dubbed 'missing mechanisms', but that quickly involved anything from the multiplayer game missing in solo play. I still remember being bummed at finding a missions deck in Tiny Epic Galaxies and not being able to actually use that deck. Or having the push your luck element in Era turn into an 'always unlucky' situation when it came to rolling skulls. I felt solo players needed to know beforehand what would be missing from the experience.
I started my reviews with a 'how it works', for people who wanted to get into solo gaming but didn't know how: it's usually not as complicated as it looks, so I decided to break down the main points. I talked about the rulebook, because lets face it, some are just really bad, and even worse for solo. (I always get cranky when I read: "set up the game as a two player game, with the following exceptions", followed by a list that is longer than the actual description of a solo set-up would have been.) I talk about win conditions, because you don't always want a beat your own score, I had a short paragraph talking about automa difficulty, and then ended with the all important question: should you solo?
The set-up for my reviews has changed with the switch from Instagram to my website, but the main conviction is still there: you should be getting a quick objective overview of what a game is about, followed by my opinions and why I have them. So here's my promise to you: I'll always structure my reviews the same, and you'll always be able to read about my opinions, preceded by a quick overview plus link to Boardgamegeek, because if you're anything like me, you'll want to go there regardless.
One last thing. If you're used to Instagram, you'll see a lot of people mentioning a review copy in combination with something about their own opinions. I guess Instragram needs this reassurance; we've all seen the influencer scandals with people not coming forward about advertising (not reviewing!) something as if it were their own opinion. So yes, I'll let people know if I got a review copy in my IG-post – either in the hashtags or in the body –, and I'll tag each review copy here so you can see all of my reviews of gifted games if you'd like.
I really apreciate publishers sending over their games for me to review, and I'd like to be open about what I bought myself and what I got to play for free. But stating this as a sentence as part of my review here feels weird. And I'll tell you why. Once upon a time I was a film critic. I watched movies provided by the companies that distributed them, and I never felt any obligation to them to write a positive review. The only obligation I felt was to the people reading my reviews, to let them know what they were getting in to. To let them know my honest opinions so they could weigh their own against the importance of mine.
I don't see why it should be any different with board games. So here's my final promise to you: The games I review here may be my own or they may be review copies. It shouldn't matter, because when I put a review up, I'm not writing it for the publisher who gave me a copy to review. I'm writing it for you. However, if you feel that it does matter, know that you can sort the gifted copies from the ones I bought myself through tags.
If you ever feel like something's missing from my reviews, I'd love to know. Comment, contact or find me on IG or Boardgamegeek.