Review Drift and optimising for first play

To oversummarise the thesis: where quality resources are limited, they are applied to the moment of initial review / first few plays rather than the long term. This is something I’ve said before (less eloquently), so naturally I agree. :slight_smile:

This is one reason I like SVWAG’s “a thing we reviewed a year ago” segment.


The Long View podcast comes to mind too


Yes, additional point not made. Anyone can start a channel and be a ‘reviewer’ these days.

Thus they even less time to push of the content of the full time boys, so fewer plays and quicker reviews. My conjecture is that this is why terminally boring unboxing videos are a thing now.


“The Internet Knife Community” is a thing that I didn’t know existed but now that I’ve seen it written down it’s obvious that it would exist. Good post, and well articulated.

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Is this the “reaction videos” of the board game community?

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I have no idea. The idea of watching someone open a box and show the contents is ridiculous though.

Although, this was an experience -

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Many years ago I was interested in On Her Majesty’s Service because I used to play the Smog miniatures game. I watched the dice tower Tom, Zee and Sam say how much they enjoyed it before buying. The game is novel and an interesting idea around the puzzle. The movement of your piece and the board was genuinely interesting. However it took only 3 games to find out that it was fundamentally broken from the inclusion of an action card that warped the game. At that point I stopped using any dice tower reviews. This to me feels connected to that blog post.

Burano is my favourite game, it vexes me the amount of people who insist the most linear action is the strongest after not many games of playing. An attempted video reviewer has repeated this. The video review now seems to make it cannon. This is to me more evidence of this review drift in board games. Not enough engagement/understanding of the game to explore the richness leads to erroneous balance claims.

However I think an advantage of playing lots of games just a little is you don’t develop any extreme high levels of skill in any one of them. This can be really valuable in some settings. Particularly club type settings where you’ll play against different people all the time. Games are more fun if someone at the table isn’t heads and shoulders above everyone else playing the game for the most part. I definitely found it easier to indulge my preferences for heavy games with a more settled group. Playing a heavy game several sessions running really nailed down strategy and competence all round the group was what was needed to make them sing. If you don’t have that the richness might be pointless. I think this makes me agree with the point about drift being inevitable but not necessarily so bad if it goes in multiple directions at once.

So in summary, great article.


There’s two kinds of groups worth cultivating. One for the deep games, usually prearranged and one where you play lots of different games.


Interesting article. I agree with how much is being placed these days in visuals, and how little on durability. Which consumer-driven economy is loving, by the way. Flashy, plastic stuff that will last little and get replaced easily. Planned obsolescence, that makes, for example, toasters like my parents own, that they bought in the 80s and still works, a rarity. I had to buy 3 toasters in the last ten years.

I remember how in barely 4 years, I went through as many pedal-actioned rubbish bins when I was living in the UK. Most of them were flashy, but when you looked at the mechanism after they broke down, it was all cheap plastic combined with wire or, if you were lucky, a bit of mild steel here and there. These days I gave up, and went for the swivel action top. Cheaper and not so clean, but way less frustrating.

I am wondering if board games will not suffer from all this. It is happening in a way, the cult of the new driving games higher than they may deserve in the bgg top 100 comes to mind. The driving economy of minis to make game designers able to target higher prices for their product. And, in the end, it is all plastic that looks good.

There’s also survivorship bias in there. Case in point, no one remembers the bad music from the 70s/80s/90s just the tunes we still play now.


I was going to say just that, but less succinct and with worse examples.

(reply to raged_norm)

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That’s a fair point, and I won’t deny it. But if you move it to technology… I remember taking our first Sony Betamax tape recorder to the shop to be serviced, and then in the 90s VHS recorder went so cheap that it was better to throw them away and buy a new one.

But the cherry on the top has to go these days to phone batteries, where 10 years ago, you could replace them for a new one, and now they are built in, so you have to ditch a perfectly fine phone for an “easily” replaceable battery.

But coming back to survivorship bias… maybe this affects board games that we consider classics these days? There is a clear cult of the new, but sometimes we also have to consider overrating of older games as well? Or does it get it mixed in with nostalgia?

I was reading this in the context of boardgames and got very confused. “How is plastic less durable than cardboard?!” :joy:

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That would be more nostalgia, I’d think. Survivorship bias in board games would be talking about a particular period as a ‘golden age’ because there were good games that have been retained and re-released while ignoring all the dross released at the same time that we’ve forgotten about.

Music is the finest example of this. People will talk endlessly about how great music was in the 60s/70s/80s/90s/etc… then you show them what the charts looked like during those decades - a mixture of novelty songs and things you’ve never heard of. Oh, and that 60s/70s classic that captured the ‘sound of the decade’? It was probably never released as a single, and only entered the public consciousness when it was featured on some films or ads years later.

This is one of the arguments in boardgames that can be twisted any way you want to. Are boardgames full of plastic but only get played a few times and are effectively disposable when they lose the hotness? Are boardgames cherished items that can last a lifetime and justify improved components? Does it even matter as long as it goes to another home to play when you’re done with it? Moan a bit of consumerism, capitalism, and the environment, think piece done.

It’s the ‘Is Beyonce feminist?’ of boardgames.


Technically, you could say that plastic minis are way less durable than wooden meeples, now that I think of it.

At least we have the advantage that most games retain that price hype, and after a few plays, you can re-sell at a very decent margin.

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I think that way is dying in the UK. The price of couriers has increased so much the last few years you lose 20% off whatever the cheapest price is online (which already undercuts the MSRP quite a bit), then 15-20% on the shipping. And if it’s not the hotness, you need to cut even more to sell. It’s definitely a buyer’s market.

These days I just sell dirt cheap locally. It shifts a lot faster and it’s not much of a loss compared to shipping.

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Compared to video games or say, cars, the return is still juicy, though.

But I agree that local is the best way to sell. No courier, no visit to post office… definitely better.

I like the way SVWAG talk about all the games they played and when games make repeated appearances that’s when I listen more closely. I also like other reviewers who go back to games they reviewed before.

In general I like hearing people talk about games. I enjoy the theatrics of a good SUSD review or the additional context NPI is trying to add these days… but I’d rather have more general discussions, more meta if you will. And I enjoy hearing reviewers talk outside of the standard review context, it often feels they are more honest then.

I like reviews for some general information. We’ve done this forever–my parents used the Guide Michelin to find good restaurants since I can remember (it’s not just 3* places in the guide…) and we’ve had a subscription to a product review magazine (Stiftung Warentest) for years and years. (My partner and I just recently rewatched the totally on topic L’aile ou la cuisse–Louis De Funès plays a food critic)

In my book reviews are a good thing they are supposed to help me choose the right product for my needs or an experience I’ll enjoy. But they can only ever help, they cannot make a decision for me. I have to make the decision and reviews tend to misrepresent stuff in some way that I need to learn to recognize, so I can put that into the equation and make a better decision.

So good for the article writer who is reminding me of that and making me remember to think critically :slight_smile:

As for survivor bias. Probably true. However, with more and more appliances using more and more electronics, everything becomes more fragile. Unless it’s LED over traditional bulbs. That’s one of the few things very longevity seems to have increased. But your fancy IOT washing machine? Your internet connected fridge? Good luck getting that to last 10 years–looking forward to some vendor bricking people’s freezers. Software updates ftw :smiley:


I think this is why I stopped listening to podcast nor have an appetite to start new ones, or watch review videos when they show up.

Okay, great. You showed me 10 new games in the hotness but Im probably only interested on 2 of those. Im just too lazy now, I guess.

I listen to SVWAG because I became accustomed to their high density format where you have to tune in to get what theyre saying. And they report based on what they played that week, new and old alike, not struggle through the new hotness. In a way, their podcast felt more organic and so similar to my baord gaming group where they play old and new games alike.
And there’s Hidden Gems, which look at the lowly ranked games in BGG.

Other than that, I just read up what my Geek Buddies think.