Almost a year ago I wrote my very first board game review. This may not seem like a big accomplishment amidst all the reviewers and bloggers out there but it represented a new endeavor for me. Truth be told I started writing the review over a month earlier when Wolfie contacted me about contributing to his wonderful site. I had some hesitations between my lack of writing experience and a fairly inflexible schedule but he encouraged me to give it a try. I’m not sure I would have ever taken that step on my own and fortunately I didn’t have to. Thanks to the support and encouragement of my fellow dragon slayers I was able to struggle my way through that first review and go on to write 34 more articles during my first year. It’s been a great experience and I’d like to think my writing has both entertained our readers and continuously improved over the last year.
I’m not sure if it’s common to contemplate quitting, or at least taking a break, when you commit to writing on a regular basis while balancing work, family, and your actual gaming time. I read in an interview that Wolfie did that Jon tried to quit at one point and I seriously considered whether I could keep writing consistently throughout my first year. My wife is currently finishing up her fourth year of medical school, we have a two and half year old daughter, and I somehow manage to fit in my full time job when I don’t have my hands full taking care of my family. I know we’re all busy here at iSlayTheDragon, now that Wolfie had his kid all four of us have families to care for and plenty on our plates. It’s nice to get even a little bit of time for games every now and then. I’ve found the sheer time commitment to be the most challenging part of writing. Some reviewers make it seem so effortless, as if they could just sit down and bang out a review in an hour or two but I’m still at the point where it will take me quite a bit longer than that. More than ever before I appreciate and respect writers that are able to produce consistent content. I don’t know how they do it but luckily we have a whole team to make it possible to get something up every day during the week.
Challenges aside I’ve really enjoyed my first year. There are many games that I’ve discovered since joining and I’d like to highlight some of my favorite reviews:
Hidden Gem: Fealty – I discovered this game when I saw it in a raffle at IndyCon in 2012. I’ve made a habit of picking games that fly under the radar so that I’ll be more likely to win them. I’m glad that I ended up picking it because Fealty is a game that hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserve. This might be in part because it’s an abstract but the speed-balanced placement and scoring system is incredibly clever and sets it apart.
Biggest Surprise: Voluspa – When I first heard about Voluspa I thought it was going to be a beautifully illustrated Qwirkle with special powers. I was right about the wonderful artwork but there was a lot more depth here than I had expected. Each game creates a sprawling and evolving puzzle that presents the players with the challenge of optimizing each placement.
Best Filler: Blueprints – I don’t often buy games before trying them but I decided to take a chance with blueprints because it sounded so intriguing. Luckily I ended up with one of my favorite fillers. Blueprints is incredibly easy to teach and fast to play but still offers meaningful decisions and rewards players that are paying attention.
Most Underrated: London/Last Will – I’m a big fan of tableau builders and have felt like quite a few of my favorites have been grossly underrated. I’d say that London and Last Will are both underrated for different reasons. London seemed to get a lot of attention when it came out but then seemed to drop off the map. Last Will on the under hand never seemed to get a fair shake. Both are great games.
Themey Goodness: The New Science – I don’t care that much about theme so I was extremely surprised at how excited I got when I opened up my copy of The New Science and geeked out at all the sciency goodness. The thematic immersion in this game is great, there’s incredible attention to detail and the gameplay does a perfect job of recreating the scientific revolution. It may not be an exciting theme to most but it is done flawlessly.
Don’t Judge A Game By It’s Cover: Guildhall – I almost didn’t even try this one because of that cover. But then I heard good things about it and a copy showed up in a math trade so I decided to give it a shot. I’m so glad I was able to get past my initial withholding because once you actually open up the box there’s a really great game inside. I still feel like it could do with a much better cover and I know I’m not alone in that.
Favorite Review: Keyflower – This game took much longer to review than I had expected. There is partially due to the fact that it’s heavier and longer than most of the other games that I’ve reviewed and partially because I wanted to make sure I explored it enough before reviewing it. I’m fairly confident that I still have plenty to discover about Keyflower but I played it enough to learn how great it is.
Gaming Obsession: Ascension – It’s probably not much of a surprise to hear that I love Ascension. There are many games that I have played extensively but the one that I’m most excited about at the moment is Ascension. Every year they introduce a new block and this year’s base game, Realms Unraveled, sounds to be very exciting. There are scarce details and a long wait until the June release but luckily there are three other blocks to play until then.
Kickstarter Success: oddball Aeronauts – I haven’t actually gotten my copy of oddball Aeronauts yet so you could say it’s a little early to call it a success but I was very excited to experience the incredible reception that it received on Kickstarter. I was fortunate enough to get a preview copy and my prediction that it would do well was blown away. I’ve been pretty weary of Kickstarter in the past but I was happy to make an exception for this one.
Favorite Experience: The Ancient World playtesting – I had my first experience with playtesting this year and I’m very lucky to have been included in such a great game. The Ancient World has already made my dimes list and I don’t even have my beautiful final copy yet. I suppose you could count it as another Kickstarter success!
What’s To Come
I’m excited to start my second year of writing for the dragon and I’ve got plenty planned for the future. I would like to start doing more reviews of longer and heavier euros since I’ve tended more towards light and middle weight euros in order to get more reviews done. I’m not sure how realistic that is but hopefully I can start to shift my focus a little more towards them. I’m also planning on writing more articles since they require less time than reviews to write. I’ve been hoping to revisit my most popular article, Patching Board Games, by making it into a series looking at how board games evolve and are supported after they are released. Look for that and many more articles, reviews, previews, interviews, and anything else I can think of writing. Thanks so much for reading and feel free to comment about anything that you’d like to see in the future.