With the rise of the board game industry in recent years, new board games seem to get released every day. With so many new games coming out all of the time, what is a board game publisher/designer supposed to do to get noticed? One of the first things that will probably come to your mind is that you should get some people to review your game. This is a really good idea as people are more likely to purchase a game if they hear good things about it from an unaffiliated party. So how do you go about finding people to review your board game?
For those of you not familiar with Geeky Hobbies we are an entertainment blog that has been in existence since September of 2014. While we do write about and review other forms of entertainment like video games, movies, TV, hobbies, and crafts; a large emphasis of our website is on board games. In general we like to look at as many different board games as we can from recent designer games to older family games. As of the writing of this post we have reviewed around 700 different board games.
A few years ago, Stonemaier Games wrote a post about what board game publishers look for in reviewers. I wanted to cover it from the other side, what game reviewers look for in potential board games to review. In this post I want to talk about the review process from the point of view of the reviewer. This is based on our experience and expectations here at Geeky Hobbies. Some of these recommendations might not apply to all reviewers but I believe these are things you should consider before contacting someone to review your board game.
As a board game reviewer I appreciate when designers/publishers are proactive instead of waiting until the last minute. In general I would say that it is best to start contacting board game reviewers as soon as you can. When you have a complete or near complete version of a game you should start the process. Waiting until the last minute to contact a reviewer is generally not going to make a good first impression for your game. Especially for Kickstarter releases I am considerably less likely to look at a game whose campaign has already started or is close to being over.
At the same time though you don’t want to contact reviewers too early. Generally you should only contact a reviewer once you have a general time range for a release date/campaign start date. As a reviewer it is kind of frustrating reviewing a game when the release date is constantly changing. If you haven’t narrowed down the date to within a month or so, it is probably a little too early to start contacting reviewers. Also, unless you are looking for someone to play test your game (more on this later), you probably shouldn’t start looking for reviewers until most or all of the rules are already finalized. It is really hard to review a game when the rules are still in flux. If you are going to tweak a few things here or there that’s fine. If you are still changing major gameplay mechanics though it is too early to start contacting reviewers outside of gauging potential interest.
The main reason to contact a reviewer early is that it takes time to create a thorough review of a board game. First reviewers need to set up the time to play your game. This requires arranging a time to play the game with family/friends. Most reviewers will play the game a couple of times which can add up if your game is on the longer side. In addition to setting aside time to play the game, the reviewer also needs time to actually write the review. While this is going to depend on how complicated the game is, I would say that it generally takes me around four to six hours to complete each review between writing it and taking all of the necessary pictures.
This might be different for other reviewers but I would generally say that it is best if you can get a game into a reviewer’s hands three to four weeks before you expect to get the final review. In general we at Geeky Hobbies can get a review done within two weeks but we prefer a little more time in case there are a lot of games that we have to review at the same time or other extenuating circumstances.
Do Your Research
One thing that some designers/publishers don’t realize is that some reviewers get hundreds of requests for board games to review. Especially with larger reviewers they are not going to have time to look at every game that someone wants reviewed. One way to gain some favor over other requests is to do some research about the website before contacting them about your game. Look over their reviews to see their style and what type of games they typically review. For example if the website typically reviews children’s/family games, your three to four hour war game may not be the right fit. You don’t need to spend hours researching a website but spending a little time can show the reviewer that you appreciate their opinion and thus will increase the odds that they will check out your game.
With regards to Geeky Hobbies we are a more general gaming blog and usually like playing all different types of board games. In general, we mostly prefer family and party games that are in the light to moderate difficulty level. Some genres that we don’t care for as much are young children’s games (as we don’t have any young children to play the game with), war games, games that take several hours to play, and games that are more adult in theme or content (Cards Against Humanity for example). If your game is in one of these categories we may still be interested in your game but it is probably less likely than other types of games.
Give the Reviewer All Relevant Information
As I already mentioned, a lot of board game reviewers get many requests to review board games (especially Kickstarter games). One way to stand out among the other games is to do a good job selling your game in your first email to a reviewer. This shows initiative and also proves that your request is genuine and not spam. Some reviewers accept unsolicited review copies but a lot ask for more information before they agree to review a game. To make it easier for them to determine whether your game is the right fit for their website, be ready to describe your game with an outline of how the game is played. A link to a full rulebook is also appreciated as that allows a reviewer to analyze whether they think they are going to like a game. I don’t want to waste my time playing a game that I am pretty sure that I am not going to like. It would be a waste to send a game like that to me. Basically I want enough information about your game to make a decision on whether the game is something that I will likely enjoy playing.
One thing in particular that we see a lot on Geeky Hobbies is emails with very generic titles like “Board Game Review”, “Review Request”, etc. These titles do not describe the game at all and prevent the game from being noticed when I look through our inbox. Generally emails like this will make their way to the trash without being looked at as they look like spam. If you are going to contact a reviewer make sure to actually put the name of your game and/or company name in the title so we can tell that the email isn’t spam and get an idea of what the email is about before opening it.
There is some other information that is also helpful to tell a reviewer. First, if you are sending a review copy most reviewers expect to keep the game in exchange for providing the review. If you want the review copy back you should be clear with the reviewer upfront so they know what to expect before agreeing to review your game. We do occasionally still review games that we need to return, but we definitely prefer to be aware of it beforehand. While some reviewers might not follow your request, if you have a preferred date for the review to be posted you should probably tell the reviewer as soon as possible so they can schedule the review to go up on that day. For reviews on Geeky Hobbies, we will post a review on whichever date you prefer as long as we receive the game early enough to complete the review process. Finally if you are sending a prototype copy of the game, it is helpful to know what things are going to change for the final version of the game. This allows the reviewer to take these facts into consideration while they are playing the game and reduces the number of re-writes of the review to address changes.
Be Willing to take Criticism
For a lot of people it is really hard to hear criticism about their work. I totally understand this feeling as at times I feel the same way. You have put a lot of work into making your game and you want people to love it. It is going to be hard to hear someone point out some of the faults in your game. If you want your board game to be reviewed though you need to be willing to endure some criticism. I have played around 700 different board games and I have yet to find a perfect game as even my favorite board game of all time has some things that it could have done better.
When most board game reviewers look at a game they are going to look at both the pros and cons. In my reviews, I make a point to address both the positives and negatives. No game is perfect but there are very few games that have no redeeming qualities either. In my opinion the best reviews give potential customers the full picture. I don’t think it is constructive to solely focus on the positives or negatives. I usually don’t give a lot of credit to reviews that solely talk about the positives or negatives as it seems kind of biased. When I review a game I will be honest about whether I liked it or not. If I liked a game I have no problem showering the game with praise. If I didn’t care for a game I am going to be honest about my feelings towards the game but at the same time I will talk about what I liked about the game as well.
When looking at someone’s critique of your game I see two different types of complaints. If I review a game and I genuinely made a mistake with a rule or something else that would materially impact my enjoyment of the game, I welcome hearing the complaint. If I make a mistake I will gladly admit it and fix it as I have done this with games we have reviewed in the past. I will try to replay the game and alter the review to correct my error. I am also willing to fix grammatical errors and parts of the review that are unclear/misleading. These complaints are warranted and I have no problem addressing them.
The other type of complaint I am less likely to address. Criticizing someone’s review because you don’t agree with their opinion is not going to sway any reviewer to change their opinion as it is looks unprofessional. I will not materially change a review or the rating unless I made a mistake while playing the game. At this point I have yet to have someone have a negative response to the review I gave their game so I don’t think this is a huge problem. Unless you have a valid reason where the reviewer is incorrect, you need to accept the criticism. Unfortunately not everyone is going to love your game. There are going to be areas that could be improved as no game is perfect. If your game is still in the pre-production phase maybe even consider addressing some of the issues brought up in reviews if possible as it likely will make your game better. When I write a review I try to offer constructive criticism in how a game could be better. If I don’t personally like a game but I know other people will like it, I will recommend the game to them. Learn from reviewers criticism to either improve your current game or implement their suggestions into your next game.
Share the Love
For most board game reviewers, providing a review of a board game is a two way street. The reviewer is bringing attention to your game so it is only right to then bring attention to their review as well. If a reviewer hates your game it is reasonable to not promote that review to the rest of the world. If a reviewer likes your game though share it through your social media and website to bring some traffic to the website that took the time to review your game. Outside of some less scrupulous reviewers, most reviewers do not receive any compensation for their reviews outside of receiving the game itself and getting readers to their website. Using quotes or blurbs from a review and then linking back to the full review is appreciated by reviewers and shows that you care that they took the time to review your game. This also helps build a relationship which makes it much more likely that they will review a future game.
Reach Out to Reviewers That You Have Contacted in the Past
While this seems pretty obvious, if someone has reviewed one of your previous games contact them to see if they would be interested in trying out your new game. If they liked your previous game they are likely going to want to try out your new game and will probably be more likely to enjoy it as well. This even applies to people that either didn’t like one of your previous games or declined to review one of your other games. If your new game is similar to another game that a reviewer didn’t like, they probably won’t like your new game either. If the game is considerably different though, it is worth seeing if they are interested in checking out your new game. Here at Geeky Hobbies we gladly welcome people asking if we are interested in trying out a new game even if we didn’t like or weren’t interested in a previous game that they made.
Be Willing to Look At Smaller Reviewers
When you are looking to get your game reviewed you obviously will want to go straight to the largest reviewers as they have a larger audience. Everyone would want to get their game reviewed by a site like the Dice Tower as they have a much further reach than other smaller reviewers. While approaching larger reviewers could potentially give you more publicity, if you are not already a well established designer or publisher they are also much less likely to review your game as they receive a lot more games to review and thus will likely spend their time on higher profile games.
While they might not have as great of reach as larger reviewers, approaching smaller and medium sized reviewers does have some benefits. First, they are more likely to look at games made by more unknown publishers and designers as they don’t receive as many review opportunities as larger reviewers. Smaller reviewers are likely to spend more time with your game, which means they are likely going to put more into the review of your game. Smaller reviewers also are more likely to work with designers/publishers in a mutually beneficial relationship. This doesn’t mean that they are going to give your game a better rating but they are more likely to work with you with scheduling a review date and other issues.
Be Wary of Reviewers Looking for Compensation
This is not the case with most board game reviewers but I would be leery of any reviewer that is looking for any sort of monetary compensation for reviewing your game. Outside of providing the game for review, you should not have to give anything else to a reviewer in order to get them to review your game. There are several reasons why I would avoid these reviewers. First there are plenty of board game reviewers that would gladly review your game for free. The bigger reason is that any reviewer that requires compensation is not a reputable reviewer in my opinion. If a reviewer takes money for their reviews people are unlikely to believe their opinion in the first place as there is no way to prove that they weren’t paid to provide a positive review.
We at Geeky Hobbies refuse to accept monetary compensation for a review. Outside of receiving the game itself, we do not receive any compensation for any game that we end up reviewing. We make this fact clear to all potential readers by mentioning that we received the game for free but received no other compensation.
The only time I would ever consider paying someone to look at your game is if you are looking for someone to look at a prototype and give you their opinion on what works and what needs to be fixed. In this case you can expect to pay the reviewer as they are going to want something for the time they spend with your game. You might occasionally find some people that would be willing to prototype a game for free but most people are going to be looking for some sort of compensation as they won’t be able to benefit off the traffic of being able to review/preview your game. We occasionally accept prototype copies here at Geeky Hobbies. We don’t accept monetary compensation but do require the ability to write a preview/review.
Review Policy for Geeky Hobbies
After reading through this post, if you have a board game that you would like reviewed here on Geeky Hobbies feel free to email us with some information about your game. I would consider Geeky Hobbies to be a medium sized board game website. If you would like to contact us, here are some guidelines that you should follow:
- We do not accept unsolicited review copies. You need to contact us first before sending a review copy. We do this for a couple reasons. Any review copy that we receive will receive some type of coverage. If the game is finished or nearly finished we will review the game but if the game is further away from being finished we will provide a preview of the game. As we guarantee coverage on everything we receive we would like to look into a game before we decide to cover a game. If we don’t think we will like the game or it won’t fit on Geeky Hobbies, we want to avoid having you waste money sending us a game that is unlikely to receive positive coverage.
- When contacting us give us information about your game. In the email’s title list the name of your game/company and that you are looking for us to review your game. We ask for this to cut down on spam as when the email’s title doesn’t contain this information we usually think that it is spam. As we have to make a decision on whether a game is going to fit our website we prefer that you give us as much information about the game as possible as that makes it easier to decide whether we want to try out the game. A copy of the rulebook or a description of how the game is played is appreciated.
- Please be considerate of our time and try to contact us as soon as possible with review requests. Generally we can get a review done within two to three weeks of receiving a game but it is better if we have more time just in case we can’t get to your game right away.
- Without a review copy of a game we will be unable to provide a review or preview of your game as we can’t provide an opinion of a game that we haven’t played. We will occasionally play print and play versions of the game but usually prefer physical copies of the game. If you are interested in other coverage of your game outside of a review/preview you can send your information to us but it is less likely to be covered on Geeky Hobbies as we don’t currently write many news/announcements style posts.
- Sending us a review copy does not guarantee you a specific rating. We guarantee you a review/preview but we do not guarantee a positive review. We will take an honest look at your game and give it a fair rating. If we did not enjoy a game we will let our readers know. We are not the type of reviewers that unfairly attack games and we always try to point out both the positives and negatives of every game that we play. We disclose all games that we receive review copies for so our readers know that we received a game for free.
If you would like to contact us about reviewing your board game contact us at mort(at)geekyhobbies.com (make sure to change the (at) to an @ symbol).