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Started by Clinton R. Nixon, May 31, 2001, 09:35:00 PM

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Clinton R. Nixon

There are several new reviews on the Forge, including one of Soap, one of the games written by our own esteemed Crayne. Go check it out and post comments.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


Hey Clinton,

What do you think about putting a review date next to the review? It would be easier to sort out the new ones that way... Just a thought.

Home of 2 Page Action Movie RPG & the freeware version of Dead Meat: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombi!


And how do you feel about having reviews of the same game from more than one source (so long as they follow the rules for reviews on this site) ?

Ron Edwards

Multiple reviews of one game are fine, but they definitely have to be based on actual play. I also reserve the power to veto a review; I hope everyone trusts me to do so without being biased about actual content. I would only do such a thing if I think the reviewer has strayed from the actual task at hand into hurtful territory.


Jared A. Sorensen

Soap's "winning" conditions:

I had the same problem with octaNe -- you increase your attributes by hoarding Plot Points -- yet the game WANTS you to spend 'em as soon as you get 'em.  The solution?  Keep a tally of how many you spend -- those get converted into XP's.

Could work for Soap as well.
jared a. sorensen /

Clinton R. Nixon


Why do you hate the policy that a game must be played to be reviewed?

(It's obvious why some people would like it: it gives an idea of how a game actually plays, instead of just how it reads.)

I'm very interested in your feelings on this topic.

Clinton R. Nixon webmaster">

[ This Message was edited by: Clinton R Nixon on 2001-05-31 18:32 ]
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Clinton R. Nixon

In benefit for others, I quote from the aforementioned web page:

Those familiar with a game, who have spent the time to learn it, who have played it long enough to develop experience with it, all too often become blind to it.

One develops an instinctive understanding of a system and avoids (or uses house rules to correct) its faults. They no longer see these problems and will even assume they don't exist. The latter is for a simple reason, in their games they don't.

This makes total sense--I find the same result in talking with other gamers. If someone has played a system for a while, they not only (a) probably like it, and are therefore biased, but (b) like Brian said, work around the system's more glaring problems.

Ron may be merely an exception, as he's contributed all the reviews to this site so far.

My question derived from both points--and trying to justify the Forge's stance--is how can one assure in a review that the game has been adequately studied (something not found in many reviews where the game has only been read), and yet the review is not weighted towards the author's own work-arounds and likes/dislikes?

Clinton R. Nixon webmaster">

[ This Message was edited by: Clinton R Nixon on 2001-05-31 19:08 ]
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


I think the obvious thing to do here is, if you think you'd be likely to be interested in doing a review, write a review (just for yourself) BEFORE playing, then play it and see how well it tallies: I notice I've done this myself by accident in an APA I'm part of. I write about a game when I've just read the rules, and then write about it again after I've actually played.

Ron Edwards

I'll weigh in here.

My take on role-playing games is that they are instruments, not music. My commitment to play prior to reviewing is based on that analogy.

I appreciate Brian's acknowledging this position - as Ed Healy said a while ago, the worst thing is reviewing without a core philosophy at all. It's also clear, to both of us, that one cannot set standards for how someone ELSE is going to review. If that someone-else is reviewing in any kind of coherent way, well and good; there's not much else to expect, reasonably.

A couple of responses:
1) My primary goal in reviewing is to promote creator-owned games. Therefore my reviews are going to cover a biased sample. I make no claims to be "covering" the RPG scene as a reviewer.

2) In a related point, I'm writing from the perspective that I am pointing out the game's strongest points. The main goal is to say, "Hey, look, this game tried X, and it worked."

Does that make me a bunny-reviewer (i.e. overly positive)? Maybe. I do identify elements of the game that I don't think fit or work well. For some reason, people do not perceive me as slamming the game when I do it, but I do think I'm very harshly critical.

3) My own preference for Narrativist play is not a basis for critique - not one of my reviews says, "This is flawed because it's Gamist" or something like that. I use G/N/S vocabulary to identify components of games, and to state whether I think those components fit together well or poorly.

That preference will, of course, create a bias in terms of WHICH games I am reviewing, but as I mentioned above, I not under any obligation to "cover" RPGs in general.

4) As for the danger of mistaking my own tuning of a game for the game itself, I think that danger lies in all reviewing, REGARDLESS of whether one plays it. The same danger lies in one's reading of the game, as well as in playing it.

The only solution for the reader, given the presence of that danger, is to compare his or her own understanding of the game with that of the reviewer. That's an ongoing process.




Not to jump in the middle, but Ron liked Obsidian, and that isn't really a narrativist game.  And it definitely isn't rules light or simple.  The damn thing is pretty damned winding in some parts.

I think that playing a game is an almost necessary tool for reviewing.  I've played plenty of games i didn't like, just to see if they could smooth-out nicely in midstream.  Occasionally, I've seen ones that have changed my mind completely.

Besides, and this is not an insult, but have you actually given good grades to anything you've reviewed?  I checked your site a bit ago, and the best I saw was a B (which, admittedly, isn't bad).  I have this slight issue with putting games in the "useless schlock" category.  I think your rating system seems nice in many ways (you seem to make an effort to say that a bad grade from you doesn't mean the game sucks, just that you won't play it, which is a great thing), but it seems as though you are comparing everything to a great and powerful game that none of us (at least me) has seen.  I think in some ways, if you are going to rate, you need to provide an example of the pinnacle of achievement in your eyes, and the worst of all worlds.  

I ask mainly because I am curious and want to know, but what game would you consider an A?

(By the way, in reading above, the quotes around "useless schlock" are not indicative of Brian's site... I am quoting from some corner of my mind, not him)

This is not an attack, I'm just trying to put my feet firmly in the ground and I want to know where your at.


Ian O'Rourke

I'm not really sure what the divide is here with playing/not playing the game when reviewing.

Surely the answer is to read it, make notes, and then play it once or twice. This once or twice practice session is hardly going to blind you to its faults.

The policy of not playing seems to assume a lot on behalf of the reviewer - 'I can catch all faults just by reading'. Obviously people who have played a game and become comfortable with it, gloss over faults, but a 1-3 session trial game. hardly.

Still, different strokes for different folks.
Ian O'Rourke
The e-zine of SciFi media and Fandom Culture.

Paul Czege

Hey Brian,

In my experience, it takes far more than one or two sessions for a group to shake out a system for actual play.

I've become painfully lost in a catch-22. My first thought is to suggest, "Well...then play it for more than one or two sessions." But then I suspect a reviewer's interest in not having the review compromised by play that avoided or corrected for the game's faults is triggered. Once you've "shaken out the system" it's too late.

I learned a great deal from playing just one session of Theatrix, and had realizations about the interrelationships of the game's mechanics that I hadn't discerned from having just read the rules. Isn't one or two play sessions, even if you don't shake out the rules, better than reviewing the game without having ever played it at all?

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans



I find that when I play games, I understand them much, much better.  What isn't obvious in reading becomes obvious in actual play.  I can count three systems I have done this with wherein this was the case...I had to use the system before I understood it enough to actually make an informed review (and not through poor writing on the designer's part -- seperate issue)...though I've never played more than two sessions of any of these three.

In fact, I've made an utter ass out of myself just reading a game and assuming it was saying X, when after rereading it, it really said Y...because I'd forgotten that Y hooked into Z and that changed the whole dynamic.

So "the answer" (as it were) to me seems to be "Read the copy and write a review" then "Play the copy and write a review", compare your reviews and combine.

Also, Brian, I note you base your reviews bascially on "Would it replace my system?"  That's...unfair, in my opinion.  

You are reviewing games based on whether you would switch to them, not reviewing them on whether they work or achieve what the author set out to achieve with them.

Personally, a review based on such would mean squat to me...the equivalent of asking you what your system preferences were and if my game met your preferences.  That doesn't tell me much about my game and whether it accomplished its intent, though.

Course, this is where the Threefold comes in handy...if I can understand the objective and reasoning of the game (G/N/S) I can compare it to THAT instead of what I as a reviewer am looking for.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ian O'Rourke

I've never discovered something after only two sessions that was not apparent from an initial mathematical analysis and solo test examples.

I have however seen people mislead by a string of lucky events or a rule usage error resulting in an incorrect initial impression that lasted years.

We could go on about this for ever, but I've seen people endlessly driven by mathematical analysis which I'm afraid does not always add up to be the some of the parts.

You have a very different approach to RPG's than myself - I suspect that is where the differences lie.
Ian O'Rourke
The e-zine of SciFi media and Fandom Culture.


I can see Brian's side of things (in theory).  From a philisophical point of view, choosing the game you play to review it is almost an automatic 'gold star' in at least one catagory; resulting in a small degree of bias.

But, games are made to be played.  Ultimately. Absolutely, to be played.  So, to suggest that disliking a certain genre (or at least having no significant interest in it) and then not playing it is essential to forming a more accurate review, is fallacy.

No amount of discussion will overcome the fact that a game's playability is its greatest if not ultimate worth.  Therefore we must face the truth that there is no stand-alone perfect system for reviewing and no perfect reviewer; however, there are good methods and the spirit of fairness in the reviewer particularly suited to a particular types of games.  In those, we should place our trust.

Jeff Diamond">6-0 Games