Eric Yurko is a board game reviewer and photographer; he runs What’s Eric Playing; he’s part of Punchboard Media and the Inside Voices networks; and he’s on the American Tabletop Awards committee.
Watch the live chat below:
Eric’s review process includes the following:
Playing the game at least three times, with ten or more plays for quick games
Initially, he would write the review first and then take pictures. Over time, he’s started taking photos before writing the review
He then posts on social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Slack channels, and his BGG blog
Becoming a Reviewer
Eric had lots of free time in 2015 when he was bored and at home. He had a friend who made a food blog based on food from Final Fantasy XIV, so he got the idea to make a blog about board games.
Working With Publishers
One of the biggest problems in the review process is communication. Eric assumes that the publishers he works with have read his list of expectations, but that’s not always the case. This can result in misunderstandings, like the publisher not sending him a final copy of the game or the content being published on a different day than the publisher expects.
If a publisher has needs or desires, they should say so ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page and no one is disappointed. You also always want to email everything, as other forms of communication can get lost.
Reviewing Kickstarter Games
The best parts of Kickstarter are when people are going after new and cutting edge things or more experimental things. Eric is really interested in the games that need Kickstarter to exist and isn’t so excited about the Kickstarters that are just upgraded bits.
Social Media Platforms
Twitter is fantastic. Instagram is less conversational and more like throwing a photo album at people.
Reddit is hit and miss. Early on, there were benefits to using it, but there’s also drama. Furthermore, Reddit requires a heavy amount of participation. As such, it doesn’t work well with the amount of time that Eric has now.
Facebook exists. It’s fine if you have a dedicated Facebook group, but pages don’t really do anything.
What’s Something You’ve Always Wanted to Tell Publishers?
If a publisher wants a relationship with a content creator, they should make sure to share content regularly. Renegade Games, for example, shares fairly regular content, but not all publishers do that.
Staying on Top of Things
Eric has a spreadsheet that tracks all of the games he’s in the process of reviewing along with their play, review, and photography status. The spreadsheet also includes where he’s posted the content and whether he received the game from the publisher.
He also has a template for his reviews as they all have the same major headers and formatting, so he can quickly get reviews done.
Eric also keeps track of the average score that he gives games and how it changes over time.
Scores tend to change for most reviewers as time goes on. The first games that a reviewer typically writes about are their favorites that they know and enjoy. At some point, most reviewers start getting reviewer copies; these aren’t likely to be perfect fits for the reviewer, particularly compared to the games they would choose for themselves, so the average score tends to drop.
Once a reviewer reaches a certain point, they may get a bit pickier about the games they’ll accept and the average score will then trend back up.
This cycle doesn’t happen with every reviewer, but being aware of how critical you are is always good.
Consistency is an important part of staying motivated. If you make something part of your routine, eventually it just happens and there’s no question about it. However, you should be concerned about burning out, especially if you produce a lot of content. Eric was able to review 4-5 games a week simply because he was able to play tons of games each week.
It also helps to have an emergency backlog. Aiming for a few weeks or even a month’s worth of content is best. Then, if you get sick, or if work needs more time than usual, you’ll have content and won’t have to worry about sticking to your schedule.
Reviews in Advance
Eric has learned not to write reviews for games too far in advance. If you write the review a long time before the Kickstarter is expected to launch, you’ll likely need to update the review. As such, you’ll want to wait until close to the launch date to finish the review. For both the publisher and reviewer, it’s frustrating when a review is fundamentally wrong.
Working on the review about two months before the Kickstarter’s launch is typically great as the last month before the Kickstarter is generally more about advertising than anything else for the publisher.
There is also something to looking over the final copy of the game, as there can be changes—sometimes significant—between what reviewers get before the Kickstarter and the final copy that’s actually available to buy.
These are some things Eric loves to see in rules:
Consistency with terminology
A setup image and a quick setup guide
When talking about the goals, also mention how points are earned
Labeled photos of all of the components
Some people have a language they use to describe the components. For example, a “Mercy tracker” might just be a red cube. Make any terms like this really clear and obvious as to what they are.
The feeling that a blind playtester hasn’t read the rulebook is the worst. It’s also important to make it very clear what is or isn’t a Kickstarter exclusive in the rules. Being clear about what should be in the box and what only Kickstarter backers received is important.
It’s great to state the overall goal of the game first, then dive into the nitty-gritty of how to win the game later.
A lot of information about a game can be looked up on the BGG page, but the following is helpful to get from the publisher:
A link to the Kickstarter page
The Kickstarter launch date
The length of the campaign, especially for posting Instagram content
An Email reminder, particularly for the last two days of the Kickstarter campaign
While Eric doesn’t need a media kit, some people do. The media kit should have at least a few box renders or photos of the box.
American Tabletop Awards
There are a lot of games that might not get the attention that they deserve, so the American Tabletop Awards were created to do that. For the American Tabletop Awards, they have four categories:
Early Gamers: Games for people getting into gaming
Casual Games: Games for people that want to dig in more
Strategy Games: Games that are “a step beyond Casual games in their complexity, planning requirements, and duration”
Complex Games: Deeply strategic games especially appealing to experienced players. Often employ a myriad of game mechanisms and lean towards longer play times.