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SUSD reviews you don't agree with


Now the real reason I came back to the thread. I just re-watched the Tales review and…did we ever see that apartment again before or since? Never mind its odd layout—like a landlord installed some IKEA cabinets in a hallway and tried to pass off as a flat—I just can’t recall it ever making another appearance.

Like a lot of people here, I get kind of obsessed with the various living arrangements in the background of the videos. I never ask about it, though, because it’s a little you know Invasion Of Privacy-ish. Or just a bit too Problem Fan. So I’m not actually asking for any sort of explanation, I’m just curious if that set was a one-off.


That’s all fair enough, but I suppose if it’s really arbitrary and it doesn’t come down to the specifics of the design, it’s quite likely there are role playing games that wouldn’t make you cringe, too.

Personally, I think Funemployed has some rather cringeworthy card writing but that judgement aside, it asks more of you than Snake Oil. It asks you to string together a full hand of cards into a job interview–already a concept with loaded expectations of judgement and performance anxiety–as opposed to ad-libing a pitch for only two cards at a time. Snake Oil also deflects the theme onto the product you’re selling where Funemployed projects these traits onto you, the bad job interviewee character.

Mostly what I was getting at is that Tales of the Arabian Nights has mechanics that don’t work. If players enjoy it despite those failings, my inclination isn’t to assume those failings were irrelevant. That either means fixing those mechanics would make the game work even better or that removing them entirely would streamline the experience without wrecking anything. Ditto for other games in the category. Since what a lot of people seem to like is the semi-random assortment of flavor text bolting together in unexpected ways, a more straightforward role playing game isn’t going to provide a replacement experience but a more streamlined experience that’s essentially a highly unusually formatted multiplayer CYOA book could provide the same experience without the stuff that doesn’t work.


I feel like this would be considered more to be stage fright or performance anxiety.


I always felt they were quite harsh on Warhammer Diskwars, the review was heavily based upon a misinterpretation of the rules I feel it soured there opinion, yes they amended it but it was already too late for them on a personal level, I feel they were just done with the game.

And its a shame because the game offered so much for such a small cost and really would suit people wanting to get away from miniature war gaming (its like a drug)…

But that being said the game never took off though and died in its early days so the gents were probably on the right track anyway :slight_smile:


I disagree with more SUSD reviews than I agree with. For instance, I absolutely love Through the Ages and have played it online a zillion times. I would play Brass at any opportunity. After three plays, I think Scythe is fantastic and would love to play more (best unmentioned feature: the achievement chart). I found Imperial Settlers completely unexciting. I bought Virgin Queen recently and can’t wait to play it properly (only played the training scenarios and the 2-player version so far). I have really enjoyed playing Pax Pamir. I find Carcassonne a bit dull, and having played Splendor once have no burning desire to play more (I wouldn’t turn it down, but it wasn’t exciting).

I predict, just from reading the slightly negative review, that I would love Quartermaster General 1914. The points quoted against it read to me like “it takes some getting into; there’s strategy and real fun here; it remains interesting when played multiple times”. Ie, all upside.

I remember Quinns on a podcast talking about why boardgamegeek insists on putting games like Through the Ages at the top, and saying something like “it’s because they’re old”. I guess that’s what it is. I’m 44.

[If after reading that anyone is interested in my opinions, the hidden gem of my collection is Earth Reborn - it’s amazing. I would love SUSD to review it]


Out of curiosity, would you say that you disagree with the overall conclusion of the reviews, but the description of the mechanics are actually relatively accurate? I think that if you understand what appeals to you in a game, then as long as a review enables you to see the mechanics, then you can make an informed decision. Personally, I pay more attention to the reviews of games that the SU&SD team are hugely enthusiastic about - these often point to a game I might not give a second thought otherwise. The less positive reviews, I’m slightly more philosophical about. If the mechanics sound good, and/or the theme looks interesting, chances are I’ll try it myself anyway regardless.


The times I’ve disagreed with the details are when I have got the feeling that they are not so much reviewing a game as making a point about the way another group of people think. In the case of Brass and Through the Ages, the target was BGG voters with their Euro strategy spreadsheety preferences (this is me, and I know what they mean), while in the case of Scythe it was Kickstarter fanboys and their groupthink (this isn’t me, but I understand the point). The one-word review of Scythe ended up being “plodding”, and it’s hard to see the reality in the mechanics behind that word (and for the record, while I can understand some criticisms of Scythe, I can’t understand that one).


To be honest, I don’t watch SUSD videos to learn about game mechanics, and I find their track record in that regard to be quite inconsistent (some videos convey a good overview of the mechanics, while otheres make the game seem very opaque).

In the case of Scythe, I agree with @chrislear about the group thing.
And I am not sure that Paul does the game justice by lumping it together with what he conceives as typical KS games.
Rather, I feel that while Scythe is a conglomerate of mechanics and components, I don’t think there are really superfluous bits. That is, I feel that the typical KS “pimping it up” strategy was used in a thoughtful and constructive way by Jamey Stegmaier.

But to be fair, I find their whole line of argument about kickstarter not that convincing.


Kickstarter projects generally use about the same tactics as Hasbro and Fantasy Flight to push their products: plastic crap, and generic on-trend themeing. Usually the physical and aesthetic quality is better than a Hasbro product but not on par with FFG but FFG also leans pretty heavily on decades-long mechanical and aesthetic asset reuse that your average successful Kickstarter can’t lean on so this is hardly surprising.

So I suppose I’m torn. On the one hand, I don’t see Kickstarter as some cesspit of uniquely terrible products that exploit gaming trends for quick profit but on the other hand I do have serious reservations about aspects of the way that model affects the game creation pipeline. My chief concerns are probably the psychological manipulation of pre-order bonus style stretch goals and the use of Kickstarter as a permanent home for businesses that now depend entirely on getting people to part with their money before the next game exists yet.

People who buy games because of the awesome miniatures are by and large getting what they paid for some I don’t see a reason to be any more cynical of that on Kickstarter than from FFG who even felt the need to put plastic crap into a Letters from Whitechapel expansion to bump the unit price up to $20 for what would otherwise by a $10 card expansion at a stretch. I’m very glad it exists and it has produced a number of games I wouldn’t have been able to play otherwise that are among my favorites in my collection–like Tiny Epic Galaxy. I understand having reservations about the enterprise, though, and the only thing I don’t understand is criticizing allegedly Kickstarter specific trends that aren’t actually Kickstarter specific. While SU&SD do a bit of that, they also have mentioned quite a few other issues with the Kickstarter pipeline–some of which I’ve alluded to here–that I think are entirely reasonable. That I find the balance still leads me to back quite a few projects doesn’t stop me from seeing that. :slight_smile:

Their main line of argument isn’t “Kickstarter is bad for the industry” or anything like that so much as “Kickstarter doesn’t work very well for the way we like to review games” so I’m not quite sure what convincing need be done.


The problem being that such sweeping generalizations are only true for less than half the cases (of ks projects) and thus

  1. lazy
    2.and probably not accurate in many cases.
    So, why SUSD (and you;) keep lumping them all together is beyond me.
    Why not review a game for what it is, without prejudice about its background?


I think there’s a difference between adding stuff for stuff’s sake and upgrading existing components or actually adding value. Conan (and to be fair a lot of miniature games) do tend to be guilty of the former - adding 10 guys with axes to the core box as a stretch goal for example when you know none of the scenarios will ever call for more than the five guys with axes that ship in the retail version. It might be nice for those who are just after the miniatures, but it doesn’t really add anything to the game - if it’s not something I’m ever going to use it’s not really something of value. It’s rather hard for me to see it as anything but a cynical attempt to bump up the numbers in order to attract more pledges.
Upgrading components on the other hand would seem to me to be a legitimate way of improving the game; it might attract more pledges but that’s more a side effect than anything else. Upgrading from cardboard standees to plastic miniatures, or cardboard chits to metal coinage for example does tend to be an improvement (aesthetic arguments aside they’re certainly more durable).


Exactly. And that’s the reason why I think SUSD here are relying a bit on lazy stereotyping - as Scythe definitely falls into the “upgrade existing components” camp.


I didn’t get the idea that Paul was saying “Kickstarter = bad” as much as "Boy, this game is SURE getting a lot of hype! Why is it getting so much hype (One reason is because it’s got lots of cool minis and tons of stuff in it and people backing certain Kickstarters sure seem to like that!)…and does the game live up to that hype (It’s a good game that can move a bit slowly and isn’t as much fun as I wish it was.)?"

Now, obviously, someone can play Scythe and like it more than Paul did…and someone can have different kinds of fun. And anyone can back any Kickstarter for any reason they want.

I can take that Scythe review at face value and not conflate it into anything bigger.


I feel like you’ve significantly misunderstood my post. I’m not quite sure how to correct that efficiently. Also I’m not terribly enamored with critiquing imprecision with a statement like “are only true for less than half the cases (citation needed).” If you’re not going to be any more precise, it strikes me as rather short sighted to focus on precision and call assumptions lazy.

Similarly, the idea of a review without prejudice seems besides the point of a review. I’m sure you know what I’m on about there and are plenty aware how reviews work, but that leaves me a bit unsure where you’re coming from.

I suppose I can attempt to clarify a few things.

A significant majority of the most funded board game Kickstarters heavily feature miniatures and either use generic trendy themes or spring for a popular license; my “lazy stereotyping” comes from backing a lot of Kickstarters and watching what else does and doesn’t get funded while I’m there. If you think it’s inaccurate, feel free to peruse the “Most Backed” and “Most Funded” sections of the (unfortunately now merged ) Games section successful Kickstarts.

I also had hoped to make it clear that I don’t think this is a problem, or it if is it isn’t any more of a problem on Kickstarter than it is in traditional publishing. People who back minis heavy Kickstarters primarily because of miniatures being cool tend to get what they came for and I don’t know that successful Kickstarters are substantially more of a crap-shoot than the world of traditionally published games in terms of mechanical quality.

My mention of businesses that subsist largely on repeated Kickstarting is in reference to companies like Indie Boards and Cards.

I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that less than half of successful board game Kickstarters use exclusive stretch goal content, but whatever the statistics I think being concerned about the possible impacts of this strategy is reasonable and it is prominent in many high profile Kickstarters. This concern also comes up with traditionally published video games with respect to limited pre-order bonuses and so forth.


I think it reflected a bit of their exhaustion with trying to keep up with Kickstarter and sort out hyped-because-backing-a-kickstarter-is-exciting from the hyped-because-this-game-is-great when they’re presented with hyped games and asked to review them and combined with other things they’ve said I think we can reasonably infer something “bigger” but I also don’t think it’s some kind of malicious stereotyping. I think at various points (correcting slightly for Quinn’s intentional brash phrasing of things until pinned down), Quinns and Paul have both put forth a pretty reasonable stance of why Kickstarter is an awkward bedfellow of the website’s format and their expectations when they review a game or recommend a purchase.

They’ve certainly still plugged Kickstarters, talked favorably of Kickstarted games and reviewed Kickstarted games in any case.


I didn’t. I just decided to focus on what bugged me.

I’m not sure whether you’re genuinely interested or your insistence on taking everything literally isn’t just a move out of the sophist’s playbook.
Anyway, what I meant was not prejudice per se, but prejudice based on a questionable assumption.
And I found your opening sentence to rely on a similarly questionable assumption, and containing some rather harshly put personal opinion, thus it irritated me a bit.

That is definitely not true for many kickstarters. And that you consider miniatures and such “plastic crap” seems to be more a personal preference than an objectively quantifiable problem.

I don’t see why we would have to look at the most sucessful kickstarters to settle our argument. I feel that every funded kickstarter should count, as neither you nor me has talked specifically about succesful projects before.
And even if you insisted on doing so, most funded doesn’t make much sense, since miniatures-heavy naturally translates to funding-heavy.
If we do look at most-backed games, the top four are actually card games, with 6 miniatures games completing the Top 10. Then come TEWestern, Robot Turtles (no “plastic crap”), Mythic Battles: Pantheon, OrganATTACK! (a card game), TEGalaxies, Tak, The 7th Continent, Zombicide S3, Tortuga and Epic Card Game.
So, only eight out of 20 games qualifiy as offering plastic crap. As for generic themeing, I feel that’s more a problem of board games per se and is not specific to KS or FFG.

Now, I’m not denying certain trends (as you put it), but I don’t think they should be viewed as a general feature of Kickstarter board games. And I agree with most points you are making otherwise.

What bugs me about SUSD’s coverage of ks based games is that to me it just feels inconsistent. With a game like Evolution, they didn’t even mention that it was a ks game in their review.


I’m generalizing on purpose because I’m talking about generic things. I’m well aware they’re generalizations. You seem to think I defending some sort of hard-and-fast rule about who-knows-what. Once again pointing out that my opinions are opinions and thus not objective for no discernible reason, too.

Plastic crap was a flippant phrasing, but was not the point of my post. I have nothing against plastic but I do roll my eyes a bit when plastic is emphasized over the things I’m more interested in, whence the flippancy–not some kind of personal vendetta against plastic minis let alone Kickstarter. I’m well aware that it hosts a wide variety of projects ranging from decks of Bicycle cards with different backs to CMON games to unusual indie games with odd mechanics, but Kickstarter has developed both a fictional image among critics and a commercial reality in terms of sales figures that paints a particular kind of picture of the prototypical successful board gaming Kickstarter. I attempted in my original post and in my clarification to make clear that I don’t have an issue with miniatures-heavy or gimmicky-focused or trend-riding Kickstarters. These are some of the more common criticisms I hear about the Kickstarter model which is why I alluded to them. In other words, the main target of my generalizations was criticisms of Kickstarter more so than Kickstarter.

Once more with feeling: I don’t see any of these things as particularly more prevalent on Kickstarter than off. They’re very successful tactics off Kickstarter, too. My point was that I don’t think Kickstarter is as different from traditional publishing as some people might hope and others might complain.

I focused on successful Kickstarters because projects that nobody backs aren’t as influential on future projects, the board gaming industry, or board gaming review websites on account of not actually producing a product. I’m not sure why you think this is weird, especially in context. SU&SD aren’t going to review a failed Kickstarter. Typically, no one is.

I’m afraid that’s really not something you would know better than me.

I brushed on a lot of other things in my original post and in my clarification that would be more interesting for either of us to talk about–agree or not–than exactly how much of a generalization my generalizations are or whether most-funded or most-backed is a better measure of how successful and/or emblematic of Kickstarter a given project is. If you wouldn’t like to talk about any of those other things I really don’t think there’s much more to be said.


Okay, I don’t want this to devolve into something unpleasant, so I deleted my initial response.
Let’s just say that your opening statement was maybe a little strong and a bit detrimental to what you were actually trying to express.

These are both valid concerns. But there are a lot of games, including Scythe, where they thankfully don’t apply. And I would appreciate if this was actually mentioned when discussing Scythe.

You know, the thing that originally sparked this debate was the Scythe review, so let’s talk about that for a moment.
Paul states that Scythe, like a lot of Kickstarter successes, features lots of miniatures and lots of stuff in general. Fair enough, with the caveat that, as I’ve shown, there are actually as many kickstarter successes that don’t really follow that route. And that there are a lot of “ordinary” games that also have a lots and lots of stuff. Not only FFG, but even a game like Terra Mystica, which Scythe often is compared to, features a myriad of game pieces.

Paul then goes on to talk about a subset of kickstarter backers with an appetite for “things and stuff”. And I don’t really see what his point here is.
See, I think what he says about Scythe’s opulence is poignant and correct.
But I don’t really get why he ties that to it being a kickstarter game. And what is achieved by doing so. The danger here, for me, is to liken Sythe to games of the CMON or Conan calibre. And that, for me, would be a crass mispresentation of both the game and how the kickstarter was run.
And I guess that’s my main problem with the way the guys are talking about kickstarter.
I would love them to dive into the chances and problems inherent in the model, but for now I get the feeling their preconceptions are preventing that and a fair treatment of games like Scythe.


Because context is important and games don’t exist in a vacuum. If I wanted to review, say, the new Zelda game negatively (I would never, never want to do that, but let’s pretend) I’d feel the need to also explain why I believe my opinion was as valid as the opinions of hundreds of other respected game journalists. I’d need to point out Nintendo’s excellent marketing strategy with the game, and the fact that breaking away from a “stale” formula obviously is going to excite a lot of people. I’d also need to point out how the hype affects people’s perceptions. It’s not just a thing of defensiveness, it’s a thing of credibility. Without doing that leg work, it would be impossible to reconcile my negative review with the overwhelmingly positive response.

Likewise, with Kickstarter, it’s difficult to get a review copy, many people are deeply invested before the game ever comes out, and stretch goals do incentivize a “more is more” approach to design. That approach is on display with Scythe, even though I liked Scythe and thought they added more in a way that still made the game work. I felt like Paul did an excellent job recapping the rules and explaining the pace to people who might have been expecting a more fast-paced, battle-heavy game given the theming. I also think the SUSD folks start out a bit sour on Kickstarter games just because they bypass their review process before being declared the best game ever! and then if they don’t like it they end up dealing with angry fans for weeks afterwards. That’s a lot of pressure and I think they handle it as well as can be expected, even if still not all that well.

I also think that SUSD tends to recommend games that do a few mechanics in a focused, well-executed way, and high-profile kickstarters tend to have a lot of interlocking systems to master. So I think their reviews are part reaction to hype and partially a genuine demographic mismatch.


With a side note of “why haven’t you reviewed this game yet, I’ve backed the Kickstarter and I want to be told I did the right thing”.