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What Board Game Review Policy 2023

I wanted to clarify the review policies we work to here at WBG. Any questions, please reach out to me directly at jim@whatboardgame.com I will happily answer any questions or concerns.


1. We do not accept payment for reviews or previews anymore, but did so on three occasions.


I have in the past accepted payment for previews. It was for three Kickstarter prototypes that wanted coverage as a time priority. It was during the pandemic. I did not have the usual financial security from my day job and I accepted a small figure to create content for the publishers. It did not feel right and I have not done it again since, nor do I expect to ever do so again Although if that changes I will make that very clear. But I have to be honest and say a big part about why I accepted the money on these occasions, was that it was flattering that anyone would consider my channel worthy enough of payment. There was some vanity present, no doubt. I declined the reviews initially as I was too busy and they then replied and said, what about if they paid.


In the coverage I did for them, I have marked all posts, reviews, and YouTube videos with very clear notifications. This is what it says.


This is a paid preview. The publisher paid for this preview to be made. The payment did not affect our opinions but we want to acknowledge the payment here.


This is at the very top of the preview and the title also included the word "Paid".


The money did not make me feel more inclined to be favourable to the game, but I was aware of the unconscious bias it may have on me. I therefore offered minimal opinion and gave the games no score. As this was a preview, not a review, this would have been the case anyway. The content was really just a rules run down.


In my opinion, all the money did was bump the game forward in the queue for me and force me to do the work sooner. I always have a long list of games I want to review or preview, and these three payments made me work on these games sooner as I felt obligated to get the content out asap for the publisher/designer as they had paid. But it did not make me say anything that I otherwise would not have said. It just made me say, as otherwise I would not have had time. And say it sooner. This is another reason I don't want to accept payments again. It adds an unnecessary time pressure I would otherwise rather avoid.


Other people who accept money for previews do so for their own reasons, and I have no issues with that. For me it is not an issue as long as it is declared. I just personally don't want to do this anymore.


I love games, and enjoy writing about them. That is why I am here. The website has a significant cost for hosting and domain names and email etc. But that is my choice to pay that. No one else should have to cover that in my opinion as this is not my job. If it were, that would be different.


2. Our Previews have no scores and minimal opinion.


If I am not playing a final copy of a game, where things may change, I feel this should be a preview and not review. The distinction for me means I cannot rate the game, and should avoid as much opinion on the game as possible. Simply as it is not a finished product. Although I do want it to be helpful, so I do include what I currently like and dislike about the game but mention where possible, parts of the game that may change in the finished version if I have that information.


3. We do receive free review copies of games.


I personally cover hundreds of games a year and I could not afford to do that if I only reviewed the games I paid for myself. There are multiple review networks on Facebook where publishers reach out to people like me and ask for help. I also get contacted directly via email and on Instagram. I have also created relationships through meeting designers, publishers, and distributers at various conventions which leads to conversation where I am offered games.


I accept these game under zero obligation other than to cover them on my channels at some point. I accept them so I can offer more reviews here than what I could otherwise afford. The increased reviews mean increased traffic to the site, but the site is not monetised in anyway, so it makes no difference to anyone or to me financially. I do get a kick out of our growth from a personal pride level, and feel a lot of this is down to the quantity of posting. Which is assisted in a big way by the review copies. So there is that benefit I suppose. But free review copies do not change my stance on game. They do not compromise my integrity. They do not sway me either way. But I appreciate if others think they must. All I can say is that they don't do so consciously, and I am mindful of the unconscious bias.


When I accept a review copy, I do not promise what I will do with the game. I do not promise timings, or any favourable opinions. Or any specifics on anything. I simply agree to post something, at some point.


But the free game has to affect me somehow, right? Unconsciously, or consciously, there is some extra bias created here based on the gesture alone. However, I am mindful of that, and I am not about to sell my integrity for the price of a game. I second guess every point I make to make sure I mean what I say.


Generally speaking, I can see the good in most games, although we have plenty of low score reviews on this website. But I think my main bias is my love of the hobby. I like a lot of games as I like games. The free game for me doesn't affect the score consciously. The fact that I have played a game, with friends or family, and got away from screens and work and the stresses of life. That is my biggest bias and would affect any game.


When I see a game that looks bad, or simply appears to be not for me, I generally decline the opportunity to review it if one is presented to me. I do not have time to review every game. So, I pick and choose the ones that look good to me, or interest me in anyway. I am not always right with this early assessment, and some games I think may be great, turn out to be disappointing. Others I turn down, turn out to be great. But this early filter does mean that the majority of games I review are games I want to play and think are probably going to be good. I see it as my duty to find what makes each game enjoyable for a certain type of person when I review but never to the point of ignoring what doesn't work in the game. I will happily comment on any problems when I see them. But most games I review do OK here as that early filter gets rid of most of the bad games.


I also feel there is way to much negativity in this hobby for what is essentially just adults enjoying a pastime playing with toys. Let's be honest. I love games. But I don't want to over analyse them. This is how I like to think when I review a game. What's good about them? What is bad? Is it fun? Who might this be for? That is how I like to cover games. I feel it gets to the route of a review a lot more quickly. I feel a review serves one main purpose. Helping people decide if a game is for them or not. There are obviously lots of other side benefits, but this is the one I want to focus on here. So this is why I do it like I do it.


I would welcome any comments on the above. And am sure things will change and adapt as I learn more.


Jim Cohen. May 21st 2023.


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