One of my core aims with The Giant Brain is to promote designers, creators and publishers in the UK gaming scene. To this end I’m establishing a new series of articles where I interview various folks from across the UK tabletop gaming scene to get an insight into their games, their thoughts on current events in the industry and anything else that pops into my head. I hope you enjoy it.
When I was first finding my way into boardgame journalism, Rory Sommers was one of the first people I interacted with a lot online and later in real life. He has become a friend of mine and the show and was recently good enough to come and present with us on the cast.
Since his days with Board Meetings, his personal site, he has joined up with the Polyhedron Collider crew and is currently writing their weekly news and Kickstarter summaries alongside reviews and appearing on their cast.
Rory was good enough to take the time to answer some questions about his recent move to Polyhedron Collider, some recent topics from the world of boardgame journalism and, of course, games.
You’ve recently shuttered your own site and joined up with Polyhedron Collider. What prompted that move and how have you been finding the change?
About a year and a half ago I was asked if I would like to do some guest writing for Polyhedron Collider, which I did and then it slowly snow balled from there. It went from just one review, to one a month to becoming more frequent.
For me there were lots of benefits, chief among these was having what I like to consider a “peer review”. Steve, Andy and I share our reviews with one another before they are published for critiquing and proof reading. This editorial process challenges me to…well, write better basically. Self critiquing can only really get you so far, so this extra layer was a very welcome. The other major benefit is that writing Board Meetings was quite insular and it’s just really great to be part of a team…even if that team has Andy Lewis on it.
There has been a lot of controversy around paid content in the last few months. What are your opinions on this topic?
On the surface I think it’s a good thing, the issue is where that money comes from. If it comes from the publisher or anyone involved in the creation of the game that is being reviewed then, to me at least, it’s no longer a review it is an advert. Whether the review is positive or negative is moot at this point as merely talking about it, sharing the “review” on social media, BGG and starting a discussion about the game will have a positive impact on the game, and since this has been paid for, it’s an advert.
You’ve got some fairly strong opinions on KS and the larger companies that use it. At what point do you think a company crosses the line of not needing to use KS anymore?
Oh Kickstarter….where to start…I love it. I hate it. It’s wonderful and dangerous in equal measure. For a good while I was a little bit hooked on Kickstarter, backing more games than was practical or sensible. I spent a lot of money on some real duds purely because I got swept up in the excitement, the hype and the fear of missing out.
It is those things that Kickstarter is very good at generating, and publishers, both small and large need that. In my view, larger, well established companies should really only use KS when they are taking a risk; in innovation, or design or theme. Wingspan, for example, even though came from a well established publisher was a risk, because of the unusual theme, because Elizabeth Hargrave was a pretty much unknown designer and the results of this not going into Kickstarter (it could be argued) meant that the audience for this game couldn’t be gauges properly…causing it to sell out when it went into distribution, which might have been avoided via Kickstarter.
For me, the line is $1M. If a company has more than 1 Kickstarter campaign that crosses that line they really shouldn’t be using the platform (CMON, I’m looking at you). Trudvang Legends broke the $1M within 48 hours, it was always going to do so and they are treating the crowd funding platform like an online store, which it really, really shouldn’t be used as.
You and I both try and support the smaller outfits as best we can. Who do you think out of those is doing the really exciting work at the moment?
Alley Cat Games continue to do amazing games and projects, I think they are doing some great things for the hobby in terms of representing independent publishers with their community building and engagement, their honesty, integrity and professionalism.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Oathsworn from Shadowborne Games, I think what they are attempting to do with their ‘Twisting Tales’ narrative system and the versatility of the game play mechanics is quite exciting.
I also found it very interesting to see Braincrack Games co publish Ragusa with Capstone Games to reach a much wider audience and, I guess, share the load in terms of distribution. I think that was a very smart move and I’d love to see more thinks like this happen to bring games into the UK market and also take UK published games out to the wider gaming world.
What game are you most looking forward to this year?
What one game?! Ah man! There are still so many games I’m looking forward to seeing and playing. I just received Ragusa, The Gig and Venice should be hitting KS later this year, as too will Marquesas. Sublime Dark too hopefully, Sierra West was an amazing experience when I played a demo of that (my pre-order should turn up pretty darn soon). Edge of Darkness, I have backers regret on that one big time, Black Angel. Dune! I almost forgot Dune, and Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps….there’s just sooo many games I want…