Thanks for posting your views over on the Washington's War folder. Based on your comments I did re-read Chris Farrell's comments again and I am not sure why you think that this is a better review than the more positive ones other than it is more negative.
Chris is a smart fellow who is very impressed with his own opinion. I read all comments about my games, so I have a view of what does and does not make a good review. A good review sets metrics for how the game will be judged, otherwise it is just opinion with no objective standard. One of the reviews that you did not like did a very good job in this regard.
Chris fails as a reviewer as he has very distinct tastes, which is fine for a gamer, but a major problem for a reviewer. He makes ascertains without any supporting thoughts and thinks he is stating facts. He has reviewed all of my recent games and he has disliked all of them. No problem, but all I can conclude from his reviews is he has not played any of my designs all that much, so his comments on design features and their impact on game strategy are misguided at best. As a consequence he offers a professional game designer and the reader nothing much beyond his personal tastes in games.
He starts off by saying in the review that you wanted me to re-read that he did not like We The People all that much, then points out several factors that he thinks make Washington's War a worse game (discard mechanism and OPs Queue) and then later contradicts himself by saying that the activation system does not work because the British need 3OPS cards, which is the point of the OPS Queue. It is my belief that he imagines how the game should play out vice actually figuring it out through play. The discard mechanism is generating a lot of positive comment, so people like it. Chris does not like it, but as usual without much explanation other than it makes the game more complicated. Complexity is in the eye of the beholder not some objective standard of goodness.
Frankly I have read all of Chris's reviews and all that comes through is he seems to know how to design a better version of the game he is playing. That's fine, but upon reading his remarks it is clear that he really hasn't played Washington's War many times as his comments about the worthless American generals demonstrates to me that he does not understand how to play the Americans well. This point was true in We The People, but the new attrition rules require the Americans to play very differently, so it is my belief given how quickly his review came out that he read the rules and applied his thinking to what he remembers from We The People. I was told at a recent convention from serious players that Chris does not know what he is talking about on this specific point. Again this demonstrates to me that he is just doing a drive by review with little thought or time invested.
It is my understanding that the basis of the BGG game rating was tied to a player's willingness to play it again. From what I can tell on BGG and over on CSW, the players that are rating the game very highly are playing it constantly, which may be the basis for their high ratings vice some philosophical design standard. In the end if a game grabs someones fancy, and most of my designs do not generate this level of enthusiasm, then it is what it is.
I decided to write you privately as I find that open forums are not useful for real communications, but I do take all comments seriously and I wanted you to know that I took your advice.
Thank you again for reading my comment and writing to me.
Before I get to your response, I do not want you to take any criticisms of your designs as criticisms of you, Mark Herman. Your games must be like your family, so I imagine it might be tough. Second, you are the "guy" who started it all with these Card-driven wargames. You are the inovator. We the People might not be a game I like, but your original concept and design has led to many games that I do like. Third, I would rank you among the very best designers. I never try to rate a list like that from best on down; it is just too difficult.
If you reread my comments, what I hoped you could influence in the BGG community are those individuals who helped develop or play-test the game, and who are rating it highly. I think it is not ethical for these individuals (there are two for sure, are there more?) to have ratings, not that anyone is going to go to hell for loving or hating a game. I think they are entitled to comment, but they should leave off the numbers. This issue is a frequent flyer on BGG. You are not responsible for what they do or say. If you see my concern, maybe you could give them a nudge. If they do not budge, that is not your fault.
"Sycophant" is a strong term, a fighting word, as Yosimite Sam would say. I haven't read any hate mail about it, so I guess that no one has seen my comment because it does not have a number rating. Either that, or these people do not know what it means.
None of these tens qualify as a review in my understanding of the term. None of the reviews under the review forum qualify as a real discussion of the strengths and weaknesses--no game is perfect, not any on my top ten list, that's for sure--a your design. The geeks leaving tens come across as people kissing up. You have earned your place among the best of the best (and I am not kissing up, just stating a fact), and your behind does not need any lips on it (the image makes me go "ewww!").
Most of the reviews I have read for wargames are an embarrassment to anyone who wants to have a serious discussion. These kinds of comments should just go under the "genera" forum so that everyone gets to exercise his or her freedom of speech. I know this is a social networking site for gamers, but if I am going to write a serious piece by way of review, I want to sweat before I write it. I have written at least six reviews for Paper Wars, not that anyone would know it because there has not been an issued published during the past two years or so. I have typed out 35 pages or more. When I gripe about this on the geek, I am looked down as an eliteist. I just want an intelligent discussion.
How many times have you see the mob mentality at work on BGG? You go with the flow or you get dumped on. The first serious (it likely won't be, it will just be a rant) negative review of your new WW will bring out the wolves in force to tear the nay-sayer apart.
Now, turning to Chris Farrell. He is an odd duck (so am I, for that matter). He has tremendous influence (anyone with tremendous influence has too much power) on the BGG community. It would seem he has earned his position with comments that I find sober and serious and free of the nastiness that I sometimes--sometimes?--leave when I am on a roll of one sort or another. It is sad, but I find I have to "yell" to be noticed around this place, that is when I want to be noticed.
The comments that Chris left with his six rating do not qualify as a review (nor, as I said above, do any of the tens or other ratings, for that matter). But Chris says it without rancour.
Take another look at what I said about his comments and the six:Is anyone taking Chris Farrell's comments, and his six, seriously? Chris can be wrong (just look at his comments on Pursuit of Glory and compare them with the actual game). Chris has good gaming instincts, if you choose to ignore the time factor (everything is too long for him) and chrome (everything is too detailed). Other than these, he is usually okay.
Mark, do you see there is a fair bit of agreement between you and I concerning Chris. One, he can be wrong. The five rating he gave for Pursuit of Glory, with his brief comments, is a joke. How do I know this? Look at my review that I wrote after playing the game for at least a full week. Two, I note how everthing is too long or too detailed for his taste. I use hyperbole, but I am well aware that Chris has, or seems to have, a strict set of guidelines for every game, and woe be to the game that falls out of him. For me, as an example, I can find Paths of Glory a blast to play, lots of fun, but do not confuse it with an historical wargame. Raicer has a great design with history pasted all over it, but that's all it is: paste. I prefer a game to be both good history and good game, but I can like it if it is only one or the other.
I want Chris' six, his sober, non-insulting tone, and his comments to put a brake on the lips of the sycophant chorus. He would need to move his comments into the review section. Given what passes for reviews, he would have no problem being accepted. Then the community might enter into a serious discussion of your game.
When I wanted to discuss ACW leadership ratings in games like For the People and others, I did a pretty botched job of trying to express my points. I think Chris, with his comparision to how the generals are rated in Hannibal, made a valid point that perhaps you could consider for a variant for the GMT magazine (the name escapes me).
Mark, I understand if I cross historical swords with you that I am likely to be on the losing end, but I think you have rated the American generals to highly in their combat capabilities. How many major battles did the British lose during the Revolution? Three at best? Howe bested Washington at New York and during the Philadelphia campaign, but you only have one point of difference between them. Washington is a great leader, but competant only, at best, general.
To go back to For the People, I think you are of the traditional school that sees Grant, Lee, Sherman and Jackson as being on an equal plane of skill, and I feel this view has been overturned in the past ten years (if not before). For FtP, it would be nice to see a Hannibal aspect to the generals in these games. Grant is better on strategy that Lee. Lee is the tactician bar none. Jackson is at his best in a subordinate role. Sherman is a lousy tactician--he was at least honest enough to admit that he was not the best--but you have him equal with the others. Argh!
But I digress.
In fairness, I do not know how any designer, even one as experienced and wise as you, can do full justice to the complexities of the the American Revolution.
I hope you will consider me part of the loyal opposition
, and I want to stress the loyal part. I have WW on order through the p-500, but Canada seems to be on the other side of the globe for all the time I have been waiting for its arrival. I want to get your Pacific War game, and I have heard that you and Richard Berg are working on a monster ACW game. Is this true? You can be sure that I will buy a copy. I want to help put food in your table, even while I preach to you how you have some--only some--things wrong.
Invite me to your house for a week, or come to mine, teach me the basics of wargame design, and you won't have me as an armchair critic. Or hopefully even a critic.
I do wish you the best. If time allows, I will try to review WW, but I have to master the rules to Berg's Dead of Winter for a Paper Wars review--do you have an "easy guide" to these GBACW games?
Let me know how you feel about what I have said.
Take care, and I hope you continue to do well with WW and with all your other designs.