It seems that the last couple of weeks have prompted another specific blog post. This time I want to talk a bit about reviewers, how to approach the process, and how reviews for Rogue Angels have come in place.
I will not be talking about the current debacle that has led to several YouTube videos and BGG posts but focus on my own experience and perspective. Hopefully this can inspire other indies and keep the process transparent for potential backers of my Rogue Angels project.
Let us dive in and talk board game reviews :)
Where Have I Found Reviewers?
There are many types of content creators out there, and people have tons of different approaches on how to present content for their board gaming audience. So, for the sake of this blog, I will group everyone together as reviewers, as the purpose of them all is in some fashion to spread the message of your board game's existence. Especially around an indie Kickstarter.
There are many ways to find reviewers in the board gaming industry, and many newcomers appear every year on a variety of platforms. While some of these reviewers cease their activities after a while (consistency is key for content creators), my experience is that there is still a slight incline in the number of reviewers.
In practice I find new reviewers by:
For those who want to save hours of headache trying to locate all the board game reviewers out there, I got you covered with a fairly big list here. My Kickstarter Kit has roughly 500 listed in a handy Excel spreadsheet.
Who Have I chosen For Rogue Angels?
Just like last year, when I planned to have Rogue Angels previewed, I went through my entire list of content creators and checked out their existing reviews. Had their content changed? Were they still active? Were they still talking about dungeon crawlers or adventure games?
Once I have my initial list, I usually prioritize them in regard to previous experiences, quality in video work, or something that stands out to me. This could be the positive attitude of Marcel from Herr Der Spiele, the audience friendly Raymond from Board Game Heaven, or the engaging mindset of Bairnt from Meet Me At The Table... just to mention a tiny fraction of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with.
For those I have not yet worked with, I looked for these elements when considering Rogue Angels:
This time, the process left me with a little under 90 potential reviewers that I could then reach out to. You have to expect some will never read your mail, some will never answer, some will not have time, and so on.
For now, I have booked 33 reviews, which I feel is pretty good. Among those are King of Average, Dice Tower, Tabletop Sauce, Legendary Tactics, Canje Studios, and Sir Thecos.
Here are a few examples of previous Rogue Angels content:
The timing of reviews is pretty tricky. Because, while you do want a big splash when you hit go on your Kickstarter, you also want some content to have been leaked early, generating hype, just like you want some new stuff during your campaign, to continue a kind of presence while the Kickstarter is running.
I am currently working with a launch date of 4th September 2023 for Rogue Angels. So, I started reaching out to the first reviewers 1-2 months ago. My prototypes will be done and shipped in less than a month, meaning these reviewers will have 2 months for their content. Hopefully some may even be able to ship it further, allowing some content to be released during the Kickstarter.
The challenge about timing is that once all is said and done, you still send your precious dream project off to someone else's priority list. I have chosen 4th of September because I felt it were far enough in the future to allow me time for preparations, but not so long that it would fade out of people's memory/priority list.
How Expensive Is A Review?
So, how much have I paid for my reviews? There are several numbers to consider here, so let me try to break it down for you. This may also reveal just how much money has to be put into an indie project in today's board game market.
In practice, the cost for a single prototype copy of Rogue Angels making it to a review:
For this review and marketing strategy alone I have produced 50 prototypes of Rogue Angels, resulting in an expense of $6,000 excluding review costs.
For my last attempt at Kickstarting Rogue Angels, I only went with reviewers not charging for their reviews. This was primarily a money issue, as I could not sink this type of money into my project. Back then, I only got 20 smaller and cheaper copies made. However, the "no paid review"-approach also has to do with the integrity I want to display. I want the most unbiased reviews (cannot be completely unbiased of course).
Here you can find all the current reviews of Rogue Angels. Despite most of the reviewers only experiencing the first two missions, the game still convinced all the reviewers to speak very kindly of the game - something that still to this day humbles me :)
With my next prototype, reviewers can experience up to 40 different missions.
For this Kickstarter attempt, I will be buying a couple of reviews, most noticeably a Dice Tower Kickstarter preview, to make sure I get out to a broader audience and hopefully make a bigger splash in a very "red ocean" of content creator competition within the board gaming market.
HOW MUCH IS A REVIEW WORTH?
Probably the most natural follow-up question must be - is a review worth the price?
As I just stated above, even free reviews are not completely free. So, if you want to gather an audience, you must in some shape or form pay for it. People's time is money.
Unfortunately, this is where the water gets very murky.
No matter how disciplined you are about links, pixels, and other tracking. You will never be able to lay out a proper ROI (return on investment) on reviews. The data does not currently go deeper than a single action.
Example could be if a viewer of Tabletop Tolson sees her mentioning my game (Attention), and then goes about their business, nothing happens. But perhaps they stumble upon my blog because they now recognize the Rogue Angels name and want to know more (Interest), and after watching my trailer video (Desire), they now go and back it (Action).
Now this is just an example, and you would be right to ask other questions like:
Ultimately, I think it is about applying both a pragmatic and holistic view, as an indie your funds and resources are limited. Find the reviewers that most precisely match the audience you want to attract, those who can understand your vision, those who amplify your communication in a skillful way, and those who's opinion you trust :)
Thank you for making it to the end of yet another one of my posts :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about Kickstarter (p)reviews. Who do you follow? What type of preview are you most into (overview, play-through, other)? Would you recommend a reviewer to me?
Here is a comprehensive list of all the times Rogue Angels has been featured in media and reviews.
I wish you a great weekend and thanks again for supporting me :)
Best regards Emil