Thursday, April 26, 2012

Announcement - Shopping Spree

When I started writing reviews more than ten years ago, I did it for one completely selfish reason - free games. Trade an hour of playing and an hour of writing for a 60-dollar board game, and you're coming out ahead (this equation breaks down when you review a 20-dollar game, by the way). Over the years, I built up an enormous library of games, and the games I couldn't get as review copies, I worked trades or (far more often) just lived without.

I still really do like getting free games. That hasn't changed, and I doubt it ever will. There's something really fun about having a box show up at the front door and opening it up to see a bunch of games I didn't pay for, but still get to keep. Even if they're crappy games, it's still pretty cool.

However, as time has passed, things have changed. For one thing, I find that I actually like writing Drake's Flames more than I care about getting stuff for free. At this point, I actually look forward to writing about games even more than I look forward to having free games show up at my house.

Unfortunately, in order to write about three games a week, I have to actually play three games a week, and that's not always easy to pull off. Sometimes, there won't be many new games hitting the market, and when that happens, there's not a lot to talk about. And that's not the biggest issue I have, either.

The biggest reason I have trouble landing enough games to write three reviews a week has nothing to do with the market, and everything to do with my penchant for writing unapologetically blunt reviews. And they're not just blunt, either - I could just say, 'this is not much fun,' but when I say that a game is as pleasant as prison sex, I tend to alienate publishers.

I mean, let's face it - publishers are just people, and in many cases, they're just people who are really invested in what they produce. They don't want to see their labor of love compared unfavorably to a bucket of warm snot. And they get scared easy; knowing that there's always a chance that I could tear a hole right through their game and cost them sales is often enough to make publishers shy away without ever considering sending me a game.

So my conundrum, in short, is that I want to write about games, but can't if I don't have the games, and people won't send them to me because I said their art looks Stephen Hawking drew it with a box of Crayola stainproof markers. I've gone in circles on this one, trying to find a way to get the games and still be able to write the way I want to write, and I've come up with only one viable solution:

I'm going to have to buy games.

At first, the idea was almost offensive. Why would I write reviews for games that I buy? It's crazy! It's unthinkable! Hell, I only got into this racket to get stuff for free. It's completely counter-productive to buy games just to review them, especially when the most I make off them is about a nickel a day (which goes into my online Project Wonderful account, and which I've never actually withdrawn, meaning I've never actually made any money). If I buy my games, I could just play them and save myself all the trouble of telling people about them.

But then, I'm not really writing for the free games any more. I've discovered, over the last few years, that when I write what I want to write, without an editor or moderator or anyone else to tell me that I'm too raw or offensive, with nobody telling me to say something nice to please an advertiser, with nobody to tell me when I've crossed the line, I freaking love it. I get more out of writing than I do out of playing the games. And when I'm having trouble writing because I can't get games to play, the solution is obvious. I need more games.

So I'm going to buy lots and lots of games. Not all of them - I'll still accept any review copies that anyone wants to send me. But I've set up an arrangement with Noble Knight Games that will allow me to get steep discounts on the games I want to review, and I'll be using it to pick up the stuff that people won't send me. This may cost me a few hundred bucks a month, but if it means I get to keep cranking out the stuff I want to write, it's worth every penny.

It also means that now more than ever, I need my readers to help me out by considering Noble Knight Games when you shop. Drop my name when you order, and it helps immensely. Because where Noble Knight was hooking me up with a game or two now and then, they've really committed to this now. They're selling me inventory at a rate that doesn't make them any money, just so I can keep bringing you reviews (and now, I can bring you reviews of games like Blood Bowl Team Manager and Road Kill Rally, that I couldn't get you before).

It also means that review requests are going to be a lot easier to answer. If you have something you would like to see reviewed, let me know. If I can get it from Noble Knight Games, and I have any desire to play it, I'll just buy the son of a bitch and to Hell with the scaredy-cat publishers. So fire away with those requests - and look for some A-list reviews in the coming weeks.


MIK said...

I'm going to like this new direction, kudos on the move. I think we'd rather you not pull your punches than otherwise. In the past I've bought many games based on what I read here.

Another thing that would be interesting is, now that you're buying (and rebuilding a great collection), what's your top ten "must buys" or top 25 "gotta have on the shelf" games?

Kenton Henry said...


One game I'd like to hear your opinion is an old one that Noble provides the only reliable way to play. It's called Rage, and it was a CCG set in White Wolf's Werewolf setting. I loved that game in high school, even though as far as I know it's never been super popular. I could just never get enough of a game where I could pit an insane werewolf/vampire against a kung fu werewolf and literally tear my foe in half. Or punch out his heart. Or break his legs. Man.

T.J. Crockett said...

While I'm sorry that your honesty has made the free game well dry up, I've always appreciated it. Your posts are always informative and funny. I also look forward to your even more honest opinions (now that your have to pay). It's also nice that you aren't just reviewing project after project on Kickstarter, which seems to be the current trend elsewhere. Although, you're one of the few I'd trust recommending one, since you'll tear it a new one if it sucks.

MIchael Rhodes said...

Well done , its a shame people are afraid that you might tell the truth, but we need to tell the publishers that when you say a game is good you also have an effect. So far this just year-2012 I have bought 4 games based entirely on your reviews, I've found your tastes are pretty close to mine and if you like a game and I dont have a copy, it often ends up on my to purchase list

(reposted after correcting the spelling errors)

Matt Drake said...

Wow, cool! I would say I am humbled that you guys are trusting me, but really, it's gone straight to my head.

I wasn't trying to intimate that I've ever pulled punches. Free games aren't worth my integrity. A couple million dollars - that would be worth my integrity, and I would willingly sacrifice my pride for the chance to own a Lamborghini. But a free game? No. Unless it came with a couple million dollars.

Kenton, I'll buy some Rage and give it a review in the next week or two. Mik, most of my top ten would be games I already owned, and just have to replace because of the fire. I had a list a while back:

Anonymous said...

What about accepting donation?

Nate Warren said...

Good move! Looking forward to more. And I second the other commenter who suggested putting out a tip jar.

Drake's Flames, Shut Up and Sit Down, and r/boardgames are my favorite three backstops for second opinions on games I'm curious about. I own Tannhauser and Risk Legacy because of your blog, and love them both. Even when it's a game I probably won't buy, I always enjoy reading your highly entertaining posts. Rock on.

Pedro Rustico said...

If you don't mind my sloppy seconds, Matt, I can always just send the dregs over to you. I mean, shit, I give them all away anyhow, and at least I you.

Just promise me that if you burn games up again, you do it on purpose, and make a video.

Enrique said...

I agree with the supporter idea. Congrats on placing integrity above loot, that's why you're the best!

As far as's an odd one: Pokemon the card game and Redakai. My 5 yr old likes the cards and we've played a bit, I'd like to hear your opnion on those. Redakai in particular is dirt cheap at Target right now on their clearance stock.

Matt Drake said...

I'm kind of opposed to the idea of asking for donations. I hate going to a website, enjoying it, and then seeing the 'please support this site' button. It makes me feel like I should leave and not read the comic if I don't want to pay for it, and I don't want people to feel that way.

I have designed a couple t-shirts that I want to offer up, probably on Cafe Press, once I can move back into my own house. That way, if you decide you really do want to support Drake's Flames, you can get something for your money.

Enrique, I'll add Pokemon and Redakai to the list. I've already ordered a month's worth of games, so it won't be for a little bit, but I'll see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is leaps and bounds more (blatantly) honest than any other website I've been too. Even if I'm fairly sure that a particular game isn't my thing, I still love reading your reviews. I think it's cool that you get your dad involved too. I understand why you don't want to accept donations (though I would contribute), but I can guarantee that I will buy shirt as soon as they're available. I, along with many others, truly respect your opinion. It actually means something. Keep up the *great* work; you should consider more writing projects -- you have a true penchant for it. Oh, and FUCK BGG.

Anonymous said...

I was recently searching among your old reviews and decided to do a quick tally. Since you started 4 1/2 years ago, you have given us...

521 Games Reviewed
15 RPG's
14 Video Games
50 Events, Movies or Books
82 Announcements, Excuses, or Rants

That's a lot of well written, humorous, informative reviews.
Thanks! And Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hi, love your blog. Would really like to see your opinion of some major games like War of Rhe Ring, Mage Knight the boardgame, Dust Tactics and Battles Of Westeros. I´m really like to buy them but not really got the courage yet...! And I really like your writing, it´s pure entertainment to read. And more than one of your reviews have helped me in the past.

/ Peter - The swedish guy