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.