Friday, February 13, 2009

General Rave - Tom Vasel Rules

I think it's time I cleared up a little something important:

Tom Vasel is awesome.

In the last year and a half since I started writing Drake's Flames, I've taken more than one unsubtle jab at the undisputed (in my mind) king of board game reviewers. I've suggested that his reviews are boring, for instance, or that he provides too much information and not enough commentary. I think one time I said something nice about him, but mostly I just make fun of him, his show and his reviews in general.

And it's completely unfair. Tom's podcast, The Dice Tower, is an industry giant. If he likes your game and talks about it on the show, you'll sell a bunch. He's so big, you can't afford not to send him copies of your game. He's the most-referenced game reviewer alive today (that might not be true - I have done no research of any kind). When world leaders want to know if they should buy Arkham Horror or Fury of Dracula, they call Tom Vasel (that's actually very unlikely to be true).

To make my spurious accusations even worse, Tom's a hell of a nice guy. I haven't actually met him in person - he lives in Korea, for one thing - but he's a great sport and he's great about helping out new publishers. While many reviewers get all self-important because they write for big money, Tom just keeps cranking out reviews with nothing but free games to show for his work, and he still manages not to get a big head about it.

As if these weren't two great reasons to be ashamed of myself, I have a big one saved up for last - Tom has personally helped me get VixenTor Games off the ground. He and Sam Healey (the under-appreciated cohost of The Dice Tower) talked up my dice towers in multiple podcasts, and even helped me run a contest that got me even more exposure. So now I'm not just attacking a big name who happens to be a nice guy, I'm taking shots at a guy who has personally made me money. And that ain't right.

But it is funny, and that's kind of what I do. I love to mock popular people, because it makes people laugh. I like to say wholly inappropriate things about people who are less fortunate than I am, because while some people might be outraged, others laugh until Mountain Dew shoots out their noses. It's not always pretty, and to be completely honest, it's not even always funny, but I do my absolute best to be as entertaining as possible, and like the saying goes, you can't make an omelette with sardines because that would be nasty (that's a bit of a paraphrase, and come to think of it, it doesn't make any sense).

To make matters even more complicated, Tom and I have completely different styles when it comes to reviews, and different opinions on what it means to write a review. Tom often spends more than half of a review explaining mechanics; I don't think a reviewer's job is to tell you the rules. Tom's opinions are generally a quick summation after a relatively objective description of the game; I try to be as subjective as possible and let you read an FAQ if you want to know how the game works. Tom tries to give his audience a fair and balanced view of the game that won't hurt too many feelings if he doesn't like the game; I try to present my most honest opinion, along with some moderately humorous and often offensive colorful language. Tom is beloved throughout the hobby gaming world; I have a growing list of publishers who won't return my calls (and I think one of them sent me an anthrax letter). Tom is family-friendly; I'm crassly opinionated with occasional bathroom humor.

So allow me to be perfectly clear on this point - I like Tom Vasel, and I think he's a bad-ass game reviewer and a nice guy, to boot, and I hope he keeps reviewing games until we're both pushing 90 and living in Florida, and all our reviews start with, 'in my day...'. And also allow me to be clear on this point - he's a great big target, and my mocking phasers are permanently set to 'cheap shot', so you'll see more cracks about Tom Vasel and The Dice Tower and over-informative, under-amusing game reviews for as long as I write this site.

See, there was one right there.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I am next for such a nicely and apologetic post, yes?

Matt Drake said...

After the thing with the lighter fluid and the beer keg?

Not likely.

Marion Jensen said...

I like Tom Vasel. I like his podcasts. I like his reviews.

And I like your blog too. It's like enjoying vanilla ice cream sometimes, and chocolate ice cream other times.

I hope both of you keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Tom Vasel told me you were a dick. Then he kicked a puppy.

I'm just kidding. Tom's a great guy and some of the members of our gaming group met him at Origins. They were the ones who heard him say you were a dick.

Pete Miller said...

There is plenty to like about the dice tower podcast, but it rarely make me laugh as hard as your blog. They are so different there is no problem with them co-existing. Tom is just not particularly funny. Sam, however, Oh My Heave... Well, he is ht source of the humor of the show.

Keep up the good work, just don't take too many cheap shots at the missionaries...

Enrique said...

So he's the Bob Vila to your Tim Taylor? said...

A lot of helpful data for myself!