So by now, I’ve been writing board game reviews on & off for the better part of half a decade. Before that, I wrote a number of other blogs, from personal journeys to book and video game reviews.
That’s all to say I’ve been doing this for a while!
If you want to learn more about the journey of starting a blog, and what five years looks like. I recently wrote about my experience in a blog post. It goes into details about stats, and some more of what I’ve learnt from all this experience.
This article covers my top tips from all that experience. Let’s get into it!
1. Just start writing
This advice is as true for writing your first novel as it is for writing board game reviews. You’ll find it on just about any internet post covering writing because it’s that important.
Writing is a learned skill that improves each time you put your fingers on the keyboard or pen to paper. As such, your first board game reviews are going to suck. You won’t know whether or not you’re doing it right, you’ll ramble a lot (or not enough). But as Jake says, sucking at something is the first step at being sorta good at something.
When it comes to writing board game reviews, or any kind really, there are some things that will be obvious. But then there are also a lot of non-obvious things that require you to test different approaches and see what feels right.
That takes time…. and it takes writing.
I’ve learned and internalised an incredible amount over the last five years. From writing in shorter, more punctual sentences, to joining ideas and paragraphs together fluidly. It’s been a journey and one that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t continue writing.
2. Find your style
This is A LOT easier said than done.
I’ve been writing board game reviews for five years, and only in the last year have I been confident in saying I found my style. This confidence comes on the back of years of experimentation and influence. From interpreting other people’s styles (i.e. copying other people’s writing) to finding out what comes naturally to me.
The other part of this discussion is adjusting your style so that your writing is entertaining, and people want to read it. This only happens with feedback, willingness to change and persistence.
So when it comes to writing board game reviews, find yourself a dedicated fan, and work together with them. Try to create a style that feels comfortable to you, but also entertaining for them.
3. The magic happens in the editing
One thing I’ve found in writing board game reviews is that I’m never happy with the first draft. On average only about 40% of my first drafts actually make it to the final post.
But that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time. Far from it. The first draft is crucial for getting my ideas in a somewhat cohesive format. Although it’s not until the second draft that I start to see what works and start to massage what’s already on the page into something palatable.
Yet even knowing this, a bad first draft can leave me feeling defeated. Especially when you get writer’s block, and must force the words to come out of your fingers. My review of Detective Club was one of these. But after several edits, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
4. Give people just enough context
Too often reviewers on Board Game Geek fall into this trap when writing board game reviews. Where they turn their review into a step-by-step how-to-play of the game. Leaving the more important opinion piece to a couple of paragraphs at the end.
As a reader, I want the inverse, I want just enough context to understand your review, and then want to hear your opinions on the game.
In my experience, I’ve gone through the whole spectrum of putting in complete how-to-plays, to having none at all. What I’ve found works best is to describe the main beats and how to win the game. People reading don’t need to know every card or exception. Only the main ones, and the ones you’re going to bring up later in your review.
5. Have a strong opinion and stick with it
There’s nothing more boring than watching a reviewer vamp for 15 minutes, and once they’re done you still don’t know how they feel about the game. This is the same when writing reviews, so before you pen to paper make sure you have something to say.
Once you’ve got that strong opinion, you need to reinforce it with examples and reasoning. Make your readers understand why you feel a certain way about the game, and stand by that.
This is easy when the game is good and you’re excited to talk about it. It’s a lot harder when the game doesn’t live up to your expectations. Yet, this is also when it’s most important. Because it builds integrity into your reviews, and you as the reviewer.
6. Don’t try to do everything at once
One of the biggest problems I ran into when I first started writing board game reviews, was the laundry list of things to do. Think about the last article you read and everything that went into it:
- A great sounding title
- A feature image
- Take pictures, captions and alt-image tags
- Social media posts about the article
- Affiliate links
- An excerpt from the website
- A meta-description
- Tags, Categories and other metadata
- Internal & external linking
There is more, but this should paint a picture. When all you want to do is write, this extra stuff can turn your fun escape into a chore-ish nightmare.
But here’s the thing, you don’t need to do it. Any of it. Yes, it all helps build your website, but you can always come back and update your old posts later.
That said, it helps to start forming good habits. Instead of focusing on the whole gamut, pick out one extra task. Write a few posts until that task becomes a habit. Then pick another task, and so on. Soon you’ll be doing everything, and it won’t feel like that much at all!
7. Tools are your friend
With all of these tasks that go into every single blog post you create, it helps to eliminate any and all excess work. So that you can focus on writing board game reviews.
Here is a list of tools that I use regularly.
As a mini editor, Grammarly saves me time by picking up words and spelling mistakes that I miss. While suggesting improvements to the way I word things. From a misspelled word to a change in sentence structure, Grammarly improves my writing significantly.
When I’m feeling super unconfident about a post, I’ll turn to Hemingway. This supercharged version of Grammarly also provides you with spelling and grammar suggestions. But it’s more in-depth, highlighting sections of your text that are difficult to read.
It’s a great tool to help you find your style.
AIO SEO (Paid)
Weirdly enough, AIO SEO taught me as much about my writing style as it did about SEO. One thing I truly appreciated about the plugin was its Flesch reading score. Telling me if a post was convoluted.
Additionally, it notifies you when a section of your post is over 300 words. Helping you to remove any filler from your posts, making them concise and more interesting to read.
Rank Math (Paid)
Rank Math is my current SEO plugin, and although I bought the pro version. I end up using what comes free with the plugin more than the pro tools.
That said, it’s a great lightweight plugin that tells you your on-page SEO scores for each page. The people behind the plugin are incredibly knowledgeable and I’ve had some fantastic conversations with their team on issues I faced early on.
One page I’m particularly fond of is their Power Words page which is where I start reading whenever I want to write a headline.
A bit of a controversial choice, but when writing board game reviews I specifically use it to help me write meta-descriptions. Because it turns out I am awful at trying to sell anything.
In order to generate these descriptions, I copy and paste my entire article into Chat.GTP and then give it the prompt ‘Give me 10 meta-descriptions for this article’. Out of the 10 responses, one or two might be good enough. But then still requires me to massage it before I hit publish.
Other than that, I also turn to Chat.GTP when I’m stuck on a metaphor. I’ll ask ‘Complete this sentence,’ or ‘Give me a metaphor for…’ The suggestions it comes back with are usually awful. But they provide me with a spark of creativity, or a perspective I hadn’t thought of before.
8. Remember to take a break
While it sounds like a lot of work, writing board game reviews and maintaining a website is also extremely addicting. There’s so much you can do within the space it can be quite addicting. However, if you have a full-time job like me, it’s important to make sure you leave time for yourself – away from the blog.
Several times, I’ve been hooked on working and improving Roll to Review. Every time that happens though, I usually burn out quickly. When it does, it usually takes me months of time to recover.
So consider this as your reminder, you’re human, and you need to ensure you work at a sustainable pace. Meaning sometimes you need to take breaks when you don’t want to. Nevertheless, you have to put your health first above everything else, or else everything else will suffer for it.
9. You can’t control people
Part of the addiction to writing board game reviews is following your stats. It’s exciting when they go up, as it reinforces that you’re entertaining and good at what you do. Conversely, when they go down they can make you feel awful.
This can get frustrating when you put out a great article, and no one reads it. So this tip is letting you know mind control technology has yet to be invented. And although you can influence people to your site through great content and SEO. Whether they show up or not is random.
The other part of this is the work you do on your website sometimes won’t make an impact for days, weeks, or even months. So while you’re doing a lot of the legwork now, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to see an effect until later on.
10. Play more games and have fun
My last tip for writing board game reviews is to remember to have fun. It’s so easy to be swept up in the constant demands of running your blog. But that’s not why you’re writing about board games. Therefore, it’s important to take some time out and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place.
And of course, play more games!
There you have it, my top 10 tips for writing board game reviews. With these, I hope you can take your writing from ordinary to extraordinary! However, if you have any more tips I’ve missed then please let me know below.