Sunday, April 18, 2021

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Book Review of Winning Streak by John-Michael Gariepy

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Title: Winning Streak: Tales and Trivia of the 40 Most Popular Board Games
Author: John-Michael Gariepy
Year Published: 2021
Kickstarter Price: $5/$17/$30/$50

Well, here we are again.  Doing a review of a not-game!  These pop up from time to time and I enjoy reviewing not-games (I've reviewed books, movies, and accessories), but it's always a challenge to fit them into my standard formats.  But here goes nothing!  

Winning Streak is a book by first-time author John-Michael Gariepy.  First-time author, yes, however, he's been writing for quite a while now.  For over a decade he's been reviewing games and writing articles on his blog, Dial D for Dungeon Master, has reviewed games for a number of different podcasts over the years, and hosts the Popcorn Roulette show where he discusses movies, media, and lots of other odd stuff.  So he's pretty experienced.  It's a wonder this is just his first book!  Then again, it's taken about 5 years just to write Winning Streak, so he definitely keeps himself plenty busy.

Winning Streak is a casual book that covers each of the top 40 games of all time, according to Ranker's list.  This means they aren't the 40 best games, or even 40 currently popular games, especially if you're part of the hobby gaming community that, if you're reading this, you probably are.  Ranker takes votes from all sorts of people with all sorts of experience with board games.  And since hobby games are a relatively small industry (though growing), the list is filled with classic board games that may feel obsolete to those of us "in the know".  

That's ok though.  Winning Streak isn't about discussing the intricacies of the top games based on Board Game Geek's rankings, or the top-selling hobby games.  It's not even about Ranker's current top 40 list!  The book was started back in 2015 and uses Ranker's list from back then.  Since then the list has changed, games that didn't exist back then have been published and become massive hits (I'm looking at you, Pandemic: Legacy and Gloomhaven), and games that were on the list way back then are off it now (and vice versa).  That doesn't really matter though.  

Each of the games on this list is a title that anyone familiar with board games should recognize.  It's a mix of timeless classics, family favorites from a bygone era, and modern masterpieces.  Winning Streak serves to talk about each one in turn (plus a few more at the beginning of each chapter), evaluating its merits, shortcomings, history and trivia, and, most importantly, its role in modern culture.  The exact titles on the list don't matter.  It's the thoughtfulness and insight brought to each title that matters.  

So, is Winning Streak worth your time?  Read on to learn more about the book and what I thought of it!

Winning Streak will be available on Kickstarter for just $5 for the ebook, or $17 for a black & white printed copy, $30 for full, glossy color, and $50 for hardcover color!  Look for the campaign to launch on May 27, 2021!

Blooms are the book's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Lots of interesting facts and history about the games!
  • A fun, casual read.  Stand-alone chapters are perfect to read in small chunks.  
  • I learned a lot more than I thought I would.  Gariepy seamlessly blends opinion with some great research into some very interesting subjects.
  • I loved that occasionally time-travelling John-Michael would chime in and relate certain passages to current updates, trends, and information.
Buds are interesting parts of the book I would like to explore more. 
  • I was familiar with a lot of the games, but some I wasn't.  After reading about them I'd love to play some of them!
  • A few of the chapters were very loosely related to the games they discussed.  The information was interesting, but a little more about the games themselves would have been nice, too.
  • I'd love to see a follow-up with some other classic and newer games that didn't make the 2015 list!
Thorns are a book's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • The book could use a more professional layout.  The supplemental pictures really felt like they were just pasted in, giving the book the feel of a blog more than a book.
  • I'm sorry, but Sorry! isn't as bad as all that!
Final Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading Winning Streak!  At first I figured I'd just give it a skim, and write something based on a few excerpts.  I received a PDF copy of the book in my email one morning and in the hour or so before work that day I found myself over 40 pages into the book!  This reads more like a series of blog entries than any kind of professional analysis, but it's not a professional analysis.  If I wanted a textbook or philosophical discussion about the influence of various games on modern society I'd find some graduate student's dissertation and read that.  

Winning Streak could be referred to as a 'bathroom book' and I guess it would be good for that (though my doctor tells me it's not good to sit on the pot for too long), but it's also great for reading any time you have 10-15 minutes (or more).  Each chapter is a self-contained nuggget of information about one of the games on the list and each chapter is funny, interesting, and insightful.  I finished off the book over the next few days during my lunch breaks at work.  

One of the things I liked about the book was the tangents that were explored.  Each chapter is about a different game, yes, but often that game is just a starting point for what grows into a separate discussion.  For example, the chapter about Clue (or Cluedo) spends one paragraph talking about the game and the next 14 pages talking about the movie based on the game (and other game-based movies).  I quite enjoyed this, and when I discovered that Clue is available to watch for free on Amazon Prime, this chapter inspired me to show the movie to my son.  And he loved the movie!  

If the book has one shortcoming, it's the layout.  The style feels much more like a series of blog posts than a well formatted book.  That's fine for the style of writing and subject matter covered, but the photos included throughout really feel like they were just copied and pasted from random internet sources (and the end of book credits support this assertion).  Maybe it would feel different in a physical book, but as a PDF the variable sizes of the images included and constant centered layout felt very generic.  But, like I said, for the style of writing, this was fine.

Oh, and one other issue...  What's with the hate for Sorry!, huh?  Yes, I agree it's not the greatest game, but I have fond memories of playing games of Sorry! in college, each of us doing our best to screw over our opponents.  The more times you could send your roommate back to start the better!  We'd play games for hours.  When someone would have to go to class, someone else would jump in and take their place.  Yes, the game isn't a great game, but neither is Candyland or Chutes & Ladders and even those games are discussed in a positive light.  Sorry! wasn't even given a chance.  But, I guess there's no accounting for taste. ;-)

Overall I really enjoyed reading Winning Streak and award it a Bloom.  The book would be a great addition to any gamer's library, or anyone who loves pop culture history and trivia.  I was actually disappointed when it was over.  Maybe there will be a follow-up?  There's no reason other games can't also be discussed in the same format.  The Ranker top 40 list was just a guide, so it would be great to read John-Michael Gariepy's take on some of the other games, new and old, that didn't quite make this list.

Winning Streak will be available on Kickstarter for just $5 for the ebook, or $17 for a black & white printed copy, $30 for full, glossy color, and $50 for hardcover color!  Look for the campaign to launch on May 27, 2021!  In the meantime, follow along at

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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