About Game Reviews

GJJG Game 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 are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix.  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.

Page Contents:
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Disclaimer: Some of my content is from free promo copies of games or other products provided in exchange for an honest review, unboxing, crowdfunding features, or other content.  Some non-review content is the result of paid sponsorship through Patreon Elite Level sponsors.

I do not accept any monetary compensation for reviews, however, I may receive a copy of the game or a complimentary pledge level for a Kickstarter campaign that I review or feature.  Any instances where I received a free copy of a game or complimentary pledge level toward a game will be identified at the very beginning of the review with a link to this disclaimer.  Any other reviews are from games in my personal collection or games in a friend's personal collection, and I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for the review.

GJJ Games is supported by donations to my Patreon page http://patreon.com/GJJGames

Patreon sponsors at the Elite Level are working directly with GJJ Games to have additional content, including unboxings, giveaways, articles, how-to-plays, overviews, and more on this site.  Any content from an Elite Sponsor will be clearly identified at the beginning of the article.  Elite Sponsorship will NEVER result in a review while the sponsorship is active.  Elite Sponsorship begins at $50 per month.

Ratings Summary
Here's a quick summary of what my ratings mean to me:

Great Games

  • 9-10 or 90-100 - This is a game that I absolutely love.  The components are excellent, the gameplay is wonderful, the theme fits well, and I have a ton of fun playing the game.  These games are games that I will play any chance I get and have plenty of opportunity to play.  They are also games that I enjoy introducing other people to.  These games are very similar to games rated 8-9 or 80-90, but there's just something about them that puts them over the top.  They're the games I get excited about.
  • 8-9 or 80-90 - These are top-notch games.  They're favorites on my list and games I'll play any chance I get.  When I have to take a few games somewhere or have to introduce new gamers to games these are the ones I pick.
Good Games
  • 7-8 or 70-80 - This group includes very fun games.  I'll play these pretty much any time and love introducing these games to people.  Whereas higher rated games I'll play over and over again, these I like to spread out a bit.  I love introducing new players to these games.
  • 6-7 or 60-70 - These are very solid games that I enjoyed, but they're not necessarily my go to games.  I'll play these casually or if someone is interested in the game, and enjoy introducing new players to these, but they're not ones I'll choose to play frequently.  Once in a while is good.
Mediocre Games
  • 5-6 or 50-60 - These are games that are fun to play occasionally.  They may have a few flaws or bits that I take issue with, but I wouldn't turn down a game if someone asked me to play.  They're not necessarily ones I'd recommend though, unless they fit a specific request.
  • 4-5 or 40-50 - These games may work superficially, but they have major issues.  They are unbalanced, have clunky mechanics, or other elements that just don't fit.  Usually there's a glimmer of hope and I can see potential in the game, but as it is I can't recommend it and don't care to play again without some major revisions.
Flawed Games
  • 3-4 or 30-40 - A game rated this low is something that I'll generally avoid.  There may be a few bright points, but they're generally not enough to make me want to play the game ever again.
  • 2-3 or 20-30 - These games are, fortunately, few and far between, at least amongst the games I play and review.  These games have huge, glaring issues, aren't fun, and I avoid at all costs.
  • 0-2 or 0-20 - Unfortunately I've run across some things that purport to be games that fall into this range.  I hesitate to even call any of these games.   They're generally either totally random, or totally predetermined and have little or no actual decisions to make.  These are pretty much unsalvageable and occasionally unfinishable.
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Submitting Your Game for Review
GJJ Games is more than happy to accept games for review.  I will review already published games, active Kickstarter campaigns, previews for games about to hit Kickstarter (or retailers or other crowdfunding platforms), and even late-stage prototypes.  If you have something that you think I might like, just contact me via the Contact Page.  I'll be happy to hear about your game and let you know if it's a fit for me to play and review!  Please include a description of the game, when you expect it to be published or launched on Kickstarter, when you need the game reviewed by, and any other details about yourself and the game that you would like me to know.

Payment: Writing reviews does take quite a bit of time.  I first have to play a game several times, and convince my family and friends to play a game they may not be super interested in.  Then I spend time taking pictures and several hours writing up each review.  I usually do this in the evenings after my family has gone to bed.

That said, I don't accept any monetary payment for my reviews, however I will accept a complimentary pledge level for a Kickstarter campaign that I review or feature.  I do reviews because I enjoy the hobby and want to help out other designers and publishers.  I hope that if I ever get one of my games published that others will return the favor.

So while I don't ask for money, it is usually expected (though not required) that I'll get to keep a copy of the game.  For published games I'll need a copy of the game to play and review.  If I'm reviewing a prototype in anticipation of a Kickstarter campaign, I'm happy to review it and even send it on to another reviewer or back to you (I know how much prototypes can cost), but an offer of a final version of the game if it successfully funds is appreciated.

Because production copies of Kickstarter games are generally not available at the time of a review, I will coordinate with you to receive a pledge level for your game.  Ideally this will be in the form of a PayPal payment equal to the pledge level of your game (including shipping), which I will then use to back your game on Kickstarter.  This is a win-win for everyone since it'll get me a production copy of your game, help your campaign fund, and allow me to promote your game in my Eye on Kickstarter series with "GJJ Games Backed" indicated.  Contact me if you have any questions or other ideas!

GJJ Games is supported by donations to my Patreon page http://patreon.com/GJJGames

What I Don't Review: While I'm happy to play prototypes at game design meetups and Protospiel events, I generally only accept near complete prototypes for review. Please make sure your game is finished and mechanically ready for publication if you want me to review it. I understand that components and artwork may not be final and a few gameplay details may be in the process of being ironed out, but games for me to review should be as close to complete mechanically as possible.

Games I Avoid: Personally I generally enjoy just about any type of game, however there are a few types of games I find very difficult to get to the table. Although there are some exceptions for all these, and I'm happy to at least look at anything, if your game fits into one of these categories be aware that there's a good chance I may say it's not for me to review.
  • Mature Games - Any game that has NSFW content that can't be removed from the game easily will not get played by me or my game group. There are too many children present when I game, and frankly I'm not a fan of that type of humor or theme in my games.
  • Party Games - Most party games aren't really appropriate for my game groups. While I do enjoy family friendly party games, like Snake Oil, Apples to Apples, Scattergories, Balderdash, and the likes, I find them challenging to get to table frequently. If your party game includes an interesting twist that involves strategy it'll be more likely to be played, but clones of Apples to Apples generally won't make it to the table, and definitely no CAH clones (see above).
  • Trivia Games - I generally despise trivia games unless they have a very unique mechanic. I do enjoy games like Timeline, or puzzle and logic games, but straight up trivia games, like Geek Out or Trivial Pursuit I generally avoid.
  • Very Long Games - While I do enjoy playing a six hour marathon game from time to time, it is very rare that I get a game to the table that lasts more than two hours. If you're looking to have a game reviewed please keep it under two hours. I find it easiest to get 30-90 minute games to the table
  • High Player Counts - Usually may game reviewing groups tend to be 2-6 players. Very rarely do I get 8 players willing to review games. And although my game night events continue to grow it's often difficult for me to coordinate more than 6 players to all focus on a new game at one time. If you do have a high-player count game that you'd like me to review that's fine, but the turnaround time may be a lot longer than usual.
  • Some Social Deduction - I really, really enjoy social deduction games. I used to spend hours in college playing Mafia. But these days I find that many times I'm playing games with just a few other adults, and often with many kids. This makes it difficult to appropriately test out social deduction games since I usually have either too few players, or too many kids who don't quite get social deduction yet.  However, this is changing!  My kids are getting more adept at social deduction (the mechanics if not so much the strategy), and my gamer group is warming up to social deduction games.  If you have a social deduction game, let me know and I'll see if it's a good fit.
  • Print and Play Games - I generally don't have the time to print copies of games and then build or collect the components for it. If your game is super simple to build (like only a page or two) I may make an exception, but I generally reserve my PnP constructions to my own games or playtesting games from friends or BGG design contests I participate in. If you want your game reviewed, please send me a constructed prototype. It can be something you printed and constructed on your own, just don't expect me to print and build a game before I review it.
Turnaround Time: I generally like to have 4-8 weeks to review a game, but have been known to get reviews out in less than a week.  I like to post a review about every 7-10 days.  Generally my turnaround time is 10-14 days from when I start to play a game to when I finish writing up a review, and I review games in the order that I receive them.  You can see my current Review Queue to see what's already on my schedule.  So if I have a number of games to review already lined up then it'll take longer to get any new reviews out.  And since this is a hobby, family and work have to take precedence over reviews.  So occasionally my personal schedule can delay reviews a bit, but I try to avoid that as much as possible.  If you have any questions about my current schedule or backlog, please ask!  I'm pretty transparent about my processes.  Thanks for considering GJJ Games!

NOTE: I now have a toddler and a very busy family (we do Scouts, theater, music, dance, church, and tons more), so turnaround times have been much slower recently since my free time for gaming has been reduced drastically.  Because of this I have been much more selective about the games I accept for review.  If I accept a review with a specific due-date (e.g. for a Kickstarter launch), I will have the review ready for then.  If the review is for a retail game it may take longer.  Please bear with me until I once again have more free time for playing review games!

Location: I'm located in Northern Illinois, USA, if that is a consideration for sending me a copy of your game.  I am willing to work with you to ship your game back to you or on to another reviewer after I have completed my review if that is your desire.  If you're also in the Northern Illinois area, I'm also willing to meet locally to play games, even playtest early prototypes if you are a designer - if you're willing to play my prototypes as well =)

Here is an excellent video posted by fellow reviewer Edo Baraf about what to do and what not to do when requesting a review of your game.  It's got great advice, and although I do make exceptions to some of these tips, following them will give your game a more positive vibe right from the start, which is what you want.

What if I don't like your game?
I'll be honest, I've received some games to review that I really didn't like.  I usually try to filter these out before I receive them by reading any information about the game I can before agreeing to review a game.  If a game doesn't sound like something that is a fit for my gaming tastes or something I don't think I'll be able to get to the table with my game groups (like most party games and all mature games), I'll let the creator know that it's not a fit for me.  But sometimes games sound interesting in writing and then come to me with major flaws or features that I really don't like.  Anything that would receive a rating less than 5 is a game that I feel has some major issues.  In this case, after I play the game I'll let the creator know what I didn't like about the game and what I would suggest the game needs, whether it's a few tweaks, more playtesting, or a complete revamp.

If I just have a few issues with a game that I feel can be addressed by the creators or handled easily enough with house rules I'll include that information in my review.  If I really don't like a game, feel it has major flaws, or is generally broken or just bad I'll let the requestor know and let them know why.  If the game is already available in retail I'll go ahead and post my review.  But if the review was a preview for a Kickstarter campaign then whether I post a review or not depends on what the creator decides to do with the game.  If the game gets launched on Kickstarter without any significant changes, despite my advice, I'll post my review.  If the creator decides to cancel the planned Kickstarter I won't post my review.  If the creator makes significant changes to the game I'll ask for an updated version of rules and any necessary components and try the game out again.  If I don't receive updates to the game I won't post a review, but I'll make a quick mention of it at the bottom of my Review Queue page.

I feel it's important to be honest and objective for my readers, so I won't hold back on posting a negative review for a game that I feel isn't worth public support.  But at the same time I want to provide constructive feedback to game designers, so if I feel my advice is at least being considered seriously and the game is improving due to my feedback I'll take that into consideration by not posting a negative review, or at least mentioning in the review how the game seems to be improving.

It is my hope that, through critically constructive reviews and feedback to creators, I can help gamers find some of the best games available and make informed decisions when they purchase.

I get a lot of review games to play.  Some I like more than others, and even some that I do like I just can't keep in my collection.  Any review games that I receive that aren't going to stay in my collection I donate to my FLGS's demo game library.  If you would prefer that I send the game back to you instead, please let me know and I can coordinate with you.

All that said, please don't send me in-development games with the intention of getting playtesting feedback.  If a game is sent to me for review I expect it to be a relatively finished game.  I love playtesting in-development games, but I do that at Protospiel events and other game design meetups, not through my review process.

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Giveaways & Promotions
If you would like I will also be happy to run a giveaway on my site to promote your game!  If you send me two copies of your game (or agree to send one copy out to a winner) I will be happy to run a giveaway for one of them.  Alternately, I can also run a giveaway for another game in order to promote your game (e.g. Happy Otter Games gave away a copy of Machi Koro through my site in order to promote the Kickstarter for Creature College).

Generally, I run giveaways for US residents age 18 and older (there are too many legalities around international giveaways).  I set them up using Gleam.io and have people visit a combination of your and my social media and other web pages.  Entrants can answer questions about your game, follow you on social media, and complete other actions to gain entries.  I'll facilitate the entire process and all you have to do is send the prize to the winner.  If interested please contact me to coordinate the details!

The Review Queue
I keep a page updated that lists games that are in my review queue, so you have an idea of what I'm working on as well as where your game may fall in my review queue if you want me to review your game.  You can take a look at The Review Queue.

Types of Reviews
I have two main types of reviews for games.  Occasionally I'll also do reviews of non-game items, like game accessories.  These will roughly follow one of the below formats also, however due to the nature of the item they may vary a bit.
  1. Quick Review - These are short reviews, generally a couple of paragraphs, that give an overview of my first impressions of a game that I've usually only played a few times.  After describing the game briefly I'll tell how I and my family and/or friends enjoyed it.  I'll let you know if it's a game that I hope to play again or not, and any other first impressions.  Then I'll give the game a preliminary rating of 1-10 (low-high).  I'll try to do Quick Reviews within a day or two after playing a new game for the first time, but sometimes it'll be longer and sometimes it'll be after playing a game quite a few times.

    I also do Kickstarter and Prototype Previews under this Quick Review umbrella.  Generally these are more in depth than a typical Quick Review, but since the are not reviewing final components or a production copy of a game they only receive a 1-10 rating.
  2. Full Review - These reviews are much more in depth and will be made after I've played a game several times.  I'll try to do a Full Review weekly.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: 
    • Components & Packaging - How nice are the game pieces and how well is the game packaged.
    • Rules & Setup - Are the rules clear and easy to understand?  Is the game easy to learn?  Is there extensive setup, or is it easy to have the game ready to play?
    • Gameplay - This is the core of the review.  How well does the game play?  Is it enjoyable, repetitive, suspenseful?  Is this a game that I'm enjoying playing?
    • Replayability - How fun is this game after the first few?  Is it different every time?  Are there ways to increase the difficulty?  Is this a game that I want to play again and again?
    • Overall Value - How good is this game for the cost to play it?  Does it require expansions to maintain interest?  Is this a game that you have to keep buying pieces in order to stay current?  Is the money put into the game worth it?
    • General Fun - This is my big subjective area.  It's basically how much I (and anyone I played with) enjoyed the game.  Because yes, even a bad game can be fun to play, and great games can be long and tedious at times.
    • Educational Value - Some games are geared specifically toward learning purposes.  For those games there will be a seventh category specifically for Educational Value.  While most games teach something passively (strategic thinking, basic math, etc.) this category will be reserved for games that are specifically geared toward learning and education.

    Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple (double for Educational games since they have an extra category).  Then the game is given a total score of x/100.  I'll also have a short introduction to the game and a paragraph or two of Final Thoughts.
    Some games may have multiple reviews.  Sometimes I'll do a Quick Review for a game and then later do a Full Review.  And sometimes a game plays completely different when you play with adults or with kids or with mixed company, so I'll mention in the review what audience the review is geared toward.  Usually they'll be Family Play or Adult Play reviews, but occasionally I'll list a review as Kids Only.  These will usually be when I'm just observing my kids play a game, or taking a passive role in a game meant mainly for kids.

Other Content
GJJ Games also includes other content besides reviews. Press Releases, Unboxings, Crowdfunding Features, and more. Sometimes these are completed independently, sometimes they are paid for through comppensation (usually a copy of the game/product) and sometimes are comissioned by sponsors (Patreon Elite Sponsors). Any articles that have received compensation will have a link to this page for the disclaimer. Sponsorships will also be identified within the content.
If you have any questions or suggestions relating to this review process, or if you'd like to submit a game for review (yes, I'd love to play and review your game!), just contact me via the Contact Page.

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