Hey hey. Over a year ago we backed (on Kickstarter) the 8th year of Casual Board Game Insider, a glossy, full-color, board-game-centered magazine published digitally and physically by Casual Game Revolution. It’s a quarterly publication and last month we received our last issue. The crew behind the magazine also successfully Kickstartered their 9th year just last month. We didn’t back it this time. Here’s why.
On the table of contents of each issue the following is quoted “A casual game is played in under an hour, set up and taught in under 10 minutes, and requires some light strategic thought. Casual games are not specifically marketed to children, but can be enjoyed by anyone from older children to adults”. This sentiment really illustrates the magazine’s main focus – casual games (it’s right there in the title too – Casual Game Insider). As obvious as that may seem in retrospect I was really disappointed in the light nature of so much of this publication. While glossy and full of color and eye-catching design, I felt every issue lacked substance and depth. I was constantly looking for something more than this magazine was offering and I felt disappointment and even frustration after reading each issue.
The articles ranged from (potentially) serious, hobby-related interests like coverage of conventions and awards, the history of the hobby (a particularly disappointing article), and designer interviews and featurettes, to much simpler topics like suggestions for games to play when hosting a party and recommendations in the vein of “if you like that then try this”. However, these articles felt outdated and surface-y. The suggestions in the aforementioned article were “If you like Settlers of Catan try Machi Koro.” and “If you enjoy Ticket to Ride check out Takenoko!” The number 1 suggested party game in the aforementioned party games article was Codenames. A classic, to be sure, but 5 years old at the time of this publication…Machi Koro is 8 years old and Takenoko is 9 years old. Using old examples like these made me question the timeliness and current relevance of the knowledge and experience of the writers and staff; these would have been great articles years ago, but to publish them now makes me wonder if they really have their finger on the current pulse of hobby at all. I don’t want to be overly harsh, but to further my point I’ll provide another example: in the most recent issue there was a 4-year old article about app-integration into board gaming. Four years is forever when it comes to technological advancement and I wondered why this obviously outdated article was published in a brand new issue of this magazine. Articles with room to dive deeper, like the conventions and awards coverage, were basic and forgettable. I learned more about the history of board games from a self-guided exploration of a small traveling exhibit than I did from the article in this magazine (if you’re interested in learning more about that adventure, you can read about it here).
The magazine is FULL of paid advertising, coming in every form. Every issue featured a sponsored cover story, a two-page spread showcasing the magazine’s sponsors, and tons of ads. Even some of non-sponsored articles and most of the reviews felt like advertisements instead of real, genuine, original content. The “reviews” felt much more like overviews of the games because critiques or criticisms were rarely offered and were almost immediately reversed when they did appear. For example, in one review the writer states “…some components could be fancier but overall the game is perfect…” while in others they reference inaccuracies in the rules but give the offending game a pass anyway. I wouldn’t have minded overviews instead of reviews, but by presenting these as reviews but not actually reviewing the games made these “reviews” look like thinly-veiled advertisements in a magazine already full of ads and sponsored content.
My last point of contention is a definitive lack of diversity and representation. There is only one female staff member. In the four issues published in their 8th year there was only one article written by a female guest writer (and it was a sponsored article). There are no people of color on staff and only 1 article – in the entire year – was written by a POC. This lack of diversity and representation extended beyond the contributors to the magazine into their articles as well. In an article titled “Board Game Pet Peeves” 6 designers were interviewed; all six were white males. In another article, “Board Game Rock Stars” 5 designers were profiled – 4 of the 5 were white males. This was disappointing. I felt like maybe this magazine wasn’t written for me…I felt like it was written for white males.
Casual Board Game Insider’s glossy, colorful, game-filled pages were initially enticing, but overall the magazine lacked depth and quality of content and I cannot recommend it. If you are looking for a board-game-centered magazine that will offer more substantive information I suggest Game Trade Media, a less attractive but higher-quality offering, in my opinion. Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it to be helpful and informative! S