Friday, November 7, 2014

Faculty Lounge: Brian Bremner and Sean Howard of Gamer's Remorse

Here in the faculty lounge I get together and talk to other board game interested podcasters and bloggers to learn a little bit more about what they do.

My first reaction when I saw a Gamer’s Remorse board game video review is ‘why were they reviewing this garbage?  After watching more episodes I realized that they were shifting through the dirt to find hidden board game gems.  They were looking at independent and self published games that no one else was looking at and reveal previously unknown ingenious games to the board game playing community. Fearing that board game fans are missing this gem of video reviews, I invited the creators of Gamers Remorse, Sean Howard and Brian Bremner, to stop by and talk about their reviews in the faculty lounge.

Dr. Wictz: Can you give a quick rundown about Gamer’s Remorse?

Brian Bremner: Gamers Remorse is a board game review group that reviews everything from indie to vintage to mainstream games with a goal of making our reviews informative as well as entertaining.  We seek to show the audience how the game plays as well as our impression of the game. 

Dr. Wictz: Why did you start Gamers Remorse?

Brian Bremner: I had two motivations; I wanted to play more games and be exposed to a wider variety of games but I also wanted to help others have a better idea if they would like a game before they went out and dropped money on it to potentially regret the purchase later.

Sean Howard: We started in early 2012 with a very basic idea, review independent (small publisher) board games from designers few have heard of.  The genesis of the idea was simple-do game reviews of the up and comers. We've all heard names like Teuber, Knizia, and Rosenberg. We wanted to know about designers that people would hear about the next 10 years. That lead us into the seedy underbelly of the gaming industry. Okay, so maybe it's not so seedy and in fact, it's very welcoming. 

We've reached out to many would-be small game publishers and the welcome we received is more than we expected.  Many of these unknown publishers have become the 'up and coming' designers.  Designers like Jason Glover of Grey Gnome Games who recently hit over $50k on Kickstarter with Dig Down Dwarf and Ben Haskett who hit over $80K with Tower, and then finally other designers that are just starting to get their due like Chris Leder who recently signed agreements to get several of his games published including: Roll for It! City of Gears, and Train Builder. 

Dr. Wictz: Why target the independent market?

Sean Howard:  The independent market is just a piece of the puzzle.  We do a lot of independent games, because independent games don't really have much of a following... yet. And we are a great resource for those smaller publishers. But we often take a sideline for several mainstream games every so often. 

Dr. Wictz: How did you come up with the name Gamer Remorse for you blog?

Sean Howard: Gamer's Remorse is an interesting name for a review show. It makes it sound like we hate most board games or our 'thing' is to rip on games. That's just simply not true. Instead, the name came about as a result of the show we originally envisioned where we would pair off several games with similar mechanics and then choose which one was the 'best'. It was a great idea, until we realized that we'd have to find the games with similar mechanics. 

To make it more difficult, it would mean having to obtain 3 games that played similarly and then shoot a review of all 3 - a time consuming proposition. After the first few rounds of games, we opted to maintain the moniker but instead make the claim that Gamer's Remorse is the feeling one gets after playing games all night - oddly enough, an endeavor we maintain to this day. Our last filming was about 36 hours of gaming. That's just something we do!

Brian Bremner: We dabbled in a few names before settling on Gamer's Remorse. Other names I recall toying with were 'Back to Cardboard', 'Back to the Table,' and 'Second Playthrough Games'.

Sean Howard: But who would watch a show where they film a playthrough of the same game twice?

Dr. Wictz: How did you two come together to form Gamer’s Remorse?

Brian Bremner: It all started on January 23rd 2013 when I got an email from Sean saying he had been spending some time thinking about setting up a website to review indie games to which i said "Sounds fun", a few months later the two of us were sitting in front of some flip cameras playing some games. 

Sean Howard: Brian and I are cousins. During the holidays we would each bring a giant pile of games to play. This happened so much so that Brian and I began celebrating our own holiday in between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get all of the games in. We would invite family and friends and then just do a whole day of game playing and in some cases two days or three. Eventually we realized our passion for the hobby outgrew a single time of year. We met up on several occasions to play through games when we were talking about a few game reviews we disagreed with or thought was noteworthy when we realized, we could be doing that. And the rest is history.

Dr. Wictz: It takes a lot of time to make board game video reviews, do your spouses miss you or are they happy to get a little free time to themselves?

Sean Howard: For me, my wife does miss me, but she is always aware that it is happening at least a couple of weeks in advance so there are no honey-do list items and she knows she can stay out of the filming session or join in as she desires. Also she is an Advanced Placement Language Arts high school teacher so she always has tests to grade. But it doesn't stop her from dropping in from time to time on a filming session. But to answer your question resolutely, she does miss me during a longer filming. 

Brian Bremner: There have been weeks where I get home from work, edit until I go to bed and repeat. I know that frustrated some of my friends when they wanted to do stuff, but I needed to pass for the sake of getting a video done on time.

Dr. Wictz: What do you look for when you select games you review?

Brian Bremner: We are almost all inclusive.  As a member of the dice tower anything we film has to be family friendly (anything else will end in a written review). We also have a fun queue set up on our website where we list all the games we have on deck then as we play them games move up the queue; games gain points over time and we play the games with the most points (usually the games that have been in the queue the longest).  

Dr. Wictz: Where do you look to find the games you review?

Sean Howard: Early on we got hooked into finding game from the independent board game community as I am also an indie board game designer. I was able to have a sit down with several folks from The Game Crafter to get on their site as a reviewer. The result is that every so often we are sent a package of so many indie games to add to our queue. At the same time, I've got a large collection of games to review and mainstream publishers are taking notice of us as a viable means of getting the word out. When we play a game anymore, it's because someone wants us to, either to legitimize their game or to get the word out about it. 

Dr. Wictz: Because many of the gamers are independent, is there a benchmark of quality that you look for before you are willing to review a game?

Sean Howard: In general, we don't do Print and Plays. We also do a cursory look at the games to make sure they play out. In some cases additional games are dropped for either being semi-obscene, involving lewd behavior or drinking, and just don't fit our profile. Quality isn't something we really look at though. In fact, we were sent a few games that were duds by looking at their artwork, but the mechanics were amazing. In those instances we reviewed the game and even sent ideas to the designer on how to improve the game.

Brian Bremner :  That said, we have reviewed some games of fairly low quality and I can be a snob in the graphic aspect of a game so that can be evident in some episodes and in one of our episodes a guest gave a game 2 out of 10 (Bad Dragon Pizza Party if anyone wants to see why). What I have found interesting, however, is many independent games have amazing mechanics and game play but suffer from mediocre art - Zombie House is a perfect example of this.

Dr. Wictz: What should someone do if they want to have their game reviewed by you?

Brian Bremner: All they need to do is send us a game and message us via our website ( and let us know the game is en route we will then add it to the queue at where the designer can watch their game raise in the ranks until it is on deck then in post-production! On the queue they can even order special editions such as costumes.

Dr. Wictz: You have created a very detailed rating system, you even posted a detailed post explaining how it works to your readers, but can you give us a quick explanation of it?

Brian Bremner: Whenever a player plays a game they decide if they liked it or not.  We tried to break down how we made that decision and put it into a scale; essentially for us it comes down to how the game looks graphically, is it well balanced between skill and luck, do the mechanics interact well, does the game's pace flow well or how does it manage the time when it is not your turn, does the theme fit the mechanics, is the game easy to learn/teach, and is the game repayable.  We have had some people dislike the rubric system but I feel it is key in rating and would argue we all have a rubric we just may not like it.

Sean Howard: In our first 3-5 reviews we posted what scores we would give a game, but as an engineer I could see it was ultimately a gut feel. That didn't sit right with me. Essay gradings have always bothered me, where as a scoring methodology that was broken down into sub categories seemed to work a whole lot better. Our Rubric was created such that each person could modify, create categories and personally weight what they felt was important in a game. Brian and my rubrics are similar but ultimately show what we value in a game and are personal to each of us. Eric's is something entirely different as a gateway gamer his interests go more towards two things - does it have appeal (think curb appeal when buying a house) and replayability (how did it play?).  

Dr. Wictz: Does it annoy you when your guest hosts don’t follow your rubric?

Sean Howard: No, not really. As said, every person views games differently. some may love thrill in a game whereas others could care less. If everyone used my rubric, everyone would be looking at the game through my interests. I don't want the whole world to be Seans.  I often find our guests' opinions to be interesting and valid in their own right as it provides a fresh look from a non-gamer, a mom-gamer, or a young gamer. All of these view points are important and perhaps a viewer might value their opinion over mine.

Brian Bremner: We tell our guests they don't need to comply, but some have then made their own rubric, Eric our most prominent guest did so just recently. Going into 2015, however, we are working on a unified rubric so everyone can comment on the aspects of the scoring in the same way.

Dr. Wictz: Are they are quirks of your fellow reviewers that may not be apparent, especially since there are moments since there are moment not observed by the audience because you fast forward through game play?

Sean Howard: Oh yeah! Absolutely. For one-Brian is a huge opponent to analysis paralysis. In some cases he will make a move in a game to his detriment to keep the game moving. I'm a bit in between where i will probably take a little longer than I should, but ultimately come to the same decision, and then we've had others who take quite a bit longer for a single turn. We often need to plan our filming around the group who is in attendance. Another quirk, Eric doesn't like games with 'fiddly bits'. If there is too much going on, he seems to lose interest and his tolerance for seeing a game through is a lower threshold than Brian or I. Also, just about every guest we've had on the show acts really odd in front of the camera for the first few filmings. They will stare at the camera and just blank. Brian and I used to do that as well. In fact there is a giant clip of us dying laughing as we got the giggles during our first filming ever - hive. 

Brian Bremner: HAHA what am I willing to reveal?! I won't pick on our guests but Sean has some that find themselves often on the cutting room floor.  He like accents... lots of accents... I don't know if he has ever played a game without breaking into a few of them.  He also likes to ad silliness to games; this often is enhanced by the camera; we played a train game once where he brought a train whistle and every turn made a small quip and blew the whistle and in a game of Eldritch he once got into character (a senile old man) and called everyone Wallaby.

Dr. Wictz: If someone was interested in a real “diamond in the rough.”

Sean Howard: Great question. There are two categories for this response. There are games that most people have probably never heard of, but if you saw it in a game store it would look at home, it just doesn't have the funding vehicle to become a properly published game at this time. Those would be Turbulence, Zerpang!, Copper Country or The Captain is Dead. And then there are games that need some love, but if provided the right art and the right publisher they would be contenders for Spiel Des Jahres. For that list I'd say - Rum Run Deluxe, Zombie House, or Realm of Logres.

Brian Bremner: I would recommend 3 games for 3 different types of players. The Captain is Dead is a fantastic co-op game set in a sci fi universe. Turbulence is a great game of action point allocation as players attempt to move their planes from one side of the play area to another as they and other players continually change the board forcing them to change their plane's path midflight. Finally I would recommend (again) Zombie House; it starts as an 1 vs rest but slowly more and more players become zombies until the zombies are eliminated or the humans are; it also features one of the best mechanics I have seen in recent gaming; cards are hexagons with up to 6 options; players choose 1 action on 3 of their 4 cards, order them in the order they wish to resolve them and then take turns resolving their actions and hoping they planned well.

Dr. Wictz: Name a board game designer you wish to invite to a board game night?

Brian Bremner: WOW!  That is a shockingly difficult question if limited to one designer. If only one, I would have to say Christian Peterson.  He has been involved in many of my favorite games and I would love to see how he approaches some of them differently than I do... and I would make him bring the StarCraft Board Game cause I really wanna play it but don't have $200 to drop...

Sean Howard: How about all of them? It's always a very unique experience to play a game with it's creator. You get to see their creation through their eyes. It is both a proud moment for it's creator but also a humbling experience. If at all possible, I plan to invite some of the game designers on our show during a review. This may make the reviewing part more difficult for some games, but I think in general it would become a learning experience for all.

Dr. Wictz: Thank you Brian and Sean for stopping by.  You can see the newest reviews on the Gamer’s Remorse website  You can also find Gamer’s Remorse on facebook and twitter.  And you can find their older, pre Dice Tower Network videos at

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