An interesting point arose whilst listening to the latest Meeples and Miniatures Podcast. I am a fan of Neil Schuck's show. It's the one voice of British historical miniature wargaming in podcast land and covers a wide variety of topics. The two co-hosts, Mike Hobbs and Mike Whittaker add to the enjoyment with their varied perspectives. There is a hint of bias towards Saga and Too Fat Lardies games. Not a suprise as both Mikes are involved to greater or lesser extents with the companies that produce the rules.
The latest episode has an interview with Paul Brook, author of 'Valhalla', a set of Dark Age skirmish rules with a unique online support system that is integral to the game. To me, Paul was on the back foot throughout the interview as Neil quizzed him on aspects of the rules. That is fine - a bit like Paxman grilling a hapless politician; some interesting points were covered with Paul talking about his influences and thinking behind his ideas.
Following the interview Neil gave his review of the rules, which was less than complimentary. Someone perhaps considering buying the rules would I am pretty sure would be put off by what was said. Nothing wrong with a negative review. Most people are able to make their own minds up from various sources on whether a particular product is for them. Reviews will at times be one of those resources we use. For me they are rarely the deciding factor but can be useful, especially if you have a handle on the tastes of the reviewer beforehand. One mans meat is another mans poison and all that.
The point is, I found it rather uncomfortable listening. Paul has clearly put his heart and soul into the project and exposure on Neil's podcast has the potential to spread the word of the rules and maybe generate interest in people enough for them to pick them up and give them a try. Now, having communicated with Neil over this issue, I am now aware that Paul approached Neil for the review and to appear on the podcast. This sits more easily with me now as Paul has offered up his product for scrutiny. But without that knowledge, it seemed to me to be bad form to slate the product of a guest at the point of what is likely to be its biggest exposure to the paying public.
Reviews need to be honest and hopefully objective. Criticism needs to be constructive to be worthwhile. I feel Neil was close to being neither and if i was Paul, I would be a little disappointed in the tone of the review. Form your own opinion by listening here.