Michael Boyle


Online Nicknames
@mboyle78 [Twitter]

Introduction and Platform
My name is Michael Boyle, and I am an RPG reviewer on my site “Play to See What Happens.” (https://playtoseewhathappens.blogspot.com/). I have been playing and running RPGs since 1988, but after a significant break from the hobby I have come back in the last six years in a serious capacity.
When I evaluate new products, I am looking for games that push the hobby forward creatively, in terms of game design, and in accessibility. I believe that the overall level of innovation is probably the highest it has ever been, and I want to be apart of celebrating that innovation. I want to insure that all publishers of all sizes have a chance to get their products seen and evaluated fairly, including voices that have at times been excluded from the broader RPG discussion.


Why do you play/run RPGs?
RPGs are both a creative and social outlet. I truly believe that tabletop RPGs are a form of storytelling that should be considered alongside movies, TV, books, and videogames, and that it has its own unique creative possibilities that other formats cannot match. Being a part of that form of creative expression is for me what for other folks is filled by painting or photography or other art forms. But, unlike many other art forms, it is also inherently social and inherently collaborative, which makes it unique. So, while expressing that creativity, you are also spending personal time with friends and friends-to-be, in a way that is increasingly hard to re-create in our busy world.


The ENnies requires a major commitment of time and energy. What resources do you have that will help you discharge these responsibilities? Will your gaming group or other individuals be assisting you? Does your family support you?
Other than work, I am blessed with a fairly flexible schedule and the ability to work around challenges and deadlines. If selected as a judge, I hope to include my gaming group in the review process, bouncing ideas off of them and getting feedback on products.


Judging requires a great deal of critical thinking skills, communication with other judges, deadline management, organization, and storage space for the product received. What interests, experience, and skills do you bring that will make you a more effective judge?
I have been reviewing games on my website for a few years now, so I believe I have a good sense of how to get at the heart of what a game is about and what I believe it adds to the broader tabletop RPG space. In my professional life as a lawyer, I know how to hit deadlines and manage multiple projects and tasks collaboratively with colleagues.


What styles and genres of RPGs do you enjoy most? Are there any styles or genres that you do not enjoy? Which games best exemplify what you like? Do you consider yourself a particular system’s, publisher’s, or genre’s “fanboy/fangirl”?
I have played and run a wide variety of game systems and types. I prefer medium and lighter levels of “crunch,” though I have experience with more technical systems. My primary criteria for game design is that I believe that game mechanics should be tied to the play experience that the game is trying to create at the table, and so games with intentional, thoughtful mechanics are my preference.
To me, three excellent examples of games with mechanics that are tied to the play experience are the GUMSHOE games (and, within GUMSHOE, the various different iterations for different play experiences), Starfinder (which does a great job of capturing both the looter/shooter mechanics of video games like Destiny or Borderlands in a tabletop format, as well as the tone of something like Guardians of the Galaxy), and Torg: Eternity (which does cinematic action, and especially cinematic combat, better than any other game).

As far as dislikes, I have been put off in the past the tone of some of the products coming out of the OSR, though I’m not sure it is meaningful to talk about the OSR as a singular entity. Even obviously excellent OSR games and products (I’m thinking particularly of Dungeon Crawl Classics) kinda fall flat for me.

As far as publishers go, I think Pelgrane Press is one of the most consistent innovators in the space, and is my favorite “medium sized” publisher. I have volunteered to GM for them at conventions, and plan to do so in the future. System-wise, my favorite RPG from the 90s was Torg, and I love the reimagining of Torg: Eternity.


What games have you played in the past year? List up to 10 RPGs you have played the most. Which ones, if any, have you loved or hated?
(1) D&D 5th Edition; (2) Starfinder; (3) Pathfinder (2nd Edition Playtest); (4) Torg: Eternity; (5) Swords of the Serpentine (Playtest); (6) Overlight; (7) Trail of Cthulhu; (8) Numenera (2nd Edition); (9) 7th Sea (2nd Edition).

Of those, the most exceptional game I’ve played this year are Swords of the Serpentine and Torg: Eternity.


Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
For rules-oriented products, I will be focusing on three questions–(1) what is this game trying to do in terms of the play experience? (2) how and to what extent it accomplishes what it is trying to do? and (3) how is this innovating or pushing the hobby forward?

For setting material, my focus will be on (1) to what extent does this reflect a coherent vision for the game? (2) how useful is this material for a GM? and (3) how is this innovating or pushing the hobby forward?

For adventures, my focus will be on (1) how easy is this for the GM to use? and (2) does this product reflect a clear vision or focus?

And, finally, for accessories and other supplemental products, my focus will be on (1) the usefulness of the product, and (2) how is this innovating or pushing the hobby forward?


How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
I don’t think any judge can possibility be familiar with every rules system, nor be equally excited for every system. But I think you judge a item based on what it is trying to do and how well it does that thing, even if you don’t care for that goal. I believe my written reviews reflect that spirit–I try to say why someone would like a product (if I think they would), whether or not I like the product

To me, the best example of this is Dungeon Crawl Classics. The retro-70s aesthetic of that game does nothing for me, and I likely would not play that game. But many people love that aesthetic, and DCC does a brilliant job of capturing and communicating that in its products. They are great products, even if they are not my cup of tea.

At the same time, selecting someone as a judge means that you are trusting their judgment of quality. If I think a product is badly designed, or badly executed, then I am going to say so. To me, that’s part of what I am here for.


How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?
I think there is value in having a set of yearly awards, presented at the biggest event of the RPG calendar in the U.S. So, the fundamental model is solid. I think the challenge is making sure that every publisher, from Wizards of the Coast to a single person writing on their own, gets a fair shake and a fair opportunity to put their game in front of the judges.
This is always going to be a challenge, and there will be things that slip through the cracks, but that should be the goal.

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