Hehe 🙂

just thoughts, really

The morning is crisp and bright, but I am most certainly neither of these things. It is 6 o’clock in the morning and I am sat in the back of my brother-in-law’s car, on the way to Dover.

I am suffering threefold. Firstly, I have a mild hangover and have not yet fully regained use of my entire range of faculties since I reluctantly rose at 5am. Secondly, the vehicle in which I am travelling has oft been host to a dog of the hairiest variety and my body is racked with sneezing fits as the furry jetsam this canine has left behind finds its way into my nostrils. Lastly, but in absolutely no way leastly, my ears are being assaulted by the incessant, grating voice of the woman in the passenger seat.

This woman’s name is Joan and this is, I think, only the third time I’ve ever met…

View original post 1,817 more words

2014 in review: infographic-stat-tastic!

“The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog” (their words not mine). I’m not sure they’ll be overly interesting to anyone but me, but here they are anyway just in case.

In short, visits were up almost 400%. This was mainly due to one very popular post (on game design tips) and the fact I posted twice as much content, managing an average of more than one post per week.

A few of my 2012 posts were still on the ‘most popular’ list, so I should see about continuing to update  the popular older content – especially my board gaming podcasts list. And I really need to finish that beginners’ guide…

But the real reason the numbers have gone up is, of course, because you fine people have read it – and for that I am eternally grateful. It makes it all worthwhile and I hope you’ve found it useful/entertaining/occasionally coherent. Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Confusing Hierarchy of the Board Game Community – a reply

This is in response to this fantastic article:

I’ve been a journalist for 20 years.

It’s been a privilege to be paid to write for a living, despite not being paid to write about what I love. So I’ve written for free about music, travel and games when I get home at night, because I’m not competitive; I’m not going to fight the ‘careers’ for jobs I don’t quite care enough to fight for. I work to live, not live to work.

But despite that, I’m a reviewer – which means I’m an attention seeker because I want to be heard. I have an opinion, I think it’s worth something, so I put it out there with passion. Every reviewer wants to be heard – so every reviewer is an attention seeker. And that’s fine, it’s accepted, it’s the way of journalism. You have something to say.

I’ve been a game designer for a year or so.

It’s hard. You put your mind and soul into themes, mechanisms, ideas – and they die on their arse. But you stick with them, you nurture them, you iterate them to within an inch of their lives – and if you’re lucky, one of them becomes a game.

Then you show it to publishers and just maybe, one of them bites. And a year later suddenly you’re a game designer. You’re at Essen, walking past the AEG booth, watching people buy/demo/reject/slag off/fall in love with your game. You get invited to present your game on BGG TV and you thank all the gods in all the heavens that you have a publisher meeting for a new game so you don’t have to go and be on the tele because you’re a writer, and a game designer, but you’re not someone who wants to be on TV.

I’m not a pop star. I’m not a movie star.

You might be thinking, “no shit Sherlock”. But think about it – that’s what you’re really comparing here. You’re looking at main stream media and comparing it to board games. It doesn’t work like that.

Actors and musicians do things one way. They love to be on screen. They have EGO to burn. But what about authors? How many of them would you put up for people to recognise? Or screenwriters? The people who are, essentially, behind the scenes doing creative work that is never meant to be recognised in the same way?

PR = expense

Designers are poor publicists because that’s not why they do it. And it’s the same with most publishers. Stephen Buonocore is a rare exception, while some of the French designers are getting more media friendly. But do you think it’s an accident Stefan Feld and Mac Gerdts don’t have their own daily podcasts? No. They’re designers and their reputations will stand or fall on their creations. They’re doing the bit they want to do.

And PR is an expense. You need to put yourself out there. Tom Vasel makes a living from The Dice Tower – but do you think he’d entertain the idea of paying someone to appear on one of his cash cows? Of course not. Why should he? He’s an ego on legs, it’s about him and why shouldn’t it be? He has created a world in his image without any help from the industry beyond a few free games so good luck to him (and I genuinely mean that).

Your game is crap

Which moves us on nicely to dissenting opinions. I’d argue Tom Vasel has become that one guy that can do this for a living because he calls it likes he sees it – and there’s no better thing for a journalist to do. You simply need to be consistent and (mostly) right.

Any journalist, in any industry, who kowtows to the man instantly loses respect. All companies make mistakes and they know when they’ve screwed up; slate those mistakes and a good company will give you a pass. Because they know when they do good, you’ll give them the praise they deserve – and that’s golden from a respected reviewer readers/viewers know doesn’t pull any punches.

I wrote a while back here about video reviewers not being more ruthless; about them not putting the boot in but only reviewing things they like. And predictably they all pointed me to hard to find links to pages/blog posts they’d apologetically written about the games they don’t like – as if anyone finding them to read one review would ever find that page to find out what they really think as a philosophy. Guys, really – you should be linking to those pages on every video you publish as a disclaimer.

Trolls are pathetic – simply ignore them or you’re in the wrong business

Speaking of negativity, the first thing you need to adopt as any kind of artist or journalist is a thick skin. Ignore rude comments: or either reply politely then walk away (which will enrage them hehe), or let people fighting your cause handle the battles you can’t be arsed with (if you made a cohesive point, someone in internetland who has more time than you is likely to back you up).

Opinion is free and if you put anything anywhere someone will disagree with you. If you can’t be bothered to argue (and you can’t) just walk away – it’s not rocket science. I want to reply to every shit 5/10 review Empire Engine gets but do I? No. It would serve no purpose.

And finally, pay to play – really?

Your average journalist does their job because they’re opinionated; give them something to review and they’ll be honest. The ones that aren’t are totally transparent and anyone with an ounce of sense will spot their bullshit a mile away and vote with their feet sooner rather than later.

There will always be someone on the take from publishers; often because they’re sadly small time and can’t quite believe they’re getting something for nothing. But the simple fact is that this is the case in every single industry on the planet; you can’t expect board gaming to be any different.

On reaching 100 blog posts… Musings & WordPress stat attack!

So here we are, up beyond 100 blog posts over three-and-a-half years – so it’s high time for another long-winded stats post no one will read! Ah, who cares – I’ve said from the start this blog was for ME, so let’s get on with it.

The headlines over the past 50 posts have to be sticking with my promise to myself to review more board games (25 and counting), while seeing a massive drop in posts about listening. In short, I haven’t really got into any new music – hence the lull. But more on that below.

My post frequency has doubled from two per month to one per week, which I hope to keep up with. But it hasn’t stopped me blathering on; I still rarely come in at under 1,000 words, which is pretty ridiculous. Who new I couldn’t shut up?

But numbers are up across the board; average views per post, per month, per year etc; things are building nicely. So yes, I’m going to keep things going you lucky, lucky people. But look on the bright side – at least I’m not going into video or audio…

Crazy weird search terms

Paros is still out in front in terms of search terms that have led to people arriving here, with 47 views after people searched for it. This still baffles me as I don’t seem to rank anywhere useful, although I’m on page one if you search for ‘Paros games’. Awesome.

In other news, people searching for the following managed to arrive here too:

  • oysterband -rolex
  • should i take superpump max before 5k
  • burgess and niple craig gallant
  • policestation in barcelona with horses
  • worst waiting room
  • treacherous orchestra are crap
  • wavelength instructions to dice for the board game
  • throwing hay ariel biggerstaff
  • stupid rugby (x2!)

I expect being a freebie WordPress blog really isn’t helping me rank – and I’ll get my own domain name well before I succumb to Twitter! In fact I expect to have done that before the next of these posts; the only thing stopping me is doing the research into what it will involve – the process of which I’m sure will be a pain in the arse.

Global reach: You came here from where?

I still find it fascinating people read the blog from, quite literally, all over the world. According to the stats, I’ve been visited from 101 different countries! That is totally and utterly mind-boggling.

The vast majority are from the UK and the US (more than 4,000 each), followed a long way back by Canada, Germany, France and Australia. Italy and Greece are also above 250 visits, with Portugal and Spain just below.

My favourite ‘one visit’ countries are currently: New Caledonia, Reunion, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Chad. Most disappointing has to be Zimbabwe being down there with the ‘one visit’ nations: come on people, you’re not even trying! How can you be on a level par with Guernsey and Nepal?!

Slow ‘visits’ progress – but progress

My first 50 blogs saw me hit 6,000 visits, with the number now up beyond 16,000; so the second 50 posts have added around 10,000 visits. It would’ve nice to see double the visits but in my defence, those first 50 posts took 22 months – the last 50 have gone live in more like half that, less than a year.

The best month back then had 865 visits, but most had been half that at best; the last seven months have now averaged over 1,000 visits per month which feels like progress. I’ve also had my most successful day, with 267 visits on April 12. But this was only a small step up from last time’s best (234): I still haven’t had a post that has really hit the big time.

My best month now is 1,864 visits (April 2014), when the blog averaged 62 views per day. This was largely down to a tweet from Board Game Geek news for a piece I wrote on standards in board game journalism; which probably tells you I should get my ass onto Twitter! But still I resist. Why? I’m a gobshite – 140 characters is barely drawing breathe.

And the winning post is…

After 50 posts the home page/archives was out in front with 1,447 visits. And it’s still there, but it’s great to see more posts reach the 500 views mark – the top four of which were in the top five last time, showing the ‘long tail’ has some wag in it:

  • 3,522: Home page/archives (was 1,477)
  • 1,478: Card and board game podcasts (was 774)
  • 756: Glory to Rome: The final insult (was 291)
  • 565: Alea Apartments, Paros, Greece (was 433)
  • 553: My Top 10 Essen Spiel 2013 wishlist (new)
  • 503: My first Essen Spieltage (new)
  • 502: Board game journalism: seven ways to raise the bar (new)

Again, and unsurprisingly, these are up top due to the links – although I can’t explain the Essen Spiel posts doing so well. I’m certainly not complaining though; in fact, I look forward to writing some more come October.

You’ll also notice the top ranked titles are all board game related. This isn’t surprising to me, as not only do I write more on that topic than anything else – I also don’t go out of my way to link to any of the other posts elsewhere. I’ll never write enough about books, running, St Ives or music to warrant the effort – but I will revisit the topics when it suits me!

  • Go: 6 (7 in the first 50 posts)
  • Play: 31 (20)
  • Listen: 1! (15)
  • Others: 12 (8)

Yup, only one of my last 50 blog posts was about music – compared to six on running! It’s not that I like music any less; it’s just the way I consume it has changed dramatically. While it’s still a massive part of my life, it isn’t something that drives me. While I listen to music every single day, I have no desire to seek out new music. I have well over 1,000 CDs – I think I’m full!

Are you referring to me?

There have been more than 3,600 referrals from Google Search, more than 600 from Google Image Search, and more than 60 from both Bing and Yahoo. But bless ’em, they’re doing they’re best with limited resources…

Facebook is over 2,200,  Board Game Geek over 1,700 – both mostly my own work  – and Twitter… 188! A lot more than I expected, to be honest. Everything else seems to be one-offs, although they make for a hell of a lot of smaller visits so I’m of course very grateful. Some of the sites have great names, but I’m too nervous to visit them…

Heading out from Go Play Listen y’all have headed mostly to… other pages on the site (woohoo!) or to Board Game Geek, with On Board Games (my favourite podcast), The Spiel (another gaming podcast) and Board Game Guru (my favourite purveyor of board games) getting some love too.

(Still) no comment

I moaned about a lack of comments and shares etc last time, but won’t do that again – I know it’s purely down to me not putting in enough effort myself. In fact I now have 70 people that follow the blog, which I’m pretty proud of – and there have been 75 ‘shares’ – seven of which were on Twitter! That’s up from two last time, hehe.

As for comments they’re now up over 200 but again, I make no effort to make a community of the site via social networking so can’t expect miracles. But maybe if I continue to specialise in board games, things may keep progressing.

2013 in review: Stat attack!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog, which saved me a job! I will revisit my stats personally when I reach 100 posts, but just in case anyone is interested…

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Becoming St Ivian, part 3: From Holywell highs to non league lows

Holywell lakesAn empty August Bank Holiday gave Zoe and me the perfect excuse to spend another Sunday afternoon discovering some local countryside. Learning our lesson from the Woodhurst walk we made sure we found a ramble to a village which had a pub, in case of emergencies.

A few days earlier we’d had some pretty torrential showers, so we didn’t want to risk one of the walks out over the flood plains. Instead we struck out east, towards Holywell. Things started badly, with the first few hundred yards being unkept and knee-deep in stinging nettles – not great for the shorts-wearing other half. But we found a way around this section and carried on regardless.

Holywell motorboat

Welcome to the jungle

The next stretch was better kept, but no less uninspiring.

We traipsed along a well wooded path with an overgrown water trench on one side and a lake we couldn’t see on the other, with the dull peace only occasionally broken by a boat pumping out crap pop jungle while dragging a water skier around in a circle.

We popped out into a pleasant meadow after a while, although it was only a short-lived break from the boring path. But thankfully a short walk later we were in Holywell – and a meander around this lovely little ring village later, we were in the pub.

Old Ferry BoatThe Old Ferry Boat Inn is a lovely looking pub that does very ordinary food and even more ordinary beer, but when it has a location as good as this and the weather is good, who cares? It was reasonably priced, warm (the food, not the beer) and politely served – that will do me.

Afterwards we wandered along the river, up to the church (pictured in the distance a few pictures below – 10p to anyone who can spot it…) and then through some gorgeous countryside, including some lovely meadows along the river  – but again, only for about 20 minutes or so. Then we hit a long, horrible and overgrown car track that went past an equally unpleasant cement works – including having to pretty much walk along a wall to get past some flooding.

Narrow boats moored outside the Old Ferry Boat

Narrow boats moored at the Old Ferry Boat

Our conclusion was that, for the most part, this isn’t a fun walk. However, the unpleasant bit is short and the place you get to is well worth getting through the boring bits to arrive at.

Next time we’ll definitely continue the walk on to next-door Needingworth and see what that village has to offer too.

When we got back to St Ives we met some friends and carried on drinking – which didn’t leave me in a great place for the following day’s football. Peterborough supporting Lee came along with his daughter and we sat/stood variously around the pitch feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.

A St Ives Town performance to match my hangover

If you squint carefully, you'll see a church!

If you squint carefully, you’ll see a church!

The night before there had been a bunch of guys in the Oliver Cromwell pub (St Ives’ finest) in fancy dress being very, very drunk – the kind of drunk that makes other drunks feel sober in comparison. After this performance, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of them had been on the pitch against Kettering Town that Bank Holiday afternoon.

St Ives Town had started the season unbeaten; Kettering Town had played three, lost three, scored none and conceded nine. This was only going to go one way, right? Wrong…

It’s worth mentioning the Kettering fans here. Despite a terrible start to the season, and a terrible few years in which they’d been relegated, lost their ground and their players due to financial irregularities, and almost disappeared completely, they came in good numbers. A few weeks before Chertsey had brought maybe 15 – Kettering brought hundreds, and they were behind their team from the start.

No shots of the football this time - although this field is probably about as flat as the pitch

No shots of the football this time – although this field is probably about as flat as the pitch

The Kettering side is very young, but you could see they were starting to add a bit of league nous and steel to their obvious athleticism. They harried St Ives in a way they hadn’t experienced yet this season and were a lot tougher than they looked.

St Ives had no time on the ball and as plan A went out the window it became obvious fast that there wasn’t a plan B. The Saints were 1-0 down at half time and lucky it wasn’t more – surely a half time team talk and reshuffle would turn the tide?

The second half began much as the first had – and then, amazingly, got worse. One got sent off, a second goal went in, another got sent off, they gave away a (missed) penalty – it was awful. Lee’s daughter even managed to get stung by a wasp – but at least it meant she got to go home before the end! It was a bit of a footballing lesson for St Ives and in truth they probably needed to be brought down a peg after a great start – this must’ve solidly grounded them!

But I wasn’t put off at all. Not once did I dream of a comfy seat at the Emirates watching millionaires play the game as God meant it to be played. I’ll take my football with a pint, a bit of extra fat and the occasional glimpse of brilliance, thanks very much.

On reaching 50 blog posts… WordPress stat attack!

This ride started back in October 2011 and if I’m honest I wouldn’t have backed myself to get this far – but here I am. So to mark this auspicious (ahem) occasion, I thought I might as well crunch a few stats, as well as seeing if any lofty vision I had has been met.

There’s been an average of two posts a month for nearly two years, although admittedly the frequency has dropped from one a week to one per month in that time. In my defence, life has been a tiny bit hectic over the last six months and I fully expect to stick to a much busier posting schedule going forward (two a month is probably realistic, at least).

And the winner is…

I’m pretty happy with almost 6,000 views on the site so far, especially as I’ve done next to nothing to publicise it (and nothing to monetise either). The best ever day saw 234 visits, the best month (September 2012) 865 and an overall average of 10 visits a day.

The most popular posts to date have been:

  • 1,477: Home page/archives
  • 774: Card and board game podcasts
  • 433: Alea Apartments, Paros, Greece
  • 291: Glory to Rome: The final insult
  • 275: Good riddance HMV

These are down to some good links, as is the way of these things. The podcasts post was mentioned on Dice Tower News, I put a link to the HMV post on a well trafficked Facebook group and Glory to Rome was linked by someone from Mashable. I also posted several links to the Paros post on BoardGameGeek.

The least popular to date have been this week’s reviews post (which is wholly understandable) and my first ever post – which is still languishing on five visits. The only other post with less than double-digit views is my moan about why I hadn’t been posting back in December, which is again understandable – nothing to see here folks. But as I said earlier, this has always been primarily for me and these unloved posts certainly served a personal purpose, so that’s fine with me.

I rank for something on Google?

No, of course I don’t – but apparently 37 views have come from people searching for ‘Paros’ – I can only presume they were using Bing or something. These are my top 10 favourite things people have arrived here after searching for:

  • pat jennings pfa awards
  • eat twat
  • so here we go go go
  • julius caesar miniature
  • big cocks wordpress
  • boring seaside
  • are people in dawlish strange
  • langstaff breakins
  • orange plastic hexagon game board with black plastic hexagon pieces with a hole with white numbers 1 through 6

and my personal favourite…

  • wot crew rank

I’m sure they all found exactly what they were looking for on arrival here. If not, I can but apologise.

No comment

As someone who works on website editorial for a living, I’m used to the pressure that is rapidly growing on journalists to be ‘social’ in terms of the interwebs. Sharing and commenting are seen as crucial to a site’s Google Fu now, so if you’re not tweeting and liking and plusing then you’re not doing your job properly.

While I have no problem agreeing that this is indeed the way of things now, I don’t have to like it – nor do I have to bring it here once I get home! I don’t ‘do’ Twitter, never follow other people’s blogs just to try and get noticed and rarely go off spamming about my posts on other people’s websites. But of course the times my posts here have taken off have been when either I or someone else has linked here from a forum, popular blog or other website.

There have been nearly 100 comments made here since I started, which I think is pretty good. And even better there has been very little trolling or dissing of what I’ve written, despite occasionally voicing an opinion I know isn’t universally popular. Also, the vast majority of these have come on gaming posts, which surprises me a little; I guess it’s a smaller world, so easier to get spotted.

And there have been 20 Facebook shares and – count ’em – four Tweets. Fame at last.

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe

One of the most mind boggling (if ultimately pointless) things to look at in the WordPress stats is the countries I’ve had views from. While more than half have been from the UK and US, it’s some of the other figures that blow my mind. The other 100+ countries are:

  • 196 Canada: I have no idea – I guess it’s a big place. I’d love to go too, so please get in touch 🙂
  • 184 Greece: That will be the Paros post. Hello Greece, see you again next year for the return to Alea Apartments.
  • 164 Germany: The Essen post, plus they love their boardgames. Roll on October and the return trip.
  • 105 Australia: Again, no real idea. I have a few old friends who live out there, but beyond that? Who knows. Hello!

The ones that really get the mind racing, though, are the one-hit views from places that have my imagination running riot. Just who, why and from exactly where did the following views stem from?

  • Nepal
  • Mongolia
  • Bangladesh
  • Qatar
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Uganda
  • New Caledonia
  • Chad
  • Moldova
  • Armenia

Going, playing, listening

I’ve certainly continued to blog ‘for me’ – with what has been a mixed response in terms of comments and views of individual posts. And sticking to going, playing and listening has been pretty successful too. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Go: 7
  • Play: 20
  • Listen: 15
  • Others: 8

I’ve also dabbled with football and books and computer games, but only with a post each. I think they’re topics I’ll return to, but I doubt it will be regularly. And I have no idea why I’ve not done more travel style posts; perhaps it’s because they always seem a little daunting and I have the least experience of doing them. Must try harder.

Board gaming has really consumed me over the past few years and it’s something that doesn’t seem to be going away. Music is still a big passion, but just in a different way than it used to be; I still find joy in finding new music and listening to old favourites, but never find myself reading about bands or chasing down leads the way I used to.

To what are you referring?

It’s no surprise I’ve had the largest number or referrers from Facebook (1,000+), as I link most of my posts from there. There have been some nice individual scores from the official Wonderstuff site (mostly telling me off), as well as BoardGameGeek and GameSalute (mentioned earlier – the latter via dice tower News).

Twitter referrals are on a lowly 99 (maybe I should sign up… nah!), while Mashable and Eurogamer (thanks Matt!) have chipped in nicely too. Beyond some readers (its lovely to know a few people have signed up and then actually do come visit), there are two other referrers that have brought at least double figures of folks to the site: The D6 Generation (I presume they Tweeted about my mention of them in my gaming podcasts posts) and Dolittle (who linked to my live review).

There have been more than 50 sites with 1 refer – from sites on cancer, insurance and car stereos – and everything in between. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but who am I to argue? I hope they enjoyed their trip…

In the other direction I’ve sent more than 25 people to On Board games, Royal society of Gamers, Boardgame Guru and The Spiel. I presume the cheque is in the post.

Card and board game videos: A beginners’ guide for your eyes

If you’ve recently returned to the board and card game hobby and are struggling to take in all the many games available to you, watching some videos can be a good way to narrow down your new game search. Below I’ve listed a whole bunch of video sources for you, coming from several different angles.

You might also want to check out my previous post on podcasts, some of which can give you a great insight into the modern boardgaming landscape. I’ll also note here that if you’re looking for something more like a documentary about board games, please scroll to the very bottom of the page for a couple of videos that may be of interest.

If you don’t see your own, or your favourite video channel below, please leave a message in ‘comments’ and I’ll do my best to check it out (and add it if it’s up to scratch!). And of course, as always, any other feedback is appreciated.

NOTE: Joel, Lance and Enrico are all contributors to the impressive board game website, which is dedicated to both written and video reviews.

WARNING: Expect many, many beards below…

Stuff that’s like proper tele


If you have a nerdy bone in your body, it’s likely that a premium YouTube channel featuring Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day is going to be an easy sell. Add the fact they have a dedicated board game show on their channel and it simply had to go to the top of this list.

The channel in question is Geek and Sundry, and the show Tabletop. The only ever present is Wil himself, who invites different celebrity and journalistic friends into each episode to play through one of Wil’s favourite games. Games covered have included classics such as Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, through to fantastic lesser known titles such as Dixit and Pandemic.

It’s a light hearted show with incredibly high production values and it gives a great insight into each game covered. It may not hit the mark if you’re not interested in a particular title, but the series is definitely worth checking out.

Board With Life

Another YouTube favourite is Board With Life; pretty accurately described by themselves as “a comedy series following a chaotic group of geeks during their weekly game nights”. It manages to capture the personalities of gamers in a sitcom style but crucially doesn’t make everyone in it seem tragic; something often aimed at Big Bang and the like. Nerdy yes – tragic, well, not quite.

The production values are really high and the acting is better than you’d expect from what is largely a bunch of amateurs; and they’re getting better all the time. And their YouTube channel isn’t just the series: as of June 2014 they had close to 100 video clips online, from one-minute skits to 20-minute unboxing videos and interviews.

They’ve only been going about a year but already have more than 7,000 subscribers to the channel, so if you’ve not checked them out you should. And give them a chance – it’s worth watching a few as they can be a little hit and miss, depending on your tastes, due to the variety of videos on offer.

Attack of the Show: Game Night

While a premium YouTube channel is as close to ‘real’ TV as you’re likely to get without being, well, real, the mainstream is the holy Grail. Enter Rich Sommer, of Mad Men fame, and his very occasional ‘Game Night’ segment on G4 TV’s Attack of the Show.

The four-minute segments are definitely only a start, but with popular (yet non high street) titles such as Summoner Wars, The Resistance and Memoir 44 being featured this is a step in the right direction – as long as you’re happy with the hobby hitting the mainstream.

You’re not going to get any deep insight from Game Night, but its the closest the hobby has ever gotten to escaping the realms of geekdom. As someone who evangelises the hobby to heir friends, this is welcome progress!

Video reviewers

The Dice Tower

With 30 million-plus views on YouTube, 70,000 subscribers and more than 3,500 videos uploaded, Tom Vasel’s The Dice tower is the undisputed king of online board game and card game video reviews.

Tom now has several guest reviewers helping him stay pretty much on top of all the big releases (including the excellent Ryan Metzler), while he’s also joined by various friends and family members – depending on which style of video you’re getting. You’ll find reviews and discussions, as well as annual Top 100 lists and some comedy capers too.

The production values are now pretty high and between them they cover an incredible amount of games in-depth. You’ll need to watch a few to suss out their various idiosyncrasies (Tom’s not a fan of Mediterranean trading games, for example…), but with the bigger team they now largely review the kinds of games they’re into. For both scale and quality, The Dice Tower gets a big thumbs-up.

Watch it Played

With more than 35,000 subscribers and 450 videos – and well over four million views – it’s safe to say Watch it Played is up there with the board game video big boys. Th channel is a mix of , you guessed it, how-to-play board game videos but also gameplay videos featuring his family.

Host Rodney Smith is a bit too smiley and all-American (well, Canadian) for my tastes, and the gameplay videos exacerbate this – everyone is so HAPPY. However, this is down to me being a curmudgeon and most people are going to love them; the production quality is fantastic, while he takes the brilliant move of getting viewers to vote on what he’s going to do next (the gameplay videos come in several episodes).

I personally prefer Rahdo’s (below) videos when learning how to play a game, but there’s no doubt Watch it Played is more professional – so if that’s your thing these come extremely highly recommended. But I’d love to see some off-cut footage of them screaming at each other, stropping out and flipping the table…

UFBRT: The Untitled flash Based Review Thing (AKA Uvula Bob)

UvulaBob (his BoardGameGeek handle) may only have 40 videos on his YouTube channel, but the fact they’ve racked up almost 500,000 views between them tells you he’s one of the great in the genre. And the reason for this? They’re funny – really funny. (There’s a handy list of them on BGG, with links to the games covered.)

UFBRT uses a series of images and snappy dialogue to discuss games in a comic yet informative way that’s incredibly hard to master. His reviews put a ridiculous grin on my face throughout, but somehow I still come away knowing as much about the game as I would from a more in-depth review. His efforts have sadly dried up a little of late, but the archive is definitely worth checking out.

Rahdo Runs Through… (Richard Ham)

Richard Ham’s run-throughs are a great place to start if you want someone to teach you a game via video. With hundreds of games covered (most with multiple videos to make sure everything is explained), he now has three million views on YouTube.

He also reviews the games at the end. This has caused a little bit of whinging in some quarters, as he’s almost exclusively positive about the games he covers – but as he points out, he only bothers to spend time reviewing games that he likes. It’s not a paid gig, so why spend hours producing a video for a crap game? Fair point – his call.

These handheld POV videos are conversational; he shows the games from a two-player perspective and plays the turns out as if two people were playing through the game – explaining decisions as he goes. I find this a really satisfying way to pick up the game (rather than just saying “it’s worker placement”, or “it’s deck building”, and then pointing at components) and I’ll always ‘look for a Ham’ if I’m unsure about picking up a game.

Drakkenstrike in HD

When BGG user Drakkenstrike came onto the YouTube board game scene a few years ago he really shook things up. His reviews and unboxing videos were full HD with professional sound and imagery, which really saw the established video reviewers rushing off to up their games. The fact his 100-plus videos have more than 1.5 million views is testament to their popularity.

Unfortunately some Board Game Geek politics saw him stop recording regularly some time ago, but if you’re looking to get a good close up look at a particular game it’s well worth seeing if he has it covered in his archive.

Castelli Reviews (James Mckane)

Another board and card game reviewer that is sadly currently on hiatus, Aussie James has more than 50 videos on YouTube that have ratcheted up an impressive 350,000 views. While he may not be one of the more ‘famous’ characters in the genre, as one of my favourites I decided to include him here.

You’ll normally get nice dose of humour, a rules explanation and then a considered musing about the game’s relative merits (or lack thereof). His has solid production values and a great laid-back conversational style which lends itself perfectly to video reviews, while his comedy music videos are certainly unique…

DriveThruReview (Joel Eddy, AKA eekamouse)

Joel is one of the most prolific and, thankfully, high quality and consistent video reviewers around right now. He has close to 500 videos, 7,500 subscribers and upward of 1.5 million views to date; a testament to the slick production yet laid back style of his board and card game reviews.

In quite a busy field, little details can really count. When on camera discussing the games he uses black and white, which works well with his chatty nature – he lets himself ramble, which makes it seem like a conversation rather than  script; while the colour review sections are detailed and informative.

The Game Box – Live! (Enrico Viglino, AKA Calandale)

What The Game Box – Live! lacks in production values (no intro, stabilising, cutting etc) it more than makes up for in pipe smoking and rambling. So why does it have more than half a million YouTube views? Put simply, Enrico is a real character and thoroughly entertaining to listen to. He seems to come from the heavy gamer side of the hobby, which makes a refreshing change too.

To be clear, this podcast can be pretty niche. The games covered can be quite obscure, even by board and war game standards, and the discussion often requires you to be in the know – there are a good number of in-game video discussions on tactics and positions, as well as reviews. So if you’re a fan of the game, designer or topic on discussion, this chin-stroking rambler is right on the money.

Undead Viking Videos

Alongside DriveThroughReview, Undead Viking (Lance Myxter) has been the real rising star (if that’s the right word) in board gaming videos in the last couple of years. With more than a million views of his 250+ videos, its another example that shows unpretentious enthusiasm for the hobby and a video camera is enough to make it all worthwhile.

Lance set out to review every board game in his collection, but it’s pretty clear that has fallen by the wayside: he simply loves doing it. The format is tried and tested – intro, explanation, review – but again he’s amiable (and hairy) enough to make it entertaining to watch and listen to.

Boardgames with Scott

While Scott Nicholson’s channel is currently defunct, the archive has more than 70 insightful videos on either individual games or genres. Scott has a soft and playful style and his intros border on bonkers – or spill right over into it. But as an American professor of board games (and there’s not many of those about) at MIT his insight is hard to match.

For his reviews, expect a rules, components and gameplay explanation before some personal opinion; which would be pretty standard stuff if not for his clear depth of knowledge. But for me the most interesting episodes are the genre ones (horse racing games, dungeon crawls, auction games etc). These compare and contrast several games at once and can really help you find the right game to purchase.


Made for Play: Board Games and Modern Industry

This 45-minute documentary was made by The Spiel podcast co-host Stephen Conway. Filmed at the Ludo Fact factory in Germany in 2012, it looks at the board game manufacturing process – from idea to the gaming table.

If you’re a big fan of the hobby and in particular if you have your heart set on creating your own game (we’ve all gone one in us, after all – just like a novel), this is pretty fascinating stuff. As a Kickstarter pledger who helped make this possible, I’m thoroughly happy with the outcome; and it’s not often you say that about Kickstarter!

Going Cardboard: A Board Game Documentary

This list wouldn’t be complete without board game documentary Going Cardboard, by Lorien Green. It’s a loving enthusiast’s walk through the hobby, from the designers to the publishers to the fans that play them. And it’s timely too (having released in 2011), as board games begin to make the transition from geeky niche hobby to high street standard.

Cut together from more than 60 hours of HD footage, including footage shot at gaming events including the massive Essen Spiel convention in Germany, Going Cardboard is available to buy on DVD for $25 via (Paypal) from the site linked above. It actually includes a mini game too; two-player filler Shoot Out by renowned designer Reiner Knizia.

It’s been a month since my last confession…

I realised yesterday that it has been more than a month since my last blog post. This isn’t good. so what the bloody hell has been going in?

I’ve been thinking about it today and frankly can’t think of a good reason why I haven’t posted anything – so here are some crappy (but honest) reasons:

I’ve been playing a lot of board games

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my last post was talking about my trip to Essen. While I love yakking about board games (and the sound of my own voice) I enjoy playing them a whole lot more and I’ve had a lot of opportunities in the last few months.

I’ve now played all my Essen purchases, so will probably bore you to tears about those in a blog post soon. And I still haven’t written about our board gaming weekend trip to sunny Eastbourne, which was tremendous fun too.

In fact, having clocked more than 50 plays in both months, October and November 2012 were my highest ever board game playing months (yes, I record all my play. What?). That’s an average of three games played per day, math fans – not bad, but not conducive to getting much else done.

I’ve been around (as it were)

Talking of Eastbourne, Zoe and me also went to Brighton for a long weekend. And I was in London more than usual (It’s tough at the top), as well as some so-far unsuccessful house hunting in Ely and St Ives (but not Chatteris – one for the Half Man Half biscuit fans).

We’ve put our flat on the market, but are asking the top-end prices so aren’t holding our breaths. The flat is lovely, so we should get it (or close to it), but we’re in no rush so it could take months. Anyone want to buy a fl.. I mean, penthouse suite?

And then, after a real musical drought, there was a raft of great gigs. There will be a post about these before Christmas, with a bunch more terrible ‘from-near-the-back-on-the-left’ BlackBerry quality pics to go with it – I spoil you, I really do.

I’ve been playing a silly computer game

In the last few months I’ve also been enjoying an MMORG – but not The Secret World that I wittered on about just a few months ago.  While I loved that game it simply didn’t ignite with my friends, who slowly drifted away, leaving me to wibble around on my own.

Yes, I could’ve joined someone else’s cabal (guild) but I’ve found in the past it’s pretty crappy playing with strangers if you’re not a regular – which I simply wouldn’t be. So sadly I cancelled my account at the end of October.

However, a few friends then started talking about Vanguard: Saga of Heroes – an old-ish Sony game that has gone ‘free to play’. I didn’t hold out much hope for it, as the graphics and movement aren’t up to much, but on further investigation it’s actually a lot of fun. While the fighting is bog standard MMO fare, both the crafting and diplomacy are pretty original – more of those soon too, I expect.

I’ve been tired

It’s true – guess I’m getting old. Wine and board games aside, most of my evening is spent watching TV box sets (West Wing, Sopranos, Northern Exposure, Eureka, X-Files, Haven, Stargate, Fringe, Warehouse 13…).

But I’ve been tired due to reading/writing a lot for work too, which means writing in the evening hasn’t been too appealing. Instead I’ve been trying to design a card game (which is as hard as I’d imagined), but then a friend gave me his novel to proof read and that’s got me thinking about my aborted efforts in the same arena…

And, in truth, I’m not well. Nothing terminal, but permanent. And as I’m stupid and don’t manage it well, I get a bit knackered more often than I should. But as someone so rightly said (roughly), ‘Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, totally worn out and screaming, Woo Hoooo what a ride! I wanna go round again!’

So as I was saying, it’s been a month…