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 2d6.org board game website, which is dedicated to both written and video reviews.

WARNING: Expect many, many beards below…

Stuff that’s like proper tele

Tabletop

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.

Documentaries

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.

Card and board game podcasts: A beginners’ guide for your ears

Below you’ll find a list of free board and card game podcasts I listen and subscribe to. I’m going to presume you know what podcasts are and why you might want them. If not, please pop off to elsewhere on the interweb to find out (this post is long enough as it is!).

This list (with American hosts unless otherwise stated) certainly doesn’t represent the whole picture; please feel free to suggest other podcasts I should check out and add to the list. I’ve only got so many hours I can listen to each week, but I’m doing my best!

Quick links to my podcast categories

NOTE: Thanks muchly to Keith Jones (scopa at BGG) for chipping in with the war games podcasts section below.

Where to start

The Dice Tower

(Hit 400 episodes in April 2014) Hosted by Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer, this weekly one-hour show is probably the best known board and card game podcast out there. Each show starts with a round-up of games the hosts have been playing recently, which tends to feature a lot of new releases (these guys get sent most new games that hit the shelves). It then moves through some (usually) interesting and varied guest segments before either tackling a ‘question of the week’, or going through a ‘top 10’ list (now including listener votes, via the website). These also include guest contributions, while topics can range from the likes of favourite games in a certain genre, mechanism, designer etc; while questions cover topics right across the scale.

Eric is a great co-host, while Tom is something of an acquired taste and simply annoys the hell out of some people – but once you get used to his very obvious game prejudices (sci fi/fantasy yay, Mediterranean boo) you’ll find a very knowledgeable and even-handed reviewer underneath. If you’re getting into gaming podcasts, I’d describe The Dice Tower as the one essential listen out there. This is further born out by The Dice Tower Network, which has brought many smaller but equally interesting podcasts under this banner to co-promote them all (many of them listed below).

The Spiel

(Hit 200 episodes in July 2014) The Spiel tends to sprawl over two hours or more and now hits podcastland once per month. Presenters David Coleson and Stephen Conway cover news and reviews in every show, often going very deep into game play and even histories behind some of the game themes. It’s an easy listen and their enthusiasm is infectious, while a good sprinkling of competitions and imaginative smaller segments keep things fresh. Episode 139, covering their trip to the Essen Spiel Convention 2011, is easily my favourite single gaming podcast episode ever – it oozes enthusiasm and is as god a travelogue as it is a gaming bonanza.

Unfortunately some pretty irritating advertising segments have taken my enjoyment down a few notches after repeat listening, but luckily these can normally be pretty easily skipped due to the episodic nature of each podcast’s structure. They now do an annual Kickstarter fundraising campaign which has cut out most of the in-cast fundraising appeals too. Also, some genuinely crappy games (Munchkin and the original Thunderstone spring immediately to mind) have had very OTT positive reviews, which had led me to questions the credibility of their reviews. However, on balance, I still very much enjoy every episode.

More board game podcasts

On Board Games

(Hit 150 episodes in March 2015) This is a friendly, chatty and honest one-to-two-hour podcast featuring “game industry veterans” Erik Dewey and Donald Dennis, with a third contributor joining each episode. For some time this was the wonderfully enthusiastic board game boffin Scott Nicholson, but he is now more of a part time presence with the ‘third chair’ being anyone from listeners to bigger board gaming names. The show’s format is usually an in-depth discussion on a particular topic for the first half, followed by reviews and occasional guest segments.

On Board Games is probably my favourite board game podcast right now. Dennis is refreshingly honest and cynical while clearly loving the hobby, with Dewey’s enthusiasm making him the perfect foil. It’s much more like overhearing a pub conversation than any of the other shows, while advertising is kept to a minimum. There’s still no swearing though, so no worries there kids, and it arrives every two weeks. Note: There is also now a ‘crowd funding edition’ spin off too – you can probably guess what I think of that dreck…

Boardgames To Go

Another more occasional podcast these days, Mark Johnson’s Boardgames To Go has been going since 2005 (making it one of the oldest board game podcasts out there) and has clocked well over 100 episodes. The release schedule is sporadic at best, while the content is equally hard to pin down; one week you’ll find a discussion on a particular topic with a guest, while the next could be Mark flying solo and just reviewing a few games.

If On Board Games is an overheard pub chat about games, Boardgames To Go is the (perhaps Amsterdam) coffee shop equivalent. Mark’s laid back voice is perfect for radio, while you very much get the feeling he simply presses ‘record’ on a whim and starts rambling on. While this sounds like it could be a disaster (and certainly would be in the wrong hands), he manages to pull it off pretty much every time. He’s also very honest, while always framing his opinions clearly within his own game prejudices, so it’s easy to know if you’re going to agree with his opinions on most games.

The Game Pit

Just as I started to miss my (semi) regular taste of UK gaming podcasts with the demise of The Royal Society, along came The Game Pit. Hosted by Sean and Ronan, they’re up past number 40 since their March 2013 début (it’s actually a lot more, but you wouldn’t know it thanks to a daft ’80s war game episode numbering system!). But more importantly, what you get is entertaining opinions on a bunch of games.

It’s a well trodden path: two friends with a good rapport shooting the breeze about their obsession. But they play off each other well, the ‘Englishness’ is a breath of fresh air amid the throng of good ol’ boys, and they do their best to make it interesting; whether pitching two games against each other in the arena, making predictions about upcoming releases, or giving a dreadful game both barrels. They like some rubbish games, so don’t take them on their word, bit its entertaining stuff.

Push Your Luck Podcast

“A podcast proudly made in Singapore”, Push Your Luck is a roughly bi-weekly board game podcast hosted by friends Eric (Kai Liang Teo) and Jon (Jonathan Er). The podcast has so far survived the upheaval of Eric moving to London, then to New York to study game design, moving beyond 50 episodes in January 2015. While occasional episodes have guests or group discussions, most weeks tend to follow the tried and tested board game podcast format: what we’ve been playing, followed by a topic/top 10 discussion.

But I’m not complaining: this is a fun show. The guys are refreshingly honest and have very different tastes, taking great pleasure in slamming both bad games and each other – but importantly doing it in context (they will say when a game is not to their tastes, rather than saying its bad, for example):a bad trait of some other game podcasters is to label a game ‘crap’ just because they don’t like it. My only complaint has been some episodes have had poor sound quality, which can make already tricky accents hard to hear clearly, but its certainly worth the effort.

Rolling Dice & Taking Names

Rolling Dice & Taking Names is now firmly on the board gaming podcast map with more than 60 episodes (February 2015). It’s co-hosted by Marty and Tony, two buddies from North Carolina, with the majority of the content concentrating on gently ribbing each other about their adventures in euro games.

They’re refreshingly unassuming, without being overly judgemental or bombastic – a really relaxing listen. It’s far from professional and this can add to the charm; but is also becoming a little grating as they’ve been doing this a while now. Expect jovial chat plus board and card game reviews, as well as occasional soirées into interviews, online board gaming and con reviews, plus some entertaining opinions from their game club friends.

Exploring Games with Gamer Chris

Started in May 2012, it’s fair to call this a slightly erratic podcast – but Chris is doing his best to up the output. He’s up around 25 episodes (June 2014) and with a solid (and enjoyable) blog behind him, Chris seems here to stay. He talks each time about his own gaming experiences (including in-depth reviews and session reports) while also tackling a wide range of gaming topics, from Kickstarter to solo games.

In his first episode Chris talked about being inspired by Mark Johnson (Board Games to Go, above), but he’s not quite hitting the same notes. Johnson talks about games in such an understated way it seems like a commentary, rather than opinion. Chris hits you with statements that demand an opposing view – but it’s just him in the booth. When he gets on this kind of tip it simply doesn’t work; he really needs a foil. But it’s only a fraction of each show and the rest of the time I find him an enjoyable laid back listen.

Specialised/themed gaming podcasts

Flip the Table

Fast becoming one of my favourite podcasts, board gaming or otherwise, Flip the Table takes a very different look at games. Instead of looking at new or classic titles the guys take the kind of games you’ll find in charity shops – often terrible TV tie-ins – and put them through their paces. There are always at least three of them on the show, joking around and generally enjoying themselves despite the terrible games they often come up against. From Space Jam and WWF to Murder She Wrote and Gone Birding, nothing is sacred…

Started in June 2012 (and hitting 70 episodes in February 2015), each one-hour episode starts with a daft review and ends with an equally daft ‘battle of wits’ competition. It ranges from grin worthy to laugh-out-loud funny and I’m yet to hear a bad episode. But while funny it’s not stupid; these are experienced gamers making serious points about often terrible but occasionally good games – they just do it with a level of humour you only get from close friends having a great time. What’s not to like about middle aged men discussing playing teenage girly games such as Party Mania, Heartthrob and Mall Madness…?

The Long View

Hosted by Geoff Gambill, The Long View (75+ episodes as of February 2015) started out to fill a niche by talking in-depth about a single (usually established) game each week with a guest who has a healthy love for the game in question. It quickly established itself as a professionally recorded and often fascinating board game podcast. Geoff can be a bit repetitive and wordy at times, but overall he’s charming enough to get away with it.

Around twice a month a game is discussed in detail, covering everything from basics such as the rules and mechanisms to what that week’s guest thinks makes the game stand out from the pack. Where ‘How to Play’ (above) is great once you’ve bought a game, The Long View can be a real help in deciding if a game is right for you. Each episode now also includes at least one standard new game review at he end.

Boardgame Babylon

Now seemingly a very occasional podcast, it’s still worth subscribing to it for the few episodes that do come along. Host ER Burgess has his fingers in all kinds of board gaming pies – from designing to helping organise conventions to publishing games – so his insight is always interesting to those more dedicated to the hobby.

He has also hosted some great round table discussions from conventions, with the Race for the Galaxy in-depth discussion (episode 86) with designer Tom Lehmann and developer Wei-Hwa Huang, amongst others, being one of my favourite board game podcast listens to date. The series passed 100 episodes in March 2013.

It’s educational

Ludology

(Hit 100 episodes in March 2015) Ludology features two podcasters who have become very well known thanks to being regular contributors to segments on The Dice Tower. Ryan Sturm is also the man behind the How to Play podcast (below), while co-host Geoff Engelstein (Space Cadets, Aries Project) is a respected games designer in his own right.

Standard episodes (bi-weekly) take an analytical approach to particular features of game design in a deep yet chatty fashion. It won’t be for everyone, but is certainly worth giving a go. In weeks where there aren’t regular episodes there are ‘classic’ episodes; repeats of short guest spots by Geoff from The Dice Tower. Ryan has sadly announced he will be stepping out of the co-host chair after episode 100, but Geoff will continue on.

The Game Design Round Table

This is certainly specialised but if you’re a budding game designer – board or computer – just subscribe. It can be a pretty dry podcast that focuses purely on design, but it can be really inspiring; no more than you’d expect from regular contributors Rob Daviau (Risk Legacy, anything good from Hasbro) and David Heron (Blammo Games). They’re joined each week by Dirk Knemeyer, the man behind board games such as Road to Enlightenment and The New Science.

I find Dirk a little self important (I’ve never met the guy, he’s probably lovely), but you can get some top insight into the intricacies of design by listening to them chat. They also have some brilliant guests, including the likes of Tom Lehmann (Race for the Galaxy) and Brian Reynolds (Civ II, Alpha Centauri etc). They hit 100 episodes in October 2014 and you can expect a podcast each week. Former co-host Jon Shafer (Civilisation V) is taking an indefinite break from the podcast.

Board Game University

A project started by Tom Vasel (from The Dice Tower) in June 2013, The Board Game University is an occasional series of interviews with game designers and other industry experts aimed at giving advice to aspiring designers and publishers. Episodes feature 20-30 minute Q&As with the likes of designer Andrew Parks (Core Worlds), publisher Zev Schlasinger (Z-man Games), Stephen Glenn (Chaos in the Old World, Quarriors) and Rob Daviau (Risk Legacy, Heroscape).

Now hosted by Tom and Joseph Barber, episodes are a little flimsy for my tastes – especially when compared to the likes of The Game Design Round Table or Ludology, but you do get the occasional gems of wisdom. Really its very low level interviewing rather than giving much insight into anything – how did you start out, what are you doing next, why not plug some of your stuff etc. But it will certainly appeal to many.

Company specific podcasts

Plaid Hat Podcast

Game manufacturer Plaid Hat Games’ successes include Dead of Winter, Mice & Mystics and Summoner Wars. Most of its weekly podcast episodes see Plaid Hat staff; from designers and writers to play testers, chatting about design.

They have a great ‘lads together’ rapport and while Plaid Hat’s games make up quite a chunk of each discussion, there is plenty of chat about other games to; I’m no Plaid Hat fanboi, but enjoy every episode (they hit 150 episodes in September 2014). Most episodes start with a chat about what they’ve been playing that week, before moving on to an topic discussion. There’s a lot of laughter and ribbing, but you also get a lot of wisdom thrown in.

Wargame podcasts (by Keith Jones)

Guns, Dice, Butter

Presented by David Dockter, the designer of “Triumph of Chaos”, currently nearing 25 episodes with each one tending to weigh in at a hefty three hours.  Dockter seems to be on first name terms with every game designer or publisher in the industry and is able to pull in some impressive guests.

Some of the conversations have a tendency to ramble, especially the round table ones, but are always interesting and contain some real gems. Could do with better editing as the volume of the music, which is used to break up segments, tends to much higher than the conversation so you find yourself having to adjust your sound level accordingly but is certainly getting better. Dockter is clearly an enthusiast for the hobby and has done much to promote it, even heading up a campaign to get younger players involved.

Advance After Combat

Now up to 20 episodes, the show is produced on a monthly basis. Its self declared format is to come across as three friends in a bar discussing wargames and it certainly achieves this with some of the language getting a bit “adult” as well as a few in jokes between the three presenters.

Sometimes it can sound like a wishlist of wargames to buy but there’s a genuine enthusiasm for the hobby from all the presenters and is well worth listening to.

Hex Encounter

Originally this was just two presenters and tended to drift into prolonged silences but they’ve recently added a third and it has given the newer episodes much more life. It seemingly became defunct after 13 episodes (in 2013).

One of its early episodes achieved a major coup by getting an interview with Dean Essig which is well worth digging out to hear the thoughts and opinions of one of the pre-eminent war games designers.

Not board game specific podcasts

The Cardboard Console

Pushing on towards 20 episodes as of February 2015, The Cardboard Console is an hour long weekly UK podcast hosted by friends Andrew Haywood and Matthew Simpson. In each episode they talk about two video games and two board games, plus two ‘wild card’ picks (anything from TV shows to books to exercise classes…). Despite only being on the scene a short time the sound quality is really good, the production is professional and the banter is top notch.

The format of the show is the same most weeks, and the segments pretty uniform lengths, so its easy to skip any bits you may not be interested in. The general idea is they talk about what they’ve been playing/doing that week – then on each tenth episode they look back over previous reviews and see if their opinions have changed. From episode 15 they’ll be having a guest on every five-ending episode, started with yours truly (shameless plug ahoy!). The ‘me’ episode withstanding, this is already one of my favourite podcasts.

The D6 Generation

(Hit 160 episodes in February 2015) A sprawling thee-hour affair, the bi-weekly D6G podcast covers board games, tabletop war games (plus modelling/painting) and role playing games. Hosts Craig Gallant and Russ Wakelin live and breath the hobby and it’s a testament to their radio skill, humour and enthusiasm that they keep me listening every week despite often failing to talk about a single thing I care one jot about. It won’t be universally appealing, but it’s definitely downloading an episode to see if it grabs you.

The main thrust is tabletop fantasy and sci-fi games, but there’s always a bit of board game chat thrown in. ‘The third chair’ is filled by an industry guest each week for a long discussion (which could be on anything game related), while they also cover what they’ve been playing/painting etc. There are some interesting and quirky segments (‘Total Fan Girl’ and a closing rant from Craig) plus the world’s most worthless segment, ‘The Hollywood Minute’, which ironically seems to go on for hours. It’s like listening to someone you don’t know on the bus on their phone describing their boring life. Terrifying.

Not Just Another Gaming Podcast

Not Just Another Gaming Podcast (NJAGP) is, in many ways, just another gaming podcast – but that’s no bad thing! It’s a lively gaming (mostly) show presented by friends Jeff Scott, Jim Reed and Matthew McHale. The three have a great rapport, hitting 50 episodes (June 2014) since their début in January 2011.

Board games are pretty much guaranteed to be on the menu every week, although war games, tabletop miniatures games and CCGs are also covered. Much is standard fare: ‘what we’ve been doing’ intros, question of the episode, game reviews etc. But what makes it stand out is it feels very much like a chat that can go anywhere; from games to novels to films to what they’ve put on their Christmas trees…

Now defunct

How to Play

In each episode of the How to Play podcast, Ryan Sturm gave an in-depth explanation of how to play (surprise surprise) a particular board game. There were just under 50 shows over four years: if you get a new game it’s always worth seeing if he did an episode on it as he has a knack of getting the rules over in a chatty, friendly and easy to understand way (although his humour might not be for everyone while his enthusiasm is clear to hear.

Some episodes seem a little pointless (surely anyone can get to grips with Ticket to Ride?) but for more complex games it can be a godsend. He also offers some richer strategy tips towards the end of each episode which give some great insight into the deeper workings of the games. It can also be useful if you’re thinking about buying a particular game but are hesitant on pulling the trigger.

Game On!

Hosts Cody Jones and John Richard hung up their podcasting mikes in April 2012 after 82 thoroughly enjoyable podcasts. It’s a real shame, as their enthusiasm and humour had grown them a large and dedicated audience.

They can still be heard guesting on other gaming podcasts, while if you have a hunger for this kind of show the archived episodes are well worth a download if you find a gap in your listening schedule.

The Royal Society of Gamers

The Royal Society of Gamers quickly become one of my favourite podcasts – but at less than 20 episodes it sadly went quiet. Seemingly with a cast of thousands (well, four or five at least) it very much had a group discussion feel lacking in other podcasts. It covered news, reviews, analysis and interviews, making for an interesting and varied mix.

It was refreshing to hear some English humour permeating the board game podcast arena, while any lack of professionalism in terms of intros,cuts etc was more than made up for in insight and opinion; knowing a few of these guys at the London on Board gaming group, I can certainly vouch for their love of and immersion into the hobby. And as mentioned, it’s really nice to hear a larger group of players having a frank and varied discussion on a game they’ve clearly just played together.

The Gaming Gang

Hosted by Jeff McAleer and Elliott Miller, The Gaming Gang podcast was a real hoot. You could clearly tell the pair were on the same wavelength and it was impossible not to smile and laugh along as they gently mock each other’s mistakes and made daft gags about terrible press releases and flavour text while going through the news. But while the mood was light-hearted throughout, you were left in no doubt these guys know their games. They hit 50 podcasts in November 2012, but sadly called it a day in January 2013.

While the show was mostly about board and card games you do get a bit of other nerdiness, such as books/TV, RPG and minis stuff thrown in. The show’s format is pretty standard (chat, then news, followed by reviews) but is blissfully ad free. The website is great too, while you’ll also find a regular flow of ‘extra’ podcasts featuring interviews or con reports. all in all, The Gaming Gang was a real winner and I would definitely suggest you downloading the archive. The site still has a regular podcast, but it’s not what it once was.

Not for me – but maybe for you

Shut Up & Sit Down! The Podcast

The Shut Up & Sit Down guys (Paul and Quinns) are probably best known for their comedic YouTube gaming videos, but they’re now into double figures with their audio podcast and going strong. The first dates back to May 2012, so they’ve been particularly regular, but they seem to be on something of a monthly schedule now. As you’d expect if you’ve seen these guys before, the emphasis is on (very English) humour while looking at a variety of board and card games each week, alongside a regular Q&A from Twitter/Facebook and the occasional special guest.

While I enjoy the humour I unfortunately find my gaming tastes almost completely at odds with them. This would be OK if they weren’t quite so adamant in their views, saying games that are clearly popular and of a high quality bad on a regular basis – while extolling the apparent brilliance of games the majority would consider mediocre. Yes, its a matter of taste, but there’s a difference between seemingly putting something across as fact rather than opinion. However, this is good quality stuff if its to your tastes – if you’re into party/co-op/in-you-face games they’re definitely worth checking out.

State of Games

The State of Games podcast is presented by Chris, the man behind indie publisher Dice Hate Me Games, which had big hits with Viva Java and The Great Heartland Hauling Co. The show has a number of his friends as co-hosts plus occasional special guests, including games designers and friends from the games industry.

The show swings wildly in theme from week to week, covering lots of board game events, but for me episodes are now either too self-serving and backslappy – and/or far too Kickstarter-centric for my tastes. Each episode runs around an hour and it’s certainly worth checking out; as is their website (linked above) which has a great selection of reviews and other blog posts.

The Little Metal Dog Show

Another English contender, The Little Metal Dog Show concentrates on interviews, mainly with game designers. Host Michael Fox has a great radio voice and guests always seem at ease, while he’s clearly a man who knows and loves his topic.

I tend to find the show a little too saccharine and agreeable; I’m not expecting him to say “well, I think your game is crap”, but there’s only so many favourite and brilliant and amazing games you can talk about before the numbers stop adding up. This is most noticeable in episodes where Fox is joined by two mates to go through emails and discuss games they do and don’t like; these are often the podcast highlights and personally I’d like to see more of this honest opinion and less interviews. That said, it’s a high quality podcast that should appeal to many gamers, especially if you dabble in design yourself.

Garrett’s Games & Geekiness

Started back in 2006, this weekly board game podcast is one of the elder statesmen of the genre. It’s hosted by gaming couple Doug and Shelley Garrett who have an enviable game collection and an obvious love of the hobby. They are also sometimes joined by their gaming buddies, which just happen to include Board Game Geek co-founder Scoot Alden.

The show doesn’t do it for me; it’s just so relaxed and laid back I find myself losing interest. I’m also finding that couples presenting simply gets on my nerves a little, but that’s just a personal thing. If you’re a fan of that ‘up all night’ smooth style it is definitely worth checking out. You’re likely to find them regaling you about a new wine discovery as well as a few new games, while they discuss games in an interesting and informative way. It’s ad free, which is always a blessing, and tends to run around 30 to 45 minutes.

The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast

Hosted by friends Brian, Chris, Jamie and Tony, the Secret Cabal is another podcast that concentrates largely on board and card games but isn’t scared to delve into other nerd and gaming topics when the mood takes them. Expect news and reviews delivered in a very professional manner by three guys with great radio voices and, well, another guy.

The show has two problems for me. One, they’ve taken a well trodden format and retrodden it, without really bringing anything to the party. That’s fine – I just have enough podcasts like this already on iTunes that I enjoy more (many people have really taken to Secret Cabal, so I’d certainly suggest you give it a shot). But my biggest problem with it – which may be unjustified – is I don’t get the impression they have a big enough collective depth to their gaming knowledge. A certain few games are mentioned too often in comparisons where others would be more appropriate, for example.

Getting back into board and card games: helpful links

I’ve put a new ‘page’ up, where I’ll be linking a series of posts about how to get back into the board and card game hobby. I’ve posted it here.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be linking a group of posts to it, which I’ve listed by title below. I’m also adding a few links here now so that if you find this post before I’ve got round to writing the full article for each section, you’ve got a head start.

  • Where to buy (on and offline)
    Online, my first port of call tends to be Board Game Guru. I will also check Amazon, mainly for special offers, and The Works as it has had some fine games at crazy cheap prices of late (but also some tat – check reviews first!).
  • Websites (to play on)
    My absolute favourite is Yucata, a play-by-mail style site where you take your turns in as many games as it’s your turn in, then log off again (or you can stay online and try to play someone real time, if they hang around long enough). Boite Jeux does the same thing just as well, but with less games and a slightly less friendly interface. Both are FREE and I’m ‘hairyarsenal’ on both.
  • Websites (for research)
    There is one ahead of al others in terms of depth of content and that’s the not helpfully titled Board Game Geek. However, it’s ridiculously daunting for a new visitor and not very user friendly (there is  revamp of the site ongoing though – fingers crossed).
  • Podcasts
    There is a surprisingly large amount of good board game podcasts, but I think two stand out for newer gamers because they tend to talk a lot about simpler and popular/newer titles in an accessible way. These are The Dice Tower and The Spiel. Both are also on iTunes.
  • Smartphone, console and tablet apps
    Some of the bigger games that are great for getting people back into playing tabletop games have amazing online versions and apps. Whatever your console, phone or home computer you should be able to find Settles of CatanCarcassonne, or Ticket to Ride. All on on Xbox, Apple and Android devices for a small fee, while Catan and Carcassonne are both on BlackBerry too.
  • Video channels
    Definitely check out the new premium (but free) YouTube show TableTop, with Wil Wheaton. For individual game reviews, once again The Dice Tower is great has it seems to review the most games; but my favourite are the reviews of UvulaBob are my favourite, as they’re always genuinely funny.
  • A great game to start with per genre
    I won’t go here yet, although the three titles above under ‘Smartphone, console and tablet apps’ are a good starting point for the hobby in general: they’re really big sellers, have stood the test of time and I’d expect the majority of board gamers had one of these help them get back into the hobby.

If you found a particular game or resource helped get you back into the hobby, I’d love to hear about it.