TableTop

I’m a big fan of board game videos and I was very excited when I heard that geek culture ambassador Wil Wheaton was going to host a web series devoted to tabletop board games. TableTop is just one of the shows featured in a Premium YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. TableTop has already featured some great games like Small World, Gloom, Munchkin, and Ticket to Ride.

Tabletop 1
See look! Board games are fun for everyone!
Here are some of the reasons I think TableTop is great:
  • It has professional production values. There are many great YouTube videos out there that have been created by the gaming community, but TableTop is a professionally produced web series with real lighting and sound design, scripted content, and often features known talent. I have no idea where this was shot, but they do a great job of dressing the set for each show. I also covet the gorgeous Geek Chic gaming table that is the focal point on which each game is displayed.
  • It has a charismatic celebrity host and features new guests each episode. Wheaton’s enthusiasm is both genuine and contagious. This coming together of often oddball personalities is exactly what I love about gaming. The show cuts in and out of play for short segments on how the players are feeling about the game, which is silly in a real gaming session, but is perfect for capturing some personal insights from the players in this kind of presentation.
  • It has a format like a real show. Some folks just don’t get this idea, but board game video pioneers like Scott Nicholson understood this years ago. A good show will feature a predictable format. Wil introduces the game and shows the components and the basic flow of the rules, and then they jump right into playing. They take breaks to introduce each player as they take their turn, so that we can establish some connection with who we are watching, and Wil also explains new rules or situations as they occur in cutaway isolation segments that focus on the game itself. They skip through all of the repetitive parts and keep the viewers up to date on the scoring, and then they play out the endgame. Losers commiserate with theatrical bourbon and winners are celebrated at the closing segment. Having those familiar signposts makes viewers like myself at ease because I know what to expect, and I know what I have to look forward to.
  • It’s not a review! TableTop features a game, and gives the viewer a good idea of how to play it. We know from the start that Wheaton feels that this is a great game and is worth sharing. I like that. I’m happy to skip all of the evaluative narrative and get right to the fun. I am not interested in listening to someone talk about a game or demonstrate a game that they don’t think is worth playing.
  • It has a positive impact on the gaming industry. Even the folks at my friendly neighborhood game store have acknowledged the Wheaton Effect. Most of the games that are featured on TableTop show a measurable boost in sales. That’s real market impact.
You can find TableTop on the Geekandsundry YouTube channel or go directly to the TableTop website. New episodes are posted every other Friday.

I look forward to each new episode and check out the additional bonus segments afterwards. Thank you Wil Wheaton! Thanks to you and the other producers for creating such a great show!

What do you think about TableTop? Has it influenced you to try a new game, or even try a game that you thought you weren’t interested in before you watched the episode? I would like to hear what you think!

16 Comments

  1. I’m not as enamored with TableTop as you are because I’m still grappling with geek aversion/anxiety [insert appropriate insecurity diagnosis HERE]. However, I agree 100% about its overall positive effects, and it’s superb production & editing.

    • Jeff Myers

      You mean the fact that people like yourself, who because their interests were so unique that they had to pioneer new media just to connect with others who had the same interest? Would you say that’s a common feeling with other people who have been involved in board games as long as you have? Do you feel like it makes your interests less special if more people get involved, or do you think it will push out the independent designers if the hobby starts making more money? Or am I way off and it’s just the fact that you don’t want the hobby associated with popular nerd/geek culture?

      • You’re way off. 🙂

        I have ZERO problem with someone big, new, attractive, funny, whatever coming on the scene and promoting boardgaming. More of that would be a good thing. That’s the best part about TableTop.

        No, what bothers me is that is automatically associates boardgaming with the old D&D stereotypes of boys who never grew up, who want to play with monster figures in their mom’s basement. When games like Medici and El Grande first got me into the hobby, I was excited that THIS was a type of gaming that could be considered an adult form of entertainment. Maybe that was foolish of me, but I don’t see it that way.

        • Jeff Myers

          Wow, I WAS WAY OFF. What you bring up though is really interesting and had never occurred to me. The show does make the hobby seem less serious – less adult. I wonder if the games were chosen on Wheaton’s preferences or on what he and the other producers thought would make for an entertaining segment? I think watching some folks play El Grande or Power Grid would be just as entertaining, but I guess what you are describing has more to do with the basic tone of the show and not the choice of games.

          • It’s both. The tone of the show (what the guests say & do) as well as the games they’ve been choosing (Small World, Munchkin) are games that frankly revel in the geekery. Why should I expect anything else? This is a show on YouTube, with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day as the principals. Those are two superstars and modern Internet celebrities of Geek Chic. More power to them, and to everyone who loves the show.

            But if their show is the Big Bang Theory of boardgame webisodes, I just wish there was also the equivalent of Nova for our hobby–something serious and educational. Something that illustrates that strategy boardgaming isn’t JUST about make-believe with orcs and spaceships.

            (By the way, this is what my next podcast with Greg Pettit is all about!)

            • Jeff Myers

              That sounds like a great episode and Greg is a perfect choice for that discussion!

              Now as far as a Nova-like webseries about strategy boardgaming, who better to host such a show than the hobby’s most eloquent rocket scientist? Instead of being set in a basement, it’s set in a fancy den, decorated with pieces of antiquity, featuring a giant map of the Mediterranean during the 14th century.

            • MiddleClassJoe

              Mark Said: “But if their show is the Big Bang Theory of boardgame webisodes, I just wish there was also the equivalent of Nova for our hobby–something serious and educational. Something that illustrates that strategy boardgaming isn’t JUST about make-believe with orcs and spaceships.”

              THIS!! I would NEVER miss that show. Something like Geoff Englestien’s GameTech segments, except maybe done as a fortnightly YouTube series.

          • Isaac Birnbaum

            Watching El Grande could definitely be entertaining. Actually, filming any game over at Greg Thatcher’s house would make for good entertainment; particularly El Grande. Bullet-sweating and raunchy humor galore.

    • After watching the Fiasco episode on Tabletop, I think that we may have been a little more entertaining. While it was great to watch them play, and it gave me a better idea of how the game works, it isn’t as entertaining as actually playing.

      • MiddleClassJoe

        Haha. I wish I would have written up a session report on our game, it was quite funny if I recall. Was there a dog-napping/ransom to get a suitcase of cocaine back from the mother of a local crime boss? And the accents, oh the (terrible) accents!

        I’m really looking forward to part 2 of this episode; especially the set-up. The set-up is where the Fiasco magic happens!

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