This is very American, very young urban American, and so not to everybody’s tastes. It’s also a fairly biggish deal in terms of modern boardgames getting more exposure by knowing people, free from do not pass go and miss scarlett cliches. It’s also, and this is key, very very professionally made, very polished, and watchable.
It’s called TableTop, a show on youtube hosted by Wil Wheaton, the darling of US nerdcore (he’s an actor popular with geeky types). The show centres on one game only (except when they don’t), takes you through a brief overview, then some turn-by-turn play with LOTS of tabletalk, inter-cut with asides to camera from players, and then a final wrap up.
The first episode covers Small World, a re-issue of an old French game that was Vinci. Ep 2 is Settlers, 3 is Zombie Dice, Tsuro, Get Bit!, 4 is Ticket To Ride, 5 is Munchkin. All here, with other material too.
It’s very very professional. The camera work is good, the editing and focus where needed is good, the graphics and aides are excellent. Crucially, the decision to keep the whole thing broad and entertaining is very important and achieved. They edit out rounds, they do not explain every rule, every action, just enough to keep you engaged and following.
And it is engaging. At the end of the game, when the final scores are revealed, I got the same feeling as if I was in the game. The final result is a surprise and the players’ reactions are genuine.
Tabletop is much more about showing non-gamers or video gamers that modern boardgames are fun if you like that kind of thing. The language is a little fruity, the attitude a touch aggressive (both would not be allowed in BM!) but if you accept it at face value, it’s a remarkable step forward.
I’ve often wondered how TV could show the tensions between boardgame players without viewers knowing the rules or the precise technicality of the moment. I think Tabletop has achieved that. It’s focus is on the surface, how the players behave and how the game enables them to play, without getting bogged down.
If you start watching, and think you want to switch off after a minute, stick with it. It is very American, quite cliquey, insider and self-aware. But it’s miles better than anything a UK journo has mustered.
Here’s the first episode if you care to watch. And we have Small World in the club collection.