When I started playing board games I knew nothing about them. I knew there were games like Catan or Monopoly, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game store when I started my gaming addiction. When you don’t know your stuff, you go look things up. On the world-wide web.
I did the same. When you look for board games on the web, you quickly stumble upon bgg, but I also got a lot of information from other board game media. Board game media channels exploded since then. From YouTube videos, write-ups, to pictorial reviews and podcasts, there are many of them. I tried many, but not all stuck.
In this article I would like to show, beginning board gamers, people new to the hobby, where to start. There won’t be any surprises for veteran gamers I think.
The Webs of the World
For me there are basically two addresses to get my daily board gaming shot.
Let’s start with the almighty, all-knowing boardgamegeek website, or bgg. Here you can and probably will find all you need to know about games. New games, old games. How well they are rated, how long they take. Who designed it, who illustrated it. Have a question about the rules? Probably somebody else already asked it on the geek forums. If not you can write your question there and there will be multiple people who are willing to help you, maybe even the designer himself.
The thing is that the board gaming community is very open. Everybody is willing to share. Their thoughts, their experiences and also bits and pieces of their life. You can decide how much you want to take part. You can write or shoot your own reviews and post them, or you can just use bgg as a board game encyclopaedia, never rating or writing about a single game.
I’m from the Netherlands and for the Dutch speaking gamers here there’s Bordspelmania, or bsm. It’s a similar platform as boardgamegeek. I think it’s less useful if you need information about a game, but it is equally, or even more useful as a Dutchman if you want to use it to interact with other gamers. Ask questions, sell games, find game groups to go to, the Bordspelmania forums are the place to go.
For both bgg and bsm you need an account to get the most out the website. You can also find both bgg and bsm on several board gaming conventions and other board game related events (maybe I’ll write something about these conventions in a later article). In this way you can talk to the people who work hard to keep both sites, where you’ll spend loads of hours browsing, up and running.
A Tube just for You
Now we’ll get to board game media. Let’s start with video reviewers or playthroughers. You will find hundreds of people who posted one, ten, a hundred or even thousands of videos that help you play a game or decide with games to buy. Board games are not cheap, so you’ll want to know which ones are good and will fit your personal taste. Like books, like movies, you won’t like everything. Being the best-selling game or the game with the most prizes is not a guarantee that this is a game that you will enjoy. That’s why there are people out there who have played that game and would love to share that opinion with you. Eventually you’ll find a reviewer that likes the games you like, so you can use that guy or girl as a game guide.
The Dice Tower Reviews
Probably the biggest channel out there is the Dice Tower and for me it’s still the place to go. Nowadays they have a lot people on their channel, but the main crew will provide with a steady supply of good quality reviews. Some of the other, less regular, reviewers on that channel don’t have the high quality the main guys, like Tom or Zee, have, but they spew out so many video onto YouTube, you will never be able to see them all.
Shut Up and Sit Down
These (British) guys have a very different style of reviewing games. In addition to their written content, they put out one video every week, mostly. On Friday you can look at a video of a game they probably going to like, or at least find it very useful or are very intrigued by a game if they don’t like it. They pick and choose their games carefully. They are more thoughtful in their reviews, they use humour to make their point, and you can even call them poetic at some times.
The Playthroughers and Ruleslearners
And then there are the people who post playthroughs of games or post video where they will teach you the game step by step. Very handy when you don’t want to read the rulebook yourself, find the rulebook a bit daunting, or just like to be prepared when you are going to play games at someone else’s place. Rahdo Runs Through is such a channel. Like the name tells you, he runs through games. Literally. He talks quickly with a camera in his hand. Jumps from this thought to another and will play a couple of rounds of a game with you, the viewer. He gives you his thoughts and tells you why he does what he does on the board. For me it’s not a way to learn a game, but more a tool to see if the gameplay is something I might like.
Watch it Played is a YouTube channel that explains a game from A to Z. Sometimes guided by a playthrough, sometimes just with a thorough rules explanation. Calm and friendly, that’s how you would describe Rodney Smith. A Canadian. If that matters to you.
The pod has been casted
I love you listen to many podcast. In the car, when running, when I cook or just with one earpiece in doing something else. Not only do I listen to podcasts about board games, but mostly my podcast library is filled with game related shows. Here are some I like with a good and steady track record.
The Dice Tower Podcast
Long time listener and every week I still get excited when I start the podcast and hear the familiar intro tune. Every week I look forward listing to those guys, like I did with my favourite tv shows when I was younger. That says something right? Short reviews, top ten lists, questions of the week, listener stories and contributions by other people (who can be, like the YouTube channel, of mixed quality). Tom and Eric work together like a well-oiled machine. Their interaction is great and they bring all board gaming related topics with enthusiasm. A great listen.
The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
Another podcast I listen to every time a new episode pops up is the Secret Cabal. This is a different kind of podcast in the sense that you will listen to a group of friends talk about playing games together and with others. They make fun of each other, but all in good spirit. The founders talk about the games they’ve play, board game news and other gaming related topics. If you’re interested in miniature games or RPGs they also have something for you. There’s only one part of the show that I don’t like and that the main review in the middle. It takes too long.
Podcasts are just not that suited for long overviews or reviews of games. It’s very hard to describe how the game plays in such way that you don’t lose the attention of someone that hasn’t been able to see what you saw. This is the only part that I skip. Every time.
Both the Secret Cabal and the Dice Tower are two of the better podcasts with enthusiastic podcasters that really love what they do.
Other cool podcasts that I listen to once in a while: The Cardboard Jungle, Rahdo Talks Through, Rolling Dice & Taking Names, The Game Pit, Shut Up & Sit Down Podcast.
Het Ludieke Gezelschap
Last year a new Dutch Podcast started broadcasting. They call themselves Het Ludieke Gezelschap. For the Dutch readers this might be an interesting listen. They cover several gaming topics and have a similar structure as the other podcasts above. Like the Secret Cabal, they do sometimes have segments that do not fit the podcast medium, like playing ‘live’ games on the podcast. I can’t follow, and it’s probably much more fun for them than it is for the listener. The rest of it, from mini reviews to interviews, is a good listen, although I still have to get used to hearing a Dutch podcast for some reason. Weird.
There are also many sites who write about board games and all board gaming related, like Opinionated Gamers, iSlaytheDragon, Bordspeler.nl, Ameritrash.nl or myself, As a Board Gamer. Some people write long blogs boardgamegeek, like Mina’s Fresh Cardboard or A Board Game Life. You can find a thriving board game community on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. Those are all ways to connect with fellow gamers and get the most out of this wonderful community.
There’s something out there for everyone. Board Games all day, every day.