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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.