Tag: Shut Up & Sit Down

Podcast Roundup

Courtesy Blue Microphones
One day, this lovely Blue Yeti will be mine.

I’ve come to really enjoy podcasts. They help pass the time at the office, they inform and entertain with fresh content on a regular basis, and they’ve even replaced the music I used to listen to while running. I’ve been slowly expanding the amount I listen to on a regular basis, and I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.

Welcome to Night Vale

The brainchild of two authors at Commonplace Books, Welcome to Night Vale is evocative of old-school radio dramas like Suspense or Inner Sanctum Mystery, using description, sound, and evocative music to set the scene and spark imaginations rather than relying on sight gimmicks. The sonorous voice of Cecil Baldwin narrates the goings-on in the quiet desert town of Night Vale, where the odd is everywhere and things are usually not what they seem. Sometimes they are. Most times, they’re not. While it might not be for everyone, there’s something delightfully old-fashioned about Night Vale that keeps me coming back every two weeks.

Hello Internet

The description of Hello Internet is extremely simple: “Conversations between CGP Grey and Brady Haran“. Given the nature of their individual YouTube channels, it should be no surprise that this is perhaps the most informative and thought-provoking podcast I currently listen to. Their discussions are intelligent, well-researched, and balanced, and their personalities make it entertaining. I actually feel myself getting smarter listening to these guys. Highly recommended.

9Bit Podcast

I listen to a few video gaming podcasts, like The Co-Optional Podcast and Daft Souls, but one you might not have heard of is the 9Bit Podcast. Described as ‘a podcast about games for gamers’, it does a good job of providing a balanced review of video games, engaging in discussions of gaming news, and keeping listener interest with interplay between the hosts. It’s a smaller production, but it’s a great one.

Shut Up & Sit Down

Ah, Shut Up & Sit Down. Great videos, great reviews, and now a great podcast, all about board games. Paul and Quinns have some interesting viewpoints on this hobby, and are more than willing to share them with an audience. I like the podcast because the discussions are far less rehearsed and, in a way, more informative than the video reviews. Like their videos, the podcast has high production values and are just as entertaining as they are informative.

Terminal7

I’m a big fan of NetRunner, and I’m looking forward to finding more players. Until I do, the guys at Terminal7 are keeping me up to speed on what’s happening in this exciting revival of the cyberpunk living card game. They have great guest stars, like Quinns and Leigh Alexander, and they discuss strategies and individual cards with gusto and intelligence, exploring all sorts of combinations and tactics that often make them clearly enthusiastic. While somewhat of a niche podcast, it’s still a great one.

More?

I’m looking to expand my collection of podcast subscriptions. So far I have yet to find one I don’t like. With high-quality microphones becoming more affordable, Internet connections allowing people to contribute without being in the same room, and the ease of posting things to the Internet, it seems like more and more of these shows are emerging, and some of them are absolutely worth your time.

Hell, given the success of some of these podcasts, I may get back around to starting one of my own.

Tabletalk: The Rules of the Game

Courtesy Theology of Games
Courtesy Theology of Games

There are only a few board games that one can play entirely on their own. They essentially become very complex puzzles that you setup and solve on the fly, rather than being assembled, disassembled, or arranged correctly. Sometimes this is fine, but for the most part, you’ll want to get other people involved with your games. That means, you have to teach them the rules.

The rules of any given game provide the framework and nature of the challenge that game presents. They’re essential to board games of all shapes and sizes. But teaching said rules does not have to be a dull undertaking that fills up time you could spend playing and having fun with tedious rules explanations that sound just short of obfuscatory legalese. Here are a couple basic tips for making a session of teaching the rules of the game not suck.

Don’t just read from the rulebook.

Direct reading of rules from a rulebook to a potential player is poison to the interest in the game. While some gamers will still be fascinated by how the rules interlace or the ramifications of certain situations, new players in particular (especially if they don’t often play board games) will not want to hear the dry, uncharacterized rules right from the off. That will just play up the stodgy stereotype of board games and the people who play them, and we do not want that.

Instead, give the players an idea of what their options are on their turn. As much as this can lead to players being somewhat isolated in early turns, it puts their focus on what’s in front of them. “So you have these cards, these pieces, and this objective in mind. What do you want to do next?” When they decide what they want to do, be it for the objective or just for fun, encourage them and show them how its done while explaining any rules involved. It gets you playing faster, it gives context to the rules, and it pulls new players in quickly.

Introduce components before rules.

The other problem with rules explanations is that it requires new players to focus entirely on what you’re saying, and it needs to make sense. Dry readings from the rulebook can be very difficult to make interesting or even sensical, as some rulebooks are more reference sources than coherent reading experiences (looking at you, Fantasy Flight Games). But your board game has more than just the board and the rulebook – you have components, cards, dice, miniatures, and all sorts of things that can help your players pay attention.

I can’t take credit for this one. Quinns from Shut Up & Sit Down pointed out that people are actually more attentive if they have something in their hands. If they’re just sitting there listening to a tutorial, they are unlikely to retain everything they hear. Give them a component, a hand of cards, or some currency or tokens, and suddenly they’re paying more attention. This also ties into the previous point of giving them options for their first turn. Tying your explanation into what they’re holding and what their choices might be engages them in the proceedings right from the off.

If you’re going to teach it, know it.

This might seem like a no-brainer. And it doesn’t apply to all situations. If you’re unboxing a game for the very first time in front of new players, it’s impossible for you to know the game front to back the way you really should in order to teach it. But this is likely to be a rare occurrence. Most of the time, you’ll have the game before the time comes to play it. In that case, you should know it before you teach it.

This will help you in not reading dry rules from the rulebook, getting new players involved, and focusing more on their opening moves than on what the rules say.

Provide personal examples.

Most people like to hear stories. Many also like to tell them. There are some humorless folks out there who don’t want some silly story about emotions and morals and personal interest to interfere in their action, but that’s usually more applicable in terms of first-person shooters than board games. When you’re teaching a new game to people, it can be helpful to tell them some of your own experiences with it, especially if you tell them how you’ve lost.

Not only does this help new players figure out what to avoid, it demonstrates that while you know the game, you are not infallible. This will increase their confidence and get them more eager to play the game you’ve taught them. And when the game is over, they’ll have experiences of their own to relate to others!

Don’t take my word for it.

I mentioned Quinns and his site, and he has more tips on rules explanations right here. There are also lots of folks in the comments section to provide guidance. Be sure to check it out here!

Board gaming is a great hobby, and it’s even better when you get more people around the table. The more the merrier may be a somewhat cliched phrase, but it’s true. Even two players tends to be better than one when it comes to board gaming, and some games really come into their own when you get a great number of people playing at the same time. As much as they all need to know the rules, there’s no need for learning said rules to be boring. Make it interesting. Bring them in. And before they know it, they’ll know the rules of the game well enough to teach others. The cycle will continue, the hobby will grow, and more and more games will come out of the basement and into the light.

My Board Gaming Future

Courtesy Theology of Games
Courtesy Theology of Games

For those of you who don’t know, Shut Up & Sit Down is an excellent show about board games. Most of them are reviews, but there are a few Let’s Plays and specials sprinkled in. Paul and Quinns are great hosts, breaking down game mechanics and thematic elements in concise and entertaining matters, and games feel truly reviewed, not just discussed. They are also, however, horrible bastards. There are a few games out there I simply have to acquire in the future, and I blame them entirely for making me aware of said games.

I unfortunately have not played NetRunner in some time. As it is a two-player game, it can be difficult in my situation to nail down a convenient time for myself and another person inclined towards asymmetrical living card game play with a dystopian cyberpunk theme to throw down. However, it still very much appeals to me, and more expansions have been added since I last played. I want to experiment with these new cards and find both the most fun and subversive Runner deck and the most obstinate and dastardly Corporate deck I can build. I like deckbuilding, I like Blade Runner and Snow Crash and Deus Ex, so NetRunner remains a winner.

One of SU&SD’s most recent reviews was Tales of Arabian Knights. I’m a great fan of storytelling, especially in a collaborative setting, and Tales seems particularly inclined towards creating new tales with fun and interesting twists. The fact that the game is pure cooperation like Arkham Horror but with more chances for your friends to be directly involved in your actions is also an idea I like. I like games where players are encouraged to work together, even if there can only be one ultimate winner. It seems to me that, in Tales, everybody wins if the stories told make everybody laugh or keep everybody interested.

So that’s a co-op game. But what is this “semi co-op” distinction I’ve heard? Archipelago is such a game, according to the boys, and it centers around representing colonialism in a very thematic way without referencing direct historical events. The game begins with exploration on the open sea, and players travel to new undiscovered islands to expand their holdings. The land must be exploited to get ahead, and while there is no true extermination to make Archipelago a true 4X game on a board, it feels so close to the likes of Civilization and Master of Orion that I’ve nearly bought it a couple times already. You and the other players do need to prevent disaster and uprisings to keep the game going, but in the end, only one of you will acquire enough victory points to be the winner.

Terra Mystica has no co-operative elements whatsoever, but the elements it does have really appeal to me. In the review, it’s clear that progression is a balancing act, weighing the potential to win points over the speed of future expansions. In Terra Mystica, your fantasy race must transform the very land itself in order to expand its holdings, sort of like if the races of SmallWorld took up agriculture (…and sorcery and elemental worship and aggressive territorial expansion through real estate). I can see chess-like move-countermove action happening in this game, as well as unexpected twists like casting the right spell at the right time or the sudden rise of a cult. It’s one of those games where it seems no two games would be alike, and that is right up my alley.

Last but certainly not least is just about any game designed by Vlaada Chv├ítil. I’ve played Galaxy Trucker once, and I’d love to do it again, this time focusing more on my opponents’ misfortune than my own. It’s that kind of game; there’s just as much fun in a little schadenfreude as there is in building spaceships. Mage Knight has strong appeal due to its theme of powerful wizards striding across the world doing battle to win glory and power, and as intimidating as the rules might be, wrapping my mind around them seems like a worthy challenge. Then there’s Space Alert. I’ve heard it is an intense, challenging and ultimately hilarious game, much like Artemis for computers or Spaceteam for mobile devices. We shall have to see!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I like board games. I like them a lot. I want to play more of them, and in fact, I’ve been contemplating some ideas of my own that may or may not get developed in the near future. My challenge is finding people to play with. I appreciate a solitaire experience as much as the next gamer, but sometimes, you want to share the game with at least one other person, and let strategy, interaction, laughter and the occasional verbal deluge of caustic profanity fill your evening.

At least, that’s what I want.

© 2019 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑