I’ve been asked by several people (read: exactly one people) what I think of Wil Wheaton’s new YouTube series, Tabletop. For those not in the loop, this is a half-hour series posted every other Friday. Wheaton and some other minor nerd celebrities get together and play a hobby game, while graphics explain the rules of the game as they go. There have been two episodes released so far, Small World and The Settlers of Catan.
I’ve watched both of them, and overall I think they are quite good. The Small World episode is the better one, for a couple of reasons. First of all the guests are more animated and gregarious. (Among them is one of my personal favorites, Grant Imahara from Mythbusters.) Small World is also a slightly more obvious game in terms of rules. It can be explained pretty quickly, and the objective of conquering your opponents is familiar and intuitive. So my first impressions were very positive.
The Settlers of Catan episode is a little rockier. It remains one of the best games ever, but its greatness is a little less obvious unless you yourself are right there around the table. For a game of Catan, it seemed pretty subdued to me. Wheaton practically admits that the game sounds boring, which isn’t a good start. But then Catan is already one of the biggest gaming hits of the last 20 years, so more people are already familiar with it.
The look of the whole thing is very slick and professional. It’s a welcome change from the usual board game video, which usually just involves a pair of hands talking over a table scattered with components. I think I would rather see regular opponents playing the game who aren’t semi-famous, because that would allow some fun inside jokes and some better back-and-forth around the table. As it is, a lot of the jabbering now revolves around how people are learning the game and so forth. Games are more interesting for everyone when everyone is already familiar, and the graphics do the heavy lifting of the explanation anyway.
But yeah, it’s a good start. The next episode should be posted this Friday, about Zombie Dice and a couple other little games. I hope he eventually goes for hobby stuff that’s a little more off the beaten path (a relative term, that). I’d love to see the real-time frenzy of Galaxy Trucker, for example. But as is it’s a great way to introduce hobby games to people around you who may be interested in joining you for game night sometime.