I’ve done this kind of thing before, but with the launch of my “Podcast Report” segment, I thought it would be good to do a general review of all the podcasts that I currently listen to (or have decided not to listen to, in a few cases).
I hope that I haven’t missed anything, but if I did then it’s probably not that important anyway. I’ve divided the podcasts into their main focus (boardgames or RPG’s), but sometimes they crossover, so don’t be totally surprised if you get a little RPG in with your boardgame discussion.
And just to give you some quick idea of which are my favorites, I’ve used my patented Podcast Review Scale for each entry. So, on with the podcasts!
Board Games With Scott – Scott is the granddaddy of boardgaming video podcasting. Over the last year or so, he’s had a bit of an ennui about this vid-cast, but seems to have figured out a new format recently that has reinvigorated his interest. I know that there’s a ton of people making videos about boardgames now, but most of them pale in comparison to the “original” master.
Boardgame Babylon – The only complaint I ever have about Eric Burgess’ podcast is that it doesn’t come out often enough. His focus is mostly eurogames, and has a lot of interviews with designers and boardgame glitterati, especially surrounding the LA-area Strategicon conventions.
Boardgames to Go – Mark Johnson was one of the first boardgame podcasters, and he continues to be one of the best. The podcast is decidedly “no frills”, but his perspective is also one of the most unique and thought-provoking in the entire podosphere. When this podcast shows up on my iPod, it’s usually the first thing I listen to.
Collateral Gamage! – This is a new podcast, but it has hit the ground running. The format is basically a review of the recent games they’ve played, followed by a pretty in-depth review of one specific game. It’s a group effort, and they have some pretty nice interplay between them. They are still a bit naive in their experience with modern boardgames, but they still make some nice observations. And as of right now, they are attempting to make a weekly schedule. I’m definitely keeping my eye on them, and my interest in their shows is usually related to my interest in the game they are reviewing.
Comic Geek Speak: Game On – I’ve never listened to the regular Comic Geek Speak podcast, but I tried out the first few “Game On” episodes that they released. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this podcast, but it’s obvious that they are comic book experts talking about games. So their perspective is more of people who are new to the hobby and are just really discovering all that boardgames have to offer. So to me, it’s not very interesting.
The d6 Generation – The d6 Gen crew (Russ, Craig, Raef, and Nicole) are clearly the most entertaining of all the podcasters that I listen to. They are exceptionally ecclectic, spending time on miniature wargaming, boardgames, role-playing games, a little bit of video gaming, geek culture (books, movies, and TV), and even legal issues that pertain to the gaming industry (which is a really cool niche that they can meet because Raef if a lawyer). Their shows often run 4-5 hours, and they can be all over the place. But even when they are discussing something that doesn’t really interest me at all, their banter and “not-too-horrible” humor keep me engaged and entertained. And more than any other podcast, I think that they have expanded my horizons to be able to understand and appreciate more facets of the hobby game community.
The Dice Tower – Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower is the big dog in the boardgame podcasting world. And personally, I think that his current co-host, Eric Summerer, is the best one he’s ever had. Tom’s taste in games don’t exactly line up with mine (I perfer my games a bit more strategic/euro than he does), but this is also another entertaining show to listen to regardless.
Game On! with Cody and John – This is the one, true “Game On” podcast. Cody and John hit the ground running a couple of years ago, and have put out quality shows the entire time. I think that what I like best about them is their desire and attempts to build the gaming community, and I find that their topics are also quite thought-provoking. They have always been very boardgame focused, but recently (and because of the influence of the d6 Generation) have delved into miniature wargaming (Warmachine) as well.
Garrett’s Games & Geekiness – Doug Garrett (and his wife Shelley) are the only consistent weekly boardgame podcast. They have a very informal show where they discuss games that they have played recently and explore them a little. Doug has a lot of experience with modern boardgames, and always has some really nice insights about the games and the larger gaming community.
Happy Happy Board Game Love In – Luke Morris (HamsterOfFury) is… well, special. The HHBGLI podcast is a rambling, stream-of-conscious monologue filled with the apparent ravings of a madman. But it’s also absolutely freaking hillarious and, at times, staggeringly insightful. He has these crazy segment bumpers, which are just recordings of him singing or speaking in a silly voice or something like that, and most of his show is either totally made up or in some way satirical. But it’s always fun and entertaining, and I just wish he’d make these masterpieces more often.
The How to Play Podcast – Ryan Sturm hosts this podcast that does exactly what the title implies: teach you how to play certain boardgames. For me personally, it’s not all that useful most of the time, because I pick up on rules pretty quickly and often do most of the rules teaching for my game group anyway. And it’s hard (and pretty boring) for me to listen to someone explain a game that I already know how to play. But Ryan’s technique is brilliant, and he does a fantastic job with all of his podcasts. And if you’re interested in any of the games that he’s done a show about, you couldn’t find a better place to find out how to play…
Into the Gamescape – At one time, this podcast was at the top of my favorites list. But for whatever reason, they have been released with less and less frequency, and the regular stable of hosts have not always been available. So while I’d still recommend subscribing to Into the Gamescape, I really encourage you to look into their older episodes for some really fantastic content.
I’ve Been Diced! – I mentioned this new podcast a few months ago, and overall I’m a bit less excited about them than I was back then. They aren’t releasing shows very often, and while they have a wealth of gaming experience, most of it seems to be with older (80’s-90’s era) games. So while I like the round-table format and some of their discussion, I’ve not always been crazy about their discussion topics. But I’m still listening and hoping for them to get some momentum going.
Little Wooden Cubist – This is another mostly-solo podcast featuring Charley Eastman, the Little Wooden Cubist. For a long time, I thought that it had gone into “pod-fade”, but over the last two months he has relaunched the pocast with a new and more reasonable monthly schedule. I’ve enjoyed Charley’s content and perspective from the beginning, and I’m hoping that this new era of shows will be as good as he was before.
The Messy Game Room – Mike and Marshall have their own take on the hobby, which includes a healthy dose of wargaming in addition to more euro-centric games. And of all the boardgame podcasts, this is the most abrupt, in-your-face, borderline abusive, and at times, honest. I definitely get the sense that they sometimes get wrapped up a little too much in being the “bad boys” of boardgame podcasting, and the language can be pretty terrible most of the time, but I still enjoy listening to them.
Myriad Games Presentations – Dan Yarrington runs the Myriad Games game store in Salem, NH, and this podcast is an outgrowth of his attmept to serve the hobby. They actually have a number of different kinds of shows, ranging from interviews and event coverage to round-table game reviews. My interest tends to depend on the subject matter, but the interplay between the hosts is usually entertaining either way.
On Board Games – This podcast is hosted by game industry veterans Scott Nicholson, Erik Dewey and Donald Dennis, and always revolves around a central round-table discussion of some particular topic. The topics are usually interesting, and the discussion is always insightful and informative. I could listen to these guys talk to each other all day, and my least favorite part is how they are always seeming to cut off discussion at what I usually feel is an artifically early point. I highly recommend this podcast as well for any experienced boardgamer.
Pulp Gamer – Pulp Gamer is actually a “network” of different podcasts. This network includes the d6 Generation, Game On! with Cody and John, Myriad Games Presentations, The Game’s the Thing, and Fear the Boot, which are all independently-produced podcasts now are linked under the Pulp Gamer family. But Pulp Gamer also produces a number of podcasts “in house”, and I’ll get into them all here:
Out of Character – OOC is the best thing put out by the actual Pulp Gamer crew. And one of the things that has made it even better since they expanded their cast. They discuss news, new games, events, and all kinds of other stuff related to all of hobby gaming, and are very entertaining to listen to. They also now have a regular segment on their feedback shows dedicated to my buddy, TomG, appropriately named the “TomG Spot”. You gotta listen to it!
Inside Track – Inside Track is an interview show, and it does its job well. My interest completely depends on the subject of the interview, however, so I can’t be too excited about the whole series.
Family Night – There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Family Night, other than the fact that I’m not the target audience. It’s aimed at people new to the hobby and, obviously, families who play games together. Many of the topics discussed are pretty elementary to experienced gamers, however, and I tend to lose interest pretty quickly.
Game Kennel – Pulp Gamer used to have a game review show called “King’s Court”, which I loved. Then they sold out to Mayfair Games and I lost all respect for them. Game Kennel fails mainly because it is, essentially, a series of game commercials. I’m not against the idea of corporate sponsorship, but there’s just no real value in these shows. They never point out weaknesses in the games or say anything particularly negative, and they are only “reviewing” games from their sponsors. And they’ve reviewed a ton of Mayfair games, some of which are absolute stinkers, but which all are still recommended for some reason or to some kind of person or another. So when I’m looking for reliable information about a game on which to base a buying decision, I can’t trust them at all, and therefore, I can’t recommend this podcast to anyone, for any reason.
The Spiel – Stephen Conway and Dave Coleson host this segment-based, bi-weekly (meanings fortnightly, just to be clear) podcast about boardgames. They are one of the longest-lasting, most popular, and most reliable podcasts out there, all for good reason. The Spiel is well-organized and its hosts have a passion both for games and gamers. They’ve even started up the Spiel Foundation, which is a non-profit organization with the goal of getting good games into children’s hospitals and senior centers. They can be a little over-the-top corny at times, but I still really enjoy their shows.
TableGamer Weekly – I’ve mentioned this show recently as well, and my opinion hasn’t changed much. They do a good job, but their relative inexperience in the hobby makes their discussion and opinion a little less-than-valuable to me.
2d6 Feet in a Random Direction – Chris Hanrahan is a game-store-owner and Brian Isikoff is an alpha gamer, and they have some great discussions that bring these two perspectives together. They range from discussion and reviews of new games all the way to thoughts about roleplaying theory and the industry as a whole.
Actual People, Actual Play – This is not a podcast that includes actual play recordings. Instead, the shows include a brief summary of what happened in a game session, followed by a round-table discussion of the events of the story, how the game system supported play, and general thoughts about the game. It’s freaking brilliant, and more podcasts should adopt this model.
Cannon Puncture – This is a solid podcast with a few different types of shows, mostly run by Rich Rogers, but also co-hosted by Mick Bradley, Judd Karlman, and Arnold Cassell. The most awesome thing recently on the feed is the Game Advocates series, where Rich finds someone who is a big fan of a particular game and then interviews them about it.
Fear the Boot – Fear the Boot is a very solid show. But for me and my current interests, it’s just too focused on traditional RPG’s. Lots of people like it, though, so if you interest lies there, check them out.
Game On! – I list this show mainly because I don’t want you to confuse it with Game On! with Cody and John (see above). This show pretty much sucks, and I think that its main purpose was to give the hosts a chance to laugh at their own jokes. I don’t know if the ther d20 radio shows are equally terrible, but I’m in no hurry to check them out.
The Game Master Show – This is my absolute favorite actual “actual play” show. Between the personalities of the hosts and the games they play (and probably some aggressive editing), I always enjoy their podcasts. They’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately, but supposedly are coming back soon. My favorite session was the Time & Temp game where they were trying to stop Wil Wheaton from going back and altering the scripts on STtNG to keep Wesley Crusher from being such a douche. If that makes you happy to read, then definitely check them out.
The Game’s the Thing – I love the hosts Ron and Veronica Blessing, but am not so crazy about the normal subject (Savage Worlds). Still, their discussion is worth the time investment for me.
The Independent Insurgency – I’m not sure if this is officially in “pod fade”, but the back catalog of interviews from this podcast are worth checking out no matter what. If you’re interested in indie games or game design, you owe it to yourself to listen to these interviews with game designers.
Narrative Control – Sean Nittner and Justin Evans “continue the conversation” in this podcast, picking up discussions from various blogs, forums, and other online sources and then going through them in detail. They have great things to say, and I always find myself learning something new about the indie-game world.
Ninja vs. Pirates – This is another “interview with the designer” podcast, except that they do not limit themselves to any one type of game. I mean, really, they’ve done interviews with Steve Jackson and Matt Leacock as well as a number of RPG designers. I appreciate their broad range of interests, but the result is that sometimes I’m not as interested in the game or designer, and sometimes they don’t seem quite as knowledgeable and interested in it either.
Smiling Jack’s Bar and Grill – My opinion of this podcast is pretty much identical to The Game’s the Thing, because the hosts are almost identical and the content is similar as well. I’m listening and I enjoy it, but I don’t care so much about the Savage Worlds content.
Stabbingcontest’s Podcast – I really don’t have a firm opinion of this podcast yet (since I only discovered it recently), but I’ve enjoyed it so far.
That’s How We Roll – Chris Hanrahan joins Fred Hicks for another interesting podcast with a very unique perspective. Fred brings insight and insider information about game publishing, while Chris is an expert in game retail. And together, they have some great discussions both about specific games and larger game trends.
Theory from the Closet – This podcast is Clyde Rhoer’s exploration of game design theory. It is at times rambling, sometimes vague, and occasionally brilliant. I just wish that he would pick it back up and produce shows more regularly.
The Voice of the Revolution – This is the official podcast of Indie Press Revolution. But while it does focus some on products and stuff with the online store, it also takes time to discuss broader issues in gaming and provide some relatively objective reviews.
The Walking Eye Podcast – This is the other actual play podcst that I’m listening to right now. I don’t care as much for the actual play episodes, but their review and interview shows (with the designers) are really good.
History of the World in 100 Objects – I can’t remember how I found this, but it’s a very interesting diversion when I tire of gaming podcasts or I’ve listened to them all. If you care for history, the 15-minute-or-less format is very approachable and easy to listen to.
This American Life – You probably already know about this show, because it’s one of the most popular podcasts on the internet (as well as a successful radio and TV program). But I keep downloading and listening to it because it’s freaking good.
Today in the Past – John Hodgman is pretty hillarious, and these totally made-up “today in history” segments are great. They’re only a minute or two long, though, and some are better than others. But for the time investment, you’ve got to check them out.
So, what do you think? Have you listened to many of these podcasts, and do you agree with me. More importantly, are there any great gaming podcasts out there that I’m missing? Let me know!