Welcome to the Board Game Review With Jason blog here on BoardGameGeek. I wanted to start this companion blog to my Board Game Review With Jason video podcast (see this Geeklist). My idea is that I would use this blog to share my experiences in making a video podcast on board games, think through my next episode with the community, and discuss direction of the podcast as a whole. I would like to get more feedback than I am currently receiving and develop the podcast on the whole more with feedback from a community of potential viewers as the podcast develops. My hope is that I can steer the podcast in a direction that would be both enjoyable for me to produce as well as useful to the community.
So, first I would like to write a little bit about my motivation for starting this podcast. First, I love board games -- gamers' games, strategy games, Euro games, etc. Second, I love teaching and explaining things in depth. Third, I love analyzing things, synthesizing things, categorizing things. I think these three things fall in line with the person who motivated me to rekindle my interest in board games: Scott Nicholson and his Board Games With Scott video podcast. I come nowhere near the quality of his podcast, though I am indebted to him for his rekindling of my interest in the hobby as well as providing a template which I think works well for a board game video podcast. Fourth, I love editing video at an amateur level.
I also recognize areas I need to improve on, especially showing the enthusiasm I have internally for what I am doing. I want to be open and welcome constructive criticism and ways I can improve. I see it as a challenge for myself to improve -- another motivation for my doing this podcast. So, please bear with me and help me improve by offering any suggestions you may have, for this area of improvement or otherwise.
I next wanted to touch on some of the experiences I have had making the six episodes I have done so far. Before I started the video podcast series, I did some initial research and I kept coming across the suggestion to just get some episodes out there and get started on podcasting. That's what I did with my first three episodes. I did them in fairly quick succession and didn't worry too awful much about certain things. I still concentrated on quality, but one of my goals was also to get things going.
Episode 1 was on Campaign Manager 2008. I did some thinking about which game I wanted to start off with. I knew I didn't want to do something too light or too heavy. I was playing this game at the time, so it seemed like as good a choice as any. I spent a lot of time figuring out the format, what I was going to say, and how I was going to frame the shots. I also found out how hard it was talking to a camera and just being yourself. I used what I had at the time: a Flip camera rigged the best I could with the best lighting I could. But, I got the shots and looked forward to editing it all together. I edited it all using iMovie which was fun and then I was ready to publish. When I published out of iMovie and was watching playback, I noticed the audio was getting out of sync with the video. After some googling, I found out others ran into this issue as well and the workaround was to detach the audio before publishing. That is a big annoyance in an otherwise enjoyable aspect of the process. Then it was time to distribute it. I set up a YouTube account and realized I had a 15 minute time limit, so I had to split the episode into parts. Then I added the YouTube videos to the videos section of the BGG game page. I then wanted to concentrate on it being an actual podcast, so I set up a Blogger account and blog, created an RSS feed on FeedBurner, and submitted the feed to iTunes. I was actually surprised at how complicated and technical that whole process was. This is one area of podcasting I definitely feel could be streamlined, more user friendly, and less technical (although I am a technical-oriented person). I really wanted this to be one per episode and not have to split it into parts, so I found I could upload the episode in its entirety to archive.org and link from there. So, I now had a YouTube channel, a blog, an RSS feed, presence in iTunes, and submission to BGG for some cool GG. I also created a post on BGG in the Podcasts and Blogs forum announcing the episode and podcast as well as starting the Geeklist. Whew!
I wanted to do something heavier for my second episode. I had recently gotten Axis & Allies Europe 1940 to go with Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 for the massive global game. I thought it would be cool to do an episode on that. This episode really ballooned! I decided to do it on the Axis & Allies family, concentrating on these two recent releases to show how to play and give my review. Going over the rules of these two games made it long enough, and including an introduction to the game family and my review made the episode a really long one! It ended up being 7 parts and over 1.5 hours in length! This was when I realized I was going to need to concentrate more on brevity. However, this has turned out to be my most popular episode in terms of number of views, comments, and feedback. I am still surprised on the positive feedback I am getting on this episode. This is not really the type of game I wanted to concentrate my podcast on. I wanted it to cover more of the Euro/family strategy games in which my interest had been kindled recently. But maybe this is where the need was? It was for a game that did not have many reviews (the recent 1940 versions specifically) and no videos at the time. Maybe that is part of the reason? Another setback/learning experience in the podcast production process needs to be mentioned here. When editing this video, I did it all in one project. When it came time for the workaround in iMovie to detach the audio, about 1/4th the way through the project, iMovie really started slowing down. A little bit further, and it started to grind to a halt. Unfortunately, I did not backup my project and could not get iMovie to open the project. I lost all my editing work! At least I still had all the footage, but I had to re-edit all over again. Lesson learned: always backup your work and do it in parts!
After all that, I definitely needed a lighter game and episode. So, for episode 3, I reviewed Smart Ass, a game my family really enjoys. I really wanted this to fit in one part (15 minutes). I actually cranked this one out in one day. After I finished it, I wondered if had I hurried through it. I was and am still fairly happy with it, so I don't think so. I think it was just in comparison to what I had just finished with the Axis & Allies episode.
So, at this point I had reached a milestone. I had 3 episodes under my belt. I had gotten used to the process of thinking through the episode, framing the shots, getting the footage, editing it, and publishing it. Now I wanted to take a step back and think about the podcast as a whole and what I wanted to do with it. I came up with a few ideas which I will detail later in the Thoughts on Direction section of this post. But, I really wanted to get back to actually making the episodes. I didn't want to leave the podcast hanging and get too caught up in planning. So, I went back to making more episodes, but still keeping in mind the ideas I came up with and continuing down that path to determine what to do in the next few episodes and which games to cover.
For the fourth episode, I did an official kick-off episode where I explained the goal of the podcast and the types of games I wanted to concentrate on (Euro/strategy games). Since I was targeting "new converts," I used this episode to go over categorizations, terms, etc. It was really just me in front of the camera going blah-blah-blah. To give it some variety, I used the third segment to do a screen cast of using BoardGameGeek to learn about new games. This has been my worst episode so far in terms of viewership. I'm pretty sure it's because it was just me in front of the camera and my weakness really showed through. I know it was quite boring for the viewer, but I thought it an important episode to do.
Since I had talked about "gateway games" in episode 4, I thought it only natural to do episode 5 on a Ticket to Ride. I chose my favorite, Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition. I really enjoyed making this episode. It was good to get back to actually covering a specific game and how to play it.
For episode 6, my latest episode, I chose 1960: The Making of the President. This is where I really need to get to Thoughts on Direction, so let's jump right to it.
Thoughts on Direction
To illustrate my Thoughts on Direction, here is a table showing the games I have covered along with theme and my opinion of weight (party, light, medium, heavy).
Campaign Manager 2008 / political / light
Axis & Allies / war / heavy
Smart Ass / trivia / party
Ticket to Ride / train, gateway / light
1960: The Making of the President / political / medium
My target audience for the podcast is a newcomer to Euro/strategy games or "potential converts." But, I don't want to harp on that too much as I think it is overstated to some degree. I want to concentrate on detailed reviews of games and how to play them. What I found so fascinating with BGWS is that I could see all the bits, how they came together in the flow of play, and could get a good feeling for the game and whether or not I would like it. So I want to make sure the majority of my episodes concentrate on a game and how to play it.
However, I want there to be an overall game plan. I want the podcast to be something more as a whole, not just a collection of episodes on different games. I want to look at the episodes in my podcast and see an overarching theme and quality -- a sort of story being told.
I have the potential to work off what I have already done. If I do an episode on Twilight Struggle in the near future, I have the potential to do a separate episode bringing the political theme together with a progression in weight. I could use the episode to compare (card driven, etc.) and contrast (how events are played) the games in the trilogy. So, if you are interested in the political genre, my podcast would give you a progression of episodes on how to play this progression in weight of games in this trilogy.
I have a similar potential with party/trivia games. I've done one on Smart Ass. I also own Wits & Wagers and Bezzerwizzer. I wouldn't have the progression of weight here. It's kind of hard to find a heavy party game. But there is the trivia theme. Each game of these three uses different mechanics for the popular trivia type game a lot of people enjoy. I think an episode (after I have done one on the separate games in an of themselves) looking at how each of these games tries to make a trivia game interesting would be ... well interesting.
Thinking further down the road, I also started this thread trying to think through the civilization genre and which three games would be good candidates as a light, medium, and heavy weight civilization game. I own Antike (light) and Civilization (heavy), but the problem with using those two is that they are hard to find. Another qualification would be that the games need to be relatively easy to find and off the shelf (so no PnP).
So it would be kind of like what Scott was doing in the last few episodes of his podcast, except that I would do a separate episode on the games I would use in my comparison episode and the comparison would be on how different games use different mechanics for the theme (e.g., party/trivia example) or how they change (e.g., political trilogy; change perhaps because of weight?) rather than a survey of games using a particular mechanic.
Please comment or provide feedback on anything I have said, but things I am particularly looking for are:
What are your suggestions for improving my podcast, presentation, workflow, etc.?
Do I have a good idea for the direction of my podcast? Do you see an audience for it? Or am I over-thinking things and if I'm going to do a podcast on board games, stick to the latest and greatest fad and add one more video review?