I’m thinking about Tabletop

About a year ago, I finished shooting the first season of my show Tabletop, and had a few weeks off before we began editing the games we played into hopefully entertaining television.

I don’t remember what I did during those weeks — probably slept a whole lot — but when we got into editing, I clearly remember how terrified I was that the show wouldn’t work. The first cut of the first episode was (following my direction) too long, tough to follow, and just not as interesting as I wanted it to be. Luckily, Felicia Day was in the edit bay with me, and she knew exactly how to fix it. She gave notes and advice to the editor (who was amazing), and when we came back two days later to watch the second cut, it was an entirely different show. It was funny, it was entertaining, it captured how much fun it was to play the game. It was what I had always hoped Tabletop would be.

For the next few weeks, we cut the entire season, three episodes at a time, with three amazing and talented editors. By the time we got to the end of everything, we almost knew what we were doing!

As we got closer and closer to the premiere, I kept looking for the familiar nervous anxiety about how people would react, but it wasn’t ever there. I believed in the show in a way I’d never really been able to believe in myself, and I just wanted to share it with the world.

Tabletop’s premiere was a huge success that exceeded my wildest dreams. I think we got close to half a million views almost immediately, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. My friend John Rogers says that you should expect comments to be weighted 3:1 in favor of people hating on a thing, because someone who loves a thing goes “I loved that! I guess I’ll go back to my life now!” instead of going “I loved that! NOW I WILL ENGAGE ALL CAPS TO TELL THE PERSON WHO MADE IT HOW MUCH I LOVED IT.” Even with that adjustment, we were at like 10:1 positives to negatives.

As the season unfolded, I began to hear from game shop owners. When we played a game on Tabletop, it sold out. I heard from designers that when we played their games, they sold thousands and thousands of them. I heard from a distributor that one of the games we played sold out and had to go into a new printing — they thought 30,000 copies of the game would be enough, and they were wrong.

But the most amazing thing, that I didn’t even expect or think about even a little bit, were the personal stories from people who had been inspired to start up their own game nights with their friends and families because of Tabletop. One father told me that his tween kids spent every evening in front of their own computers or televisions, and after dinner he pretty much didn’t see his family until breakfast. But after watching Tabletop together, the kids were inspired to start a family game night. Tabletop, he told me, literally brought his family closer together.

There are dozens of parents of special needs children who have emailed me or talked to me at conventions, thanking me for giving them something that helps their children.

I even heard from a guy who felt like his marriage was drifting apart until he watched Tabletop with his wife and they started playing games together.

My ulterior motive with this show has always been to make more gamers by showing how much fun it is to play games, and I’m pretty confident that I can declare that effort an unqualified success.

Next week, we’re playing the Dragon Age RPG, and it will be the last two episodes of this season. We filmed it over a year ago, and I haven’t looked at it in almost as long. I don’t remember what happens, but I do remember how much fun it was to play with Chris Hardwick, Sam Witwer and Kevin Sussman in a game that was run by its designer, Chris Pramas. I’m excited for everyone to see it, but also a little sad that the season is coming to an end, because I don’t know if and when new episodes will air.

Tabletop means more to me than I ever thought it would, and the community that has grown around it makes me incredibly proud, but I didn’t do Tabletop alone. We had an incredible crew who could film people playing games in a visually interesting way. We had an incredible director who kept us together and focused on what was important. We had friends who came to play with me just because I asked, and game publishers who took a chance on our show without knowing exactly what it would end up being. I had an incredible creative partner in Felicia Day. I had a tremendously talented team of producers who pulled together an equally talented team of editors, who are the true unsung heroes of this entire effort.

And then there’s the community, which is as much a part of the success of Tabletop as anything. Whether you’re posting in the Geek and Sundry forums, sharing your stories and pictures on the Seen on Tabletop Tumblr I made, talking about games we played at Board Game Geek, or actually playing games with people who are important to you, you’re part of something wonderful.

So thank you for watching, and until next time … play more games.

100 thoughts on “I’m thinking about Tabletop”

  1. I know I’m coming to the discussion late, and I know someone has to have come up with a reason why not already; but, I would pay to watch more TT. ~this~ more than anything I’ve seen before begs for a Kickstarter. Or at least a ppv show. If Ricky friggin Gervais can charge for a podcast, surely enough gamers are interested in paying for S2?

    Meanwhile, thank you for Tabletop. Literally the best thing on YouTube by a country mile. It makes my life easier, as I feel it is informing people to the fact that board games does not mean tedious all night games of Monopoly.

    Thank you!

  2. I can’t imagine not having a second season of Tabletop! Kickstarter I say! If they don’t renew you, we will because we love the show. That’s how television SHOULD work. ;-) I hate to think I’m missing some really great games because they can’t be fit in a 30 minute video, but that’s just me. I think the perfect vehicle for a really, really fun longer game would be Google Hangout! Everyone loves a Hangout because we can interact – takes away the realization that you’ve been sitting in the same place for that long. ;-) Some of us really want to know how to do RPG campaigns, so some RPG theory vids would be priceless.

    You’ve done a wonderful job with this show and I’m pretty sure your audience would be up for doing whatever we can to ensure Season 2 gets made. It’s a vehicle that truly shares your love of something with your audience and that’s when you get the very best results. Being able to bask in your glow is a wonderful gift for people who might be able to afford a board game, but not the rest of the frills life offers. Having great moments of normal, enjoyable life before our eyes is a very special blessing. :-)

  3. I really love the show and I am thankful that you have made it. I wish you would cut down on the foul language and double entendra though. It makes it a little difficult for me to watch when I have to explain what “Get laid” means to my little girl. You could have just as easily said “chase girls” and we would have known what you meant. But I love the show and I am trying to bring the love of table top games to teh rest of my family. Thanks for your help!

  4. So for the last 9 year my friends and I have been playing Settlers and/or Seafears of Catan… that’s it nothing else.

    Once the first episode of Tabletop hit I rushed out to get SmallWorld and found that apart from the underworld edition it was sold out in New Zealand and they could not get any for 4 months from the overseas supplier. So I got Underground. Now our group plays that, and Catan, and Fluxx, and Pandemic, and Castle Panic and Alhambra, and Munchkin, and Ticket to Ride and Discworld: Ankh Morpork and Carcassonne.

    Tsuro, Last night on earth, Elder sign are all on my shopping list.

    It has also helped me and my two teenage sons. I only have them on the weekends and getting into more board games has been great so the time we have together is of higher quality with interaction rather than staring at screens. (Down side is more arguments)

    …oh yeah and now we watch Leverage – go Beth! – Go Khaos!

    1. I have purchased 3 games from mightyape.co.nz – they have a good selection and fast delivery times. You should check them out (if you haven’t already). (And no, I don’t work for them!)

  5. Wil, I don’t know if there is anything we as fans can do, but if you ask it of us, I am sure we would come in droves to help extend Tabletop for as long as humanly possible. Whether it be inserting ads into the videos, or starting a kickstarter to keep this going, I am more than willing to do whatever I can.

    I have shared Tabletop with so many people, and it has gotten so many of them back into gaming. This is simply too good of an idea to go away. It truly makes me sad to think that this amazing show might not continue on. Thank you Wil, Thank you Felicia, and Thank you everyone at Geek & Sundry.

  6. Add another parent to the list who is now playing games with his kids thanks to your show. My daughters (6 & 8) love watching Tabletop with me and playing Fluxx because of you. I owe you for bringing my daughters and I even closer together.

  7. Congrats on a great show! I enjoy watching the episodes. I got really excited when I saw that TARGET has a TABLETOP section in their games section of their toy department. I admit that the games are a bit pricey for me (I’m on SSI.), but if I could afford it, I’d buy them. I’m looking to find a gaymer (not a typo) group near me so I can play one of those games.

    Once again, congrats on a great show!

  8. You were in Australia for the SupaNova cons just after the show went up. I remember (briefly) discussing how great it looked and what a great job you had done in making gaming look like a fun thing to do with friends based on Small World and the Acquisitions Incorporated sessions.

    My kids are playing games now. I took Dixit with me to Laos and used it to help the locals improve their English skills.

    You deserve all the accolades you, and the team, are receiving.

  9. If YouTube isn’t bright enough to continue Tabletop, perhaps pitch it to Hulu or even Netflix since they are now branching out into original programming. When I first heard about Tabletop, I was a bit skeptical how a show about people playing a boardgame could actually be pulled off,. as gaming generally isn’t a “spectator” sport (may old gf’s term for us sitting around gaming). I was quite mistaken. It was entertaining, and got me to pull the old games out and revisit the fun times. I had with my friends.

    I agree that if funding can’t be secured through traditional means. a kickstarter drive should secure enough fundage for a second season. Besides Target of all places are carrying games now that we actually want to play! And that’s thanks to you, Felicia and the rest of the folks that make Tabletop a success.!

    Roll the dice and see what happens….

    1. Please don’t. It would surely be good to have new episodes, but if your international crowd can’t get to see them, we will be severely disappointed (and will probably pirate them).

      If you don’t secure funding via YouTube for another season, there is Kickstarter and IndieGoGo etc, that will keep your ability to reach worldwide audience, not just in the US.

  10. I thought Tabletop was amazing. My best friend and I usually hit the pub on Tuesdays for the local Beer of the Week (free glass and good beer – no complaints). One night he brought along Zombie Dice. I remember seeing that Table Top had an episode with Zombie Dice. I watched and I was hooked. So many games I had never heard of and games that I had always wanted to play but hadn’t gotten around to them, and here you were playing them. Thank you sir. And yes, still playing Zombie Dice.

  11. Hi Will,
    I just wanted to say thank you for making this show, I am a 26 year old married man, and I feel like an excited little schoolgirl every time I see there is a new episode up.

  12. I think it would be amazingly awesome if you did an “on location” episode at the only place that makes sense to play a board game. GEN CON. It is called “the best four days in gaming” for a reason, might as well add the best televised show in gaming to the line up as well.

  13. Hi Wil, I’ve got a Tabletop story I’d like to share with you.

    When I saw Gloom on Tabletop, I thought it looked like a really fun game, but I didn’t know who I could play it with. A couple weeks later, I went to a friends’ birthday party, and he had bought himself Gloom to play at his party. He introduced it saying something like, “I don’t know if you know who Wil Wheaton is, but he’s doing this web show where he showcases various games, and he featured this one, and it looked really cool, so I’d like to give it a try.” And I said, “I know Wil Wheaton, and I know Tabletop, and I’ve wanted to play Gloom since I saw it!”

    So we played, and had a blast, and that weekend I was going to see some of my family. We often play Settlers (and its various expansions) together, but I thought maybe they’d like Gloom too. So I called every game store in Winnipeg (3), and all of them said told me that they were sold out, and one of them told me that they weren’t even able to get stock in because their distributor had sold out. So I went to Amazon and I found out that they weren’t sold out, and I felt really bad because I wanted to support local gaming (I’ve since bought other Tabletop games from local stores), but I also really wanted to be able to play Gloom with my family. I didn’t get to play it that weekend, but I did eventually introduce Gloom to my family.

    The thing I really love about Gloom is… I’m a writer and a recently graduated philosophy major so I’m used to doing things with words, and people who know me are used to me being a words-doing-things-with sort of guy, so of course I love the storytelling aspect of Gloom, but I love even more that I’ve found that everyone I play with, even if they think of themselves as an “uncreative” person, has some kind of a story to tell about why their family is miserable and mine is happy. And I love sharing things that I love with people who I love. With Gloom, I get to share two things I love: games and storytelling.

    And I never would have known that Gloom existed without Tabletop, so, thanks for that!

  14. TableTop was the reason I subbed to GeekandSundry and is the only show other than On the Table, that I watch. It’s just too awesome not to keep going, Here’s hoping for future seasons. And as I always say, “We can never lose hope, for often, hope is all we have.” =)

  15. I am really hoping for a season 2! I love your show. I’ve shared it with all my friends. It has inspired us to have game nights and to open our own hobby game store. We’ve introduced our 6yr old son and our 12yr old nephew to games like Small World and Munchkin. It has been a lot of fun. Thank you for making such a great show!

  16. Hi, I really enjoy Tabletop! I’m looking forward to the rest of S1 and hopefully you’ll get picked up for another season. I’m there if you start a Kickstarter too!

    Thank you!

  17. Well I am a heavy user of BGG with an extensive library and I must say I was skeptical of the show but after watching it I am impressed. It certainly is not a show targeted at Wallace or Feld fans directly but I think it is the ultimate hybrid show. You are targeting mainstream audiences yet you are not insulting to hardcore boardgamers. More importantly, you are not over simplistic in your explanations nor do you dumb the explanations down. I can tell you for a fact that the impact of this show on the local Chicago land games stores has been massive and I have students who know I love boardgames coming up to me and talking about your show and asking if I can show them some of the games you played.

    Kudos to you Will you have done the rare thing of being a great messenger of a hobby without commodifying it and I can tell in the videos that the whole crew love to play games and are hardcore gamers themselves.

  18. Hey, I can log in again. All of last week I couldn’t, not even with my WP account (I could get into my own WP account via wordpress.com but nothing worked here). Random.

    I really hope Tabletop will continue and considering the success stories above maybe you could help raise funding from the games publishers/distributors? They are making free money off you so a few bucks wouldn’t hurt them.

  19. I am one of the many people that after watching an episode of Tabletop, decided that playing games with my family would help bring us closer together. I see my son spending so much time on the computer playing a game that I can’t play and I thought board games….could be the answer. I agree with all the Kickstarter ideas. I can’t get enough of this show. It has changed our family forever! I would absolutely pay for it! Thank you for these incredible episodes and I will cross my fingers and hope for more!

  20. Have you guys done something like an Amazon Affiliate program with these games? More than once I’ve wanted to buy a game after watching an episode but I felt like you should be getting some credit for it.

    It looks like you must have some kind of promotion with Target because you do put the link to their games section, but not direct links to the actual game, unless I missed it somewhere.

    I’m sure you want people to support their local game shops, but I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with giving people a direct link to purchase the game in a way that benefits the show.

  21. I, like many others here, am really hoping for a season 2.

    My TableTop story begins just like any other. I was into RPGs and tabletop wargaming (40k etc) in my high school days, but that fell away once life got in the way. Now I was always a big fan of Felicia Day (via Buffy, Dollhouse etc) so I was immediately interested when I saw she was starting up a YouTube channel. I also liked Star Trek (mostly Voyager and DS9, but to a lesser extent TNG) from way back, not so much a Trekkie but I semi-regularly watched the shows and liked them. So I knew the name Wil Wheaton, but really only as That Annoying Kid.

    The premise of TableTop grabbed me from the word go – I had a little bit of a gaming background, but had never really played boardgames much past Uno, Scrabble, Monopoly et al. Watched the first episode (Small World) and thought – you know what, this actually looks like a lot of fun. I got my wife to watch it, she was a bit unsure of Small World, but I got her to persist through Catan etc. Ticket To Ride was the game that “sold” the idea. In a bid to give us a bit more face-to-face interaction, and not just sitting there all night watching TV or on our indivudual computers, I grabbed a couple of games and the rest is history. Thanks to TableTop and BoardGameGeek, I think I’ve just recently ticked past the 30-game mark, with plenty more on my wishlist.

    Our 4-year-old loves watching us play games, she can play simpler games like Hey! That’s my Fish, BLokus or Carcassonne (of course when we play 3 player, my wife and I play dirty against each other, and Phoebe normally sails through and wins because we leave her alone) and I love the extra face-to-face family time that we get. I’ve also been lucky enough to convert a few friends to the hobby and we have regular game nights now. I’ve done a fair bit of work and research on my own to get to this point, but thanks must go to Wil and the G&S folks for providing the catalyst. And I hope he would be genuinely pleased about this sort of story, as I believe that was his intention – to bring new and lost gamers into or back into the fold. More gamers means a thriving game industry, which means more and better games for all.

    I don’t always love all the games featured on the show, but I love Wil’s enthusiasm and the fine work by all the crew who record and edit a very entertaining show. Here’s to a second season, and many more to come.

  22. Shut up and take my money!

    (Seriously, if a season two doesn’t happen, we got you, WIl. We got you. KickStart [or whatever] that bitch up. TableTop rocks, and though I rarely play games simply due to an odd work schedule and everyone else working like the daywalkers they are, I still love them, and TableTop is great fun. Congrats on your success and here’s hoping for more.)

  23. I’ve been running a Beer Geek/Board Game Meetup day every other week on the North County Board Game Group Meetup site: http://www.meetup.com/San-Diego-North-County-Game-Group/

    Attendance has skyrocketed with people saying, “I heard about these games from Tabletop”. Many have said they don’t know where to buy games, or felt intimidated by attending meetups in game stores. My meetup is very skewed towards the newbie AND people who are passionate about teaching others games. We have a wonderful mix. This last weekend we had about 10 new players, brought by the previous session’s new members or people who came because they had seen Tabletop.

    Of course, I’m always happy to teach people about craft beer, too. The meetup has been successful all around. :)

    PS: If you’re down at Stone in Esco at some point, I’d be happy to throw down a game or have you drop by to encourage our members to be excellent to each other.

  24. I grew up watching my older brother play D&D, and acquired his collection when he tired of it. Like him I too found myself abandoning the tabletop life for video games and the pursuit of the fairer sex. It was around 2010 when I attended the/my first PAX East event that I found my way back to tabletop gaming, but it wasn’t really until I saw TableTop that I realized what was out there and how much I’ve missed. Now like many that have posted here I have been attending regular game nights with both friends and family.

    The impact your show has been on my family is definitely one to be proud of. My comment about your shows impact on my Down Syndrome nephew made it to the as seen on tabletop site, and my sister was even able to track down some mountain dwarves and have them forge a replica “TableTop Trophy of Awesome” for my niece (a picture that recently has also found its way to the seen on tabletop site). Even my sister who grew up anti gaming, and who has stated on more than one occasion she would rather suffer a root canal than to be caught playing those silly games has now come to be known in our house as the Munchkin Queen, since she now wins every time we play.

    I can understand that there is probably a lot more involved with obtaining a second season, but I like many here would definitely contribute to a kickstarter or whatever other means would help lock down a second season. However I have faith that the show, impact its had, and the community its brought into the lime light more than speaks for itself to guarantee a second season. In either case of the outcome my family and I thank you and everyone involved in the making and production of TableTop for all you do and have done.

  25. so i’m slow to this thread (too?) but we are loving playing Fobidden Island as family of 4 (the girls are 8 and 10). i get a little too, too, too competitive with the kids so having a cooperative game is just the thing (damn that island!). keep up the great work.

  26. TableTop has been fantastic at introducing me to new, awesome games, and has been invaluable for me to direct friends to so they can get a feel for a game and decide if it’s something we should all try playing! Thanks Wil!

  27. I recently started playing more Boardgames, and while reading the rules is good, I find that I learn more from seeing it played. So when a friend invited me over to play Twilight Imperium I searched for videos. Found Table top and had a blast watching the show, even though it was not about the game I was looking for. Now that I have a part time Job at a gaming store I have watched all the episodes and use that information to help the customers that come in looking for games. Here is to a 2nd season and I can’t wait.

  28. Your show is amazing. If Kickstarter is what it takes to bring a season 2 to this show, please do it. I know a lot of people who will gladly pay to watch it. You show others why and how board games bring people/spouses/families together. Tabletop is not just good; it is GREAT and SIGNIFICANT in the world of board gaming.

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