Category Archives: Tabletop

March 30 is International Tabletop Day

As promised, the Very Big Tabletop Announcement is here. Take it away, Felicia!

We have wanted to do International Tabletop Day since we premiered a year ago, and we’ve been working on making it happen for almost as long.

At tabletopday.com, you can find and join events in your town, or create your own! You can play wherever you want, but if you go to your friendly local gameshop, you may just get one of the Tabletop Day exclusive bonuses for games like Gloom, Dixit, 7 Wonders, Castle Panic, Smash Up, and more. It’s so so so awesome, you guys, and I can’t wait for you to see the amazing things our friends in the games industry have created for you.

The very best thing about Tabletop, for me, isn’t that I get to play games for my job or that I get to hang out with awesome people while I do it. I know that seems like it would be the most awesome thing about Tabletop, but it isn’t. The most awesome thing about Tabletop is the community of people who have rediscovered their love of gaming, or started a game night, or have somehow been inspired by our show to play more games. International Tabletop Day is all about you, and it is designed to celebrate the community that inspires me to work as hard as I can to make the best show I can.

I hope you’ll join us on #Tabletopday, and play more games!

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: A Mythending Adventure Ends in Fiasco for Munchausen

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at Stepto.com.

If I had to pick three of my new favorite games my gaming circle has introduced me to this past year, it would be Fiasco, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and Mythender. All three of these games involve basic improvisation skills and TERRIFY ME BEYOND ALL BELIEF. They are also terribly fun not just to play but to kibitz as well. (note I’m using the non-dick meaning of kibitz where you don’t constantly interrupt the game.)

The problem is I travel in some circles that involve people who write or perform for a living, so playing Fiasco with Wil, or Munchausen with Pat Rothfoss and Mike Selniker, or Mythender with Ryan Macklin can be mega super daunting. I’ll give you a for-instance: during a Fiasco game, Wil’s character was to meet my friend Eric’s character in a cheap bar. It was not the kind of place Wil’s character would ever go if he didn’t have to. Here’s how Wil opened the scene:

“I sit in the seedy bar, noting with disdain and disgust the rips in the vinyl cover of the dirty booth. With a sigh I slowly stir my cheap blend scotch rocks (the best this place could offer) with my finger watching the oily swirls of the cheap booze and the water. The tumbler is dirty and heavy, made from some poor cloudy looking glass. The smell of greasy beef coming from the kitchen well within view of the dining area is making me sick. I see [Eric’s Character] enter from the side, he looks shabby as always.”*

I mean, that’s how he opened. Eric played up to it perfectly but if you’re playing these games and people who have a lot of fun and a background of creativity and improv are playing with you, it can quickly put you in performance anxiety mode.

Thusly, I have tips for playing these games. These aren’t improv or story telling tips, they are just tips centered around the game experience itself.

#1: Don’t feel like you have to play to win.

Yes, most of these games have a form of scoring. But their structure is far more oriented towards everyone enjoying the game itself. I’ve “lost” many a game of Fiasco but much like losing at Chess I had a great time playing and learned something. I find I can relax my mind in these games quite a bit by simply not caring if I win.

#2: Role playing skills vary widely among people, don’t force yourself to try and play at the level of others.

This is by far the handiest tip I can give you, because it helps me the most. So when someone at the table absolutely knocks a scene or moment out of the park, don’t let that little voice who says “Well, I shouldn’t even speak at this point that was so good” stop you. I’ve played Fiasco games where the best role player or improv person actually didn’t win. It’s not about who can consistently turn their scenes into Shakespeare.

#3: Embrace the absurd or impossible when it’s presented.

This is by far the hardest tip to do. During a session of Munchausen, Pat was explaining how his rudimentary space ship reached the moon when Mike interjected and introduced a game challenge:

“But sir, what I do not understand is how you managed the trip being dead the entire time!”

Had I gotten that challenge I would have locked up and probably pushed back the challenge (you can do that in Munchausen), but it’s such a good challenge the other players would have forced it back on me. Pat took it in stride and wove a quick aside of what it truly means to be dead. I saw a similar scene in Fiasco where one character started off the scene describing the other character standing over their character’s own dead body, bloody knife in hand. This forced the other player to completely change what they were planning and explain how the situation came to be.

This is a hard piece of advice for these games because situations like this can happen often and force you into total and pure improv even if you already felt good about where you wanted to go. Take a moment, think about how you really would explain such a thing, and go for it.

#4: Have fun. It’s perfectly ok to stumble a bit or fail.

The most frustrating thing about these games is when people want to play them but feel they just aren’t good enough. Chances are if you are playing these games you are playing them with friends or, believe me, soon to be friends. If you take a moment to react to dialogue, or feel a story you are telling just isn’t working out, that’s ok. Sometimes there’s great fun in these games to playing in a more minimalist fashion with story telling and instead play the role of kingmaker by using your challenges or points to decide the winner. The point being if you’re going to sit at the table because this looks like fun, no one wants you to feel like this 20 minutes into it:

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I hope those tips help. If these games are new to you and you have no idea what I am talking about try watching the episode of TableTop featuring Fiasco!

Stepto

*I exaggerate only slightly. That’s more or less how Wil opened the scene. It was hysterical.

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: Tabletop’s Dragon Age, Part Two!

Will Hindmarch was one of the guys next to the guy who did the thing. No, to the other side. Yeah, that guy. Will used to blog at wordstudio.net.

I imagine Wil would want you to know, as I want you to know, that the new episode of Tabletop—featuring the exciting conclusion of the two-part star-studded Dragon Age adventure—is now live online and you can watch it online because it is live online right now, online, here.

Go and watch and subscribe to the channel and if you like the video click Like, like you do. Okay? Okay.

Tabletop’s Dragon Age RPG Outtakes (Part One)

When I do my gag reel intros for Tabletop, I always get them to my producer on Tuesday, because they need to be edited and uploaded by noon on Wednesday for a release on Thursday.

And you just thought it all happened by magic! For shame. For shame.

I’ve been so busy lately, with various secret projects and w00tstock at Sketchfest and preparations for JoCo Cruise Crazy next week, I completely forgot to record my intro for this week’s gag reel. Nick, my producer, emailed me yesterday morning to remind me that I hadn’t sent it in, and that we were running out of time to get it done. I looked at the clock, realized that I didn’t have time to really put myself together and record it, so I asked Anne if she’d just shoot me for a minute or so at our dining room table.

This was also not as easy as it sounds, because she was doing online traffic school thanks to an epic bullshit ticket (70 in a 65 on the Interstate, no radar, she fought it and lost. Shasta County is corrupt IMHO) and could only take short breaks during the day. (By the way, she aced it: 100% on each section and the final. That’s my girl!)

Well, after seeing this all cut together, I can confidently say: worth it.

Watch Tabletop’s Dragon Age RPG Gag Reel (Part One)

wheatonbot needs moar coffee

When I do my gag reel intros for Tabletop, I always get them to my producer on Tuesday, because they need to be edited and uploaded by noon on Wednesday for a release on Thursday.

And you just thought it all happened by magic! For shame. For shame.

I’ve been so busy lately, with various secret projects and w00tstock at Sketchfest and preparations for JoCo Cruise Crazy next week, I completely forgot to record my intro for this week’s gag reel. Nick, my producer, emailed me this morning to remind me that I hadn’t sent it in, and that we were running out of time to get it done. I looked at the clock, realized that I didn’t have time to really put myself together and record it, so I asked Anne if she’d just shoot me for a minute or so at our dining room table.

This was also not as easy as it sounds, because she’s doing online traffic school thanks to an epic bullshit ticket (70 in a 65 on the Interstate, no radar, she fought it and lost. Shasta County is corrupt IMHO) and can only take short breaks during the day.

Luckily for us and people who enjoy my bed head posts at G+, the stars aligned and we were able to shoot the intro. Here’s the (in my opinion hilarious) thumbnail that my shows up in my finder when I look at the file:

Wheatonbot needs more coffee.
Wheatonbot needs more coffee.

Yes, that’s the bathrobe I wear every day. I got it from Think Geek. It’s as awesome as you think.

You can see the intro I recorded, and the gag reel it introduces, tomorrow at Internet o’clock on Geek and Sundry. You can see a little tease from the gag reel right now.

Today: New Tabletop! Tomorrow: W00tstock Founder’s Night at SF Sketchfest!

I’m really excited for everyone to see today’s new episode of Tabletop; it’s the Dragon Age RPG! I am in a party with with Chris Hardwick, Sam Witwer, and Kevin Sussman. Our GM is my friend and Dragon Age RPG designer, Chris Pramas.

BEHOLD:

Also, if you’re in San Francisco (or reasonably close to San Francisco) tomorrow night, you can come see me, Adam Savage, and Paul and Storm in W00tstock Founder’s Night at Sketchfest. At the moment, the show is nearly sold out, but if you hurry and clap loud enough, you may get lucky. There may be a song about pirates, and I will say at least one swear.

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.

#Tabletop Thoughts: Forbidden Island

If you’ve been watching any of the Geek and Sundry Google Hangouts I’ve been doing recently, you know that, though we haven’t officially been green lit for season two of Tabletop, I’m still playing tons of games so I know what we’re going to play if we do.

Games that we play on Tabletop have to fulfill a lot of criteria:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Will it play well with four people?
  3. Can we play it in under an hour or so?
  4. Is it complicated enough to be fun, while being simple enough to explain in a few minutes?
  5. Is it fun to watch us play it?

It’s surprisingly easy to hit four of these criteria. The hardest ones to meet are 3 and 5 (stupid goddamn prime numbers have had it out for me ever since the first time I divided by zero.)

So there are games I am crazy about, like 7 Wonders, Dominion, Arkham Horror, Tribune, Agricola and Tichu, that we just can’t put on the show. This makes me sad, but there are even more games that I love that we can play, like Smash Up, King of Tokyo, Lords of Waterdeep, Star Trek Catan, and the game that inspired me to write this post in the first place, Forbidden Island.

Forbidden Island is designed by Matt Leacock, who created Pandemic, which kicked our ass on season one of Tabletop. It uses essentially the same mechanics as Pandemic, but instead of being scientists who are saving the world from infectious diseases, the players are adventurers trying to get artifacts off an island that’s trying to kill them by sinking into the ocean.

Like Pandemic, it’s usually won or lost by a few cards, but unlike Pandemic, it’s really great for kids as young as 8 (or precocious 7 year-olds). The themes are very family friendly, the artwork is beautiful, and the pieces are durable. Here’s what our board looked like when we started a recent game:

Forbidden Island Setup

Those tiles are the island, and the pawns are the explorers. As you play the game, you move around the island and try to collect cards that are turned in to recover the four artifacts. During the game, the island is trying to kill you by sinking, so tiles are constantly being removed from the board on almost every turn.

Here’s how it looked when we barely won:

Forbidden Island Victory

We won by either one or two cards, which was as exhilarating as any game of Pandemic I’ve ever played. For those of you scoring at home, we started on Elite difficulty, instead of the usual Legendary.

You can get Forbidden Island at your Friendly Local Gameshop. It’s a fantastic family game that is challenging enough and well balanced enough for serious gamers to enjoy.

If we get a second season of Tabletop, this is one game I’m absolutely going to play. Maybe I’ll even win this time. (HA HA YEAH RIGHT.)