Category Archives: Tabletop

In which we play Munchkin on Tabletop with Steve Jackson

If you've been reading my blog for a few years, you may remember when I played Munchkin with my kids in 2008:

I'm going to speak in geek to people who have played Munchkin: Neither of the kids would help me, and I kept getting the Truly Obnoxious Curse, so I was having a hard time gaining levels. As a result, I was stuck at level 3 forever while they were sitting around level 7. I decided that my goal in the game would be to mess with them as much as possible, and forget trying to gain levels on my own.

Nolan was to my right. He kicked in a door and didn't find a monster, so he looked for trouble, playing a level 3 something from his hand. "Does anyone want to mess with me?" He asked, avoiding looking in my direction.

"It's funny you should ask," I said. "That's an illusion. You're actually fighting a level 18 Squidzilla." I played the appropriate cards.

"Oh, okay." Nolan pulled a card from his hand. "It's now enraged, so it gets an additional treasure." He pulled another card from his hand. "And with this Polymorph Potion, it turns into a parrot and flies away." He paused dramatically. "And I take five treasures."

"OHHH!" Ryan and Michael said.

"Man, that's a really great move," I said. "Too bad I'm playing Annihilation on it."

He was forced to discard the potion, and face the Enraged Squidzilla on his own.

"OHHH!" Ryan and Michael said."

"Okay, then." Nolan said. "I guess I'm running away."

You may also remember the 3872 Intelligent Humongous Orcs Incident of 2006, which caused much laughter and rejoicing.

Munchkin is a polarizing game. People who love it are crazy about it, and people who hate it want to kill it with fire. I fall into the middle; it can be a really fun game if the players get into the spirit of the puns and the backstabbing and don't succumb to the crabs-in-a-barrel mentality that can keep a player at level 9 an hour after the game stopped being fun.

On the most recent Tabletop, Sandeep Parikh, Felicia Day, and the game's creator Steve Jackson played Munchkin with me, and I think we illustrated exactly why this game can be so much fun:


If you can't see the embedded player above, or you want to watch us play in glorious HIGH DEFINITION, here's some linky magic that will give you what you're looking for.  

Munchkin is one of those games that brings out the Rules Lawyers and self-proclaimed experts who spend a lot of time pointing out every time we did something that wasn't optimal, or when we screwed up with the rules, so this is a very good time for me to point something out: The goal of TableTop is to show how much fun it is to play games. It isn't a tutorial on how to win them. We know that we make mistakes (we shot 20 episodes in 10 days on a tiny budget with 60 different players) and we're okay with that.

something stirs and something tries and starts to climb toward the light

I worked on [REDACTED] today, and had more fun than I thought possible. I can't say anything more until July.

Tomorrow, I work on [REDACTED], which is different from [REDACTED], but should be really awesome, too. I can't believe I get to spend two days working with [ACTORS].

(It was a lot easier to talk about my job before the studios became obsessed with secrecy.)

So a couple of quick things before I get back to preparing for [REDACTED]:

  • I'm going to the Phoenix Comicon this weekend. I'll be on a few panels, and I'm doing a special show on Saturday night.
  • Next week, Felicia and I are going to Origins in Columbus, to play games and talk about Tabletop.
  • My testing of the theory that it is not possible to have too many gaming dice continues, so if you're coming to either one of these cons and want to give me dice that I can add to my ever-growing collection, I'd love to have them.
  • Today, the comic I wrote with Felicia for The Guild comes out. It's called FAWKES, and it is about what happens between the end of Season 4 and [SPOILER] in Season 5. It's getting generally good reviews, which delights me. The only negative is that I didn't spend several pages filling in people who don't watch The Guild why they should care about the story and who everyone is, which is a little silly, because I didn't write it for those people (who aren't going to buy it, anyway.)I'm especially happy with the artwork and both covers, and super-grateful to Dark Horse for supporting it.

Finally, my beloved Los Angeles Kings are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993. This is what I looked like last night after they won in overtime:



Not actually taken last night, but I do this whenever the Kings win.


This is how I know #Tabletop has arrived.

Tabletop Trophy in Draw SomethingI keep hearing from gameshops that people are coming in and buying the games we play on Tabletop, and from people who tell me that they're using Tabletop to show their non-gaming partners why we love to geek out over games all the time… but someone choosing to use our super lame totally awesome trophy that Lindsey got from eBay for 3 bucks we spent an unfathomable amount of money on making as the trophy for "award"? That's amazing.

I do not always make a meme reference to my own show, but when I do, I choose this one.

More from behind the scenes at Tabletop

In my gaming group, I am not the guy who is good at explaining rules (that guy would be Tom D., when he plays with us, or my friend Cal M., the rest of the time) so the part of Tabletop I was the most anxious about is that segment at the beginning of the show where I explain the rules of the game.

It's a real challenge, probably more difficult than you'd expect, and thanks to clever editing and postproduction work, looks much easier and flawless than it actually is.

In preparation for each episode, my friend and associate producer Boyan and I would sit down at my dining room table and talk through the rules. The first thing we'd do is figure out what kind of game we were playing (bluffing, communication, resource-management, etc.) and build out from there. I would set up the game in front of me, just like you see on the show, and I'd "teach" the game to Boyan. If something worked, one of us would write it down on a bullet-pointed list. That list went with me to work the next day, and I used it to remember what the audience needed to hear.

I'm cleaning up my office today, and I just came across two pages I wrote for last week's 3 Quick Games episode. I thought they may be interesting to some of you, so here they are:

Wil Wheaton's handwritten Tabletop notes.

You can see that I was considering a running "like you do" joke. It didn't work, so I dropped it when we filmed.

Wil Wheaton Handwritten Tabletop Rule Notes

Alternate way to win the game: Be Ryan Higa.

New Tabletop! Get Bit, Tsuro, and Zombie Dice! Ryan Higa! Rod Roddenberry! Freddie Wong!

These quick casual games are so much fun to play, and they're a great infection vector for getting your friends to try out gaming.



If you can't see the embed, or you want to watch it in glorious full screen, go directly to YouTube.

Oh, and if you like it, please give us a thumbs up and leave a comment at YouTube. Thanks!

A picture from Tabletop

image from

One of the best times I had this season on Tabletop was playing Fiasco with John Rogers, Alison Haislip, and Bonnie Burton.

I won't spoil anything, but I will tell you that Will Hindmarch, Jason Morningstar, and I teamed up to write an original playset for the show, and we'll be releasing it when the episode airs.

This is a picture I took of my Fiasco Companion, sitting on our Emissary table from Geek Chic, the day we filmed the Fiasco episode. I was fooling around with this cool little fisheye lens my friend gave me to stick onto my cellphone, and this was one of the few pictures that turned out fairly well.

Google is making a huge and annoying mistake.

I like Google Plus. Some of the smartest people I've ever read are on Google Plus, and the Hangout is amazing.

But Google is doing everything it can to force Google Plus on everyone, and it's pissing me off.

Yesterday, I tried to like a video on YouTube. I wasn't signed in to my Google Plus account, and this is what I saw:

Where the thumbs up and thumbs down used to be, there is now a big G+ Like button. When you go anywhere near it, you get a little popup that tells you to "upgrade to Google plus" for some reason that I don't remember, because the instant I saw it, I made a rageface.

Here's what I wrote on Tumblr:

Oh, go fuck yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”

Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you dickheads.

The worst part of this? For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.

I am adding now: Those upvotes are incredibly important to us, because we need them to earn another season of our show.

I'm even more grateful now than I was yesterday that we own the IP for Tabletop, because we can produce it ourselves, or crowdfund with Kickstarter, or something like that, if Google keeps doing things like this that will negatively affect how users can interact with us on YouTube.

I was reblogged by Neil Gaiman, who added:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

I’m not on Google Plus, and I suppose that I won’t be liking YouTube videos any longer.

John Green also reblogged me, and he said:

I strongly agree with this. Making it so that only google plus users can decide whether a YouTube video is worth watching benefits no one except for Google Plus: It is bad for viewers, bad for video creators, and bad for YouTube’s ability to curate and tailor videos to potential viewers.

By crippling functionality on sites Google owns (like YouTube) and forcing users to "upgrade" to a service that they may not want or need to get that functionality back, Google is making a huge and annoying mistake. You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don't get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that's probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.

This is my new show, Tabletop

Last summer, Felicia Day asked me if I wanted to develop a show together for her new premium YouTube channel, Geek and Sundry.

Spoiler alert: I said yes.

She asked me if I wanted to do a show about gaming, maybe a review show or something like that. 

"I think it would be more fun do something where we play games," I said. Then, the light bulb went off.

"Oh my god," I said, "What if we did something that was like Celebrity Poker meets Dinner for Five, where we got interesting people we know together for tabletop games?!"

Felicia thought it sounded awesome, I was really excited about the idea, and we got to work. It took a few months to develop, and in December we finally shot our first block of episodes. In February, we got the band back together and shot another block of episodes, and just last week, I finished locking down the final edits for all the shows (that's why I couldn't come to Wondercon on Friday.)

In season one of the show, we play games like Settlers of Catan, The Last Night on Earth, Munchkin, Small World, and Alhambra. Some of the players include Grant Imahara, Sean Plott (better known as Day[9]), Dodger Leigh, Ryan Higa, Beth Riesgraf, Phil Lamarr, Morgan Webb, Garfunkle and Oats, Veronica Belmont, and Colin Ferguson.

My ulterior motive with Tabletop is to show by example how much fun it is to play boardgames. I want to show that Gamers aren't all a bunch of weirdoes who can't make eye contact when they talk to you, and that getting together for a game night is just as social and awesome as getting together to watch Sportsball, or to play poker, or for a LAN party, or whatever non-gamers do with their friends. I want to inspire people to try hobby games, and I want to remove the stigma associated with gaming and gamers.

I'm pretty sure we succeeded. By the second day of production, our crew was grabbing games out of our games library to play at lunch. All of our interns and production assistants have become complete game fanatics, and whenever I edit a show, all I want to do is go home and play that game until my face falls off.

I hope you'll subscribe to our channel, and please tell your friends about Tabletop.