Today for Gaming Thursday I want to talk about a new show on YouTube: TableTop.
TableTop is Wil Wheaton’s new show on the brand new Geek & Sundry channel. The show is basically half an hour of Wil doing something he loves – playing table top games with his friends. His friends just happen to be some of the biggest geeks in the entertainment industry. The show was designed to introduce new games to gamers, and to introduce people to gaming.
Each show features a different game and a different group of gamers. Episode 1 saw Wil, Sean Plott, Grant Imahara, and Jenna Busch gathered around the table to play Small World.
Small World “combines the military strategy of Risk with the delightful art and fantasy races of Cosmic Encounter.” It is a civilization game, but instead of conquering territories with armies, you do it with orcs, dragons, wizards, dwarves, and giants. The premise is simple, but the combinations of characters make it complicated enough to make strategy a big factor in determining a winner. The group Wil got for this first episode is a perfect example of that. I don’t want to give away any spoilers from the episode – suffice it to say that grabbing an early lead does not guarantee you a victory.
I like how the game is laid out and explained for this type of media. Wil gives you the basic rules and explanations up front – just enough so you know what’s going on and understand how the game is progressing. If a player makes a move that hasn’t been explained, he gives a simple, quick explanation without interrupting the game. This is much the same way a friend would explain something to you if you were playing a game for the first time. It gives the show a casual feel that is easier for people to connect to.
Episode 2 featured the modern classic The Settlers of Catan played by Wil, Jane Espenson, James Kyson, and Neil Grayston.
The Settlers of Catan is a “strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory.” Instead of collecting territories, you collect resources – lumber, grain, ore, brick, and wool. With the resources, you build roads, settlements, and cities. As you collect resources and build, you gain victory points. The first player to 10 victory points wins the game. This game depends a good deal on strategy, but because resources are received by a roll of the dice, there is a fair amount of luck involved as well. Catan is considerably less complicated than Small World while being a whole lot of fun, making it perfect for introducing people to gaming.
In this format, Catan is much easier to follow than Small World. You don’t know exactly what strategy the players are going for – there are no hold card cameras, and resource cards are kept secret – but it’s not too hard to guess. The show makes great use of short, confessional-style clips to add insight into the gameplay for the audience. Everything you need to know to play The Settlers of Catan can be learned in this thirty minute show. That speaks to the simplicity of the game, but also the level of awesome in the show.
I love this show and this channel. I’ve followed Wil’s blog for a while now, and always enjoy reading about his experience with gaming. He talks earnestly and with no small amount of pride about gaming with his family and introducing his boys to games like The Settlers of Catan and Munchkin when they were younger, Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto when they were older. Before the show premiered, he said that his goal for this show is to make people want to go play games. I think he has succeeded. A quick glance at the YouTube comments shows a ton of people either proclaiming their love for the game, saying they were off to buy the game, or thanking Wil for reminding them how great the game is and how they can’t wait to play with their family and friends.
Small World is available through the Days of Wonder website or through your local game store, and will run you about $50. The Days of Wonder store also has all the expansion sets available, as well as replacement pieces if your box has seen better days. There’s also a iPad app available, if you’re so inclined.
The Settlers of Catan is probably the easiest game to find on the market. It’s a huge hit and a best-seller, so stores are bound to keep a copy or two on the shelves at all times. My local comic/game store keeps a half-dozen on hand, just in case. You can also get it, all the expansions, versions, and replacement pieces through Catan.com – the official Settlers website. On the website, you’ll see an option to play an online Java version of the game, but there’s a hitch. If you want to play for free, you have to register with the site, you can only play one version of the game, and only against other people. For a small monthly fee you can unlock the game expansions, and the option to play against computer-generated characters.
I really enjoy TableTop and can’t wait to see what games they play next. You can catch new episodes every-other Friday on Geek & Sundry on YouTube or at GeekAndSundry.com. Catch the bonus content every Thursday with extended interviews and gag reels from the previous week’s show. If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe and spread the word.