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Let’s be honest – there is too much happening in board games. There are too many games, too many podcasts, too many blogs. Just too much of everything!
This article series is going to exacerbate that problem by being ‘just one more bloody thing’ that gets published. My hope here is to direct attention to some of the absolutely excellent stuff that’s floating around there. This is stuff that maybe you missed because you blinked at the wrong time as your twitter feed refreshed. This isn’t necessarily the best content from the month, it’s just the most interesting content that I and others actually saw and remembered we’d seen. I stole the idea for this from Keith McLeman over at Cardboard and Coffee, and you should go drop him a follow on his Facebook page for his own monthly digest.
I’m always interested in contributors for this series, although of a neccessity the number of slots for this will have to be limited. I don’t want this to end up being so long a list that it doesn’t even serve as a highlight reel. Please drop me a mail if you’re interested in providing your own monthly roundup, with full attribution! For those that would just like to bring occasional attention to especially good work they’ve seen, or even point out something of their own of which they are especially proud, drop a comment under the post. We also have a Meeple Like Us Subreddit, and if you feel happier adding your favourite posts there then there will be a comment thread for this post right there. I promise to remember to check it. Occasionally.
There’s also a round up for last month if you want to catch up with what’s great in tabletop coverage!
Firmly within the Meeple LIke Us wheelhouse is the work of Dan Mansfield, who is doing game reviews in American Sign Language. Stick on your captions for the text. This is absolutely awesome – accessibility is as rich and varied as the games we play and it warms my black little heart to see the topic being addressed in increasingly interesting ways.
Less bespoke than this immaculately curated, artisinal collection of links that you are reading now is a new site that is going to aggregate the RSS feeds of dozens of sites – you might want to check out Tokentile to keep your finger on the very quickly scrolling buzz of the community. While you’re at it, Dice Critic seems to have gone a bit quiet of late but it’s an attempt to make a kind of Metacritic for board-games. I’m hoping it hasn’t been abandoned, but in any case what’s there is really good.
Eric, over on the What’s Eric Playing blog announced that he and others are going to be working on a thing called the Punchboard Media Content Accelerator Program (CAP). This is a springboard for diverse voices that are looking to start producing tabletop gaming content. Eric and his colleagues will help with editing, provide photographs, support websites and assist with the promotion of your work. Eric is Good People and I’d recommend you check it out if you’d be at all interested.
This BGG post is likely to raise a wry smile, perhaps, from anyone who has published a negative review. If you have ever felt compelled to really lay the boot in when someone doesn’t like a game you do then perhaps have a read and then, I don’t know, maybe just wind your neck in a bit.
Matt Thrower kindly arranged for me to be sent a review copy of his new book, the Tabletop Gaming Manual and while this isn’t an article as such I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you towards it because it’s Quite Lovely. It’s a nice, chunky hardback with beautiful full-colour photographs and is full of little insights that taught me a fair few things I didn’t know before. Did you know HG Wells designed a war game? Well, he did! It’s not quite the Jeff Wayne’s War of the World’s game I’ve longed for but it’s still Pretty Cool.
Kirsti of Peace, Love and Games has a short video about unintentional sexism – not in terms of design but in terms of the attitudes that are seen in the culture around gaming. It’s well worth a watch. If you need another reason to get wound up at how destructive gatekeepers are in a hobby I’d also direct you towards this post on the Aspiring Halfling blog.
This piece from Vice on prisoners that make their own dice to support the playing of tabletop RPGs is astonishing. The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me, although it does strike a somewhat poignant note that even something as healthy and constructive as the playing of games is a luxury in the penal system.
Last month I pointed out the utterly lovely people over at OutsideXbox and Eurogamer and the roleplaying campaign they were doing. There’s a live session now and it genuinely made me laugh out loud more than once. So, maybe check this one out as well?
John Du Bois over on Twitter has a very nice and useful thread for anyone busy pitching their games – how to do it in a way that brings out your game in the best possible way. I often tell students that they want to make sure their lecturers don’t need to hunt for their marks in assessments – this is the game equivalent.
I’m going to add two articles from relative antiquity to the roundup this month. Already, things are going off the rails. ABORT. ABORT.
Anyway, Rab Florence has long been one of my favourite games critics – from the early days of Consolevania right through to his new series Cast The Bones, I find he always has a fascinating perspective on what he chooses to cover. I rarely agree with him, but I always feel enriched by having considered what he has to say. Two of his best posts are his retrospective on games and nostalgia and his meditation on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks on the occasion of his mother’s death. It’s rare indeed that game commentary can bring a tear to my eye, but both of these posts accomplished that and more. Rab Florence is a constant reminder that games matter, because people matter.
Next, an article that made me unreasonably angry, because it clearly and succinctly made arguments and connections that I desperately wish I had figured out first. Nick Bentley from North Star Games writes about what makes a deep game experience so great.
Here’s a fascinating bit of games history. Archaeologists and anthropologists have discovered that, while dice and similar “lot casting” devices have been used for millennia, there was no care given to balance in those dice until about 1450. As science as we know it today developed post-Dark Ages, so did too people’s conceptions of luck. Perhaps it was all chance, and not divinely ordained. Now excuse me while I take some loaded dice and a time machine and go get rich.
Tom Russell From Hollandspiele talks about game balance, first impressions, and how his publishing model, while potentially less lucrative, gives him more creative freedom as a designer to make more challenging and deep games.
Charlie Etheridge-Nunn’s links
I’ve adored the strange and exquisite work of Caitlynn Belle for a while, so it’s been fun seeing her collaboration with Ben Lehman get some attention now The Tragedy of Gj237b has been nominated for a Nebula award. Their role-playing game for no players is a great example of games and game mechanics as art, even if they aren’t going to be played (not by people, at least).
People may assume that Google Plus is a strange ghost town of a social media network, but it’s got a lot going for it in the tabletop world. Recently, my girlfriend and I have joined the Tabletop Roleplayers Book Club, specifically for a ‘slow read’ of Lord of the Rings. It’s run by the superb game designer Ray Otus and paces out Lord of the Rings a couple of chapters at a time as an exercise in portion control. The discussion groups about the chapters have been really nice and I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but Lord of the Rings is a pretty good book.
I love Polygon. They get into all kinds of weird business when it comes to video games and recently they’ve turned their eyes to tabletop games with their series, “Overboard”. They recently had a hilarious playthrough of Fog of Love, a game which generates charming and silly romantic comedy moments.
This Month’s Spotlight
Michael here again!
This week’s spotlight is going to be shined… shone? Shan? Whatever. It’s going to be directed towards Girls’ Game Shelf, which is both a great youtube channel and a newly minted podcast. They combine a clarity of presentation with fun and insight and I’d thoroughly recommend you toss them a subscribe. Their Youtube show is a little bit like Tabletop would be if the guests on Tabletop were more consistently likeable and the games they played were more consistently interesting. Check out their recent episode on Fog of Love to see what it is they get up to. #TeamChicago.