As I reported back in March 2012, Wil Wheaton has launched an internet review show in conjunction with Felicia Day dedicated to tabletop boardgaming called, appropriately, “Tabletop“. I just viewed the first episode– featuring Wheaton playing Days of Wonder’s SMALL WORLD with his guests. I really am enjoying this show (for now). Watching people play boardgames can be as interesting as watching paint dry sometimes, but in this instance the selection of players (two people I’ve never heard of and Grant Imahara from Myth Busters, plus the host) made the show successful. There’s a lot of smirking at the camera and witty bon mots with popular culture references thrown in, and in general, it’s pretty funny when it doesn’t seem forced. The real strength of the show is the slice of time Wheaton takes to explain the game in depth before the actual play session starts. I’ve seen a ton of Youtube boardgame reviews in my day, and most of them suffer from the same problem– the person conducting the review isn’t a professional, in-front-of-the-camera person, and is usually a little rattled. Wheaton, Imahara, and the other goons seemed comfortable and at ease in front of the camera and they conveyed the game to the audience nicely. Sometimes the humor is a bit.. well, forced. Most of my friends are smartasses and enjoy throwing out wisecracks during a game, but the volume level Wheaton uses for the in-game commentary made it seem like he was trying to add humor needlessly. Things that worked very well were the little stings with graphics here and there during the game that explained exactly what was going on and why a choice was being made. Very professional. I’m hoping the Days of Wonder folks showered Wil with gold pieces after this, as it’s a very effective commercial for SMALL WORLD.
As for the show, I liked it, I loved it, I could watch some more of it! Keep up the good work, Wil Wheaton! You’re doing good things. I can’t see this show featuring games much MORE complicated, or longer, than Small World, but there’s definitely a niche for this kind of program out there.