A brief introduction to the best video reviews and playthroughs of board games available on YouTube and Vimeo.
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Jessa and Maeoni face off in Ashes
This video series is hosted by Rodney Smith on YouTube, who I was surprised to find out recently is a fellow Canadian, hailing from the opposite side of the country from the Starlit Citadel ladies, Prince Edward Island. Though he may come across as a bit Mr. Rogers-ish at first, Rodney does an excellent job of explaining rules for games, taking around a half hour to go over a rules set in detail. You can play most games after watching one of his videos. His camera work is impeccable, offering lots of clear close ups of a game’s components as he explains game play.
Rodney has done over a hundred “how to play” videos since starting in 2011. As this series isn’t about reviewing games, he doesn’t say much about a game’s flaws. So Rodney gets only one die for critical theory, but five out of five for rules explanations, and two chuckles for his affable manner.
Here are his overviews of three excellent games: the richly themed, hybrid miniatures games Kemet and Blood Rage and what is arguably the new king of the hill in fantasy card games, Ashes. Contrast his bubbly factual style in these videos with the very different styles of the Dice Tower and Shut Up & Sit Down videos on the same games.
Giancarlo and Felicia explore Tobago
This is really a collection of reviewers in different locations, though the best are done by the Italian gamer couple Giancarlo and Felicia. In their reviews, they do a very good job of explaining rules and of offering a critical overview of the game, though not in as much detail as Rodney, with some corny jokes thrown in.
For the handful of reviews done by Giancarlo and Felicia, four dice for critical theory, four for rules explanations, and two embarrassed chuckles for their sense of humor. Here are their reviews of Tobago and Star Realms. You can learn to play the game in the first, while in the second Giancarlo has the cojones to criticize a fan favorite as “not all that original.”
A bad day at the farm in Descent
These promotional videos for their own games have the professional polish of big studio movie trailers with dramatic music and voiceovers by deep-voiced British actors positively oozing gravitas.
Some are short overviews, some are more detailed rules explanations, and some are “behind the scenes” videos about how the game in question was made.
Fantasy Flight gets only one die for critical theory and one chuckle for humor, but four dice for their longer rules explanations. Oh, and one Oscar for Best Special Effects in a Board Game Video.
Here are examples of their three basic types of videos: a short unvoiced ad for Descent 2.0 (which always makes me want to get the trolls and ogres out), a much longer tutorial for A Game of Thrones, and a “behind the curtains” look at The Fury of Dracula.
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