Let’s face it — you can’t play everything.
As I was learning about game design, I watched everything I could find on Youtube. Edo Baraf’s reviews. Tom Vasel, Sam Healey, and everyone else on the Dice Tower. Wil Wheaton on Tabletop To be sure, watching a game being played isn’t a perfect substitution for actually playing it yourself… but it’s not a bad way to learn how to play a game, or just to have on in the background while you’re working on something else.
Presenting seven of my favorite channels, in no particular order:
Tabletop probably wasn’t the first Youtube show to do board games, but it’s the one that got me hooked on board games, so it comes first on this list. Wil Wheaton and an ever-rotating cast of players, gamers, voice actors, and other people you’ve heard of play a bunch of games in their four seasons of shows, and Wil gives some of the best overviews of how to play I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, if you want to learn how to demo a game well, watch the intros — a near-perfect mixture of entertaining, informative, and succinctness.) It’s kind of a shame it only went for four ‘seasons’, but there’s nearly 100 episodes and over 100 games to enjoy.
Although Polygon only produces one episode a month and the show is still fairly new, Overboard has great production values and goes over enough of the rules so you can follow along. Members of the Polygon staff are the players, so the focus is on the games and less on the gamers.
Game the Game
Becca Scott is your host, and a short, separately-made video at the beginning shows you how to play. This is the current boardgame show produced by Geek & Sundry, and is well-produced much like Tabletop was. It’s an ever-rotating cast of players, and their personalities shine through while they play.
Found on BoardGameGeek’s Youtube channel, Gamenight! plays a nice mix of games that are familiar to many and some that are lesser known. The cast of characters doesn’t change very much, and I do wish the show was edited a bit tighter, but it’s a great way to see a game played with no skips or ‘in the interest of time’ edits.
Tech Geek Gamers
Great times! Their playlist is full of spoiler-filled legacy game playthroughs (so don’t watch certain videos if you’re playing Charterstone, Risk Legacy, or Pandemic Legacy) along with some fun, full playthroughs of some lighter games and party games. A few video game episodes make their way into the channels, but the playlist linked to below is all board games.
Beer and Board Games
Put the kids to bed before turning this one on. ‘Lots of swearing and drunk obnoxiousness’ goes the warning in the intro, and you’ll certainly get a fair bit of that when this quartet gets going. Beers are imbibed while the guys play a variety of party and casual games. They’re not always full playthroughs, but they’re certainly enough to understand a game and whether you’ll enjoy it for yourself.
‘Heavy’, at least in this context, means some brain-burning, expansive, and complex games are what’s on tap here. Not every game on the list is a brain-burner — I really enjoyed their video of The Mind — but many of them are. It’s well-produced with a great overhead view and some fun personalities, which are both helpful when some videos go on for hours.
Focusing more on playing Kickstarter games means you’re seeing games played before the bigger names get their hands on it. Unlike Kickstarter preview sort of channels, these guys run through a full playthrough of a game, and go into how it’s played a little bit.
Board as Hell
Part of the Funhaus network, this ‘Board Game Show’ focuses on the casual and party game side of things. Each themed episode gives a brief overview of the game, then gets right into playing. As part of a larger network, they do a great job making games approachable and reach a level of silliness you don’t normally get on video.
Ant Lab Games
Presenting a nice mixture of newer board games and Kickstarter previews, the Ant Lab duo post full playthroughs on their channel. This is the one of the few channels that shoot and publish in 1080p, so if your internet connection can handle it, they’ve got some crystal clear videos for you. Look for games of the light to medium weight variety.
Over to you
Which playthrough channels do you enjoy watching?