Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Favorite Gaming Podcasts

I'm a very odd bird. Why? Well it's not because I squawk and peck at my dinner. No, no, no. Rather, it's because unlike most people, my iPod Touch contains very little in the way of actual music. Instead, it's bursting at its electronic seams with podcasts. More specifically, it's loaded with podcasts about gaming (board games and miniature wargaming). Yeah, go ahead and think it. I suppose that I'm truly a geek.

Over the last 5+ years, I've listened to more gaming-related podcasts than I care to count. Heck, I have well over 500 gaming podcasts currently stored in my iTunes library. There's such a wide selection of shows to listen to. 

The vast majority of the podcasts that I listen to cater to hobby board game enthusiasts. There are also a couple of good shows geared towards miniatures wargames. As mini-gaming is my favorite hobby of the moment, I wish there were more podcasts on this subject. But since wargaming with miniatures is such a visual hobby, that probably goes a long way towards explaining the lack of audio-shows that discuss this form of gaming.  

You might be wondering, which podcasts have become my absolute favorites? Well, let's start with the cream of the crop. These shows have stood the test of time, and are still as interesting and informative today as they were when I first started listening to them several years ago. 

The Dice Tower -- I listen to a dozen different podcasts on a fairly regular basis. When faced with the inevitable question of "what shall I listen to tonight?" as I scroll through my iPod playlist, my first choice is always the Dice Tower. This well-produced, 60-90 minute variety show is chock full of interesting segments that never drag on too long. In addition to the weekly insights provided by co-hosts Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer, there are a host of other contributors (Moritz, Geoff, Mark, Sam, Joe, Giles, Mary, Ryan, Dexter & The Chief, etc.) so you're guaranteed to get a smattering of opinions on just about every type of board game imaginable. The Top-10 Lists, a staple of the podcast, are always fun and have caused me to buy more board games over the past few years than I care to admit! But the Dice Tower truly shines because Tom Vasel, tireless game evangelist, is the Energizer Bunny of gamers. He just keeps going and going, enthusiastically playing and reviewing games, and sharing his vast knowledge of board games with anyone that crosses his path. I find that my tastes in board games often mirror Tom's more closely than any other podcaster out there, so I'm always keen on hearing about new games that he adores. 

Meeples & Miniatures -- Without a doubt, Meeples & Miniatures is simply the best podcast about miniature wargaming in existence. As an American wargamer, it took me a few espisodes to get used to the thick British accent emanating from the mouth of host Neil Shuck. I've grown to love it now, and Neil seems like an affable chap and TRUE wargamer. What I mean by TRUE is that his interests lie all over the map. Neil enjoys exploring new rules and checking out the latest shiny figures, and he owns more minis than he'll ever actually have the time to paint. Plus, he's not just focused on the mainstream games and models (e.g. Warhammer and DBA) that every wargamer already knows about. He explores the true depth of this great hobby with an honest and thought-provoking perspective. And his "View from the Veranda" chats with Henry Hyde of Battlegames magazine are always highly entertaining.  

The Spiel -- Interestingly enough, I first discovered this podcast by way of The Dice Tower, as Tom Vasel said it was one of his favorites to listen to. Co-hosts Stephen Conway and Dave Coleson have a love of games that's truly infectious. Their exhaustive game reviews are the best in the business, but their varied segments (Back-shelf Spotlight, Truckloads of Goober, and Game Sommelier) are really what makes this podcast shine. They also do a superb job breaking their podcast into easily searchable segments, so you can skip around if desired. Recently, the show lengths are creeping up and over the 2-hour mark, which is overly long in my opinion, but that hasn't stopped me from listening. Spiel on guys!

Game On! with Cody & John -- This podcast hasn't been around as long as the previous three, but recently reached the 50-episode mark and shows no signs of slowing down. Self-proclaimed "regular guys" Cody Jones and John Richard pull you into their conversations as if you were a friend sitting in their living-room chatting about games. Amazingly, Cody sounds eerily like my childhood next-door neighbor (Mike Rajnik) and even tosses out similar witty remarks. It's kinda freaky, but it also pulled me in to listen to the show more closely from the beginning. One great thing about the show is that it's an easy listen, and never drones on too long, falling into that 60-90 minute listening sweet-spot more often than not. I really like the new, free-wheeling conversation format that Cody & John have switched to, and I hope they stick with that as it helps differentiate them from my other favorite gaming podcasts.  

There are also several gaming-related shows that haven't been on the podcast scene for 5 years, but are definitely worth your listening time. If I had to choose a "best of the rest", it would include these podcasts:

Gameopolis -- Episode #1 of this podcast got me hooked because these guys went "old school" and listed several old classics among their favorite games of all time. It's refreshing to see gamers who aren't purely smitten by "the cult of the new" when it comes to tabletop games. Their regular "dusty old box" segment is a real treat. Another big plus is that Mark and Jeff don't take themselves too seriously and come across as down-to-earth guys who would be fun to game with. I also love that they keep their main shows around 60 minutes in length, and supplement those with shorter "game session reports". The session reports give you the feel of how a particular game plays without the hosts needing to spend 30 minutes on a boring, blow-by-blow rules regurgitation. Well done guys; looking forward to future episodes.  

D6 Generation -- I'm torn between loving this show and hating it. Why? On the one hand, it's really well-produced, colorful, often hilarious and thought-provoking, and nobody does in-depth game reviews any better than the D6G gang (Russ, Craig, and Raef). Craig Gallant really cracks me up. I admire the fact that these guys are unabashed mini-gamers and lovers of Ameritrash games; they speak to my tastes more often than not. What bugs me about the D6G is the length of the shows. They're too friggin long. Who has the time to sit down and listen to a 3 or 4 hour show? Not me. So far too often, the podcast sits on my playlist untouched, until I can miraculously find a free night to hide from my wife and listen to a whole show. Less is sometimes more guys.  

Noisemaker -- Of all the gaming podcasts that I regularly listen to, this one is the most "home-spun labor of love" of the batch. While the show lacks the production values of the Dice Tower or Spiel or D6G, it makes up for that with truly interesting content. Bert's love of miniature wargaming shines through. He's a do-it yourselfer and willingly shares his ideas about rules design, particularly his own home-made rules. I really enjoy when Bert voices his likes/dislikes about various mass-market rules systems. Always insightful, enlightening, and never boring, Noisemaker is highly recommended if you're a wargamer who likes to dabble in all aspects of the hobby. 

So tabletop gamers, why not do yourself a favor and take some time to check out these great podcasts? I'm sure you'll learn a thing or two about games that you never knew before, and will gather some great tips on games worth playing and adding to your collection.  

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