Mon
Oct 20 2008 10:22am

Podcast Roundup 6: Games in Libraries; Point 2 Point

MicrophonesI’ve been listening wargaming podcasts lately, and finding a lot of good ones. Unfortunately it’s slow, because I prefer to listen to several episodes before making a judgment and a lot of the good ones are long—2 or even 3 hours isn’t uncommon. So expect to see a trickle of endorsements over the next few weeks from that field.

Games in Libraries
by Kelly Czarnecki, Beth Gallaway, Jenny Levine, Chris Harris, Eli Neiburger, and Jason Puckett

But first, something unexpected and delightful: Games in Libraries. Each episode is a bit under an hour, and they’re coming out about monthly. Topics range widely, from interviews with game designers to reviews of games and systems to a bit of everything. Episode 7 has an overall focus: it’s about preparing to host an event as part of National Games Day, coming up in November. The spread of topics is great, including the nitty-gritty of tournament planning, reviews of easy-to-learn and easy-to-teach games, build-your-own-fun tools like the Spore creator and Sim Carnival, freebies from Hasbro and WotC and how to get them, and so on. Some of the presenters are better speakers than others, but everyone sounds happy to make their contributions and has something of substance to say.

I tend to think of games in libraries in primarily educational terms and I’m somewhat resistant to the idea of trying to make libraries omni-purpose gathering spots, but the contributors are winning me over with their presentation of the merits of community-building in libraries. The tone of the podcasts goes a long way to winning me over. It’s thoughtfully happy, excited about possibilities, but not ignoring or downplaying complications.

Point 2 Point
by Jason White and Scott Moll, and supporting cast

Now on with the wargames. Point 2 Point is a podcast in the classic style: two friends talking about what they’ve been up to and what they think about it. They like a lot of different wargames, and they’re willing to experiment, and they also have old faves they keep coming back to—the attitude of the episodes I’ve listened to sounds very much like the attitude I aim for in writing these roundups, actually. They do about an episode a month, and they’re usually about an hour and a half long, give or take.

They have two regular guest segments, and they’re distinctive. Listener ASLSKFan is reviewing his way through his collection of aerial combat games, one per episode, explaining how they’re played and what’s distinctive about each. There’s a tip I learned in evaluating guide books to parts of the world you don’t know: see how they write up an area you do know, and use that as a reference point, comparing their emphases and omissions to your own experience. I’ve played enough of the games ASLSKFan is reviewing that I can do that, and so I’ve got a growing little list of games to try out when I can do some wargaming again. The other is (and no, I’m not making this up) German composer Moritz Eggert, who’s done some modern classic works that have gotten really mainstream exposure in Germany (and some elsewhere), and who’s also a long-time wargamer. He covers something interesting every time, from the history of semi-LARPed fantasy wargaming in Germany to a good bit of advocacy for more innovation in design and presentation for a healthier hobby.

Episode 36 comes with a real treat: a good long interview with Alan Emrich, who’s been designing games and writing and teaching about them for a good long while now. He brings a fascinating perspective to bear, and also a really confident, comfortable style. The old-fogey voice he turned on when talking about lessons for his students made me laugh each time. He talks a lot about issues that I’m familiar with in the roleplaying context, like successfully managing small print runs and compact, clear designs, and the importance to students of using small designs to experiment with taking concepts through to finished execution, and it all just fascinated me. Admittedly I’m in vast with agreement with pretty much everything he said, but it wasn’t just “yeah, right on” time; I have fresh things to chew over because of how he talked about them.

Just plain good stuff here, and I’m looking forward to more.

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