I may be unreasonably excited about Wil Wheaton‘s new Youtube show Table Top as part of Felicia Day‘s new Geek & Sundry project. Yeah, that is a couple of big geek icons in the lede, huh? So why is it weird that I’m so excited about Table Top, then?
Well, because I haven’t really been bitten by the Wheaton bug or caught a case of Feliciadaycoccus before. I’m not an online gamer (other than a round of “License to Kill” in Goldeneye here and there) so a lot of the nuance of The Guild is lost on me. That is okay! I’m not the intended audience, and I don’t begrudge it! On the contrary, Miz Day seems charismatic and fun; her covering the Portal song is really charming. I’m sure she’s great. And the same with Wil Wheaton! I’ve read his essays, and found them funny. He’s one of those guys who pops up in weird places and I’m usually glad to see him, someone whose blog I figure I’ll get around to adding to my feed reader one of these days, you know? He’s got a wit to him, a certain je ne sais quoi, sure, I just hadn’t been hooked. So what gives?
Actually, you know, that might very well be the hook, right there, in large part. I want to have some kind of connection to Wheaton and Day! They seem like Our Kind of Folks, you know? They are like the geek’s Ryan Gosling. Nerd Culture icons for a reason. So I’m willing to buy into the Geek & Sundry hype—I want it to be all that it can be! For Table Top, Will Wheaton gathers together a group of modestly famous celebrities and plays board games. Seeing Grant Imahara from MythBusters is not a surprise; how surprised are you to find out that Grant might want to take a break from building fighting robots to play, I don’t know, RoboRally? Yeah, it didn’t blow my mind either. But then there are folks like Beth Riesgraf! Beth Riesgraf! Everyone on Leverage is fantastic, but Parker is my favorite by a mile (Hardison and Spencer are neck and neck for second place). So yeah; I’m charmed by the casting.
I guess the other reason I was so excited when I saw the trailer for the show was because well, board games are cool! But I hardly ever play them, for a couple of reasons. On one hand, they are moderately expensive, especially to take a risk on. (A “Risk” on?) My disposable income is mostly eaten up by books and roleplaying miniatures! Which leads to the second reason: if I can get four people of sufficiently geeky interest in a room together to sit down and game? I’d usually rather play a roleplaying game! Which is why the “German-style” board games appeal to me—I can play Settlers of Catan with people who normally wouldn’t be interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons for the next six hours. This is also where games like Arkham Horror and the new Castle Ravenloft board game lose me; if I have enough rules-minded friends to figure out how to play them then hey, I have enough people to play in this one-shot I’ve been thinking about!
I still want to know about board games though, and more to the point, I want to see games I might actually want to play. Table Top looks like it is going to provide that. The very first game they played was called Small World. The gimmick with Small World seems to be two fold. First, you pick your “team,” like ghouls, amazons, dwarves but with the added twist that each of the races is given a modifier, like heroic, swamp, or wealthy. You end up with options like “diplomatic skeletons” or “alchemist giants,” which results in really compelling word salad, actually. Enormous nephilim hunched over their emerald benches, seeking the Philosopher’s Stone to battle off the undead hordes that have brokered a hideous graveyard pact with the neighboring kingdoms fun stuff! So that right there—pithy armies—had me picking up good vibrations. The second core mechanic is the ability to put a race into decline and start over with somebody new—effectively giving you the thrill of picking among those “flying ratmen” or “berserk halflings” all over again. And oh look; they have an iPad app. I’m going to go buy that now, I think. You can watch a preview of the first Table Top episode below, in the meanwhile: