Board Game Media | Games, Gamers, & Gaming

Starting or maintaining a library’s game collection on a limited budget is a daunting task since thousands of games are published every year. As the tabletop hobby grows in popularity, there are numerous online resources to assist you in selecting games for your library’s collection. If you are simply looking for recent, popular recommendations, these articles by Wirecutter, Ars Technica, Popular Mechanics, and The Smithsonian are great starting points. For those interested in exploring the hobby more in-depth, the YouTube channels, websites, and podcasts described below have ample information for even the most ardent gamer.

YouTube

The Dice Tower is one of the most popular tabletop podcasts and YouTube channels, releasing more than a dozen reviews and other content each week. They are known for their “Top 10” lists, in which they recommend their favorite games in a certain theme or mechanic. Top 10 Essential Games Everyone Should Own is highly recommended for newcomers. Their variety shows, such as Board Game Breakfast, have short reviews from multiple YouTube contributors.

Shut Up and Sit Down explores not only what makes a game unique and fun, but also how a player’s experience can evolve over multiple plays. In their “ABCs of…” series, Danny and Derek Do Board Games present quick overviews of their favorite games, including a concise rules breakdown as well as why they like a game’s components, mechanisms, and gameplay. The Game Boy Geek provides brief rules instruction while summarizing a game’s positives and negatives. He produces both a two-minute and a longer full review for each game.

Learning rules from a rule book can be a big barrier to entry for anyone unfamiliar with current gaming mechanisms. Videos are great resources to quickly learn rules as well as provide a visual demonstration. With excellent production quality, Watch It Played! does succinct how-to-play videos of board and tabletop miniature games that explain setup as well as gameplay. Gaming Rules! has thorough how-to-play videos that cover the complex end of the hobby. Be Bold Games specializes in short overviews lasting only three to four minutes. Using high-quality animation, The Rules Girl produces quick rules demonstrations.

Beyond how-to videos, live playthroughs can provide entertainment as well as teach rules and strategy within the context of a real game. Tabletop had four successful seasons with 100-plus episodes featuring board, card, and roleplaying games. BoardGameGeek’s Gamenight! has produced more than 150 episodes that highlight newer hobby games on the market.

Websites

With an extensive database of thousands of entries, BoardGameGeek is the most comprehensive resource about board games online. Although the homepage is cluttered and can be hard to navigate for first-time users, each game entry includes information about game length, player count, theme, mechanics, and a recommended age range. In addition, numerous reviews and videos are embedded into each entry. The community forums are respectful and well-moderated for the most part. If you have a question about a particular rule, this is the best resource. The website More Games Please highlights the art of hobby games, including interviews with artists. There are numerous tabletop awards, such as the Spiel des Jahres, Mensa Awards, The Dice Tower Awards, and the BGG Golden Geek Awards.

At Board in the Library, John Pappas reviews games from a librarian’s perspective. Each review describes setup and gameplay. In addition, he notes how easy a game is to teach and whether it has any problematic areas, such as stereotypes or a lack of representation. He also wrote a WebJunction column that is a great primer for running a tabletop program in your library. Check out ALA’s Games and Gaming Roundtable for additional library-related resources.

Librarians should strive to make their collection and programs accessible and inclusive. Meeple Like Us examines tabletop games from a “physical, cognitive or sociological sense.” Among other things, these reviewers determine whether a game is gender-neutral, is accessible for color-blind people, and whether people of color are represented. Suzanne Sheldon’s 5 Commitments for Inclusive Gaming, Angelus Morningstar’s 5 Works to Make Your Gaming Group More Inclusive, and Brittanie Boe’s Make Board Games More Accessible offer strategies on how to make gaming accessible for all audiences.

Podcasts

Board Game Blitz is a 30-minute biweekly podcast. Each episode includes reviews of recently played games, a discussion on a central topic, and an etymology segment about the origins of a common gaming term. Our Turn! Women on Gaming is a weekly review podcast lasting between one and two hours. The host interviews women in the gaming industry, including designers other media creators. Recent topics have included games designed by women and/or people of color, and the benefits of games.

With episodes lasting between one and two hours, Heavy Cardboard is a weekly podcast that reviews tabletop games that emphasize strategy and less luck, such as war games, 18XX economic train games, and heavier Euro games. This is a highly recommended podcast for any librarians looking to add these types of games to their collection.

There are many great content creators in the gaming hobby. Find the ones whose style and content align with your library’s needs.

Chris Wilkes is Adult Services Librarian, Tazewell County Public Library, VA

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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