Man fails to learn rules of Terra Mystica before guests arrive

stressed

A man who has invited three friends round to his home to play the board game Terra Mystica has failed to memorize the rules in advance.

Bryan Robson, aged 23, bought the game from internet retailer Chaos Cards, two days ago, believing that this would give him plenty of time to familiarize himself with the mechanics. However, thanks to a leak under the kitchen sink and an unexpected visit from relatives, he was unable to find the time to go through the manual.

Continue reading “Man fails to learn rules of Terra Mystica before guests arrive”

Area Man Denies Plagiarizing The Onion

beardedAn area man who has been accused of shamelessly ripping off a famous satirical website says he has never even heard of The Onion.

Steve Dee, aged 26, has denied copying the style and tone of “America’s Finest News Source” for the Gaming News section of TicketToCarcassonne.com, his board gaming website, which regularly attracts as many as ten readers per day.

Continue reading “Area Man Denies Plagiarizing The Onion”

My Life as a Board Game YouTuber

I decided it would quite nice to become a millionaire. Also I was quite keen to be invited onto Celebrity Bake-Off. And Strictly.  So, I decided to become a YouTuber.

Not really. I always knew I was never going to become one of the big names. And actually I now realise that I will never even make a penny out of it because I will never pass the monetization threshold that YouTube has set. You need 1000 subscribers before you can make money the channel, and, at the current rate I am attracting them, this will take me around 30 years!

One thing I do hope is that if my channel takes off, I might sell more of my board game books. Really though, I think the reason I am doing it is for the same reason that, when I was ten, I used to make my own “radio shows” with a friend, using a cassette deck, a microphone, and a record player. That was quite a while ago – it was when records were cool the first time around. Hardly anybody listened to our radio shows back then, but we had fun doing it anyway. Hardly anybody watches my YouTube channel now, but that doesn’t stop me getting satisfaction from it.

So anyway, I want to talk you through what I did, and how I did it. Maybe somebody reading this who is thinking of creating their own channel might get some tips. I want to make it clear however, that the title of this page says that I am a YouTuber, it does not say I am a successful YouTuber. I am aware, therefore,  that there is a chance that this page might cause such a reader to decide just not to bother, instead. I hope not though.

Some General Tips

I did a lot of research before starting – I found a lot of websites and other YouTube channels, and below is a summary of all the tips I picked up from them:

  • Make sure you know what your channel is about (I do! It’s board gaming!)
  • Just start doing it. Don’t wait until you are “ready”.
  • The first fifty videos should be regarded as practice.
  • Keep posting.
  • Do research before you start filming.
  • Promote your videos across as many platforms as possible – Facebook, Twitter, Forums, etc.
  • Learn the best practices as you go along.
  • Get involved in the community for your niche. Make a name for yourself.
  • Create a series of videos.
  • Do a collaboration with another YouTuber in your niche. A big player if you can, otherwise someone about your size.
  • Have a weekly show.
  • Have an occasional “event” video
  • Use the Growth Formula (I have already forgotten what this is)
  • Set regular goals (one guy suggested 10000 subscribers in the first 6 months. Ha Ha Ha!)
  • You don’t need expensive equipment when you start.
  • Sound quality is the most important technical factor – try to use a microphone if you can (they are very cheap)
  • Use natural light. Film during the day with the curtains open.
  • Think of another YouTube channel you like, one that is outside of your niche, and allow yourself to be influenced by their style.
  • Be enthusiastic about your subject!

 

Video Number 1

For my first video, I decided to try something simple. I did not want to try anything really ambitious while I was still learning the ropes. Taking advice from the bullet points above, I treated this as a practice video.

There was a game I had recently acquired, and was playing quite a lot of with my daughter, called Gipf (the game is called Gipf, not my daughter) and I had noticed there were hardly any videos about it. What few there were, were quite uninspiring – I could not find one that did not have a rules mistake in it. I decided to do a video about that game; I was keen to feature some strategy tips too, because there was literally nothing on YouTube (and very little on the internet generally) about that. Even though it was a practice though, I wanted to make the video entertaining to watch, so I put in some jokes, and some music, and edited out all the boring bits.

Here are some technical bits you might find interesting:

  • We filmed it using a five year old iPhone.
  • The overhead shots were done by attaching the phone to a lampshade using string and two wooden coffee stirrers.
  • The editing was done using some free editing software called Shotcut (I watched a YouTube video that told me how it worked, a fact which I think provides some nice symmetry to the project).
  • Resolution is 1920 x 1080, aspect 16:9, and 30.3 frames per second
  • The credit sequence at the beginning was done using Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • The voice-over work was done using the voice recorder software built into my ancient Chromebook, and a cheap USB microphone.
  • I took the drumbeat from a website that said you could use it to create your own music for free.

Here it is:

 

  • Number of views after a week:           44.  Not great, but to be expected, I guess.
  • Number of new subscribers:                3

 

What I learned from doing this:

  1. It turns out, I am never happy with the first take, or the second, or the third … I end up doing loads
  2. Also, video editing takes ages!
  3. The drumbeat turned out to be copyright protected, so YouTube told me I could never make money from this video. Since I was never going to do that anyway, it’s not really a problem  I won’t be using that music website again though.
  4. Not everyone gets my sense of humour. One of the few bits of feedback I got was an expression of disgust about the “cheating” at the end (the kitten distraction tactic). When I explained to the disgusted person that it was actually just a joke, filmed long after the game had finished, they did not reply.
  5. It turns out that making a video without a rules mistake in it is not as easy as you might think.

 

Video Number 2

My second video was where I decided to show my face a bit more, and do some talking to camera. I am still practising though, so I picked another obscure game, one from my childhood.

New equipment/techniques used this time:

  • I bought an octopus tripod for the phone.  I love it!
  • Shotcut allows you to have two video tracks running at once. It is quite easy (using a filter) to make one of those tracks run in one corner of the screen.
  • To remove the background in the countdown clock video I used a Shotcut filter called Chroma Key (advanced) which works like green-screen. Operation was set to “minimum”; I don’t know what that means but it seems to work.

 

  • Number of views after a week:           27.  Well, I did pick a very obscure game..
  • Number of new subscribers:                0

 

What I learned from doing this:

  1. Talking to camera and being funny is not as easy as John Oliver makes it look.
  2. Look into the camera on the phone, not at the screen!
  3. Raise the camera up to slightly above eye level, as this is a more flattering angle.
  4. I think I come across as a bit smug.
  5. I wish I could smile properly.
  6. I struggled with putting photos in the corner of the screen using Shotcut, things seemed distorted. I found it easier to add a slideshow from Powerpoint instead.
  7. Shotcut crashes when you try to do complicated things like multiple video tracks and green screening. The autosave was a big help in this regard, and I later discover that the problem was that I had installed the 32-bit version instead of the 64-bit version. Doh!

 

Video Number 3

This time, I really wanted to push the boat out, and make a high quality video on a popular subject. I spent weeks doing this video, and I fully expected it to get thousands of views, especially when it drew the attention of one of the most famous YouTubers in the board game hobby, who said he loved it, and recommended it to all his followers on Twitter and on BoardGameGeek.

  • Number of views after a week:           65
  • Number of new subscribers:                8  (but another one unsubscribed)

Sixty five views is not great, is it?  Tom Vassel gets over a hundred times that many viewers when he films himself opening his mail!

What I learned from doing this:

  1. That I clearly have no idea what I am doing.
  2. That a recommendation on Twitter, even from a big name, is not worth as much as I had thought.
  3. That I care about viewing figures more than I thought I would.
  4. I had thought, when filming, that my speech was enthusiastic and lively, but watching it back I feel it is not as upbeat as I thought it was. I should speak more even quickly and even more enthusiastically.
  5. When Shotcut makes the audio and the video go out of sync, it is because one of the included films has a different frame rate to the overall project.

 

Video Number 4

I think I need to do a top ten video. Browsing through the viewing figures of all the channels that I follow, it is the top ten videos that viewers seem to want to watch.

Having decided to do this, I watched a lot of Whatculture videos and thought about what made their top ten videos so good – I decided to “allow myself to be influenced by” (i.e. copy) their style.

But what subject to choose? All the obvious ones have been done to death – I want to do one that nobody else has done before. Eventually, it comes to me – top ten novels about board games. People will love that! What a great idea!

 

What a terrible idea!

  • Number of views after a week:           115
  • Number of new subscribers:                2

115 might be my best yet, but … well … it is still not great.

I spent months making this. I really did read all those books, you know. I thought that perhaps that some of the authors and publishers I mention might be pleased that I am advertising their books, and promote my video on Twitter and Facebook. I contacted as many of them as I could find, and told them about it, but almost all of them ignored me. And I still have not heard from Dave Gorman!

 

Video Number 5

Let’s try another approach, shall we? I have seen a few videos over the years (e.g. Board with Life, Actualol, Inside the Box) that are basically comedy sketches, rather than top tens, reviews or play-throughs.  I could do one of those:

Number of views:                         11

Number of new subscribers:      0

Maybe people do not realize this video is a board game sketch? Or maybe it failed to appealed to YouTube’s algorithm? Whatever the reason, my viewer-count is getting worse, not better. And zero new subscribers? Really?

 

The Future

After the dismal failure of video number 5, I was feeling pretty disheartened, and thinking of giving up the whole thing. I know I said that viewing figures do not mean much to me, but apparently they do not mean nothing.

But then I got this tweet, from the Ian Livingstone, the author of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain:

It made my day. Ian Livingstone knows my name (well, my pen name)! I strongly suspect he did not actually watch the video (in fact, I kind of hope not, because I was a little sarcastic once or twice) but even so, IAN LIVINGSTONE KNOWS WHO I AM!

Then, I went back to some of the older videos, and looked at the “Analytics” tab, and discovered that people are still watching the old videos from months ago. I get a steady number of viewers every day, and it looks as though, eventually my numbers will creep up into the thousands after all!

So maybe I will keep going.

Here we are then – my latest video, which I posted yesterday. I think it is my best yet. It is certainly the most personal.

 

And here are my ideas for future videos:

  • A video which is An Introduction to the Board Game Hobby
  • Strategy guides – Hive, Splendor, Carcassonne
  • Carcassonne:  a guide to all the expansions
  • A how-to-play video. I was thinking of Merlin, because there does not seem to be one about that game.
  • …or maybe a comedy rules video where I get everything wrong.
  • A short stop-motion film
  • A comedy mash-up of some other channel’s videos
  • Telling an anecdote from a game session
  • An interview.
  • A feature on all my broken games
  • Some tips on (and maybe footage from) board game Meetups.
  • My first convention.

I am open to other suggestions though. If anyone reading this has a great idea for a video but can’t be bothered to do it themselves, let me know what it is and maybe I will do it for you!

 

Name That Tabletop Game

So, I thought it would be fun to run a little quiz on Twitter, a sort-of Dingbats/Catchphrase-type thing, where the rules are a bit fuzzy, but answer is a tabletop game. Here is the first one I did:

Love Letter, obviously.

Easy, right?

Well, probably, I guess. I know that so far that tweet has been seen by 270 people, but I don’t know how many of them really looked at it or just scrolled quickly past it. I certainly don’t know how many of them got the right answer in their heads, or how many struggled; all I know is that it took three days before someone replied with the correct answer.

The next one was a bit trickier:

I like this one. It’s still one of my favourites.  Great game too! This tweet has been seen by 467 people, but only one person replied with the right answer. That person, as it happens, was Tony Boydell, the legendary game designer of classics like Guilds of London and Snowdonia. Cheers, Tony!

I won’t put the answer to this one here, in this post;  instead, I will give someone else the opportunity to show how clever they are, by putting the answer in a comment.

Here are five more of my favourites:

Tony Boydell was actually also first to get several of these right, too, which I found quite pleasing. To celebrate this celebrity endorsement, I posted this:

capture

Which elicited the following response:

capture2

If you want to follow me and play along in future, I am at twitter.com/Steve_Dee_TTC

 

Problem Players

I often hear people complain about ‘problem players’ and usually it either means people who take the games too seriously, or not seriously enough.

In 1950s teen movies, guys who ‘don’t play by the rules’ are cool, but at a game evening they are a pain in the nether regions.

But hold on a moment. Perhaps you should try to take a step back, and ask yourself if it really is a problem. The most important thing is that everyone has a good time!

Is it, though?

Well, okay, usually it is. Sometimes, however, you just have to accept that there are people you should not try to play games with. Some people suck the fun out the experience – they take ages over every turn, get angry at dice rolls, argue the rules, or just sit in silence and make everyone feel awkward. Some people are so bad though, they can be entertaining; well, at least, so bad that I can write about them in a mildly entertaining blog post…

I have a friend who once wanted to win Werewolf so badly, that she slightly marked the backs of the cards so that she could always tell who had the one with the werewolf on it.  After winning a few games, she felt guilty, and confessed; so now, if we play with that set, everybody knows who the werewolf is, which rather takes the fun out of it don’t you think?

I have another friend who always finds something to loudly complain about whenever I am explaining the rules of a game. He complained loudly because Coup was too similar to poker; then, the next week, he complained loudly that Sheriff of Nottingham was insufficiently similar poker.

I also have a relative who does not really enjoy playing games, but occasionally gets roped into the sessions against his will. He literally never understands the rules explanations, no matter how simple the game, and I am pretty sure he does it on purpose. Once, at the end of my two minute explanation of the rules of Skull (the most simple game I own) he asked “so where does the weasel come into it?” There are no weasels in Skull.

The problem player who really sticks in my mind, though, is a young woman who I came up against the last time (and I think it will be the last time) I played Trivial Pursuit. She would not accept my answer of Margaret Thatcher because “it says Maggie Thatcher on the card!”  She was laughing as she spoke, but she meant it – I was not going to get my piece of pie. This caused me a bit of a dilemma – I had to decide whether to argue the point with her (like a small child), refuse to play any more (like a small child), laugh it off and carry on without the piece of pie (treating her like a small child), or reluctantly let her have her way but make a mental note never to play any game with her ever again and hold a grudge for twenty years, until eventually I will attain closure by making a joke of it in a stupid blog that I will write about board games. See if you can guess which option I chose.

Bad Bad Reviews

These are my “favourite” negative reviews for board games. All are genuine one star reviews from forums and online retailers.

I just want to say thanks to these people who took time out of their busy schedules to share their well thought-out opinions with the world.

one-star-frown

Takenoko
“I don’t like board games.  I don’t know why I bought this really.”

Carcassonne
“I love board games, like Monopoly.  But this is nothing like Monopoly. Very disappointed.”

Ticket to Ride
“Beautiful game, IMPOSSIBLE to figure out. Completely unplayable, adults and kids (ages 8 and 9) have tried and tried to figure out the directions. What a shame, as they love trains.”

Pandemic
“The problem I have with this game is that it is not very realistic. Surely if a series of pandemics broke out, the World Health Organisation would assign more than four people to the job of containing it!”

Ticket to Ride (again)
“Package was left in a snow storm and box is now warped. Let Amazon know, but never heard back.”

Stone Age
“I had a very awkward moment when my eight year old started asking about why putting two meeples together in the hut made another meeple. I had been hoping to have another year or two before having to have that particular conversation. Thanks for that Z-Man!”

Istanbul
“Might be a fun game, but the name is heretical. Should be “Constantinople”. Saint Constantine is rolling in his grave because of this. One star.”

Sheriff of Nottingham
“Game is for liers and cheats. If your goal is to teach your children to lie, steal and bribe then you will like this game.”

7 Wonders
“We’ve just had our 4th attempt at getting to grips with his since Xmas. This time we managed to make it to page 5 of the manual before deciding to do something simpler, like proving Fermat’s last theorem or building a quantum computer out of Mecanno.”

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
“In my excitement at playing this game I turned into a bossy douche and ruined the game for all my friends.”

Pandemic (again)
“I’m sure this product is great and lots of fun… However the game that was sent to me is in Spanish. I put it to my group of friends that we should all learn Spanish in order to play. Unfortunately its Spain’s fault we all have no lettuce right now (true story) therefore the vote failed.”

 

Hope you enjoyed those. If anyone has other “favourite” reviews, please let me know.

 

 

Azul: Iberia or Lieberia?

A friend of mine, Bob, has just gone on holiday to Portugal. Before he went, I joked with him that the reason had chosen that particular destination was because of the game Azul.

You see, the official rules for Azul stipulate that the first player marker should be given to the person who has most recently visited Portugal, because the game’s theme is all about tiling a palace wall in the traditional Portuguese style. We have been playing this game in our group for about a year now, and Bob has long bemoaned the fact that the only one of us who has ever been to Portugal is me (I had a very nice holiday in there in 1994 – the weather was fine, thanks for asking).

So did Bob go on holiday there just to be able to be the first player at Azul?  It seems a bit extreme doesn’t it, but maybe he did on a subconscious level?  Maybe, flicking through the brochure a few months earlier, he could not decide between Greece, the Costa del Sol, and the Algarve, and a little voice in his head said “Jas, they are all nice places but only one of them will get you that Azul first player token.”

Now that he has gone, however, another thought has occurred to me. How do I know he has actually gone to Portugal? All I really know for sure is that he has booked a week off work and his car is not outside his house. What if he has actually gone hiking in the Peak District, and this whole Portugal thing is a lie?

So I sent him a WhatsApp message and demanded that he send me proof that he is in Portugal. I told him I needed to see photographs – and not just one photograph, but lots of them. One photograph could easily be photo-shopped. I told Jas that I needed to see overwhelming evidence that he was in Portugal – so many photographs that I would be convinced that nobody would have gone to so much trouble to fake them all for the sake of a game. He replied, saying he would send me something soon.

Now, I should mention at this point, that when I sent that message, I was really thinking of my blog, the one you are reading now. I was imagining a funny post I could write, which included all of Bob’s photographs, and my rejection of all of them.

For example, I imagined he might send me a picture of the boarding pass for his outbound flight, with his name and destination printed on it. I could then reject that, photo-shopping the picture myself to make it look as though he was actually going somewhere else (Faro airport could be converted to the Faroe Islands airport quite easily) as proof that photos of boarding passes were unreliable, and I would post both pictures on my blog.

If he sent me photographs of himself holding a Portuguese newspaper, I could edit that photo to make it look like he was holding a Norwegian newspaper instead.

If he sent me a photo of himself stood in front of a famous Portuguese monument, I could send him the photo below, of me and Mrs Dee “in Australia”, a photo which I have carried around on my phone for years to prove that I am the most widely travelled player in order to go first at Ticket to Ride.

DSCN0056

 

However, in the end, the only photo Bob actually sent me was of what I assume is a famous Portuguese monument, but he was not on the photo himself – it could easily have come from Wikipedia. My first thought on receiving this photo was to wonder if my theory that he was faking it, which I had never believed for a second and was only ever a joke, was actually correct. Then I looked a bit closer at the photo – it appeared to be an ancient obelisk, and there was something decidedly phallic about it. Also, I noticed that if you squint slightly when you look at it, it resembles a giant middle finger pointing upwards towards the Iberian sky.

IMG-20181008-WA0000

And that was when I realized he was on to me.

So, my plans for this particular blog post have not worked out the way I wanted them to, but perhaps it has turned out for the best – at least I do not have to spend ages doing all that photo-shopping now.

Epilogue:
A few days ago my wife and I were talking about our own holiday plans for next year. She was flicking through a brochure and reading out the names of possible destinations. She said she liked the look of Greece, and the Costa del Sol … and also the Algarve. As she said this, a little voice in my head said “Steve, they are all nice places but only one of them will get you that Azul first player token back.”