TableTop is an online web series hosted by Wil Wheaton and created by Wheaton and Felicia Day. Every episode focuses on one or more tabletop games, giving a brief explanation of the game and then playing it with a number of guests. These guests are often web or television personalities. The gameplay footage is intermixed with asides from Wheaton and his guests, discussing their experience in the game, their strategy, and other related things. Debuting back in 2012, TableTop has now completed it’s third season, with a fourth season scheduled to begin production in the spring.
It’s important to know that TableTop is not, and does not try to be, a tutorial for games. While Wheaton goes over the basics of the games at the beginning of episodes, and you can see the mechanics of the game in action through play, time is not taken to explain all of the rules in detail. In fact, on more than one occasion, there are mistakes – sometimes major ones – in how they play the game (I’m looking at you, Forbidden Desert episode). So TableTop is not a resource you should turn to if you’re trying to learn a new game, or looking for some clarity on how to play.
If not instructional, then, what is TableTop? At it’s core, TableTop is entertaining. Wheaton and his guests are often funny and enjoyable to watch. The show is careful to be very accessible, too. The basics of the games are explained clearly, without using too much gamer jargon (or, at least, with good explanations of the jargon they use), so it can be watched by people without any pre-existing knowledge of gaming. They also explore many different types of games, including board games, family games, RPGs, and card games, so whatever your preference, they’ve probably shot an episode on a game you’ll enjoy.
Personally, I think TableTop is an excellent resource for getting a feel of a game, or learning about games you might not know otherwise. On his blog, Wheaton has said that the ultimate goal of Tabletop is “to be entertaining, to introduce people to boardgames, and to get people excited about playing games.” I think it’s fair to say that the web series succeeds at those goals.
It’s also important to touch on the impact that TableTop has had on the gaming industry and community. Allegedly, after a given game is featured on TableTop, sales of that game get large boosts. More importantly for gamers, though, TableTop has helped to promote the resurgence of board games, most notably through International TableTop Day. Started in 2013, International TableTop Day is a day-long celebration of gaming, and many gaming stores have special events every year. This year’s International TableTop Day is April 30, 2016.
In all, TableTop is an entertaining web series that anyone, from experienced gamers to first-timers, could find some enjoyment in watching. While it doesn’t always explain the rules of a game adequately (or correctly), it does manage to capture the feel of the games and give a fairly good idea of what sort of experience the game provides, including basic mechanics and themes. Unsure about whether you should pay $50 on a new game? Try finding a TableTop episode on it. If nothing else, you’ll come away knowing if the game looks like fun to play or not. On the other hand, if you’ve already got the game and are just looking for some information on rules, maybe you should try Watch It Played instead.
The entire series of TableTop can be found at http://geekandsundry.com/shows/tabletop/.