Taking a look back at my original gaming podcasts post, I was surprised at just how much has changed. I considered updating that post again, but decided it would simply be too much work: so instead, here’s a new Top 10.
I realise I have a tendency to turn Top 10s into top fifteens, or twenties (or sometimes more…), but this time I’ve managed to keep it to a solid 10. However, to make sure I continue to break from tradition, this isn’t in order from favourite down: rather, it is a spread of podcasts I think – between them – should appeal to a large range of gamers.
As an ignorant Englishman that only speaks his native tongue, these are all in English. I also find them all well produced and at least reasonably well edited, and none of them are advert heavy. I’ve marked the ones I consider could cause offence (but none are that bad). And as always, I’m sure you’ll have your own recommendations: I’ll list a few obvious exceptions at the end, and there are more I no longer listen to on the links above, but please suggest others I may have missed.
My Top 10 gaming podcasts
- The Dice Tower
Probably the most popular board game podcast, The Dice Tower now heads its own mini empire of podcasts and video content. Its level of output is second to none, with only the Board Game Geek website beating it in terms of new release coverage. This weekly podcast itself has four hosts on rotation, two male and two female, and each hour-long episode starts with talking about what they’ve recently played before moving onto a topic. Topics are often top 10 lists, but can include everything from live shows from cons to listener questions and topic discussions. Unfortunately one of the four presenters is a good few levels lower than the others in terms of quality, so I find myself skipping some episodes, but its definitely a great place to start your exploration.
- The Game Pit
The UK’s leading gaming podcast and part of the Dice Tower Network, The Game Pit hosts Sean and Ronan give a refreshingly British spin to the world of board games. While a little more random in terms of release schedule, with more than 100 episodes under their belts they’re clearly here to stay. The long shows (usually two-plus hours) are purely topic driven, with regular features including Treasure Hunt (listing upcoming games and saying if they think they’ll be traps or treasures); Picking Over the Bones (lots of mini reviews of games) and Battle Reports (convention talk, often from during the con itself). Their family level banter (the guys are cousins) make it stand out, while regular guest spots from everyone from their kids/spouses to gaming friends (including me…) keep things fresh.
- Cube Love
Who hasn’t thought about just sitting down with your best mate and shooting the breeze while recording it and putting it out as a podcast? (Just me then?) But you get the feeling that’s what co-hosts Mark and Nathan decided – and I’m glad they did. The show can be random and rambling, and the quality is hit and miss, but overall I love the honesty and the banter – and they’re clearly very experienced gamers. It’s also irregular at best, with roughly one per month landing (if you’re lucky), but it does tend to weight in at two hours per podcast. Episodes are always split into sections, but these are hugely varied – from con reports or long reviews to discussions on anything from a designer to a mechanism to a gamer quirk – or one of them picking on the other about something. (Warning: A little sweary)
- Board Games to Go
The original, and for me still the best board game podcast. Hosted by Mark Johnson, it has been going since 2005 and is regularly quoted by many (including The Dice Tower) as being the inspiration behind starting their own shows. The majority of episodes used to be Mark on his own, but more often than not he now has guests helping him out (again, including me…). Mark’s tastes lean more towards family games, but euros do get some coverage. Episodes tend to come in under the hour and are thoughtful conversations or thoughts on topics including award speculation and convention play reports, ranging through to one-off topics on all kinds of things gaming related. For me, it’s the ‘up all night’ quiet time podcast in a see of louder, brasher offerings – and is all the better for it.
- Mile High Game Guys
This is another show you can describe as ‘just some friends having a laugh’ – and be warned: it can be quite a while before they remember they’re a gaming podcast and stop talking about sport, or some other random topics. But the banter is fun to listen to and they’re clearly knowledgeable about gaming in general. You can expect two shows each week, with a random/what we’ve been playing show followed later in the week by a more in-depth review or topic. Shows run long (usually two hours-ish) and if I have one criticism the three co-hosts can often repeat each other’s points. But generally it’s an interesting listen from three guys who have differing tastes in games, covering everything from light to heavier board and card games. (Warning: A little sweary)
- Heavy Cardboard
Host Edward, and previous co-hosts Tony and Amanda, have been building an amazing heavy gamer community since the podcast began in 2014. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, with the hosts always wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but the real focus has always been on heavy, heavy games. If you want to learn about games in the 3+ on the BGG weight scale, this is the place for you. Shows usually cover games on their radar, followed by an in-depth review of a game – but you’ll also find con reports and interviews with notable designers of heavier games. They also do their own heavy game award each year, arrange meet-ups at cons and even have a world map of heavy gamers. This is a proper community (‘The Herd’) and all the better for it.
- So Very Wrong About Games
There’s been a gap in the market for a new podcast concentrating on heavier games, and co-hosts Mike and Mark are doing a great job of filling it in. When I say heavy, I don’t mean heavy – for that, see the above entry. But these guys concentrate on games for those who have come through family and gateway games and are looking for the next step up in complexity. The hour-long bi-weekly episodes always include a ‘what we’ve played recently section (of all game weights) followed by a long-ish review and a topic. The reviews tend to lean towards sci-fi/fantasy games with lots of theme but also slightly meatier mechanics, such as Gaia Project or Mage Knight. But the approach is conversational and the guys come across as likeable and knowledgeable.
Comedy panel show gaming…
- This Game is Broken
Billed as ‘the comedy board game panel show’, this podcast does exactly what it says on the tin. Every fortnight, four panellists in two teams (and their host) tackle a series of daft challenges and questions based around board games: expect a great mix of genuine gamer knowledge and stupidity, from guessing the retail price of games to ad-libbing escaping from a game, Jumanji style: there’s even the occasional kazoo. Regular panellists include The Brothers Murph, while occasional guests (including Tony Boydell and Christina Aimerito) keep things fresh. No, not every skit is hilarious – but they hit way more often than missing and it’s great to have a board gaming podcast that’s breaking the familiar mould.
Game design podcasts
The original and best podcast about board game design, Ludology has been co-presented by Geoff Engelstein since 2011. I still miss original co-host Ryan Sturm, who was a great foil to Geoff for the first 100 episodes; and card game design legend Mike Fitzgerald who stepped in until episode 150. Since then, current co-host Gil Hova and Geoff seem to have moved more away from the science into their own design experiences which feels detrimental to the show’s original concept – but I guess it’s natural, as both now have plenty of games published (although nothing of note. If I hear “When I was designing The Networks blah blah blah” one more time…). That aside, it’s still the best place to genuinely get your game design brain thinking in new and interesting directions.
- The Game Design Round Table
A close rival to Ludology’s crown, the only real thing holding the Round Table back from being my favourite design podcast is its mix of computer and tabletop design. This can be fascinating, and many of the lessons learned can be applied to both camps in interesting ways; but it does mean some episodes feel totally irrelevant to me. That said, the great ones really do make you think. Regular co-host Dirk Knemeyer used to have the Gil Hova problem (see Ludology above) but has since become a fantastic pilot of the show; while regular co-hosts David Heron (Star Trek Timelines), Harrison Pink (Blizzard) and Rob Daviau (Hasbro, ‘Legacy’ games) lend some genuine design heft to proceedings.
Big podcast names that didn’t make the list
Rahdo Talks Through is the podcast from hugely popular Rahdo Runs Through presenter, erm, Rahdo. If you like Rahdo then you’ll like this. Personally, I don’t tend to agree with his opinions on games and tend to find he is overly popular about most titles: if you want to reduce the games you might want to find out about in a sea of mediocrity, this is not the podcast for you! That said, he’s clearly a nice guy and if you want a couple of hours of positivity every few weeks it could be for you.
The Secret Cabal Podcast is possibly the second most popular podcast behind The Dice Tower: I can’t stand it. It’s well produced but the depth of knowledge is frighteningly thin and they clearly don’t play each game very often. In truth, I’ve probably just listed the reasons why it’s so popular: a lack of depth in plays and being new-ish to the hobby means you’re going to find a massive audience right now, in a rapidly expanding hobby driven by the ‘cult of the new’ – especially in the US where they’re from.
The D6 Generation used to be on my list, and is still hugely popular, but there was just too much in episode that I didn’t care about. There’s a lot on here about miniatures gaming (such as Warhammer 40k) and RPGs, as well as non-tabletop gaming topics such as film and computer games – and the podcasts tend to go very long (often pushing towards three hours). There just wasn’t room in my listening schedule – but if your gaming tends to cover the whole spectrum, this could well be one for you.