Playing board games is fun, but sometimes it’s just as entertaining to kick back and watch others play a round or two. If that’s more your style, you won’t want to miss a terrific little YouTube series called TableTop. Created by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, the series features Wheaton and tons of guests playing all kinds of board games.
The iconic series was created in 2012 by Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) and actor-slash-writer-slash producer Felicia Day for her all-things indie nerd YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. I happened to stumble upon the series while searching for a tutorial on how to play insane board game Eldritch Horror, and have enjoyed it immensely for the few years that it ran.
In each video, Wil Wheaton invites three or so guests on to play the game. Guests, as you’d probably expect, are all connected to the Hollywood geek scene, including the likes of actors, writers, comedians, scientists, voice actors, and YouTubers. The epic guest list includes Seth Green, Pat Rothfuss, Sam Witwer, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Mayim Bialik, Ify Nadiwe, Brandon Routh, Grant Imahara, Alan Tudyk, Hannah Hart, Karen Gillan, Aisha Tyler, Kevin Pereira, Ashly Burch, Kumail Nanjiani, and Bobak Ferdowsi.
The series also features an epicly spectacular array of board games, from RPGs and card games to German-style board games. The list includes Settlers of Catan, Elder Sign, Gloom, Munchkin, Alhambra, Pandemic, Dragon Age, The Resistance, Star Wars: X-Wing, Carcassonne, Dead of Winter, Cards Against Humanity, Eldritch Horror, and Dread among many others.
At the start of each video, Wheaton talks directly to the camera and guides viewers through the mechanics of the game before joining up with his guests. He mentions who created the game and sets the scene, explaining what the overall objective is along with any hindrances the players are likely to encounter. Wil then runs through what an average turn would look like, what needs to be collected or achieved, and what equipment and components the players will be dealing with in the game.
The fun of the series is that nothing is scripted—it’s actual unedited gameplay in every single video. The different combination of guests each video also keeps things exciting, though there have been times it was a bit of a dumpster fire (see the NSFW Cards Against Humanity episode, or maybe don’t, actually). It’s a blast to watch players’ reactions to various events and to see them panic when things aren’t exactly going their way. I also like watching the guests that I’m familiar with to see how they approach games and handle their victories, or, in some cases crushing defeat.
Gameplay is interspersed with quick reality show-like moments where a guest is talking directly to the camera, for comedic effect. And finally, once the game is over, the scene cuts to Wil consoling the losers on the Losers’ Couch. Then he goes to the Wall of Victory to congratulate the winner on their hard-earned victory and presents them with “the” trophy.
Aside from the infamous Cards Against Humanity episode, the series is generally family friendly. Episodes last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, plus there are also plenty of gag reels, interviews, and extended episodes if you just can’t get enough. TableTop is tons of fun for board game enthusiasts and nerds alike, and something that’s actually worth being on YouTube for.