I somewhat reluctantly started listening to Podcasts about a month or two ago. I say reluctantly because initially I didn’t really see the point of downloading amateurish audio content, plus the mechanics of listening in the “early days” (5-6 months ago) were a bit of a pain. I did listen to the first 6 GeekSpeak episodes last year on my PC but dropped out for several months. This June I took the time to wire up iTunes and my iPod to a few Podcasts using the fantastic iPodder software and subscribed to the trifecta of GeekSpeak, BoardGames To Go, and The Dice Tower. They are now regular commute listening for me, and Jacob has even been requesting Geek Speak when we drive out to the coast. I’ve listened to each enough to write some commentary, so here goes.
As far as boardgame oriented Podcasts go, this is the one that started it all. Derk and Aldie (Aldie and Derk?) continue to innovate with BoardGameGeek and GeekSpeak sets the benchmark by which the others will be measured. This show has the A-list guests and the shows continue to improve. Some highlights include Mike Fitzgerald, Peter Sarrett, and Guido Teuber. I’m less fond of some of the interludes in the show – the Origins reporting by Ted Cheatham was painful and the audio quality of Aldie’s soundseeing tour of the Gathering was poor. When they stick to their core, which is interviewing notable guests. This podcast also happens to be Jacob’s favorite, mostly because of Derk’s antics. Maybe it would hurt the chemistry, but at times I do wish Derk would tone down the sarcastic digs against his guests (and Reiner). I guess I expect more respect for the guests – a few pokes now and then are fine but keep it professional. Think of GeekSpeak as the Daily Show of boardgame Podcasts.
Mark Johnson has maintained a popular weblog for some time and recently started producing a Podcast on boardgames. Mark’s Podcast is more of a solo effort and has a keen focus on reviews, session reports, and special topics of interest to Mark. Mark is also experimenting with including his kids on Podcasts – I think this is a great idea when done in moderation. It is difficult enough for the run-of-the-mill amateur Podcaster to maintain a level of quality to keep audience interest; with kids on the show I think the challenge is even greater. Mark is at his best when he covers special topics, and his intro shows (Intro to Podcasting and Intro to Boardgames) are top notch. I particularly like Mark’s humility (Derk could use a bit more of this ) and willingness to listen to listener feedback and adjust accordingly. Think of Mark and Boardgames To Go as the the Jim Lehrer of Podcasts. A bit dry at times, but solid content worth tuning into.
The Dice Tower is the brainchild and production of Tom Vasel and Joe Steadman. For entertainment value, The Dice Tower sits right in between GeekSpeak and Boardgames To Go. I appreciate that Tom and Joe aren’t trying to just be another Derk and Aldie – they’ve taken a unique approach to their shows, relying on banter and the push-pull of their different interests. Tom prefers European-style boardgames while Joe is a grognard wargame enthusiast. I particularly enjoy their top 10 lists (favorite publishers, favorite gateway games, etc.) as it is interesting hearing their different views and the ensuing dialog. At times their banter becomes a bit too vitriolic for my tastes – I understand they are good friends and the jabs are probably good natured, but without knowing them (and seeing body language) the exchanges seem a bit over-the-top at times. I suggest they tone down the conflict and keep it civil without losing the healthy debates that make the show entertaining. Think of the Dice Tower as the Hannity and Colmes of boardgame Podcasts.
Well, that’s just one man’s opinion and I’ll keep listening to all three and hope to see even more (unique) Podcasts show up on the net.