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Do board games have a future as spectator sports?

Posted Friday, 22-May-2015

Contributed by Andrew Knighton

Traditionally, the whole point of board games has been to take part in them — nobody really wants to be on the sidelines for the annual Christmas game of Monopoly.

But thanks to the internet, and the growth of sites discussing and reviewing games, board games are also turning into a spectator sport.

The Joy of Watching Others Play

The most famous example of this is former Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton’s show Tabletop, part of the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. Each episode, Wil and his celebrity guests play a different board game; recent examples including Five Tribes, Dead of Winter and Sheriff of Nottingham.

The videos let viewers get an idea of how the game works, and have fun watching the participants crack jokes while they play.

The most popular example of players-watching-players is through Geek & Sundry's episodes of Tabletop.
The most popular example of players-watching-players is through Geek & Sundry’s episodes of Tabletop.

Tabletop has proved so popular that it’s launched International Tabletop Day and featured as an expansion deck in Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box.  But it’s far from the only board game show out there.

Another popular favorite is quirky British review site Shut Up & Sit Down.  Alongside amusingly oddball reviews, SU&SD includes videos of the reviewers playing through games, explaining their strategy and the rules along the way.


The site’s combination of humor and intelligent insight shines through, making very entertaining videos on games such as Cosmic Encounter and Archipelago.

Computer Games as Spectator Sport

Spectator-type videos are already common for computer games, thanks to Twitch TV and a whole host of YouTube channels.  But things have gone even further for computer games, with the massive eSports competitions and even professional players.

It seems unlikely that things will ever go this far with board games. The action is slower, and doesn’t start out on a screen for everyone to see.  But twenty years ago computer games as spectator sport would have seemed absurd, so who knows what the future holds?

One super popular series where player get to watch to game as if they are playing it is Rahdo Runs Through.  Hamm (and sometimes his wife) is able to give an excellent feel as to how games play out.  Ham can be a great influence for those who are on the fence about buying a specific board game.


For now, watching videos of game play is a great way to see what a game is like, to decide whether you want to buy it, or maybe to find something new.  So sit back, relax, and watch the games commence.

Published by BoardGamePrices.com

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