If you're like me (and who isn't), then you are really into tabletop gaming. But there's no one more into tabletop gaming than Chris Renshaw, host of one of my favorite podcasts, Boards & Swords. On air he delves into all kinds of games, from RPGs to Magic the Gathering to a plethora of other board and card games, offering great insights and fun reviews.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Chris about the past, present, and future of the podcast, and about its nifty new Patreon campaign.
How did you come to create Boards & Swords?
I had been podcasting for a couple of years now about various geeky interests, but in 2013 I had been really getting into board gaming. Just as some of my other podcasts had started, it really was all about me being really excited and passionate about something and wanting to talk about it with other people. And thus Boards & Swords was born! Funny story, one of the first names that I threw about for the podcast was "Confessions of an Unplugged Gamer" because at the time I was done playing video games for awhile as my interest had just gone downhill. I ended up not naming it that and creating an Episode Zero of the podcast called "Untitled Board Game Podcast" until I came up with Boards & Swords.
How has the reaction to this podcast been?
Amazingly, out of all the podcasts that I have done, this one has resonated with people more than any other. I like to think it's because I've learned all the hard lessons about audio quality and content, but it is probably because I try to put more passion and excitement into this show than any of my other shows. But I kind of have to - where a podcast has only one host, if that guy isn't really passionate, then what else is there to keep people listening?
Also, it probably doesn't hurt that I found a great network of other board game podcasts in the Dice Tower Network (dicetowernetwork.com) that already had a well-built community.
What drives your interest in tabletop gaming?
I am a very social gamer. When I play video games, I prefer to play them with people in the same room because I think that enhances the experience. That's probably why I love tabletop gaming so much, because it's great to sit around a table with your friends and have fun playing games.
Secondly, tabletop gaming gives me a special connection with my now 11-year old step-daughter, Chloe. When I first met my future wife, I was still fairly fresh out of college and trying to figure out this "being an adult" thing. Now, I was trying to be a good parent and father figure as well? Having spent my whole life clueless about females didn't really help matters either. But over time, she has seen all my geeky interests and joined in a few as well, with gaming being the one she has latched onto the most. Now, each week she and I go together to our local store's weekly board game night. We do Friday Night Magic every other week and play in all the Magic pre-releases. We even buy a box for each Magic set and then sit down and open all the packs together.
What are some of your favorite tabletop games - what are some of your favorite moments from playing those games?
I've been thinking about this question a lot recently, because if you look at other tabletop gaming podcasters, they have their "favorite" game that never changes, but my interests always ebb and flow and what's my favorite today may not be that way in 6 months. Right now, I'm really into Eldritch Horror. I just got the new Mountains of Madness expansion and I'm really looking forward to trying it out. I love this game because it doesn't even matter if I get to finish the game, I always have a good time playing the game and going through the story - which always ends badly because I haven't beaten it yet! The last time I played the game, I ended up going through 3-4 different characters because I was dying so much.
Also, I really enjoy the Android: Netrunner LCG. I have always been a big SciFi fan and this game really scratches that itch. Plus it takes my love of Magic: The Gathering and puts it in a form where I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to make a new deck. Netrunner is always an experience for me because its another game I never seem to win at, no matter how well I appear to be doing. One time, I was playing as the Corp and dealt a bunch of damage to my friend, the runner. I also had almost enough agenda points to win the game - next round I was probably going to win. However, my friend got a lucky run through and stole an agenda from my hand, putting him within scoring range. Then he got super lucky again and hit my deck, and what do you know, an agenda was sitting right on top, causing him to win the game. I'm currently 1-11 playing this game!
Tell us about your Patreon campaign.
For those that are not aware, Patreon is an incredible site which allows creators to keep putting out content and gives people the chance to support those creators. For Boards & Swords, I have it set up so people can donate for each episode of the podcast that I produce. In return, they can get cool stuff like custom D&D adventures written by me, cool swag like stickers & dice, and even have a chance to guest host a future episode of Boards & Swords with me.
Those that are interested can check out the Patreon at patreon.com/boardsandswords.
What do you hope to accomplish with the campaign?
As last year came to a close, in addition to my personal resolutions for 2015, I also like to make podcasting resolutions. For Boards & Swords, I noticed that last year I spent time playing the hit games that had come out in 2013, and so when people were asking about new games that were coming out, I didn't have any experience with those newer games. In 2015, I made a resolution to play more newer games that are coming out this year so that I can let people know if it is the type of game that they are going to enjoy.
However, my limited gaming budget means that I have to be extremely selective about the games that I purchase. With the Patreon campaign, I hope to raise enough money that I can be able to try out more big releases as they come out and talk about them on the show. I also plan on attending Gen Con for the first time this year, but I wish I could have the opportunity to attend Origins and Board Game Geek Con so that I could see what games people are hyped up about and get a leg up on which games are coming soon.
In the end, the Patreon is all about giving more to my listeners. Covering more events, producing more content, and trying out more games. I will always be trying to push the podcast to be better, but the Patreon is just a way of helping that process.
Where do you see your interest in Board Gaming going in the future?
I'm really not sure. I've found that many of my geeky interests seem to come and go in cycles. Sometimes I'll be really excited about something, next thing you know I'm on to something else. For some reason board gaming has clung to me the longest, probably for the social reasons that I mentioned above. I've really had a blast at the few gaming conventions that I've been to, so I see myself trying to attend other conventions in the future.
Hopefully someday in the future I'll figure out how to win a game of Netrunner while playing the Corp...