Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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Podcast Review: Play is the Thing

Bez Shahriari
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Teaches me to publish:
Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

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length: generally 30-70 min.
schedule: sporadic
I listened to: all the episodes

Summary:

Dr. Max Davie talks to a different guest each episode. Generally not so much about regular boardgames as it is about how boardgames can be tweaked to teach about climate change, or how boardgames have evolved, or escape rooms, or raising children.

Bias/my introduction:

I cannot remember how I found this. I am friendly with a couple of the guests. No real bias.

Review:

I really enjoyed hearing about different forms of play and listening to folk talking about games, and playing games, in slightly different ways to what I hear on most shows.

There's definitely an eclectic mix of guests. They all bring a unique voice and it's consistently thought-provoking and entertaining.

It occurs to me now, revisiting this 'podcast review' format after a bit of a break, awarding stars to arbitrary categories I devised at some point, that I don't have a clear idea of what a 'game' or a 'game person' is. It's a nebulous term for sure. But ultimately, this show is more about the discussion of what was, could be, and is in the wider field of 'games' and 'play'. Boardgames are certainly not a constraint.

The conversations are relatively freeform - vaguely following the central topic after the opening questions are answered, but allowing for a few tangents.
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Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:45 am
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Podcast Review: The Train Rush

Bez Shahriari
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Informative about games:
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length: generally 30-90 min.
schedule: monthly-ish
I listened to: all the episodes

Summary:

Dave Moss & Craig Taylor talk about 18XX games. Maybe occasionally 18XX-adjacent games or poker chips. Usually, there will be a quick summary of recent games played and a thorough examination of one game.

Bias/my introduction:

I vaguely know Craig via the BGTCUK FB group. Craig mentioned this podcast when they started it. I asked Craig to chat with me on my BGWB show about train games, but Craig didn't want to, seemingly uncertain if I knew what I'd be getting myself in for.

I have personally played an 18XX game maybe 2 times, but this show is fairly clearly aimed at those folk more invested in this niche than I am.

Review:

The show can be a bit impenetrable at times. Talking about all sorts of numbers and details. From titles alone, it can be hard to keep all these games separate or even keep track of what they're talking about right now (specially when '1849' sounds a lot like '1839' on a podcast and Craig/Dave don't reiterate the name as often as I'd like.

Listening in, there is a wonderful passion behind everything. I found the 'teaching' episode notably approachable and over the course of the episodes, I did start to learn about how Craig/Dave view companies/rusting/share manipulation/track work in 18xx games. I learned about how some folk have tried to shrink this, and how others have tried to put in a lot of modular ideas.

In the absence of a lot of time to actually play these titles, this show allows me to live vicariously and share in their joy/appreciation. Honestly, this podcast did make me feel like if I manage to go to Bastion or another con 'just to play games', I would definitely ask folk to play an 18XX title.

It's fantastic that there's podcasts for niche boardgaming aspects like this and the Partygamecast (FTPGCTSAPGAGYTTP). Long may it continue.
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Thu Sep 5, 2019 1:29 am
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Podcast review: Flatout at the Table

Bez Shahriari
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Teaches me to design:
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Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

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length: generally 30-90 min.
schedule: on hiatus

Summary:

4 friends (Molly, Justin, Rob & Shawn) use each episode to talk about one of the mechanisms listed on BGG.

They read the BGG definition, try to clarify it, talk about their personal thoughts concerning it, and then finish by brainstorming a concept for a game that uses the mechanism.

There are also shorter 'PIP' episodes that might be a design diary, an interview, or talking about names.

Bias/my introduction:

I found this when searching for more design-related podcasts. I was unbiased until I contacted them to check the schedule, at which point I found I might be allowed on at some point.

Review:

I love the concept here - working through the mechanisms is a new way to talk about games in a podcast and I enjoy having the definitions in podcast form.

I find the brainstorming segments sometimes fun and the interviews of good quality.

Personally though, I found that they diluted the main aspect.

I'd love them to just focus on the mechanisms, and cut out the rest. Maybe even trim the game design bits slightly. Not that everything else wasn't good, but it felt like stuff that everyone else was doing, whereas the overall idea behind the main shows (examining mechanisms one by one, learning and pondering together) is insanely strong, original, and doesn't need any supporting structure imo.

I look forward to future shows from these guys.
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Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:56 pm
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Boardgames with Bez (my internet radio show)

Bez Shahriari
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I do an internet radio show that I don't think I've mentioned here before.

15 episodes have been uploaded, which isn't a massive number, but enough that I feel I've been doing this regularly and it's starting to become a habit. With a few exceptions, I've had a new show once a week, airing on Tuesday/Thursday at 10pm UK-time.

If you want to listen 'live', then go here.

To listen to my old episodes, go here.

Going by my usual 'podcast review' metrics, I think it'd rate fairly low on everything. I don't interview guests. I don't talk a lot about games (although they are mentioned) and I never do reviews. I have a 'lesson of the week', which might often be game-design related, but I wouldn't listen to the show in order to learn how to design.

Each episode is 58-61 minutes long, with half the episode dedicated to exploring one question. The first episode was, "What is a game?" and the 2nd, "What makes a good game?"

The rest of the episode involves introductions, catching up, celebrating cool things, and talking about news. Honestly, the news is more to put the episodes in a somewhat historical context.

Later episodes might have talked about news in the sense that a topic might be, "What is [convention name]?" But the "What is GenCon?" episode barely talked about anything specific to the show, and instead took a broader view.

I think, if my show is contributing anything, it is that broader view. I like to think that maybe someone interested in learning more about a given thing might be able to learn a bit by listening, whatever year they happen to listen.

I have enjoyed speaking to folk that I don't normally get to talk to. Even with friends like John Brieger, Mark McKinnon of Wreck and Ruin fame and Andy Yiangou, setting aside an hour to record the show means that we actually get to chat in a way we don't usually. With folk like Emma Larkins, Ambierona, the D&D Live musicians, and Owen Duffy, it's really interesting to get to talk for some time about their topic of expertise and learn about them as a person.

I'm looking forward to chatting to Jamey Stegmaier and our question will be something to do with time management. Jamey's talked about KS a lot and design a bit. But organisation/ burning out is something very much on my mind and Jamey seems to have a unique perspective on this. (If you have any Qs, I'll try to sprinkle them in.)

I wrote recently about the motivations to do a KS. Many of those apply to me. Apart from the 'practising editing' bit. My episodes aren't well edited and I have little time for it, and no real interest in learning that skill. If someone wanted to take on those duties, I'd be thankful and big you up each episode.

I enjoy having the space to ramble and talk about things. Sometimes, talking aloud can solidify some thoughts.

I learn from my guests each episode.

My dirty secret is that most episodes aren't edited anymore. I get the 2 channels, put them together, sort the volumes and then maybe cut out anything if I absolutely need to. If I actually edited all the episodes, it just wouldn't be worth my time. But as it is, it usually takes little enough time (usually 30-40min outside of the recording time).

I'd wanted to do a podcast for many years. I even talked to a Ben at UKGE 2011 about doing one, and recorded a few episodes with Ben Neuman 2-3 years ago. The technical stuff of getting it all online wasn't something I had time/energy to sort out, so the current system (Iain Boulton has the internet radio show and I just email them a high-quality mp3 once a week) is very nice and easy for me.

It was definitely because of Iain lowering the barrier (I mean, originally I even just emailed the giant wav) that I was able to do this and if you're interested in contributing your own show, maybe speak to Iain.

This week, I spoke to Andy Yiangou about #BGDevCon, and one of our voices was a bit louder. I'll have to actually spend a few hours editing it, so tonight will be a repeat show. The episode should be aired on Thursday, 10pm UK-time and the schedule will probably shift to new episodes on Thursdays, repeats on Tuesdays.

That's a lesson - recording each person on their own channel is so much easier.

I don't know how "The Party Gamecast, featuring the partygame cast" makes it all sound so good.

I sometimes try to have a conclusion. I don't think there is one.

I do an internet radio show. If you've read all this, then you may as well go and give it a listen, I suppose. But if you don't, that's OK. It's not really 'the thing I do', just 'a thing I do' and I guess all the 'things we do' have value in different ways.
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Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:27 pm
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Podcast review: Games with Garfield

Bez Shahriari
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Makes me smile:
Teaches me to design:
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Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

Link (mixcloud)

[url=https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/games-with-garfield-mtgcast/id447340130?mt5ish0+
length: 10ish or 40ish minutes
schedule: stopped

Summary:

Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias of MtG fame talked about various aspects of games. Their reactions to the MtG rules changes. Randomness in games. Politics in games. They also interviewed a few key industry figures (Steve Jackson, James Ernest...) and Garfield did a few shorter episodes about specific games.

Bias/my introduction:

I love MtG. I have immense respect for Garfield - not only as a person with some great concepts, but also as an accomplished designer, developer and also teacher (given their lectures).

I can't remember but I think I found this podcast when it was already over.

Review:

Garfield is brilliant and listening to them talk is of massive educational value for anyone doing game design/development.

I always find Garfield pleasant to listen to. Their speech is measured and calm. Skaff is an argumentative force and there is great chemistry for the main episodes. These are friends who worked together for the genesis of MtG and have remained close friends.

The game glimpses are entertaining and also occasionally thought-provoking. I love learning how Garfield's mind works - the conclusions reached and connections made.

Possibly my favourite game-related podcast ever.
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Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:02 am
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Podcast review: Boardgames in Bed

Bez Shahriari
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Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

Link

Eps: 20+
length: 40-50ish minutes
schedule: usually weekly

Summary:

Becky and Kelly (a relatively-recently-married couple) talk about many of the games that they have played recently. They then spend the 2nd half of the episode talking about one chosen topic, in a section that they title, "Pillow Talk".

Sometimes, aspects of their non-gaming life (like marriage) is touched upon.

Bias/my introduction:

I'd heard about these guys a while back but hadn't listened much (it was genuinely on an actual list of stuff I think I'll enjoy binging but want to wait a while for.

After meeting Becky & Kelly in Norwich and showing them some of my things, I quickly binge-listened to the first 55ish episodes (and continued enjoying the others as they came out).

I'm very proud to have been Becky & Kelly's favourite bit of the show, and to hear they are continuing to enjoy the Wibbell++ games. But I did really enjoy the first 51 episodes, which I knew for sure would have no mentions of me.

Review:

For me, the 'what have you played recently' bit of a podcast is often the least interesting part. But it does give a wonderful insight into what that person enjoys.

When it's given space to breathe - when folk are talking about why they liked/disliked those games - it can be an opportunity for some micro-reviews.

When it's repeated and you are able to listen to someone's 'gaming diary' that covers more than a year, it can be a fascinating, slightly voyeuristic, insight into how some 'random' couple interacts with games. How often do they replay a game they like? How soon will they play a new game they bought? Somehow, it feels like an opportunity for me to understand these people's motivations. A 'case study' if you will.

Also, the podcasts are super-fun to listen to. Becky and Kelly have a great chemistry (I mean, I should hope so...) and as they're not generally playing games for the sake of 'reviewing' them, the podcast tends to focus on the happier moments and the things that they actually enjoy.

Games are played with each other, with friends and sometimes remotely. Life all intersects and - via boardgames - we get a sliver of insight into their lives. I know that they love BSG and play boardgames on their lunchbreak and have a friend 'Dan' who gets picked on for eating a banana every day.

I enjoy listening to this podcast and I hope that Becky and Kelly continue to record it (and make it available) for many years.
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Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:02 am
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Podcast review: Boardgame Mechanics

Bez Shahriari
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Makes me smile:
Teaches me to design:
Teaches me to publish:
Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

Link

Eps: 20+
length: 30-60ish minutes (generally 60ish)
schedule: one episode every Friday

Bias/my introduction:

I heard about these guys when I was asking folk to review Mickell.

I listened to all 20 shows available on my podcast app. 8 are only available via the website.


Facts:

Joel and Jason chat about games. There is a fair amount of sarcasm, 'banter' and also a few reviews.

Topics will usually revolve around top lists of games of a type.

Review:

If you only listen to one episode, listen to #24, which is a 'clip show' of sorts. Although this device is regularly used in TV shows, it's never really done in podcasts and it's quite fun to enjoy these moments - whether again or for the first time.

For any newbie to boardgames, the jokes could be confusing. You can't take anything these guys say at face value.

I do like the enthusiasm for sharing specific games - whether Happy Pigs or Revolution!. The passion is clearly genuine and it's fun to hear about those lesser-known titles.
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Fri Aug 3, 2018 7:00 am
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Podcast review: Breaking into Boardgames

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Eps: 71
length: 30-60ish minutes (generally 40ish)
schedule: one episode every 2 weeks

Bias/my introduction:

I heard about it yonks ago. I can't remember how. I listened to the show over the last few weeks.

I am eternally grateful to Gil for heavily inspiring Wibbell, which led to Wibbell++. Also, I've met Gil socially. So that's a bias.


Facts:

3 presenters - Tony Miller (representing designers), Ian Zang (representing developers) and Gil Hova (representing publishers) - interview a guest, talking to them about how they got into boardgames and about their processes. We learn a little about the guests, and the finishing '2 truths and a lie' game adds extra opportunity for personal info. Other that the ending, the chats tend to be firmly about the guest's working methods and experiences within the industry.

Occasionally, the 3 hosts chat among themselves about a recent convention or celebrate the start of a new year. Con-focused episodes are all about retelling their experiences, whilst the year-end bookmarks are about predictions and reflections in the wider industry.

Review:

The focus is firmly on the guests. The non-guest episodes are just frequent enough for a listener to get a glimpse into the journeys of the 3 hosts.

I've enjoyed listening to all these episodes and hearing a bit about everybody's journeys. Because that's what it's all about.

Early on, they used to ask "have you broken into boardgames" and for folk to self-identify on the designer/developer/publisher role. Pretty much everyone's journey is unique and that is - of course - why this podcast is super-interesting to listen to.
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Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:05 am
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Podcast review: Five Games for Doomsday

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Eps: 20ish (9 'main episodes')
length: 1hr-ish for the main episodes. Generally 5-15 minutes for the bonus content.
schedule: one main episode every 2 weeks, with 1 or 2 reviews in between.

Bias/my introduction:

I'd heard about it, been excited by the concept, and remembered it as one to eventually listen to. After being invited to be on the show, I binge-listened to all the episodes.


Facts:

If you know 'Desert Island Discs', this is basically 'Desert Island Boardgames'. With short reviews released on the 'off weeks' as bonus content.

For anyone who doesn't get the reference, guests are invited to pick 5 games they would take to a post-apocalyptic cabin in the woods. The chosen games are discussed, along with how they relate to the guest. Over the course of the episode, the guest is introduced and a few topics dear to the guest's heart are delved into.

Review:

Ben is a wonderful interviewer, keeping the conversation on track but also allowing for some of the guest's personality to come across. It's interesting to learn about the chosen games, and fascinating to discover a bit more about those guests. Even folk I thought I knew well, like Tony Boydell/Gil Hova, had new nuggets of information to share.

This is not the place to listen to designers share their advice, nor is it a place for an unstructured ramble. Instead, it offers something that no other podcast is doing and that is brilliant.

I personally didn't get a massive amount out of the first bit of bonus content (the story) and if that was a regular feature I may have skipped some or simply listened begrudgingly.

As it is, the story was a pleasant enough introduction to Ben's writing.

The reviews are magnificent pieces of writing that focus on the experience and Ben's relationship to those games. The eloquent writing and Ben's posh voice make the bonus content lovely things that stand well on their own, although listening to them in between the 'main episodes' seemed perfect, with a good amount of variety.
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Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:15 am
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Podcast review: Who What Why

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Makes me smile:
Teaches me to design:
Teaches me to publish:
Informative about games:
Informative about game people:

Link

Eps: 190ish (but only 30ish on apple Podcast app) (check if all available)
schedule: irregular (usually 1-2 per month)

Facts:


For several years, Mike has been interviewing game designers, asking them about their process. Originally called, 'Pirates v Ninjas', featuring a couple of other co-hosts, earlier episodes had some silly closing question, quizzes, and then 'live game jams'. The most recent episodes have been purely about the designer's existing games and their processes.

Earlier episodes were more often about Indie RPGs but the past few years' worth have been almost exclusively about boardgames.

Bias:

I was honoured to be interviewed for this podcast earlier this year.

Review:

Like any interview show, the episodes can vary massively depending on the guest.

Whilst We're Not Wizards is about the people in a holistic sense, rambling on and talking about cheese for 10 minutes if it comes up, Who, What, Why? is super-focused on how the creative people do what they do.

Both obviously have their place.

For anyone interested in learning from the practices of others, this podcast is invaluable. I also like that the episodes tend to stay away from the business and marketing . Whilst those aspects are super-important for a published game to sell well, it's nice to just hear how a whole bunch of folk go about designing/developing/writing games.
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Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:33 pm
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