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Cardboard Children: Filming Star Wars Rebellion


Hello youse.

In two days time, from publication of this piece, I'll be filming a board game segment for a BBC TV show, and as ever the question is going to be - “how do we best cover board games in video form?” Further than that, the question is going to be - “how do we do it in a 4-minute segment?” Because while board game coverage on video is common on the internet these days (some might say too common), most of these videos are long and sprawling things. But in two days, I film a piece on the upcoming Star Wars: Rebellion, and it has to be good and short.


The segment is part of a BBC video game show, a special episode talking about the future of gaming. And with so many of our interviewees on the show talking about how video games are often prototyped on cardboard and paper, and with so many video gamers playing board games these days, it makes sense within our show's theme to cover board games too. But the segment is brief, and will be playing to an audience that might never have touched a board game. It's important to get it right.

We're using Star Wars: Rebellion as a framing tool for the segment, really. It's a highly anticipated game, one of the biggest releases in years. It looks beautiful on the table – a grand, attractive thing. And, of course, it's STAR WARS – so that should be a nice enough hook to keep people interested. But the game runs to about four hours when two people sit down to play it. How do you compress talk about a four hour game down to four minutes of screen time? What do you focus on?

With this being a good high-profile slot for board game coverage on British telly, I want to make a good fist of not just covering this particular board game but also encouraging people to sample the other board games that are available right now. It's important to express just how wonderful board games are – how exciting they are, how strange they are, how inspiring they are. So as we film this segment, we're going to have to touch on why we play board games, and which ones we've loved over the years. We're going to have to laugh about some old stories. Somehow we need to fit all that stuff in too.

I feel that one of the best ways you can cover board games in video form is by treating it as if the viewer has just stumbled by as a game is underway. I remember, many years ago, the first time I saw anyone play Magic: the Gathering. It was in the back of a little comic shop, and there were some guys turning cards and laying cards out on the table. They were moving tokens around and sliding stuff forward and back, and it was mystifying. I wandered over towards them and just listened in to what was going on. They were talking through their moves a little bit, but most of their chat was about other stuff – stuff related to the game but outwith their game, stuff not related to gaming at all. Eventually one of them turned to me and I asked, “What is this?”

I don't remember exactly what the guy told me, but within a few sentences (about 30 seconds) I understood completely what was going on. It was a 2-player card battle, with cards representing monsters and land cards as resources. What grabbed me most was the guy explaining why he and his friend were playing. He made it clear that the game fit exactly what he and his friend were looking for in a pastime. He made it personal.

Board games are personal, and that's why I'll be shooting this Star Wars: Rebellion segment with a long-term friend, and someone I've played a thousand board games with. The rapport has to be real. In a four minute segment, we can't be acting. To best serve the coverage of this new game, and board games in general, we need to be relaxed and honest.

Of course, we can't get right into the nitty-gritty of the game, which is often what a board gaming audience demands. Maybe the hardcore board game veterans won't be best served by the segment as a review, but hopefully they'll see the love for board gaming that gets expressed in the final piece.

Where you people get lucky is in the fact that the BIG review will be on this page. It'll be illustrated with exclusive pics from the shoot, as a kind of accompanying piece to the TV segment. Hopefully both things, the video and the review itself on this page, will be lovely things. But I'd still like a little nudge from you before this shoot – what kind of things should I include? What is important? Is it important to hear about the mechanics of the game, or is it enough to hear what we players – as we play it – think of it? We shoot in two days, so your comments will be hugely appreciated.

(Also, now that there are so many people providing board game content on video – what do you all think of what's out there? Who are your favourites? What works and what doesn't? How would you do it?)

Anyway, the game itself...

STAR WARS: Rebellion is a game from Fantasy Flight Games, with one player as the Empire and the other player as the Rebel Alliance. Players use their armies and their leaders to wage war across the galaxy, with the Rebels trying to gain sympathy and support, and the Empire desperately seeking the Rebel base while building their vile Death Star. A Star Wars game of this style has been a “dream game” for many, so there's a lot at stake.

I'll tell you all about it very soon. Excited? You should be.

Have a great week! And thanks in advance for your help!

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