Hobby podcasts and me – Part 3

This is the third and final part of my little series on hobby podcasts. In parts 1 and 2 I told you about why I listen to podcasts and what makes a good podcast for me.

Now I want to give you a few examples of the podcasts that I think meet most, if not all, of my criteria and a what in particular I like about them.

They are in no order.

The Independent Characters (link)

Odd one for me this, as I’m not a 40k player and have an odd relationship with the game. I’ve only just started listening to this one too and I think I tried it out following another blogger’s Top 10 list. The Independent Characters is a well produced and above all positive podcast. There’s no whining about players, rules, or costs. It’s done by people who love and understand what they talk about and there’s a really good focus and structure to each episode.

Both Down (link) and Three Die Block (link)

I love these two Blood Bowl podcasts. The simple two-man style of each keeps them clean and organised. The content and duration fit me perfectly. I’m always looking forward to the next episode when each one ends. There is some good banter between these, and in fact all of the Blood Bowl podcasts, which is always friendly and adds a little bit to each. They are clean, good-natured podcasts that provide some great insight into the game generally and yet provide updates on their local leagues and tournaments which gives them a cosy feeling. There’s a nice sense of community about both and you always feel a little bit special listening to them.

Heelanhammer (link) and Bad Dice Daily (link)

For Warhammer Fantasy, you can’t go wrong with Heelanhammer. It is a really good podcast that’s well produced, well structured and well organised. The content is a good mix of hobby and tournament and it’s always nice to catch up on what the guys have been doing each month. It’s always a good listen, just like Bad Dice Daily. Personally I prefer the Daily Show to the monthly show as it keeps to the topic and has more focus. It’s only 10 minutes or so but it comes out every day much to Ben’s credit.

The X-Wing Podcast (link)

I’m going to add in the X-Wing podcast here as well even though there is only 1 episode. I’ve been looking for a good X-Wing Miniatures focussed podcast for a while now and nothing was current enough, frequent enough or focussed enough for me. Then along comes this one made by the guy from Bad Dice Daily and his old co-host from the main Bad Dice podcast. The production and style of the first episode was as I would expect and I know the quality will be high for as long as they want to make it. They are both starting out in the game, which fits with me perfectly, so let’s see where it goes.

There are some honourable mentions for The Dice Tower (link) which I like a lot and is well made but isn’t essential listening for me at the moment given my gaming focus. Up and coming in the Blood Bowl world are the Orca Cola Cast (link) and PitchInvasion (link) which are essential listening but the new kids on the block. For WFB honourable mentions go to Garagehammer (link) and Ohiohammer (link).

Once again thanks to everyone that podcasts! 

What are your favourite hobby gaming podcasts and why? I’m always on the look out for something new to listen to and would appreciate any suggestions.

Hobby podcasts and me – Part 2

Welcome to the second part of my mini series on my thoughts, likes and dislikes of hobby podcasts. In the first post I set the scene and outlined the main things that I am looking for in a hobby podcast; what will keep me subscribing and downloading?

In this post I want to go into a little more detail on the things that make a real difference to me as a listener. I tend to find that if a podcast does too many of these things poorly then I will eventually stop listening and then stop downloading.

When I sat down to think about what I wanted to say I ended up with 2 main items – Delivery and Content. Sounds simple…

Delivery is the first item that I want to cover as it’s the fabric of the podcast – how is it edited, what is the sound quality, how is the episode structured.

For me I need my podcast to be structured. I want a clearly defined introduction section that tells me what will be covered in the episode and I want each section to be clearly identifiable from the next. Most hobby podcasts follow the simple pattern of  ‘what have you done’ followed by the main topic of the episode and ending on ‘what will you do’. The main topic itself should then be broken down if necessary so that the presenters themselves know what they are going to be talking about. Turning up to the recording without a plan and then talking for 2 or more hours with no real direction is not really acceptable and I don’t think it’s the best use of anybody’s time.

The next item of delivery is probably the one that a lot of the collaborative, dial-in podcasts find difficult – organisation. There needs to be a clear lead presenter responsible for keeping the other contributors on track and to the structure. They need to be the person telling people to stop rambling and to reach conclusions where necessary. If I find myself doing this as a listener then the podcast starts dropping down my priority list and eventually I don’t download. The need for a leader is even more important if the episode has a contributor connecting in remotely. Disorganisation here is particularly bad as people talk over each other…then pause…then talk over each other again. It’s not a good experience for the listener.

Sound quality is important to me. I’m not really talking about the technical aspects here more the basics – coughs, table bangs, dogs barking etc. Some external noise is acceptable – they’re not in recording studios after all – but presenters being aware that they are on-mic is important. Sometimes these can be edited out but this is a lot of work for someone to do. Outside recordings and the odd poor Skype call are ok on an occasional basis but if they happen too often then it becomes a problem. Most of these problems go away as the podcast gets more episodes under its belt; the presenters gain experience and the recording equipment is usually upgraded.

Another important aspect for me is attention. I want the presenters to be giving the podcast their full attention when they are recording. I don’t wan them sculpting or painting in the background. Their lack of attention comes over to the listener and often leads to them chirping in when other presenters are commenting and it leads to the flow of podcast breaking down.

I think too that podcasts need to set an expectation in terms of availability. If you are a monthly podcast then be monthly on or around a set date. I fully understand how difficult it is to fit everything in these days but I think it is important for podcasts to be or appear to be as professional as possible and this means keeping to deadlines (you can tell I’m a project manager!). If you are not able to post then the gaming community, and I suspect podcast listeners even more, are avid users of social media so use it. Let them know. Everybody understands that what you do is out of a love and a passion for a shared hobby so nobody will rage if you manage expectations (sorry if I’m sounding like a PM textbook).

So I think you understand a little bit about the details about the delivery of the podcast that I find most important.

The next item is content. Content is the great unknown in many ways. It’s the thing that is most personal to the listener and to the podcaster; why are you making a podcast and why am I listening? In the first post I covered some of the reasons that I listen to podcasts but podcasters must have reasons for podcasting – sharing their passion, doing something that they thought they would listen to, contributing to the community. These reasons will in many ways drive the main style and approach of the podcast and I am open to any and all. The most common styles that I hear are either a small group of friends talking around a table, or two co-presenters. I prefer small numbers of contributors personally as hearing too many voices can be a little confusing at times and it helps when sticking to my rules on delivery.

Regardless of the main style and approach, I want the content to have focus or a theme. Are you going to be the fluff podcast enjoying the stories behind the characters and the armies, are you the tournament gamer podcast, the club gamers, it doesn’t matter to me as I can pick and choose what I listen to but I think that the podcasters need to keep that focus in each episode regardless of the topics being covered.

The topic is the main content of the episode be it a tournament preview, hobby ideas, book/rules review and as I said I think here it is important that the theme of the podcast dictates how the topic is managed. I don’t want to listen to the same army book review eight times in a month. I want the opinion of the particular podcasters in their style. But it is important that there are clearly defined topics and it’s just not a free-for-all for the duration.

Now this is a big one – time. Although I prefer a podcast to be about 2 hours long I can live with them being longer, especially at the end of the moth when my playlist is empty. But I want 2 hours of pure content. I don’t want inane chatter, I don’t want production decisions being made while I listen, I don’t want discussion about non-hobby items. I want the content that I came for. Although it can sometimes be useful to get a fuller, rounder impression of the people behind the voices, it still needs to be relevant to the hobby and their relationship with it. I like my podcasts tight and lean.

Finally I want all of the content to be positive. I mentioned in the first post some of the reasons that I listen to podcasts and one of them is motivation. I want to be inspired to collect, paint and model by listening to others who enjoy the same hobby. Now opinion and comment are important and are a couple of reasons for listening in the first place, but when there is constant negativity about one or two aspects of the hobby then I get quite annoyed. The worst case of this is the price of Games Workshop’s new books and models. Every new release there is widespread moaning. We know it is expensive, but don’t keep on about it. I choose what I do in the hobby and have my own definition of expensive. I am also adult enough to not buy all the new toys when they come out, I am able to budget my hobby expenses and can choose to buy what I want. I don’t need telling that I’m being ripped off if I decide to buy a new release. I want podcasts to take the positive aspects of the hobby and focus on them, and not to join in with the negativity of the forums.

Now, I know that this list comes across as very demanding, especially when podcasting is extremely hard work and takes a lot of time and effort. I feel that I can be demanding because there is so much choice out there these days and I am always on the look out for something bigger and better. It’s easy for me as the listener to try out a new, or newly discovered podcast. If I like it, I subscribe and re-evaluate the other similar podcasts that I download. I currently subscribe to 57 podcasts of  which 33 are hobby/gaming related. There’s only so much time that I have to listen to them so I’ll eventually drop those that don’t meet my criteria.

Before I close off this post I just want to say that I love my hobby podcasts; I need them all. Together with Twitter I think that they are an essential part of a gamers toolkit these days and I think that anybody dedicated and passionate enough to start up and continue with a podcast deserves the utmost respect and praise. I’m also not saying that a podcast that doesn’t follow my criteria is a bad podcast, not at all, it just isn’t for me and probably isn’t targeted at me anyway.

I hope that this little list has given you a good idea of the specific things that I am looking for in a hobby podcast. It’s not exhaustive and I will come back and re-evaluate them in twelve months or so. If you have any comments or podcast recommendations then please leave me a comment.

In the next, and final, post I will discuss some of the hobby podcasts that I like the most and some of the reasons that I like them.

Until next time,  happy hobbying.

Hobby podcasts and me – Part 1

I think I spend more time listening and reading about my chosen hobby games than I actually spend doing them. In fact replace ‘think’ with ‘know’. I listen to podcasts in the car, when I am cooking dinner and of course when I’m out in the cave painting and modelling. I get through hours and hours of them every month. I’d like to think that I am bit of an expert.

In this short series of posts I want to get down on paper the various reasons of why some podcasts have stuck with me and why some have been and gone.

I think for this to work best you need to know where I am coming from in terms of hobby and personality, afterall the experience of listening is personal and our background influences our perception.

So, I am in my mid-30s. I collected a lot of games as a teenager, went away from the hobby for many years and have only come back in the last eighteen months of so. I am in IT by trade and am a sturctured and organised person in all aspects of my life. I have always been more of a collecter, painter, fluff enthusiast than gamer or gamer-nerd. When I listen to podcasts it is generally as a replacement to the radio or the TV so I am not always giving it my full attention. I think that that is enough background for you.

In terms of listening I listen to podcasts on Blood Bowl, Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k, Board games and general hobby gaming. I also subscribe to various comedy, news and sport podcasts and although not the reason for me posting this I think the rules still broadly apply to those too.

I’ll start the series by examining why I listen to podcasts and what I get out of them. In future posts I will share a bit more detail about what I want from a podcast and why I stick with some and unsubsribe from others. Finally I will share some of my favourite podcasts so that hopefully you can enjoy them too.

So what do I like and want in a podcast? What content do I want? How do I want to feel when I am listening and when it’s finished?

Yes, I listen to podcasts for some news and information, but primarily I listen to hear other people’s experiences and their joy of being part of the gaming community. This can be the guy who goes to tournaments every week, the guy who paints every day or converts every model. It can be the guy that reads that books and the ‘fluff’. It can be the person who started in the hobby when I did and has stayed in it, the person who has been in it then left it and come back, or it can be the person that ‘only’ started a few years ago but is now all-in.They all have a story to tell and I am more than happy to hear it.

Saying that I am happy to hear a story is one thing but I want to hear hobby stories. I am not interested in how much you all drank on the night of the tournament, I’m not interested in what the food was like or what it did to your bowels. It’s an experience yes but not one that needs sharing.

I’m looking for something to keep me immersed in the hobby. It doesn’t have to be much, but just enough that every few weeks or so I am encouraged to finish painting that unit or to play a game, rather than let some other distraction force its way in. This may be the most personal of the reasons that I am going to give. Some readers may be regulars at your gaming club, you may be dedicated to the point of exhaustion. I am not, I need a gentle kick up the bum every now and again…and sometimes a hard one!

Regardless, I want the banter and conversation between the hosts to be friendly and cordial. I know that some podcasts give warnings about content and language but is there really a need for swearing on a podcasts about rolling dice and moving little plastic men about a board? Maybe I’m super sensitive at the moment as I’ve got a language-absorbant toddler running around the place all the time. Maybe.

It takes me to my next point though. I don’t want a podcast that comes across as a load of mates pressing record on their iPhones and then sticking the result on the internet. We already have that in the form of Twitter and I think podcasts these days need to aim a little higher and dare I say it more professional. I enjoy hearing about a local gaming group, or a group of frinds that regularly play together. I like hearing about their leagues and campaigns even though it’s just names most of the time. It’s all part of the togetherness that I like. I don’t like the hosts assuming that I know every name that they through out though. Again, podcasts aren’t you the hosts and their mates – I don’t believe.

In terms of content I am not really after news and information, I am though looking for opinion and comment, not expertise. I don’t want to be told what I already know or what I can read myself if so motivated. I do like getting some access to the latest releases through the podcast but don’t need it read out to me. I want thoughts, reviews, comments and opinions from people with more experience and passion for the particular subject than I could ever have.

I like my podcasts to have a clear subject or theme. I am a believer in speciality and expertise. I’d rather get an electrician to rewire my house than a handyman (permits and certification aside). Similiarly I’d rather a podcast sticks to one subject and does it well; be the best painting/hobby centred podcast, or provide the best army building information, the best battle reports or the best tournament coverage. I don’t want a mixture of everything. Given the running times of most of these podcasts, I eventually settle on one or two of the jack-of-all trades ones and give up on the rest. I am far more likely to stick with a specialist podcast once I’ve found it and enjoyed the content.

At the end of each episode I want to feel that I’ve enjoyed my time with the hosts, that I’ve played the games with them and most of all that I can’t wait to download the next one. I’d like to learn a little something from each show and be inspired to go out and do my stuff ready for the next one.

I think that’s enough from me now. I hope you understand a little more about me and what I am looking for in a gaming podcast.

Look out for the next post where I will go into a little more detail on what I am looking for in a podcast.

Blood Bowl Podcasts

In the last week I’ve really really got back into Blood Bowl despite not having any miniatures and not having any of my stuff…yet. Every minute not spent being a dad is spent reading about and preparing for BB. I’ve been looking all over the web and have been pleased to find a thriving community. I’ve been catching up with tournaments and leagues that are running all over the world and have been for many years.

I’ve found the three Blood Bowl podcasts that seem to be running – Zlurpcast, Both Down and Three Die Block. Of these Three Die Block is my favourite by a long way. They go into some fascinating detail into how to play as and against each of the races and the features about the specifics of the game are really interesting. Both Down is second on my list followed by the Zlurpcast. I’ve not heard any of the early Zlurps but on the most recent one they talked about going back to basics, so I’ll follow this up in a few months to see if it changes in any way. For now catching up on all of the Three Die Block episodes that are out there will keep me going for a while.

Try them for yourself and let me know what you think…

  1. Three Die Block
  2. Both Down
  3. Zlurpcast