Yes, my dear friends, Tabletop Games Blog is 5 years today. When I posted my first article, I didn’t know where I was going with this and had no idea about the journey the site would take me on. Since then, I published 550 articles, releasing them also in audio format since December 2018, which means there are over 430 podcast episodes available as well. I played hundreds of games, attended many exhibitions, was a guest on a number of podcasts, met lots of people and made many good friends. So let me tell you about the journey so far to celebrate this anniversary with you.
In The Beginning
As you will know, if you have read the About page on this blog, I have enjoyed writing fiction since I was in my teens. Creative writing is my thing, especially sci-fi. So when I was reintroduced to the board game hobby by a friend and realized how much I had missed playing with cardboard, paper, wood and plastic to while away time and have fun with friends, I started Tabletop Games Blog, thereby combining my two favourite hobbies.
The very first article that appeared on the blog doesn’t really deserve its name. In fact, before I started the blog, I had created a group on LinkedIn to start a discussion about my rediscovered hobby. My first post on that page was merely there to see who else might be interested in the hobby. I wanted to tell people what games I was playing and see what everyone else was into.
After that first post, I realized I had more to say. I was still testing the waters, but I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences with the hobby. I knew there was more in me than just a page on LinkedIn. It was time to start my own blog and that first post was copied across, after which I deleted the LinkedIn page.
My second article was only around 275 words, but I felt I was on the right track. In the best-case scenario, I hoped to start a discussion about various hobby game-related topics. In the worst case, I would happily just put out my thoughts into the void and be greeted with silence. Either way, I knew I wanted to continue.
A Blog By A Different Name
Choosing the name Tabletop Games Blog didn’t take too long. I wanted to go with something that was inclusive. I intended to play a large variety of games, not just card games or board games or whatever. The term “tabletop games” seemed to fit the bill and to my huge surprise, the domain name tabletopgamesblog.com was still available. The stars were clearly aligned and blessed my venture.
Of course, it wasn’t long until I realized that “tabletop games” mostly referred to miniature skirmish games or maybe tabletop roleplaying games. I didn’t have much experience with either. I used to play Das Schwarze Auge, a German Dungeons & Dragons version, from time to time when I was at school. However, I was never very much into RPGs.
It was too late though and I kept the name. Luckily, it worked and as I posted more articles and with the help of the domain name’s built-in SEO, traffic to the blog started to grow. It was never anything earth-shattering, but I was still happy to see that there were people out there who seemed to like what I did.
I intentionally kept the logo and the site’s design very simple and bland. It was my attempt to make the blog more inclusive, even though I have been told that the Tabletop Games Blog brown and the way the site looked were a bit boring. However, as I’m not a graphic designer myself and didn’t have the budget to pay someone, it worked for me. I don’t regret the choice and even to this day, I am glad that I kept things simple.
No Reviews Here
If you go through the site’s archive, you’ll see that I didn’t use to review games. It was never something I felt I wanted to do when I started the blog. I didn’t know enough about the hobby and hadn’t played enough games back then. Reviewing games just didn’t make sense until I had gathered a bit more experience.
In fact, I was very surprised and felt very flattered when Digidiced approached me and offered me codes for a couple of their digital games. I was so surprised that I replied that I didn’t do reviews, but Digidiced clearly felt I should give it a go and insisted. So I took up their offer and after some deliberation and umming and ahhing, I published my first review in October 2018. It was for Le Havre: The Inland Port and I still have the game installed on my computer now.
You can judge for yourself, but I think that my first review showed some potential. It didn’t spend a lot of time outlining the game or explaining the rules, but very quickly focussed on one or two mechanisms that made this game different to others. It’s something I have now spent many years trying to get better at. I didn’t know it then, but it seems that this review was the forerunner for what was coming after it.
I was very lucky at the time, being such a new outlet in the hobby. After getting codes for digital games from Digidiced, PSC Games offered me two review copies of their upcoming releases, which meant a huge amount to me. It didn’t take long and a couple of new publishers also sent me prototypes of their games: Wren Games and Steeped Games.
Write, Schedule, Repeat
That initial support allowed me to keep to a schedule of releasing a review every week on a Saturday. After all, I was already publishing my thought pieces once a week on a Tuesday, without fail. Sticking to a fixed timetable was, and still is, really important to me. I need a little bit of time pressure to get things done. Without it, I would probably never release any articles ever again and just end up procrastinating all the time.
Having a fixed schedule can sometimes be problematic though. So back then, I knew I would be able to release a review for a certain number of weeks, based on the games I had been sent. The question though was how I would carry on after that. Luckily, my friends were also avid gamers and regularly bought new games. Between us, we would be able to get enough new-to-us games to the table to allow me to continue writing a review every week. I was, and still am, very lucky that this is the case.
Of course, to this day, whenever I go away on holiday, I need to schedule enough articles in advance to keep the blog going. I hugely rely on scheduling tools. My blog allows me to set the time and date of when articles come out and I use social media tools that enable me to do the same for marketing those articles to my followers. I couldn’t work without this functionality. Manually posting things is out of the question.
For quite some time, I continued with my pattern of writing and scheduling two articles a week. However, I always like to change things and with my aim to make the blog more inclusive, it made sense to offer audio versions of my articles. After all, using a screenreader is one thing, but being able to listen to an actual human being, especially if they’re the ones that wrote the article in the first place, is another. Also, many people prefer listening to podcasts while they do the washing up, go out for a walk or travel. So there were several reasons why I should record my writing and release it in podcast form.
It took me a while to get ready though. I needed a half-decent microphone and also make the time to record, edit and publish the audio version of my writing. Eventually, in December 2018, the first audio version of one of my articles was released. Since then, every written article I published on the blog has also been made available on the newly created podcast. It’s now a given for me to release them in both formats.
Speaking of podcasts, it was in 2019, when the lovely Antoinette, whom we now know as Good Owl Games, contacted me to see if I was up for creating a new podcast with her. I immediately accepted, even though I was slightly worried if I actually had the time, because I was thinking about something similar myself at the time. After brainstorming some ideas, we released our first episode of Tabletop Inquisition (at the time, Antionette’s site was called Boardgame Inquisition) in March 2019.
We had a lot of fun and even invited guests onto the show, but after a long run of 31 episodes, I had to call it a day, because I no longer had the time to record and edit the cast. The episodes are still available though and you can see them on the Tabletop Inquisition site.
I clearly had a taste for podcasts, because I also made it onto other casts as a guest. As a native German speaker, I even appeared on German podcasts, which allowed me to make connections over there as well. So you can listen to me on the two German podcasts Die Spielträumer and Die Brettagogen, as well as in English on the popular We’re Not Wizards.
Recently, I was invited to join the board game news team at the English-speaking Brainwaves podcast, which comes out about every two weeks. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with the very time-consuming job of editing the audio afterwards. I just need to turn up and read the news – and it’s a great honour to be part of this amazing team.
There is a lot more that happened in the last 5 years, but I would still be here next week telling you all about it. So instead, I just want to mention a few experiences that stick in my mind and Essen Spiel 2019 probably sticks out the most.
Not only did I meet the lovely Tom Heath from Slickerdrips during build-up, as well as the big name of rules editing, Paul Grogan of Gaming Rules, but I also shared a bed with the designer of Fog of Love. Make of that what you will, but it was certainly an experience. I also made new friends working on the game’s stand at the exhibition, inflating dozens upon dozens of heart-shaped helium balloons to make a giant arch that was visible from across the hall. It was certainly a sight to behold.
I also met the wonderful Jess Cassidy, who was a guest on the Tabletop Inquisition podcast. She made me feel so very welcome as if we’d known each other for ages. Of course, Edward Uhler was also there doing his bit to make fans of Heavy Cardboard welcome.
Something that might actually be even more special was the evening before the opening day. I was sitting in the hotel lobby, quite late in the evening, waiting for my room to become available, when three people came over to see if they could sit next to me. I was alone at a relatively large table and everywhere else was full. I happily accepted, of course. They proceeded to play Skull King and asked me to join them, which was really lovely. It certainly helped pass the time