By Dale McGarrigle
Special to The Weekly
Many prefer the crash and bang of today’s video games, but still others appreciate
the strategy of board and card games.
Among those supporters are the panelists of the greater Bangor-based podcast Flip the Table,“ which reviews “cheesy, weird and obscure board games and card games.”
What’s the attraction of old-style games?
“Everyone is caught up with the ‘The New Hotness’ (including ourselves),” explained panelist Flip Florey, 42 “And while it is good to see new and interesting things, it is interesting and surprising to look back at these games. It makes you think of how they could of been redone, updated and modernized. And sometimes it shows you interesting mechanics, implements or concepts that could have been great but were forgotten about.”
Flip the Table took to the air in mid-2012, with the main lineup consisting of Florey, Chris “Professor Laserbooks” Barter and Jared Hunnefeld. (Ben and Niki Turner, Roger Brasslett and Deb Florey also have contributed.) The podcast evolved out of the quartet’s love of board games and such related podcasts as The Dice Tower, Ludology and The Little Metal Dog Show.
But the foursome, who were also fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” when growing up, decided on a twist for their podcast. They recorded a pilot featuring the 1984 board game “Transformers Adventure Game.”
“We wanted to complement those shows, not compete with them,” said moderator Chris Michaud, 32. “Instead of looking for the latest and greatest, we sit down to play some really off-the-wall stuff, just to see what it’s like.”
“The trick was to find a niche,” added Barter, 30. “Cheesy games was a niche with some room.”
Since then, the Flip the Table panelists have reviewed 37 games. These podcasts are
available at tableflipsyou.com, the Dice Tower Network and iTunes.
Flip the Table features games based on movies, TV shows, cartoons, video games and other such licensed properties.
“We tend to focus on games that are long out of print or have some kind of nostalgia value … and games with a VHS tape included pretty much qualify automatically,” Michaud said. “When we select a game for the show, we think about not only what’s funny about the game, but what kind of potential it has. Lots of clever gamers out there like to use house rules and modifications to make their board games their own. We like to choose games that might not be the greatest out of the box, but have the potential to be a really compelling experience with a little thought, care, and an open mind.”
Most of the games come from thrift shops, with others contributed by fans of the podcast.
The panelists get together once a month at Michaud’s Bangor apartment to record the podcast.
The quartet gathered on a recent Sunday morning to play the 1986 board game Spy Vs.
Spy, based on the Mad Magazine characters. The game had been contributed by Charles
The panelist who chose each session’s game had to first detail the rules for play. This morning it was Barter, who explained that each player moves by using tunnel tiles, which either displayed pathways or sabotaged another player’s path. The goal was to collect a set number of little plastic bombs that were set about the board. Before each turn on a space occupied by a player and a bomb, the player had to spin the bomb dice, to determine if he were safe or if the bomb exploded, sending him back to his home base.
The game started fitfully, as players frequently checked the rulebook for fine points of the game. They also were taking notes on index cards and shooting photos with the cameras on their phones.
At first, each player figured out the best way to collect bombs, but before long, they were busy sabotaging whoever was in the lead instead. After about 45 minutes, Hunnefeld, 29, was the winner.
Next came the analysis: The history of the game, the components, the game play, ways the game could be modernized and improved. The panelists and Michaud also loosely outlined the upcoming podcast.
Finally came the recording, with each contributing their thoughts about the game.
Tucked into the podcast was a promo for the 25-hour Extra Life gaming fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 2, for Children’s Miracle Network, with Hunnefeld heading up the local team
whose pledges will benefit the CMT chapter at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
At the conclusion of each podcast is the Battle of Wits, a competition among the panelists. On this day, the battle began as a round of Weird Scategories, a version created for the podcast. But the deciding round was a hand of the card game Win, Lose, Banana. Hunnefeld won this as well.
After five to six hours of editing, this podcast will be posted in about three to four weeks.
Among the standouts since Flip the Table began is the WWF Superstars Game, which
features 4-inch standups of popular pro wrestlers from the ’80s. Actor Rich Sommer of “Mad Men,” a gaming enthusiast, sat in on the panel for the Mad Magazine game.
Fan favorites have included the dating game “Heartthrob” and “Gone Birding,” a VHS game about bird watching.
So what makes a great board game?
“It’s a combination of ‘Are you having fun?’ and “Are you making decisions?’” Barter said.
The most important trait in a game: Curiosity.
“You need an open mind,” Michaud said. “Once in a while, a game will really surprise you. You have to be willing to try anything.”