As tabletop games enjoy a mainstream resurgence, streaming game sessions is shaping up to be a great creative endeavor to pursue. That said, simply putting up a camera and playing board games in the exact way that you would on an average night isn’t going to make for a great show. There are a few things you’ll need to take into account. Once you get going, however, it’s a simple medium to break into.
Setting up for a live board game stream
Tabletop games can only work out with a table to play them atop. Therefore, it’s important to sort out your setup first. Your play surface needs to be fairly clear and large enough that things can be easily spread out. A crowded and cluttered table makes for a messy shot. As for the players, unless your setup includes multiple cameras, your best bet is to ensure that players are at most occupying three sides of the table. This ensures that no one has their back to the camera.
A crowded and cluttered table makes for a messy shot.
Camera angles are arguably the most complex aspect to set up for a board game stream. They’re also the most crucial to ensure good quality. If your setup only uses one camera, it should be angled down from above. The table should be at the center of the frame with the players around the border. If multiple cameras are being used, one can remain focused on the table while others offer better views of the players. Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can even adjust the framing to focus on, for instance, a player’s hand of cards rather than their face, or other game elements not on the center of the table.
The tone of the stream will really dictate the layout of individual video inputs on the stream. If the game itself is supposed to be the highlight in cases like game reviews or tutorials, then the table camera should be the main shot on the screen. Alternatively, if the hosts are meant to carry the stream, consider bringing them to the forefront. If you want to get technical, you can even bring in a producer to change layouts throughout the game. For instance, if a game has multiple phases in a round and some are more focused on the board while others are focused on discussion, shots can be adjusted to reflect that.
Naturally, the more you want to put into your setup in terms of equipment, the higher the production quality. Bringing in an entire setup of lighting fixtures and boom mics is never a bad thing, but it’s also not required. At the very minimum, you want to ensure that the table is well-lit so that the game is fully visible. It’s also important to take shadows into account. You want to avoid the players being in shadow or casting shadows on the game themselves. Lights cast from directly above the table or behind the camera can help to accomplish this.
Additionally, you have to be mindful of sound as you set up your stream. Few things are more disappointing than being able to hear that someone is talking without actually being able to hear what they are saying. If the game itself makes sound, consider that as well. A dice-based game will be inherently noisy, so consider how you will deal with that. You could either find something soft to roll on to dampen the noise or properly mic the table to emphasize the roll as part of the auditory aesthetic.
How to make gameplay interesting
While it’s fun to watch people play games, it’s undeniably not the same as playing games yourself. Commentary and banter can help make up the difference. Your goal is to bring viewers into the mix, getting them invested in the stakes or story of the game. In story-based games that aren’t necessarily character-driven, players adding in an element of role-playing can elevate the show. For example, Betrayal at House on the Hill plays out as a story. In the game, players explore a haunted manor and encounter a supernatural threat. To make it more interesting to watch, Polygon’s Overboard team opted to role play with their characters. The approach brings the story to life for viewers at home.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to set up your own board game stream, there are some great channels out there for you to check out. Between quality setups, great hosts, and a full yet varied schedule, these shows have plenty of points for you to take to heart.
The Twitch channel for the tabletop website Board Game Geek regularly puts on shows with a variety of games and hosts. They even broadcast live from board game conventions and events, bringing viewers in for all of the new and exciting highlights of games to come.
LoadingReadyRun is a comedy team that holds streams with a rotating cast of their crew playing board games. Their reliable schedule gives fans something to look forward to, and they’ve found several clever ways to monetize their content.
The game publisher Asmodee hosts streams highlighting their products on their Twitch channel, AsmodeeLive. Their shows are well-balanced blends of advertisement and entertainment, and well worth tuning in for.
Geek and Sundry is a well-known entertainment site for all things nerd, and their game stream GeekandSundry doesn’t disappoint. With their stellar cast of hosts, wide variety of games, and innovative production methods, their shows should never be missed.
Of course, no list of streamed games would be complete without mentioning CriticalRole. An offshoot of Geek and Sundry with their own channel, CriticalRole broadcasts weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions with a slew of voice actors playing through radically immersive and engaging campaigns. If you need an idea of where to start with streaming a tabletop RPG, there’s no better place to look for direction.