Ross "Sko" Gilchrist and Ross Bingham talk about their very own podcast, known as The Meeples Anonymous Audio Podcast!
In 2016, a group of board game playing friends decided to start a podcast that would detail their adventures in cardboard. That show would become The Meeples Anonymous Audio Podcast, a support group for your gaming addiction. One year and 45 episodes later, they find themselves looking back on the evolution of their show with teary eyes and rose-tinted glasses. So, with the workers placed, the area controlled, let Ross and Sko guide you through the inauguration and journey of The Meeples Anonymous Audio Podcast.
Meeples Anonymous - How it all began
Sko: Do you remember where this idea came from? I certainly don't.
Ross: I remember having a conversation about doing some reviews and stuff when we first got into the hobby, but I think we probably let the idea fade away. Our regular gaming group at that point was Kayleigh, G, you and I. That is until we discovered there were more board-gamers in our town (what?!).
We started a Facebook group with the younger guys so we could organise game nights and generally have a place to chat about board games and such. Because it was a closed circle and it felt we were starting a support group,
"Meeples Anonymous" felt like the perfect name. Then Kayleigh made an awesome logo and we thought "we should start doing something with this" and it became this creative outlet where we could make videos, write reviews and eventually record podcasts.
Sko: Absolutely! You and I have always had interest in podcasting. Adam and Joe's show, The Instance, Smodcast, The Infinite Monkey Cage, were all shows we enjoyed either singly or together. As I remember, it was you and Kayleigh who suggested that we do a show about ‘something’ some time ago, but as you say, the idea wasn't there until we met the rest of board gamers in our town.
Once we met them and the Facebook group was set up, it felt like there was an opportunity to do something more interesting than what we could have done previously. A diversity of opinions was going to help immensely. The logo was the signal, to me at least, that, " we better actually do something with this, it's too cool to let it fade".
Where we fit in
I think we were wary because we felt that we were under-qualified to talk about the subject when such great outlets like Shut Up and Sit Down, The Dice Tower, Rahdo Runs Through and countless others were already well established and produced such high-quality content.
In saying that, what do you think sets us apart from the existing board game coverage?
Ross: LOVE the Adam and Joe Podcast! The others too, but there's so many awesome shows out there. Yeah, it absolutely felt like we SHOULD start making some creative content, we had the means and the motivation. I remember we got everyone down to the old house to talk about some ideas, that's probably when the podcast was conceived.
There were loads of really cool ideas that came out of that though, not all of which have come to fruition unfortunately. Groups like the Dice Tower and SUSD do news and reviews so well that we thought we should just go in a different direction. Rather than making content about "the hobby" as a whole, we decided to make it about us. An insight into a particular gaming group and their journey through board-gaming.
Sko: Yeah, that's how I see the show too. It's a slice of life. A documentary of our journey from relative gaming novices to (hopefully) informed and educated board gamers. Every week, we're talking about our experiences gaming together and I hope that’s why people enjoy it. The show is as much about our friendship as it is about board gaming. There's plenty of excellent shows out there but I don't believe many of them exhibit the 'inner workings' of a gaming group like our show does.
If there was a single thing I would welcome us talking about more, it would more personal aspects of life and how those aspects interface with gaming. Not that we wouldn't welcome more shows like ours, far from it, it's been a very giving experience half from people who have been inspired in various ways by what we do.
One of my favourite shows we've ever done was our show about depression and how that affects our gaming lives. We received so much positive support for that, support that was very candid and honest, it was a very powerful experience to hear so many people struggling with the same issues say they found solace in that show. Would you agree with that, man?
Ross: Yeah, I'd agree with all of that. The show about depression, I think it was episode 17, worked so well because there are so many people who have struggled with depression and found positive experiences through board gaming, just like a few of us.
It's such a welcoming community, full of awesome people who have been through depression, anxiety and social issues. I'm so happy people appreciated that episode, it was so personal and talking about our own experiences with depression, and how gaming with each other got us through some rough times, I think let us connect with our listeners in a way that we previously hadn't.
What do you think the biggest challenges have been since starting Meeples Anonymous?
Sko: The biggest challenge is In the Lab. Or some of the stuff in Dead of Winter: The Long Night. Pro Tools. Equipment. I dunno, it's been tough keeping the list of games interesting to talk about without sacrificing our ability to get really into a game. We want to play as many new games as possible, but some draw us in so much that we should play them consistently to get a proper feel for them.
I at least learned that speaking too fast is bad. However, putting that into practice is another thing. I think it's been easy but then I'm not editing this thing. I just show up, drink coffee and rant. Endlessly. I just think it's all fun, I dunno that we've challenged ourselves. Writing the Main Quest has certainly been a learning experience. (I'm still not great, but I'm getting there, I hope, otherwise we're screwed...) coming up with voices and being very silly is just fun.
Even when the jokes land flat, recording that's always a blast. You seem to at least enjoy playing Sir Gwynivere, you've even started turning into him at Game Night. Like he's manifesting in some arcane possession...?
Ross: Haha, yeah or beating you at Agricola! One day man, your days are numbered! That's true, sometimes we've been playing a game so much that we've got next to nothing to talk about on the show. Learning how to host has been quite difficult, it's hard to judge when to jump in and move the conversation along or when to let it run. The main quest bumper was originally meant to be a 30 second bumper to move us on to the main topic of the show but it's ended up an episodic adventure of three minutes a piece!
It has been great fun, recording it is always hilarious. I love it when people say it sounds like a movie or it sounds professional, it's really gratifying. Gwynni is amazing fun to play, but I'd say the writing is a big part of that. "By the holy effervescent balls of the light!" Is just fun to say in a hero voice. He does come out at game night now and then, so does crumb though.
Sko: Never! I shall be king of the farm for all time! My fields are the best of fields! My sheep, the best of sheep! Yeah, that stuff is just a great time to write and perform. The bumpers are always a bit of fun to sort of let our hair down. Well, for you to let your hair down. I would like to think that people enjoy those characters and that there's this whole story arc that's like a D&D campaign running through the show.
Yeah, the compliments with regards to the sound engineering is a testament to how hard you work on the sound of the show. Having dabbled in sound engineering, I get how difficult it can be to make something that sounds professional, especially with less than optimal gear, and that you manage to pull off something that tricks people into believing that there's this movie we're pulling from, is both awesome and hilarious to me.
Is anyone out there?
One of the hardest things has been that for a long time we were convinced that no one was listening, and there were times when we thought, "is this worth doing?" But more recently people have been super kind and discursive about the show. It's just really humbling that people even enjoy the show, never mind keep up with it deliberately!
What were your memories of doing the show in that sort of purgatorial time?
Ross: You can still let your metaphorical hair down... in terms of the production, it's still a learning curve for me, the show is by no means perfect. The hardest thing about producing it week to week is trying to establish continuity in terms of how it sounds, that's why I've got a couple of templates that I run the audio through once I've cleaned up the raw clips.
But I've still got a lot to learn and hopefully the show will keep improving. It was a bit dis-heartening in the beginning to think that nobody was really listening but I always had the motivation to do it since it let me stretch my production muscles. But now I find it amazing that people find the time to listen to us ramble and read our reviews and even read this! If anyone is in fact still reading this. Do you think anyone is? I think we probably lost them around "my sheep are the best sheep" Haha!
Sko: Yeah, the whole experience has been humbling. There's so many articulate, charming and intelligent people in the community and that's why it's a pleasure to be a part of it. Hopefully they are! If not, hopefully they're listening! Or is that just wishful thinking? Either way, it's been a great journey and long may it continue!
Ross: So say we all!
Check out the Meeples Anonymous soundcloud today to find out more about the team!