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Board Game Trailers

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(Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)
There Will Be Games

We're used to seeing epic movie-style trailers for video games. They feel like million-pound productions that were directed by a famous Hollywood director with a cast of blockbuster actors. Of course, these are all animated sequences, often showing in-game footage, which makes sense, because modern 3D video games look very realistic and are often set in an epic conflict of some sort. Board games are a bit different though, but because CGI and 3D animation have become so highly accessible these days, many crowdfunding campaigns and some board game marketing campaigns feature these amazing looking videos.

The first and, at least to me, most impressive board game trailer is for the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering. In fact, there are several trailers for this game, which is no surprise when you think about the behemoth that is Wizards of the Coast that sits behind this product - and behind it sits Hasbro, of course. So the budget isn't particularly tight for Magic's marketing team I would have thought. However, I find the animation, music, short story and everything else that has gone into producing these trailers still amazing and the resulting videos are some of my favourites.

If you have a look through Kickstarter campaigns in our hobby, you will find many trailers at the top of the page that aren't merely an overview of the gameplay, but are almost Hollywood style short films.

The video for Shasn: Azadi is at the top of my list here. Its production quality is outstanding. The script, the set and the acting are really powerful and you just can't look away. After the introduction, the video is more like a traditional campaign trailer, outlining the gameplay and showing 3D rendered versions of the components of the game. However, even that part is amazing, using cartoon-style animations and a kicking soundtrack to keep your attention.

It gets even better, because this is actually the second game in the Shasn series. The trailer for the first is even more like a movie trailer. The production quality for this is even higher and there is a much longer introduction that's like a short film, before it switches and shows you the game itself. It's absolutely amazing. It surprises me that these two games didn't get more attention.

Thunder Road: Vendetta, which was cancelled, has a cartoon-style animation which is wonderful and very quickly gives you an idea of what the game is about. Unsettled's campaign video explains the game by taking the in-game events into the real world. The players become the characters in the game and as you watch the video, you immediately understand what this game is about as the players re-enact what they encounter in the game. It's like watching a short play in a theatre.

Solar Sphere's trailer is more like a traditional campaign video, giving you an outline of the setting and background story in a cinematic-style introduction, followed by an overview of the game itself. The video for Lunar Base is also a mix of short film and game overview, but rather than doing the usual overhead view of the game board and components, the characters in the film play the game as part of the storyline. It's a lovely little twist and makes the video a lot more enjoyable to watch. No wonder the game did so well.

Even though the campaign video for Circadians: Chaos Order is more of a slideshow than a short film, it still feels like a movie trailer. The music, the narrator's voice and the amazing art are epic and really draw you into the world the game is set in.

It's great to see so much creativity and effort being put into these videos. The board game hobby has come on in leaps and bounds and not only are the games themselves becoming better and better, but their marketing is levelling up too. Of course, seeing more glitzy and high production quality videos is also a reflection of the hype that some games in our hobby receive. A great video alone doesn't guarantee a great game, just like high-quality components don't. Yet, when everything comes together in the right way, it's amazing to see and I'm glad that our hobby is going in the direction it is going.

There Will Be Games
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #328004 16 Nov 2021 09:32
Years back there was a video for a bar game where the goal was to roll balls (maybe tennis ball size? it's been a while) off the far end of the table while your opponent tried to do the same and you could both block with your arms. All in all, the game looked like crap. But the video was more like one of those paid advert shows on late night tv full of customer testimonials and action shots of people playing the game in rockin' bars with everyone cheering them on.

In short, the video, which probably cost $1000 to make (maybe $2000 with free beer for the bar) kind of kicked ass and used a tried and true formula for getting people to purchase. The game looked pretty awful.

I'm just surprised you don't see more of that kind of video in this industry, particularly for games like Magic where the club scene is such a big part of the draw. Three guys with a Go-Pro and some release forms could knock one of these out in a weekend. Seems like such fertile ground.

Love this topic by the way. Looking forward to seeing other people's recs for casual viewing.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #328005 16 Nov 2021 09:41
My first published game was a simple haunted house card game called House of Spirits. This was back in 2010. Leading up to its release at Origins that year, the publisher, Lock 'n Load, asked me out of nowhere to make a trailer.

I had absolutely zero experience with this kind of thing. They put exactly zero dollars behind it. I literally learned how to use Windows Movie Maker in order to produce a simple "trailer" that was really just some art stills set to an open source piano track, and some titles. The end result was certainly nothing special. Kickstarter was still not a thing, so I wasn't competing with CMON.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #328006 16 Nov 2021 09:45
Personally, if anyone less than Hasbro or FFG spends ANY money on a glitzy movie of their boardgame, I'm mad because that could have been some cooler dice, better cards, a proper editor of the rule book, or a hundred other things that would have made the game BETTER. I can't argue with a video of overly gleeful, attractive, properly diverse young adults playing the game, but if it has some sort of "in game" experience with animated characters battling it out I just shake my head.

Certainly "saturday morning cartoon" (a moment of silence for this long abandoned cultural ritual) commercials to sell games as toys to children gets a bit of a pass since kids are kids but no functioning adult should be swayed by a fancy movie of a board game.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #328007 16 Nov 2021 09:49

jason10mm wrote: . . . or a hundred other things that would have made the game BETTER.


The publisher has a far simpler definition of "better".
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #328010 16 Nov 2021 10:19
This is the best trailer (actually more of a video review) that I have ever seen for a board game:



But I think that a trailer is generally the wrong way to market a board game, because most of the action, as it were, is taking place in the minds of the players, and that doesn't translate at all to a visual medium. However, a trailer might work for a game with a heavy social aspect, some actual physical action (like a flicking game), a party game, or maybe a game with colorful and interesting physical components.

For some examples of why trailers don't work for most board games, check out one of the numerous tv commercials for Magic: the Gathering. Hasbro incidentally acquired Magic when they bought the North American distribution rights to Pokemon, but they had no idea how to market Magic to a wider audience.

DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #328013 16 Nov 2021 11:50
How apropos. YouTube has spent the last week trying to sneak in cinematic trailers for Magic’s Innistrad release on Arena, pretty similar to what you linked. It’s high-quality stuff, at least the five seconds I see, but focused on ton, setting and drama over gameplay.

I do wonder at the exclusion of anything related to the actual cards and game. A passerby on the street would reasonably assume this was for a movie or tv series, not a game. Would a sixty-card pile of cards seem a little ridiculous juxtaposed to those production values? Arena’s digital environment can even be a lot flashier than someone shuffling or rearranging their hand.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #328016 16 Nov 2021 14:41
I am struggling to think of a single trailer I have even seen, let alone thought was good. Where do you see them? Even on kickstarter pages I never watch anything.... is that where they are? Do like the Dice Tower or whatever put them into their content?
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #328019 16 Nov 2021 15:34
Primarily on Kickstarter pages, but if you follow publishers on social media or youtube you can see them there.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #328020 16 Nov 2021 16:40
Oh yeah, of course, that makes sense. I just tune all that guff out :lol:
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #328021 16 Nov 2021 16:41
Call me old man yelling at the clouds, but the overwhelming majority of gaming video "content" is just way too fucking long for the amount of actual INFORMATION it conveys. Unboxing videos lead the charge in this category of course, but the few videos I've watched in other categories like playthroughs are just as bad. I click on the link, see the run time is some obscene amount of time, and just close the tab.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #328023 16 Nov 2021 17:36

Msample wrote: Call me old man yelling at the clouds, but the overwhelming majority of gaming video "content" is just way too fucking long for the amount of actual INFORMATION it conveys. Unboxing videos lead the charge in this category of course, but the few videos I've watched in other categories like playthroughs are just as bad. I click on the link, see the run time is some obscene amount of time, and just close the tab.


Same here. I skip both videos and podcasts about games, because they waste so much time getting to the point. I prefer reading, because I can read quickly and a writer might even do a nice summary or at least some bullet points to emphasize the important stuff.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #328025 16 Nov 2021 21:56
As bad as board game cinematic trailers can be, anyone remember when we used to get cinematic BOOK trailers on TV? Holy crap those were lame.
boothwah's Avatar
boothwah replied the topic: #328042 17 Nov 2021 14:14
So this is also a thing with comic books now. It's also lame.

Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #328054 17 Nov 2021 19:39

boothwah wrote: So this is also a thing with comic books now. It's also lame.


They actually said “non-stop thrill ride”.
oliverkinne's Avatar
oliverkinne replied the topic: #328330 29 Nov 2021 10:42
I love the trailers posted here. Thank you for sharing.