Spotlight on – Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog Show Podcast

I caught up with Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog Show Podcast, an up and coming board games podcast and a great listen from the UK!

Hi Michael,

Tell us the story about your Little Metal Dog Show podcast.

– I’ve been a gamer since as long as I can remember, be it video games or board games. I’ve been doing a video games podcast for a few years called Joypod which is a bit different to the norm – it usually descends into me and my co-host shouting at each other, but people seem to like it. We’re about to relaunch the show in association with a bit gaming site (spong.com) so a few months back we decided to take a bit of a sabbatical. Around the same time I figured I wanted to do a solo project, so what better to do a new podcast on than board games? Initially I had no idea of the format or what the concept would be, so I figured I’d just get in touch with a few people to see if they’d like to chat about gaming. One was Xibxang (a friend of mine from the excellent GamerDork podcast), the other was Mark Brendan from Warheads. I liked the idea of a couple of interviews covering different areas in gaming, so have stuck with the idea ever since. For a bit of audience interaction I recently asked a friend of mine (Chris Swaffer) if he fancied getting involved with answering some questions, so he’s on board now too. That’s about it!

You have published number 7 recently with Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer of the Dice Tower. Tell us how you got them to agree to chat and your views on the experience.

– Same way I get everyone else on the show: send a polite email! Tom and Eric were great to have on the show. The Dice Tower is one of my favourite podcasts full stop – it’s informative without being too dry, filled with so much different stuff. I have to admit I was probably more nervous speaking with them than I was interviewing someone like Bruno Faidutti! I’ve been listening to them for a few years now, so it felt like the new kid on the block interviewing the old masters. They were great though, as is anyone kind enough to give their time to come on the show.

Can you tell us about the process you go through to produce the podcast?  Tell us about the ups and downs of publishing a gaming podcast. The challenges and opportunities.

– Well, first of all it’s a matter of deciding who to approach to come on the show, then sending out emails. If they get back and say yes, great! We sort out a time and take it from there. I usually record using a combination of Skype and a little program called PowerGramo – it grabs both sides of the conversation and stores it as a .wav file. I then chop it up using Audacity (a really easy to use audio editor), get rid of all the umms and ahhs and turn it into an mp3 (just so the file size is smaller). Then it’s a matter of recording the introduction, the in-between bits, sticking in some music and spot effects and sending it out into the world. The ups and downs? Well, speaking to so many interesting people is brilliant – I’ve made some good friends through the show already, and getting the odd review copy of a game before it comes out is always a bonus too. The only downside is the time it takes to make a show – that first episode probably took about 12 hours total to edit alone, simply because I was so rusty. I’m much better at it now though – after interviews are done, I can normally get the show done in around 3-4 hours now.

Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own board games podcast?
– Hmmm. Try and find a niche, I suppose. I kind of lucked out on the format of LMDS – there’s not really another podcast out there that focuses on interviews. I’d suggest look at an area that you really love (and that you know a bit about too). Make sure it sounds OK too – maybe record a pilot episode or two and let people listen to it. If they suggest ways to improve, take it on board – they’re not criticising to hurt, it’s to help. You can even give me a shout if you like – I’m happy to help out!

What are your plans for the future development of Little Metal Dog Show?
– Keep on making the show, first off! I also love writing, so I’m keeping the accompanying blog going in conjunction with the show. I never wanted LMDS to be all about reviews – there’s plenty of stuff out there telling you all about games – so you can find my thoughts on what I’m playing on the site itself. I considered doing some video stuff, but really I can’t compete with shows like Board Games With Scott or the excellent Downtime Town. So I’m going to stick with what I’ve got for so far, keep on asking people with interesting stories to tell and get them to tell them.

How and when did you get into gaming?
– The usual Mouse Trap and Monopoly upbringing! When I was a kid I played all the usual stuff, but the thing that really pulled me in was HeroQuest. I played it on my own mostly (my brother was a bit too young), but it got me into heavier games. I dabbled a little in Games Workshop stuff, but to be honest was really put off by the attitude of the people in my local GW store. Still bought Blood Bowl though. At University I drifted away a bit from games, then moved to Australia for a bit. On my return, I spotted a games store in the town I was working one day and wandered in to see what stuff was on offer. That was the re-ignition, especially when the owner said they had a games night every week. I picked up a copy of Carcassonne, took it home and was hooked all over again.

What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you hate?


– I’ll happily play anything at least once, just to try it out. I’m not an avid wargamer though – I find a lot of them a little dry for my taste; the heaviest I’ll go is probably Memoir 44 in that regard. I’m really enjoying the current deck building boom – there’s so many good games in that genre that each offer a different take, and Dominion definitely has a place in my best games list. Summoner Wars is a great game too – Colby Dauch at Plaid Hat has come up with a winner there. Co-op games are a big passion of mine at the moment – Pandemic is a great example (and I got to speak with Matt Leacock on an episode of the show as well). The game I’ll always play though, no matter when or where it is? Battlestar Galactica. Top of the list, definitely.
Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?
– I’m a sci-fi geek, so if it involves flying through space or rockets, I’m there. Another favourite game of mine is Mission: Red Planet which has a beautiful steampunk feel to it. I’ve not played anything else with that theme, but the techy-Victoriana vibe is really appealing. As I mentioned previously, I’m not too hot on war games, but I’m not adverse to playing something with a historical bent. Also, I know that a lot of people hate dice in games, but I love them – the need to adapt to what has been thrown is something I really enjoy, and it’s a similar thing in deck building.
Tell us where we can meet you this year.Attending any upcoming conventions?
Well, I’ll be at the BoardGameCamp in London on October 9th. As I’m in the UK, there’s not much in the way of big conventions until the UK Games Expo next year, and I’ll certainly be there.

Will you be attending Essen? If so, any particular plans for interviews? Looking forward to playing any particular new releases?
– Man, going to Essen would be incredible. I would love to go, but as always it’s a matter of funds and timing! I’m a primary school teacher, but I think Essen falls on a weekend during half-term. If I manage to get there, it’ll only be for a couple of days. There’s loads of interesting releases announced for this year’s event, but out of all of them I’m probably most intrigued by 51st State (based on the Neuroshima Hex universe), Cadwallon: City of Thieves and the new one from Martin Wallace: London.

What is your view of the boardgaming scene here in the UK?
Well, it’s getting bigger. The growth of the Games Expo has shown that, for sure, but it’s a drop in a bucket. If you mention board games to your average member of the public they’ll instantly think of Monopoly… and that’s it. If you wander into a supermarket like Target in the USA, you’ll see stuff like Catan and Carcassonne on the shelves. Go into one of the big bookstores and your selection is even bigger – Barnes and Noble carry stuff like Dominion, for example. We need that kind of attitude here –  I think board games will always be considered geeky, but there’s nothing wrong with being a geek. We should embrace it!

What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public?
A bit more support from retailers, I suppose – and a bit more bravery from gamers themselves. Why not break out something like Citadels at work and see if some people want to give it a go to while away your lunch break? As well as that, getting kids to play will see a new generation of gamers – I play games with some of the kids I work with and they love it. Stuff like Diamant (aka Incan Gold) or Hey! That’s My Fish! goes down brilliantly – then I get their folks coming to ask where I get the games from. Keep spreading the word and the hobby can only grow.

Download the Little Metal Dog Show podcast on itunes or the LMD blog website –

http://littlemetaldog.wordpress.com/category/podcast/

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