Nick Welford, the man formerly known as “Board, Deck & Dice” (“BD&D), has recently partnered up with his son, Leighton, and re-branded to become “Pads & Pawns” (“PaP”). Between busy sessions at the controller and the board gaming table, I caught up with the “Zatu Daddy” and his protégé to find out more.
Welcome! With all the names and re-launching, I feel like I am talking to Prince! Haha. I’ll stick with Nick, if that’s ok, just so that I don’t confuse myself.
Please refer to me as “Lord Sebastian Flushworthy 5th”
A mouthful but fair enough, Flushworthy.
So, Flushy, BD&D’s media channels are well known within our hobby. With such a good rep built up over the years, why the change?
BD&D was started as a cathartic thing for me. I’ve never explicitly asked people to subscribe or follow me. I just put out the content. Because of this lack of conscious branding, and the opportunities I’ve had personally, I think people more people probably know me as ‘Nick’ rather than BD&D which made the brand easy to leave behind.
Plus, because of my freelancing work with Zatu Games, I’ve acquired more and more technical kit which allows me to stream live including video games. With my son, Leighton, keen to join me, coming up with a great name and a collaborative re-brand to symbolize the shift in content didn’t feel like such a big step.
So perhaps with Leighton coming on board you should be PaPa Nick now then 😉 Kidding – let’s not add any more names into the mix!
How does it feel to bring Leighton into the “family business”? It can be hard to spend quality time with our children these days – is PaP now your “thing” i.e. your chance to do something together?
It’s definitely one of our things, and as one half of PaP, it also means he has to play more board games and video games with me! Haha! During lockdown, we also streamed some live quizzes together, and that was a lot of fun. But we do like to do other stuff together as well.
As BD&D you have been producing content for many years, but I hear your first love was video gaming. Why the focus on board gaming?
Well, I used to play Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary when I was a kid, but when my dad got us a Sega Master System, that was it – I was hooked. And when I later re-discovered board games as a grown up, although it came at a time when I was more able and willing to mess with making videos, I never considered making content about video games because they have quite a high know how/expense barrier. But, in any event, there is so much cross over between both hobbies, I think they make great bunk mates.
Learning more about online streaming platforms like Twitch has also helped massively with the overlap. Live videos always seemed a bit scary to me but having the push to learn as part of my role at Zatu really encouraged me take the plunge with my own content. Although I still claim my USP is low production values!
Twitch definitely seems to be growing in popularity in terms of both and you guys obviously play video games together on the platform – how do you find the live interaction in the chat compared to the delayed response from viewers watching your YouTube reviews?
It’s more pressured, for sure. You can get drawn into a game and realise you been sat there with your mouth wide open for a few minutes. It’s great when there are active commenters though. Even if it’s just one or two. The conversational nature really adds something. It’s also done and dusted in one take.
Having said that, with YouTube, it can be watched over and over and so the pressure is different. I actually feel quite bad thinking about the fact that a designer could watch my negative opinion of their game in years to come!
Ok, so is live streaming going to be more of a focus with PaP than it was with BD&D?
YES! I prefer the live conversation on Twitch as you get to communicate with tone and humour in a way that often doesn’t come across in other ways to review a game. It’s also fun, we have the equipment, and it takes less time…..usually! Haha
We have actually found a way to live stream to both YouTube and Twitch simultaneously, so we are just going to try it as long as we fancy. I do find board games harder to stream live, but with some creativity, you can do some great stuff. We won’t leave behind pre-records though and we definitely want to embrace Instagram more as a viable channel. One of my side goals with the re-brand is to teach Leighton how to use social media in a healthy way before he gets to 13!
So, are you hoping to build relationships with video game companies through live streaming with PaP similar to those you already have with board game publishers and Zatu?
Honestly? I’ll just wait and see. I came to recognise a while ago that there’s no such thing as a free review copy or a free review. Everything has a cost.
That game I get given to review is the result of literally hundreds of hours of work including design, art and so on. The video I then produce is work too; learning and playing the game, crafting a video etc. I think relationships are the most important thing, and I turn down a lot of games because I don’t think I will do them or the designer/publisher justice. If some video game companies want to work together with us then we are definitely open to it, but it would have to work for both sides.
I also want Leighton to learn the realities of ‘being a YouTuber’ as so many young people think it’s really easy, when actually it’s a lot of hard work. I’m not making money directly from anything with BD&D or PaP. Have I been lucky enough to gain work in the industry? Sure. But it’s nowhere near a full-time wage. And Leighton knows this. For that reason, I’m as keen to teach him the ‘back-end’ of content creating i.e. the editing, streaming, software, and hardware as I am the front-of house presenting side.
It’s good to know that Leighton will get the benefit of your experience in terms of the production side. But in other features, I have discussed the duty reviewers have towards our community. How are you preparing Leighton for that side of being a creator?
I expect people to act with integrity and in an inclusive fashion and I try to do that in my own output but I don’t think it would be helpful for me or Leighton to necessarily consider what we do in terms of duty. I do it because I enjoy it. If others enjoy it then that’s great, and I hope that he will grow up in the industry feeling the same way.
I actually had one designer call me a gatekeeper because I wouldn’t review their game due to time constraints and, to me, that seemed a crazy thing to say. I’ve seen people suggest designers, reviewers and content creators should have higher standards than other people but I’d really oppose that view. Everyone should have high standards!
Raising standards is never going to be a bad thing in any community – no arguments there!
Your own time spent gaming and reviewing, however, must mean that you see titles which feel or play similar to others again and again. How do you come to each new game with fresh eyes when asked to review or preview them?
Basically, I’m fussy. If I know something isn’t for me then I won’t cover it. I also have a funny relationship with theme. For example, Ganz Schon Clever and Rajas of the Ganges: The Dice Charmers are remarkably similar games in terms of game play. And yet Rajas is infinitely more appealing to me because of the ‘theme’ even though the theme is very, very loosely applied!!
Plus I think it’s rare that any board game is a total dud in terms of gameplay, but it might not necessarily interest me. As such, if I do review a game, I try to look for things people might enjoy even if I don’t. That being said, even when game mechanics are similar, they can be blended and used in very different ways. Indeed, some of my favourite games are twists on well-established mechanics! I also try and sell/pass on games that get replaced by other games doing “that thing I like” better or which simply don’t do it as well as games already in my collection.
Well, feel free to pass on anything you like to me – my collection is definitely a work in progress! 😊
With all the professional playthroughs, reviews, video streaming etc, do you ever worry about burn-out, or even just getting bored with gaming?
Not with games themselves but lockdown has certainly made it harder to get motivated to produce gaming related video content. I think being so restricted has been a real motivation sapper generally. Although, at the other extreme, when I first started covering Kickstarter prototypes, I went a bit mad doing too much and it became a bit overwhelming. I rarely accept Kickstarter requests now for that reason.
Can’t argue that Lockdown has been incredibly hard for a lot of people. To keep the social element going through the tough times, a lot of gaming has moved online. That is a big change for many –do you think video gaming prepared you better for the “digital revolution”?
It kind of feels cliché for board gamers to not like the virtual stuff. I’ve been using Board Game Arena (“BGA”) for a long time and so it didn’t feel that much of a jump for me. If anything, I’ll continue after lockdown as it’s a great way to play with people further afield. It’s great to see so many publishers considering this too.
Don’t get me wrong, online gaming is never going to replace the tactility and social joy of face to face, but I’ll take it over not playing any day of the week. Plus these platforms just keep getting better. Tabletopia and TTS wouldn’t stop me buying a game, but there are some I’m happy to just play on BGA and not own!
Online gaming aside, will you be keen to get back into convention halls when restrictions allow?
Absabloodylutly! I cannot wait. I love demoing and playing at conventions. I have attended as a punter, as press, and on a stand and by far my favourite is being on a stand demoing and meeting people!
You are also known as the “Zatu Daddy” – as one of the Bloggers there, I know first-hand that you are incredibly passionate about games. What is it that you like most about working there (you can say “me”, I don’t mind 😉)
Haha…well……Our Slack blogger community is by far the best thing! (Including Amber and Beth. Not my bosses but they may as well be). Freelancing for Zatu was definitely a real help and it came along at just the right time. But even before I started freelancing for them, I loved the little gaming community we had and continue to have. Like any group, there are tense moments, but I find Zatu and Slack to be one of the friendliest places I inhabit online! I’ve made some real friends at Zatu and it’s always a blow when people move on.
Can’t argue with you there – our blogging team is a really great and diverse bunch! But will your expansion into live streaming and reviewing video games on your own channels impact upon what you do at Zatu going forwards?
No, it’s the opposite. Doing the stuff for Zatu has led to me transferring it across to PaP. I’m actually now quite keen to draw a bit of a line between what I do for each platform. I’m less and less interested in doing reviews for PaP and so I’ll focus on them for Zatu, allowing me to experiment with other content for PaP. Having two of us in PaP also gives us a few different options. The live streaming will probably be the most similar in terms of any output crossover.
So, where do you see the focus on live content taking PaP in the future?
Within two months we’ll be swimming in a vault full of gold ala Scrooge McDuck. Content wise? Who knows? It would be great to have a following in the video game sphere two and perhaps even encourage even more crossover between the hobbies!
Well I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labours! In the meantime, tell us something surprising about you.
I have a rational fear of going down slides on my belly.
Erm, ok. Not sure I want to deep-dive into that little nugget of your psyche! Instead, let’s move on to quick fire question time – exposure of a different kind 😉.
You have max 3 second thinking time per question. And go!
· No. of board games currently in your collection: Erm, around 650?!
· Board game you would save in a fire today: Underwater Cities
· Video game you would play if you could only
ever play one (no online updates or expansion
packs allowed, cheeky!): The Binding of Isaac
· Favourite console: Switch
· Favourite Board Game Designer: Michael Kiesling
· Favourite Video Game Designer: The Supergiant Team
· Favourite Content Creator: Jonathan Pie
· Playing style; hunter or gatherer? Spender!
Phew, glad it wasn’t a Rorschach Test – that would be terrifying to interpret! Haha.
One last probe, just for fun!. If you could play a board game or video game with anybody (real or fictional), who would it be, and what game would you play?
Balderdash with Old Gregg, Ron Burgundy and Brick
Sounds like a fun night! So, finally, turning to the real boss of PaP; Leighton, the last few questions are just for you.
Your dad claims to be bad at video gaming – do you agree with that?
No not at all. I wouldn’t say he was bad – he’s better than a lot of average people who play video games. (SAID WITH A SERIOUS FACE!!!)
What board game or video game do you thrash him at most of the time?
Fortnite and Yogi and Quirk!
Does your dad have a really embarrassing victory dance or other ritual when he does manage to steal a win? I don’t know why but, in my mind at least, he does!
Yes, he does a weird dance where he puts one hand behind his head and holds his foot with his other hand and sort of convulses. He also makes noises…..strange, pathetic noises.
That is so much worse than what I was imagining……I am sorry you have to see that! Haha. Do you have any advice for other young, talented gamers out there who might be thinking about streaming or producing game related content online?
Definitely do it! Talking during livestreams is hard but try and think of the camera as someone’s face – that’s what I try to do. It’s not easy. You have to work at it and push yourself to be as good as you can be. PaP isn’t very big yet, but I enjoy it.
Well, sharing your dad’s passion and dedication, I have no doubt you’ll be a huge success!
Thank you both so much for letting us know the backstory behind PaP and I am really looking forward to seeing your new logo pop up on Twitch, Insta, YouTube, and more!
If you would like to check out PaP’s channels, please click here