Board James: Volume 1
R0 - America - ScrewAttack
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (17th June 2015).
The Show

With the web series “The Angry Video Game Nerd”, James Rolfe took viewers back to the past with video games. With his series “Board James”, he takes us back to the past with board games. There were always the standard board games within every family’s closet, such as chess, checkers, Othello, and backgammon, as well as games made popular by board game companies Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley like “Life”, “Monopoly”, “Sorry”, “Battleship”, and “Risk”. For the series “Board James”, Rolfe takes a look at a variety of board games and gives an overview of each, sometimes with help from his “friends” Mike and Bootsy.

Rolfe in his “Board James” character sports a cap (different ones in episodes) and does not wear the glasses and white shirt like his AVGN character. Mike Matei is “Motherfucker Mike”, who often plays unfairly, gets quickly bored, and loves to be a pain, which is maybe an exaggerated version of Matei himself. “Bad Luck Bootsy” is played by Brendan “Bootsy” Castner, who has a habit of being vulgar, ruining the games, and somehow getting hurt while playing the board games.

Some of the episodes are short explanations of the games by Board James, just giving a quick overview of how to play and how the game is. Some episodes have James playing with Mike and/or Bootsy actually playing the games, and showing the competitive nature of the games directly. And, there are also some horror themed episodes which are a lot more elaborate than the others.

The different kinds of board games featured are plenty. “Doggie Doo” is one of the simplest that is reviewed, and could barely be called a “board game” since it doesn’t have a board or even a simple way to win or lose. It’s just a pooping toy dog. Then there are games like “Hero Quest” which is so elaborate and time consuming that it’s a wonder anyone was able to figure out how to play it without tearing their hair out. Also there are the battery-operated games electronic games that became popular in the 1980’s. Games like “Mr. Bucket” and “Dream Phone” needed batteries to play, dolls like the talking teddy bear Teddy Ruxpin, and handheld game consoles like the Nintendo GameBoy needed batteries, making it necessary for board gamers to have a stockpile of batteries in the house in the 1980s. Some even had VHS tapes with the game such as “Dragon Strike” and was also parodied in an episode of “Community” in the 4th season featuring a cameo by the creator of “Breaking Bad” Vince Gilligan as a board game VHS star.

People who played board games in their childhood will suddenly remember lots of things forgotten over time. From in-house rules such as different people having slightly differing rules for board games like what happens on “free parking” in Monopoly, the ability to cheat or bend the rules very easily, and getting frustrated enough to “accidentally” knock pieces over and ruin the game entirely. Most of those things are not exactly the same as playing a video game. Games like “Monopoly” and “Life” were turned into video games, but if you had any made up rules such as how much money you could start with, special rules on how to get out of jail, or being able to have a gay marriage were not possible in the video game adaptations. Although more recent editions of the video game versions have ways of adding in-house rules, it just isn’t the same as suddenly making up a rule and saying “No, if you roll doubles, you have to go backwards!”

“Board James” follows the similar sort of humor found in “The Angry Video Game Nerd” series, with grossout humor, vulgar wordplay, and a love for movies and TV series. “Board James” is not as vulgar as AVGN, and actually reviews both good and bad board games pretty fairly, as opposed to AVGN almost always showcasing bad games and his character making obscenely humorous rants. The series officially started in 2009, but has been inconsistent with episode releases. 2010 had 5 episodes released, while 2013 had only 1 episode being released. Since “The Angry Video Game Nerd” was the centerpiece of Rolfe’s Cinemassacre Productions, “Board James” was made during times between AVGN episodes. But after the release last year of the long-awaited and long-in-production “The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” full length film, Rolfe has stated he would like to make more “Board James”, and as of 2015 saw some new episodes made, delighting fans. This DVD entitled “Volume 1” collects all 19 episodes from 2009 to 2013 and adds a lot of bonus features.

Disc one includes the episodes (with a "Play All" function):

- “Mouse Trap” (2:36)
April 14th 2009
The first episode does not feature the “Board James” character, but Rolfe narrating how to set up the board game and how to play the game. It wasn’t even called “Board James” but just as a “Board Game Review”.

- “Dragon Strike” (3:28)
May 27th 2009
The character of “Board James” is introduced, sporting a Nintendo hat and a Rocky T-shirt. He talks about the complexity of the game making it very difficult for players. For this game a VHS tape is included, but unfortunately due to copyright issues with the video, this had to be cut from the DVD release. The 5 minutes of Board James watching the video, commenting, and interacting has been removed, as well as a scene of James killing a Teletubby. The full uncut version can still be seen on the Cinemassacre website and YouTube.
in 1.33:1

- “Crossfire” (3:55)
July 27th 2009
Being an intense 2-player game, it was inevitable that James needed a partner to play with. This episode is the first to feature “Motherfucker Mike” as the cheating second player. The original TV commercial which plays at the start of the episode has been cut from the DVD due to copyright issues. The full uncut version can still be seen on the Cinemassacre website and YouTube.
in 1.33:1

- “Fireball Island” (2:42)
February 3rd 2010
With such an intricate and detailed board game, it’s a shame that it is only explained and not played. It would have been much more fun seeing James and Mike play together.
in 1.33:1

- “Weapons & Warriors” (5:56)
September 7th 2009
Mike returns and gets annoyed at how long it takes James to set up the entire board game. Once the game gets going, we see some very good editing techniques used during the battle sequences.
in 1.33:1

- “Deadly Danger Dungeon” (6:21)
March 26th 2010
Board James introduces his own board games created with friends using paper and pencil as children. So these should be “paper games”? Even a board game of “Street Fighter II” is made, as well as a game of “Street Fighter III” before the actual “Street Fighter III” arcade game was released. In “Deadly Danger Dungeon”, James created a sadistic game with instant death traps everywhere and claims that no one has ever gotten to the end of the game. James gets Mike to play it by himself to show how impossible the game is.
in 1.33:1

- “Hero Quest” (4:07)
April 14th 2010
A massive game in both the number of game pieces and rules, “Hero Quest” could have been an epic episode, but is cut short by Mike who gets bored and gives up before they even start. There are a few outtakes at the end of the episode.
in 1.33:1

- “Mr. Bucket” (11:27)
May 11th 2010
Board James goes horror in “Mr. Bucket”, in which the toy comes to life and tries to attack him. Shot in hard noir lighting and using horror background music, “Mr. Bucket” is not just an homage to horror films, but it is an actual horror film. It is both scary and hilarious, with a few jump scares here and there, as well as the expected vulgar humor of Mr. Bucket wanting to suck on balls. This episode also has been changed for the DVD slightly. In the original episode, James and Mike watch the TV commercial via YouTube and talk about it. That scene has been changed to a newly reshot scene of just James and Mike talking about watching the commercial. The original version can still be seen on the Cinemassacre site and YouTube.
in 1.33:1

- “Tornado Rex” (3:53)
September 15th 2010
“Bad Luck Bootsy” makes his first appearance as the third player who loves to ruin games by not listening to the rules. With Bootsy turning the tornado windup toy too many times, bloody disaster strikes.
in 1.33:1

- “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (7:46)
May 24th 2011
Board James and MF Mike play various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, and also play a British Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles game as well. These games seem to be capitalizing on the success of the Turtles, and they barely have anything to do with the Turtles. The bean-bag Tic Tac Toe game could have used any popular character, and not just the Turtles, while “The Search for Shredder” game seemed to be designed by someone not so familiar with the Turtles. This is a critical look at the games, with the Tic Tac Toe and “The Search for Shredder” games being too simple, and “The Pizza Power Game” being way too complicated. Note this is the first episode to be made in widescreen.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Key to the Kingdom” (3:58)
June 10th 2011
Board James introduces one of his favorite games, which has dungeons, demons, monsters, whirlpools, and an expanding board. Although he doesn’t play the game with any partners on this one, it is explained very thoroughly.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Donut Disaster” (4:03)
August 16th 2011
Board James and MF Mike are about to play “Donut Disaster” when the now one-eyed Bad Luck Bootsy enters the room. A montage of Bootsy ruining games from the past in a silent-movie montage plays to show the audience how ruinous Bootsy is. Clips from “Tornado Rex” appear as well as some other games like “Connect Four” which was not an actual episode. Again, Bootsy ends up in pain at the end of the episode.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Loopin’ Louie” (5:02)
September 9th 2011
Board James steps out and goes to the PAX 2011 game convention. With some help from Kevin Finn who later became producer for “Duck Dynasty” and co-director of “The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie”, they set up a table to play the battery operated 4-player game “Loopin’ Louie”. Random onlookers join and play the game in which timing of tapping the button is key. There are cameos by YouTubers Angry Joe and Happy Video Game Nerd who also play the game with James.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Monster Madness” (4:21)
September 23rd 2011
Using a board game based on classic monsters such as “Dracula” and “The Mummy”, The episode is shot in black and white like the old Universal Horror films. Clips of films like “Night of the Living Dead”, “White Zombie” and “Phantom of the Opera” among others are used, and are left uncut on the DVD as the films are in the public domain. Board James and MF Mike play the game together and compare it to some of the torturous fun of James’ own “Deadly Danger Dungeon”.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Battle Masters” (8:15)
November 24th 2011
Board James and MF Mike play “Battle Masters” which was advertised as from the makers of “Hero Quest”. The game has amazing cover art, an insanely huge board and an incredibly complicated set of rules, probably the most complicated game featured in this set.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Splat!” (4:44)
December 13th 2011
Board James, MF Mike, and the heavily injured Bootsy play “Splat!”, a board game that uses Play-Doh for splatting the game characters. During the game, Bootsy develops a sweet tooth for Play-Doh which causes disaster as usual.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Doggie Doo” (2:18)
January 24th 2012
In a toy which the player feeds a dog, and then the dog poops it out. That’s it. James and Mike explain that the special material that comes with the toy can only be used, as they tried with Play-Doh and ruined it.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Shark Attack” (5:03)
November 19th 2012
Bootsy comes once again to ruin “Shark Attack”, a game in which speed is important as the mechanical shark tries to eat the players’ fish game pieces.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

- “Dream Phone” (16:28)
April 1st 2013
James, Mike, and Bootsy play for the first time a girls’ game. “Dream Phone” is a game in which the players try to find out which boy likes them by using the electronic phone to get clues. The guys are actually quite positive in feedback about the game, which uses problem solving and guessing, as James puts it as similar to “a murder mystery”, which foreshadows what later happens. In a pseudo-sequel to “Mr. Bucket”, it goes back to the horror genre with the electronic phone from the board game starts to terrorize James with surprisingly bloody outcomes. It is the longest episode in the “Board James” series so far, and one that is far and beyond the most ambitious.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Note this is a region free NTSC DVD which can be played on any DVD player worldwide

Video

The early episodes in 1.33:1 non-anamorphic look fine but nothing spectacular. Shot in standard definition video, the image has no discernible problems and looks better than the YouTube counterparts.

The later 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen episodes look better, as the quality of the camera used was better. Some episodes like the black and white filtered “Monster Madness” doesn’t look as sharp as that was the intended look with fake film dust and scratches and the film clips used in the episode look pretty blurry. Besides that, the other episodes look fine.

Audio

There is only one audio track on all the episodes: English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
There is occasional stereo separation with the music, and the horror themed episodes use the left and right stereo sounds effectively. The dialogue is entirely center based without directional sounds used.

There are no subtitles on the disc.

Extras

In the 2-disc set, the first disc has only one extra:

Video commentary on “Dream Phone” with director/writer/actor James Rolfe, and actors Mike Matei and Bootsy
The 3 talk about the making of the episode, with the movie reference of “Child’s Play”, “Scream”, and “Psycho”, how Bootsy composed the original song, and also reveal who does the voice of the terrorizing phone. James talks about the lighting, editing, and shooting done mostly by himself during an 8 month period, how a major continuity error was fixed in post-production Photoshop.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Disc two is made up entirely of bonus features, and has a “Play All” function.

“The Making of Board James” featurette (19:40)
James, Mike, and Bootsy talk about their love of board games and how the first episode led to the character being made and how they turned it into a series. They also discuss some of their favorite and least favorite games and episodes.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

“Board Game Collection” featurette (18:16)
James and Mike look at some board games that haven’t been made into videos yet, including board games of “Dawn of the Dead”, “Full House”, “Wayne’s World”, “DuckTales”, and more. They also foreshadow a few future episodes that were produced after this DVD set was released.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

“Dream Phone Effects” featurette (1:29)
Some before and after effects shots from the “Dream Phone” episode.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

James and Mike play “Perfection” (2:16)
A bonus episode of the guys playing “Perfection”. It isn’t clear why this wasn’t released as a standard episode, as it is shot, edited, acted out, and finished.
in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

James explains “Risk” (0:53)
Made for KICKASSIA, Board James explains how to play the board game classic “Risk” at breakneck speed.
in 1.33:1

Next a series of outtakes for various episodes:
Outtakes for “Deadly Danger Dungeon” (8:55)
Outtakes for “Hero Quest” (3:02)
Outtakes for “Mr. Bucket” (6:04)
Outtakes for “Tornado Rex” (10:07)
Outtakes for “Donut Disaster” (15:47)
Outtakes for “Monster Madness” (5:22)
Outtakes for “Doggie Doo” (6:08)
Outtakes for “Shark Attack” (5:29)
Outtakes for “Dream Phone” (16:47)

The outtakes reels have line flubs, alternate takes, and alternate lines of dialogue. Some hysterical stuff are found here.
in both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, depending on the episode

Overall

“Board James” is an extremely fun series that will make you want to break out those old dusty board games. The extras are plentiful and a lot of care was put into the DVD set. Eagerly awaiting for more episodes to be made. Highly recommended, even if a few episodes had to be cut. Note that currently the DVD is only available directly from the ScrewAttack store.

The Show: A- Video: B Audio: B Extras: A- Overall: B+

 


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