About Today’s Guest: This is the fifth interview in our “Voices in Board Gaming” series here on The Opinionated Gamers. Today’s guest, Brandon Kempf, is one of the most prolific gaming voices I know, and one of the finest. He previously ran the WDYPTW podcast, and now he edits and hosts The Shuffle, a monthly podcast featuring various gaming topics. He tweets often about board games (@Vacabck), plus he posts over at BGG, where he has been Geek of the Week. He posts written reviews on WDYPTW.com, and appears in other media forms with regularity. But most importantly, he’s also incredibly fun to play games with, and he’s one of the few voices in this hobby who I deeply respect. Without Brandon, I wouldn’t get to play nearly as many as games as I do, and I love being part of his game group in Jefferson City, MO.
(1) When did you get into the hobby? What’s kept you in it for so long?
In truth, I’ve always been part of the “gaming” hobby. Although early in my life it was predominately video gaming, but my parents did try to have game nights with the kids every now and then and we had neighbor friends who occasionally got those big cool games like Fireball Island or The Dark Tower, but I was predominately video game oriented up until about 8 years or so ago. My sister was looking for a gift for my oldest daughter at Christmas, at that time Gabby was 6, and my sister wandered into the old Valhalla’s Gate in downtown Columbia Missouri and she walked out with a copy of a game she had no idea about, but it looked fun. It had magnets, cool pieces and it was a memory game, The Magic Labyrinth. We played that a bunch that winter, but ultimately it kind of faded away and I went back to playing video games, mainly World of Warcraft still at that time. I kind of realized a bit later that my hobby of video gaming, was kind of isolating the rest of the family from me and I tried to figure out things that we could do together when I wasn’t playing video games and it all bounced back to board gaming somehow. My wife, Kerensa, will tell you that when I do things, I tend to just jump in head first without looking and just immerse myself in whatever it is I am doing, and board gaming was no different. I wish I would have discovered the “need” to create a Board Game Geek profile earlier on as we’d be able to dig in and see where it all really started or what we bought when we first started, but I didn’t. So I kind of see me actually jumping into the hobby of board gaming as most people think about it until the beginning of 2012 when I first discovered BGG, even though my family and I were those gamers who had no idea what was going on outside our own little world for 3 years before that. Just for curiosity’s sake I checked my first three logged games on BGG and they were, Forbidden Island, The Magic Labyrinth & Ticket to Ride. Pretty iconic Gateway games to start with even if we weren’t asking folks what should we be playing. Kind of amazing how you can find things on your own sometimes.
What has kept me involved for so long? I don’t really think we’ve been here that long, but what has kept me going has been the sense of discovery and the way that board gaming can bring families and friends to the table for laughs, good fun and even some friendly (or not so friendly) competition.