Board James [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Cinemassacre/Screenwave Media
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (8th May 2017).
The Show

“Board James” (2009-2015)

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 2015 saw eight new episodes made, delighting fans with the elaborate direction for the series.

With the “Dream Phone” episode essentially killing off the Mike and Bootsy characters, the eight episodes centers around a slightly crazier and psychotic James questioning his own sanity as well as a subplot of trying to bring his friends back from the dead using the Ouija game and conducting a séance. With Mike and Bootsy back it seems as if things are back to the way they were with the usual antics in episodes such as “Full House & Urkel Games” and “Wacky Blasters”, but things start getting darker and darker over the course of the episodes leading up to straight up horror movie madness. “13 Dead-End Drive” is an homage to the “old dark house” genre of films and “Nightmare and Beyond” is one of the most elaborate episodes in Rolfe’s filmography, being a cross between “Inception” and “Saw” using elaborate effects, extreme gore, and a dream within a dream within a dream type logic that both entertains and messes with the minds. “Dream Phone” was a great ending to the series in 2013 but “Nightmare and Beyond” takes it even further and deeper in its execution (literally).

“Board James” was previously released on DVD as “Volume 1”, which collected the first 19 episodes from 2009 to 2013 with a lot of bonus features. The Blu-ray simply titled “Board James” without a volume or number includes all the episodes and extras from the DVD set and adds the eight episodes made in 2015 plus new bonus features.

The episodes are as follows, presented in chronological order which can be played individually or continuously with a play all function.

1. “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”.

2. “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.

3. “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.

4. “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.

5. “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.

6. “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.

7. “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.

8. “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.

9. “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.

10. “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.

11. “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.

12. “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.

13. “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.

14. “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”.

15. “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.

16. “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.

17. “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.

18. “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.

19. “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.

20. “Omega Virus” (6:19)
April 1st 2015
The first episode after the “deaths” of Mike and Bootsy due to the possessed phone, James is back solo to play the complex “Omega Virus” game, by cloning himself.

21. “Lie Detector” (4:38)
May 3rd 2015
Like “Clue” or “Guess Who”, this is a game that used the process of elimination. An interesting twist was the end of the video, which had two separate endings. On YouTube the viewer had to chose either “True” or “False” at the end of the episode to see an additional scene, so two different endings exist. The Blu-ray also retains this, with the viewer having to make a selection.

22. “Ouija & Domino Rally” (10:40)
June 1st 2015
The creepy “Ouija” and the domino craze of the 1980s “Domino Rally” are presented, which also marks the return of Mike and Bootsy through a séance. The episode also features cameos by previous “Board James” villains - Mr. Bucket and Dream Phone.

23. “Wacky Blasters” (4:29)
July 3rd 2015
The episode marks a fun return to the trio formula of James getting annoyed, Mike cheating with a hair dryer, and Bootsy causing disaster with a leaf blower.

24. “Full House & Urkel Games” (8:51)
August 4th 2015
In a tribute to the sitcom style of the shows the games are based on, the episode features partial laugh tracks and wackiness galore. With the three together again playing games, James starts to question his own sanity.

25. “Video Games!!” (10:56)
September 5th 2015
A crossover episode featuring James’ other alter ego The Angry Video Game Nerd, featured are some board games with video game characters: “Pac-Man”, “Super Mario Brothers”, “The Legend of Zelda”, “Street Fighter II”, and even “Tetris”.

26. “13 Dead End Drive” (13:01)
November 1st 2015
The horror factor gets boosted up with a board game in which you have to try to kill your opponents with traps. James takes the game a little too seriously and has Mike and Bootsy trapped inside his house to play the game.

27. “Nightmare and Beyond” (15:17)
December 4th 2015
In the most ambitious episode to date, James, Mike, and Bootsy go through an “inception” style world-within-a-world layered adventure, with James going full on violently insane while Mike and Bootsy try to escape from his clutches. Lots of blood, gore, humor, and elaborate effects are seen here, with an ambiguous outcome on how the series will continue.

Note that some episodes are edited for copyright reasons:
- "Dragon Strike" is missing the VHS tape clips (5 minutes)
- "Crossfire" is missing the TV commercial (20 seconds)
- "Mr. Bucket" is missing the TV commercial and the opening has been reshot


Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Cinemassacre/ScreenWave Media presents all 27 episodes in their original aspect ratios. Episodes 1-9 are in 1.33:1 while episodes 10-27 are in 1.78:1. For codec, episodes 1-12, 14-16 are in 480i in MPEG-2 and episodes 13, 17-27 are in 1080i 60hz in MPEG-2.

The 1.33:1 episodes and a select few 1.78:1 episodes are in standard definition as they were shot and not upconverted to HD, remaining true to the source. The standard definition transfers look identical to the previously released DVD counterpart with issues of lacking sharpness and weaker color reproduction, but that is to be expected. The picture does look fine with no major issues to speak of. The HD episodes are presented in HD and look great, but considering that the episodes were in 1080p 24fps on YouTube, why are they presented in 1080i 60hz? Even with the 1080i transfers, the episodes look quite good with great colors, sharpness, and no major issues to speak of.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
The original English audio track is presented in stereo, with dialogue mostly being mono while the elaborate music and effects are spread to the stereo left and right channels. Some of the early episodes have issues with the microphone pickup of the dialogue sounding a bit flat or echoey, while later episodes have much better audio with clearer speech.

There are no subtitles offered.

Extras

Commentary Tracks

- "Dream Phone" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (16:29)
- "Lie Detector" featuring James Rolfe (4:38)
- "Omega Virus" featuring James Rolfe (6:19)
- "Ouija & Domino Rally" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (10:40)
- "Wacky Blasters" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (4:29)
- "Full House and TGIF" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (8:51)
- "Video Games!!" featuring James Rolfe (10:56)
- "13 Dead End Drive" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (13:01)
- "Nightmare and Beyond" featuring James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy (15:17)

For the commentary tracks, the DVD edition only had one commentary track for “Dream Phone” which has been carried over, while episodes 20-27 each get a commentary track. Episodes featuring James only have solo tracks by James Rolfe and episodes which feature James, Mike, and Bootsy have a group commentary. On the DVD edition, “Dream Phone” was actually a video commentary but for the Blu-ray it is presented as an audio commentary. Though note the content of the commentary is the same. In all the commentaries they talk about some of the behind the scenes process, the planning of the episodes for the year, having no heaters on because the microphones would pick up the sound of the furnace, their own memories of the games, and much more.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Bonus Features

- "Mythology Explained" featurette (11:46)

The 2015 episodes had a story arc, but there was possibly a lot of things that most people had missed by not looking at the minor details in each episode. Rolfe explains the complicated game-within-a-game world of the season of episodes, the easter eggs filled throughout the backgrounds, the shirts and hats of the James character giving clues, and the release dates of the episodes spelling out a hidden message.
in 1080i 60hz MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- "A New Turn" featurette (28:00)
This featurette has individual interviews with James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy talking about the 2015 episodes, with clips and behind the scenes stills. The story arc and the elaborate nature of shooting the final episode are discussed, along with advice of not getting Kool Aid in your eyes or nose at it stings and it sticks.
in 1080i 60hz MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- "Board Game Collection" featurette (18:17)
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. This was previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
in 1080p MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- "AVGN/Board James Crossover Reel" clip (3:02)
The clip where the Board James meets the Angry Video Game Nerd in the “AVGN Games” episode is featured here.
in 1080i 60hz MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- "The Making of Board James" featurette (19:41)
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. This was previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
in 1080p MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- 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. This was previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
480i MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- "Dream Phone Effects" featurette (1:29)
Some before and after effects shots from the “Dream Phone” episode. This was previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
in 1080i 60hz MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

- James explains “Risk” (0:53)
Made for KICKASSIA, Board James explains how to play the board game classic “Risk” at breakneck speed. This was previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Outtakes

- 2015 Outtakes (12:33) (1080i)
- “Deadly Danger Dungeon” (8:56) (480i)
- “Hero Quest” (3:02) (480i)
- “Mr. Bucket” (6:04) (480i)
- “Tornado Rex” (10:07) (480i)
- “Donut Disaster” (15:48) (480i)
- “Monster Madness” (5:22) (480i)
- “Doggie Doo” (6:08) (1080i)
- “Shark Attack” (5:29) (1080i)
- “Dream Phone” (16:48) (1080i)

The outtakes reels have line flubs, alternate takes, and alternate lines of dialogue. Some hysterical stuff are found here. The 2015 episode outtakes are collected into a single reel, with some additional green screen and miniature shots as well. Besides the 2015 reel, the other outtakes were previously on the “Volume 1” DVD set.
in 480i and 1080i 60hz MPEG-2, in both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 depending on the episode, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no episodes

Overall

The 2015 season of “Board James” took the series into a unexpectedly elaborate direction, filled with hilarious moments, gory moments, and impressive effects for an independent web series. With the Blu-ray collecting all 27 episodes from 2009 until 2015 plus a load of extras, the only thing missing might be an actual board game based on the series. Wouldn’t that be something? With high replay value for the episodes and the extras, the set comes absolutely recommended.

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

 


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