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Master Plan

Master Plan is a podcast on the subject of game design and the art of ideas, particularly for role playing, card and board games. Hosted by freelance writer Ryan Macklin, the podcast comes out at least once a month. You can expect interviews with game designers -- both professional and amateur -- as well as advice and news about game design.

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Master Plan #40: Luke Crane on Advancement, Failure & Reward Cycles

On this year-end episode of Master Plan, Ryan publishes an interview he did with Luke Crane back at GenCon. They talk (or as much as one can talk when it's 8am & ones voice is completely shot) about thoughts on building advancements systems in games. Luke shares his thoughts on the subject with his building of Burning Wheel, and they drift to related topics like Failure & Reward Cycles. Luke, frankly, has a lot of interesting stuff to say, provided you don't mind the profanity & poor audio quality.Also, it's the second anniversary of Master Plan. It's been two good years. Here's to a third.Luke Crane:Burning Wheel Mouse Guard RPG FreeMarket Interview with Luke on The Voice of the Revolution, about Mouse Guard My previous interview with LukeRunning time: 27:25 / File size: 18.9MDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=43


10 Dec 2008

Rank #1

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Master Plan #20: Scene Framing and Pacing Mechanics with Luke Crane

On this anniversary episode of Master Plan, Ryan puts out an interview with Luke Crane he did at GenCon earlier in the year. They talk about the scene framing and pacing mechanics (or Disposition mechanics) in Burning Empires, partly sparked because Ryan didn't completely understand them when he and his group played it. Luke goes into detail about how he came up with various design goals and elements in that part of Burning Empires and also gives some insight in how to play the game.Warning: There's a lot of profanity in this episode, and due to technical problems the interview has some severe audio degradations from 21:16 to 28:48.Luke Crane: Burning Empires Burning Wheel Project DonutOther Mentions: My Life With Master by Half-Meme Press With Great Power by Incarnadine Press Primetime Adventures by Dog-eared Designs Polaris by These Are Our GamesRunning time: 30:09 / File size: 20.7MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=23


10 Dec 2007

Rank #2

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Master Plan Audio #3: Designer's Block

While both struggling with problems lately writing and designing and helping a friend who is going through the same thing, Ryan decides to talk about writer's block & designer's block.  He goes into what being blocked has been for him and the various ways he's dealt with it. Mentions: The Butcher Block -- a podcast about all things Jim ButcherThe Show with Ze Frank, 7/11/2006 (Note: video with some explicit language)Wil Wheaton's Blog, 12/31/2006 Running time: 19 minutes, 21 seconds - Ryan


9 Jan 2007

Rank #3

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Master Plan #15: Leonard Balsera on the FATE Fractal

Ryan sits down with Leonard Balsera of Evil Hat Productions and talks about a design concept central to the FATE -- the system used by Spirit of the Century and the upcoming Dresden Files RPG -- called the Fractal. They talk about this concept that treats elements larger and smaller than characters, like planets & possessions, the same way as characters are treated mechanically. Leonard also gives us a bit of an update on the Dresden Files RPG.FATE & The Fractal: FATE: Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment Spirit of the Century Dresden Files RPG Fred's post on RPGnet & his blog entry on the Fractal. FATE Yahoo Group, where you can get Rob's macro-level rules for FATE 2.0 Wikipedia entry on fractalsJason Morningstar's Sight & Sound Game Design Challenge: Main contest page My entry, "Only the Guilty Run" (requires a Story Games login, which is totally free) Jared Sorensen's entry, "1000 Words" (requires a Story Games login)Other Games Mentioned: Birthright, the classic AD&D setting Burning Empires by Luke Crane Dogs in the Vineyard by Lumpley Games GURPS by Steve Jackson Games Over the Edge by Atlas Games PDQ by Atomic Sock Monkey Press The Storytelling System by White WolfMy blog entry where I ask for any questions about the card production for Know Thyself: http://macklinr.livejournal.com/561019.htmlRunning time: 27:48 / File size: 19.7 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=18


14 Sep 2007

Rank #4

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Master Plan #4: Questioning Mechanics

Ryan talks about the questions he's come up with to help guide him when designing game mechanics.  He talked about the current problem he's having with his game and offers an idea to folks still trying to get their mechanics ideas off the ground.Games mentioned: Burning Empires by Luke Crane Dogs in the Vineyard by Lumpley Games Don't Rest Your Head by Evil Hat Productions Dungeons & Dragons by Wizards of the Coast GURPS by Steve Jackson Games Hero System by Hero Games Mortal Coil by Galileo GamesDesign Watch: John Wick's "House of the Blooded" entries on his LiveJournal The BibliOdyssey RPG Design ChallengeOther mentions: Designing Dresden by Rob Donoghue & Fred Hicks My November 2006 Master Plan Web Column, where I answer the Three Questions Special thanks to my friends Gregory & Skye for doing some voice work for the show.Running time: 11 minutes, 24 seconds- Ryan


19 Feb 2007

Rank #5

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Master Plan #44: Ryan's Rules of Playtesting

Still in the post-Dreamation afterglow, Ryan responds to a question asked by friend of the show Remi Treuer, where he asks to hear more about Ryan's playtest process in light of seeing it in action at Dreamation. What he comes up with is something he calls his "Rules of Playtesting" -- things he calls "Rules" because he has to constantly, consciously remember to apply them rather than things that come easy.The five rules he mentions: The Rule of Consideration, The Rule of Conceit, The Rule of Frontloading, The Rule of the Drawing Board, and The Rule of Keeping My Mouth Shut.Afterward, Ryan gives you some Sponsor Quote action, with an anectode that will at most amuse five people. Good times.Remi Treuer: Durham 3 Podcast Post about One Bad Egg's The Purifiers, for which Remi did some awesome art Remi's thoughts about the Mythender playtest he particiapted inThis episode is sponsored by RPGNow.com.Running time: 24:21 / File size: 16.8MDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://masterplanpodcast.net/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=47


1 Mar 2009

Rank #6

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Master Plan #36: Understanding Play Styles

On this solo episode, Ryan talks about this thing he calls "Play Style" -- with respect to design, that's how people are interacting together in a particular medium. This idea comes primarily from a conversation he's had with Daniel Solis regarding his game in development, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Ryan talks about the different things people get out of a game that's akin to rehearsing a play versus one that is more akin to telling stories around a campfire. He also shares a pet theory (which means it's probably wrong) about why more roleplaying games take the former approach even though the latter is an older method of storytelling. Finally, Jerry "J-Nasty" Grayson provides us with yet another sponsor quote, forming what might be the first sponsor quote narrative on Master Plan.Games Mentioned: 1001 Nights Darkpages Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple Dungeons & Dragons The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen FATE: Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment Mythender (My blog) A Penny For My Thoughts Polaris Primetime AdventuresOther Mentions: Jeepform Interview with Robin Laws on The Voice of the RevolutionRunning time: 22:17 / File size: 15.4 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=39


1 Sep 2008

Rank #7

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Master Plan #37: Have Master, Will Plan 2 with Ken Hite

On a very late, very tired Sunday evening of GenCon, Paul Tevis & Ryan Macklin sit down with the ever-present Ken Hite to talk about the hobby, culture, GenCon, and all that good stuff.[02:24] The banter has just begun [04:29] Ken gives a brief on the vibe coming into & at GenCon 2008 [07:30] Talking about the Forge Diaspora, retailer numbers & casual gamer acceptance [09:40] Throwing yourself into GenCon [12:09] Ken's pinnacle moments, the ENnies & Where the Deep One's Are [13:40] Ryan's pinnacle moments, playtesting [15:45] Welcoming Ken to the extended IPR family [16:03] Paul's pinnacle moments, Star Wars PTA [16:50] Seeing people at GenCon & being inspired [18:29] Paul is back in his wheelhouse [20:02] Paul asks Ken the traditional "What'd you see?" [20:23] Ken comments on the Mongoose Traveller [21:04] ...and on It's Complicated [22:37] Gamers and the Olympics [25:15] Ken comments on Hot War [26:12] ...and Sweet Agatha [26:47] Tobias Wrigstad, Jeepform & American Jeepform: Under My Skin & A Flower For Mara [27:44] Vincent Baker's In a Wicked Age... and Poison'd [28:33] Ken on Don't Lose Your Mind [28:50] Ryan on meeting Benjamin Baugh [29:20] Ken on Qin [30:18] The Atlantean Age for HERO [30:51] Beating Sturgeon's Law [31:30] Catalyst, Shadowrun & Classic Battletech [32:50] Ryan on How to Host a Dungeon [35:05] Ryan & Paul on This Just In...From GenCon!,Ken on the podcasting medium [36:35] Ryan on The Continuum [37:18] Ken further on podcasting as a medium, and on what to look for in RPGs, and the values of books that we might not play [38:36] Hi, Jerry. [40:20] Your gracious hosts ask the guest about his recent Tour de Lovecraft [42:15] The trend of non-fiction gaming books [47:21] Now, we're doneLinks:GenCon This Just In...From GenCon! The Forge Indie Press Revolution Play Collective Ashcan Front Design Matters ENnies Trail of Cthulhu Where the Deep One's Are Out of the Box Primetime Adventures Mongoose's Traveller It's Complicated Hunter: The Vigil Changeling: The Lost Baron Munchausen Hot War Cold City Sweet Agatha Jeepform Pelgrane Press Under My Skin A Flower For Mara In a Wicked Age... Poison'd Don't Lose Your Mind Don't Rest Your Head Qin: The Warring States The Atlantean Age for HERO Shadowrun Classic Battletech How to Host a Dungeon Mutant City Blues The Continuum Scion Tour de Lovecraft Atomic Overmind Hobby Games: The 100 Best Things We Think About Games Knutepunkt (Wikipedia) Q Workshop First Person Second Person Gaming as Culture Push: Vol 1 GURPS HERORunning time: 48:02 / File size: 33.8MDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=40


10 Oct 2008

Rank #8

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Master Plan #7: Interview with Evil Hat Productions, Shield Bracelet Woes

Rob Donoghue and Fred Hicks come on the show to talk about an issue they're dealing with while working on the Dresden Files RPG -- working with the shield bracelet and how to mesh mechanical modeling and the feel from the fiction. They get pretty into it about what they're dealing with. Then Ryan talks about Chad Underkoffler's latest project, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, and talks about some listener email and his upcoming book.Evil Hat Productions: Evil Hat Productions Dresden Files RPG (In production) Spirit of the Century Don't Rest Your Head FATE: Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment(Incidentally, I really like Evil Hat's new website look. Kudos, from one web developer to another.)Design Watch: Chad Underkoffler's Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies entries Email me about thoughts or ideas regarding the pulp minis game for NilsBlantant Plugs: My blog entries about Finis: A Book of Endings to Give People New Beginnings A sample of Finis that shows off Fred's nigh-divine talents.Other Mentions: Gaming Podcast Network Game Chef The Butcher Block -- Fred's podcast about all things Jim Butcher The episode where Fred and Rob mention briefly the shield bracelet and the RPG Paul Tevis's podcast, Have Games, Will Travel The episode where Paul talks about his miniatures gaming experiencesRunning time: 23 minutes, 41 seconds / File size: 21.6 MBComment on the episode


20 Apr 2007

Rank #9

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Master Plan #6: Interview with Christian Griffen

Ryan interviews Christian Griffen of Berengad Games about his new book, Beast Hunters. They talk about why the game was created, touch on how the game works, then go a bit into how Christian and his wife created it together and some elements that evolved from the original draft. Later, Ryan talk obsessively about Game Chef.Beast HuntersBeast Hunters is currently offering a pre-order deal until March 25th, 2007. For more information on the offer, go to:http://www.berengad.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18&Itemid=31You can find more information about Beast Hunters, including links to reviews, at: http://www.berengad.com/Game ChefTo find out more about Game Chef, you can go to:http://www.game-chef.com/Or for some specific links:The rules of Game Chef: http://www.game-chef.com/rules.shtmlInformation on the ingredients: http://www.game-chef.com/workshop/comments.php?DiscussionID=40Group Epsilon/Barnstormers: http://www.game-chef.com/workshop/?CategoryID=5You can find my various posts for "Enlightenment" there.Check it out!Running time: 22 minutes, 59 seconds / File size: 21.0 MB- Ryan


21 Mar 2007

Rank #10

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Master Plan #62: Stephen Hood & Will Hindmarch on Storium

Ryan sits down with Stephen Hood and Will Hindmarch or Protagonist Labs to talk about the new online roleplaying experience known as Storium. On this live episode, they talk about Storium's origins and design, issues that came up in playtesting, the differences between developing for an upgradable platform versus a static book, and more. If you aren't a part of the beta yet and would like to be, check out Storium's Kickstarter campaign. Ryan also mentions that he'll be shifting toward more live format shows than pre-recorded, as an experiment and to speed up production. Links: Storium's site Storium's Kickstarter (ends on May 8th, 2014) Protagonist Labs' blog You can also check out this episode on YouTube. 52:28 / 25.8M - Ryan


5 May 2014

Rank #11

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Master Plan #29: Designing from Other Games 2, John Wick

After the beach sabbatical that was Have Master, Will Plan #1, Ryan goes back to his series of designers talking about their experiences working with other games. This week, he talks with John Wick about his now-in-preorder game, Houses of the Blooded. Along with talking about where various parts of the game were inspired, John drops a bit of insight into some other games and shares some stories where he's collaborated with and contributed to other designers. Then Ryan talks briefly about the part he really thinks is cool, which is what John's doing with the Limited Edition of Houses of the Blooded, particularly the Graphics Pack.John Wick & Houses of the Blooded: Wicked Dead Brewing Company Houses of the Blooded (offical site) Pre-order Houses of the Blooded (Indie Press Revolution) Pre-order Houses of the Blooded Limited Edition (Indie Press Revolution) John Wick's blog entries for Houses of the Blooded (LiveJournal)Running time: 29:29 / File size: 20.3 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=32


8 May 2008

Rank #12

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Master Plan #61: Vincent Baker on Evolution of Games and a Game Designer

Ryan sits down with Vincent Baker to ask him what ends up being some big questions: Where did Murderous Ghosts come from? What does "Powered by the Apocalypse" mean? What are his thoughts on his own design evolution? We go all over the place in this lengthy interview -- talking about the old days at the Forge, the nature of various playtesting, a love of RoboRally, what being "innovative" actually means, on freelancing and what that sacrifices, selling games to non-gamers, silly unpublished games, and so much more. This is one of my favorite interviews to date, and a fitting way to both close out 2013 and be (functionally) my 7th anniversary episode. Thank you to Plate Mail Games for the use of the audio loop -- an experiment I'm trying in this episode. Check out their Kickstarter! Good stuff. Vincent's (published) games mentioned: Dogs in the Vineyard Apocalypse World Otherkind Otherkind Dice (and here) Poison'd Murderous Ghosts The Sundered Land Other games mentioned: Psi*Run by Meguey Baker Bliss Stage by Ben Lehman Annalise by Nathan D. Paoletta RoboRally by Richard Garfield Lost Worlds Dungeon World by Adam Koebel and Saga LaTorra Sorcerer by Ron Edwards Steal Away Jordan by JuliaB. Ellingboe Dread by Epidiah Ravachol 53:01 / 26.1M - Ryan


26 Nov 2013

Rank #13

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Master Plan #22: Daniel Solis, Part 1 on Layout Questions

For his first podcast of 2008, Ryan talks with Daniel Solis, layout designers for such games as Lacuna, Reign, Wilderness of Mirrors and the upcoming Houses of the Blooded. As part one of their interview, they talk about questions a designer should be able to answer or keep in mind when talking to someone about doing layout for their game. Daniel goes into his list of Hard, Firm and Soft Questions, and goes into detail as to how the answers to those questions helps help layout a project.Daniel Solis' websiteProjects Daniel has worked on: Jared Sorensen's Lacuna Greg Stozle's Reign John Wick's Wilderness of Mirrors and Houses of the Blooded (in production)Other mentions: Best Friends by Gregor Hutton/Box Ninja Dreamation 2008 Warhammer 40,000 RPG by Games Workshop/Black IndustriesRunning time: 28:35 / File size: 19.6 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=25


18 Jan 2008

Rank #14

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Master Plan #31: Designing from Other Games 3, Robin Laws on Mutant City Blues

Ryan talks with gaming luminary Robin Laws about his upcoming game, Mutant City Blues. Mutant City Blues is the latest GUMSHOE game, this one not focused on the horror genre but on police procedurals & super-powers. They talk about designing this game from the original GUMSHOE framework, what was changed to make the game focused on the new premise, and overall the experiences of making this game. Throughout the show, Robin also talks a bit about moments in GUMSHOE's design in general.Robin Laws & GUMSHOE: Mutant City Blues (You can get the Quade Diagram here) The Esoterrorists Fear Itself Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth HiteOther mentions: Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Campaign Cartographer by ProFantasy SoftwareRunning time: 30:34 / File size: 21.1 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=34


13 Jun 2008

Rank #15

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Master Plan #18: Emergent Play

Ryan returns from nearly a month off to talk about a topic he's very passionate about: Emergent Play (or Emergent Behavior in Play). That is play that emerges from the people engaging and interactive with the text, but isn't a direct result of the instructions of the text. He goes into some examples to illustrate the idea from different vantage points: the board game Diplomacy, Call of Cthulhu, Paul Tevis' A Penny For My Thoughts, his own Know Thyself, and Beast Hunters. While he only scratched the surface, he looks forward to returning to this topic again.Mentions: A Penny For My Thoughts by Paul Tevis (link to Master Mines site) Know Thyself by Ryan Macklin Beast Hunters by Berengad Games Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium, Inc. Diplomacy by Avalon Hill The Domino Challenge post on Story Games Endgame Master Mines Canon Puncture podcast The Voice of the Revolution podcastRunning time: 24:58 / File size: 17.1 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=21


10 Nov 2007

Rank #16

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Master Plan #27: Designing from Other Games 1, Willow Palecek

Master Plan #27: Designing from Other Games 1, Willow PalecekRyan kicks off this new series on designers discussing their experiences designing from other games by talking to new publisher Willow Palecek. She's recently published Awesome Adventures, her derivative of Evil Hat's FATE system. They talk for a bit about why she started with FATE, the reasons behind some of her design choices, and what sort of issues she's faces in playtesting those choices. After that, Ryan mentions a couple other podcasts where you can hear him talk and April's Sponsor Quote.Willow Palecek & Awesome Adventures: Awesome Adventures (Lulu.com) FATE: Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment by Evil Hat Productions Spirit of the Century by Evil Hat Productions Open Gaming License (Wikipedia)Places where Ryan won't shut up: Dreamation 2008 Indie Design Roundtable, part 1 (Sons of Kryos, non-direct link) Canon Puncture 32Other mentions: d20 by Wizards of the Coast GURPS by Steve Jackson GamesRunning time: 27:00 / File size: 18.6 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=30


18 Apr 2008

Rank #17

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Master Plan #28: Have Master, Will Plan 1, part 2

Have Master, Will Plan #1 with Paul Tevis, part 20:34 This episode is the second part of a conversation between Ryan Macklin and Paul Tevis at the second Nerdly Beach Party. Pick up the first half over on Have Games, Will Travel. 1:19 If you like this show, check out RPGPodcasts.com. 1:28 Ryan and Paul talk about Project Cowbell, their attempt to recapture their convention gaming roots, and how that play style differs from what they've been doing recently. 8:10 - Sprigboarding off the idea of making clear what parts of a design are important, Paul and Ryan talk about how they address the issue of modular design in A Penny For My Thoughts. 17:08 - Finally coming around to the original premise for this episode, Paul and Ryan talk about how publication is not the end-point, what they mean by development, and their collaboration style. 29:31 - And that's it from the Nerdly Beach Party 2. A big thanks to Albert, Nancy, and Josh for organizing it!Running time: 30:50 / File size: 21.2 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=31


25 Apr 2008

Rank #18

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Master Plan #47: Tangibility in Mechanics

After an unintended hiatus, Ryan's back with an episode about something near and dear to his heart -- thinking about the tangible qualities that mechanics have. He talks about how people should be looking at what their mechanics are causing players to do with their hands, because it's in that space where some people are better able to connect with the game. After giving an overview of the idea, he discusses four games and how they use this idea in their mechanical design.Games Mentioned: Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Polaris by These Are Our Games Don't Rest Your Head by Evil Hat Productions Dirty Secrets by Dark Omen GamesThis episode is sponsored by RPGNow.com.Running time: 26:40 / File size: 18.4MDiscuss this episode on the forums


13 May 2009

Rank #19

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Master Plan #26: Jennifer Rodgers on Working With Artists

Ryan talks with Jennifer Rodgers, artist & colorist, about what a game designer should expect to know and should expect to find out in talking with an artist such as herself. They get a bit in-depth about her specific process, and she talks about some of the things she's learned over her time working with clients. Afterward, Ryan mentions BoardGamePodcasts.com, follows up on some comments made about episode 25, and thanks his awesome listeners for supporting him, criticizing him and in general being there to listen.Jennifer Rodgers: Dictionary of Mu by Judd Karlman Mortal Coil by Galileo Games Shadow of Yesterday by CRN Games Primetime Adventures by Dog-eared Designs Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat ProductionsOther mentions: White Wolf Endgame Oakland BoardGamePodcasts.com My journalRunning time: 29:25 / File size: 20.2 MBDiscuss this episode on the forums: http://www.hmfy.com/masterplan/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=29


28 Mar 2008

Rank #20