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Ludology

Updated 14 days ago

Rank #69 in Games category

Leisure
Games
Video Games
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Welcome to Ludology, an analytical discussion of the how’s and why’s of the world of board games. Rather than news and reviews, Ludology explores a variety of topics about games from a wider lens, and discusses game history, game design and game players.Ludology is part of The Dice Tower Network, the premier board game media network.

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Welcome to Ludology, an analytical discussion of the how’s and why’s of the world of board games. Rather than news and reviews, Ludology explores a variety of topics about games from a wider lens, and discusses game history, game design and game players.Ludology is part of The Dice Tower Network, the premier board game media network.

iTunes Ratings

304 Ratings
Average Ratings
273
25
3
1
2

Great for gamers

By Butter-J - Dec 17 2019
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If you wanna learn about the nitty gritty of board gaming, this is basically the best podcast.

The best game design podcast

By ZebadiahM - Jul 20 2017
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Ludology is an example for all others to follow.

iTunes Ratings

304 Ratings
Average Ratings
273
25
3
1
2

Great for gamers

By Butter-J - Dec 17 2019
Read more
If you wanna learn about the nitty gritty of board gaming, this is basically the best podcast.

The best game design podcast

By ZebadiahM - Jul 20 2017
Read more
Ludology is an example for all others to follow.
Cover image of Ludology

Ludology

Latest release on May 31, 2020

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Welcome to Ludology, an analytical discussion of the how’s and why’s of the world of board games. Rather than news and reviews, Ludology explores a variety of topics about games from a wider lens, and discusses game history, game design and game players.Ludology is part of The Dice Tower Network, the premier board game media network.

Rank #1: Ludology Episode 34 - The Good, The Bad, and The Random

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Ryan and Geoff take a look at the use of uncertainty and randomness in games. What works and what doesn't? When should you have more randomness and when less?

Duration: 1:09:45

Jun 10 2012

1hr 9mins

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Rank #2: Ludology 205 - All's Well That Ends Well

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Scott did some research and came up with all the different ways a board game can end. In this super-sized episode, Scott, Emma, and Gil go through this list and share our thoughts on how a game experience concludes, and how we designers can affect our players based on the different ways we wrap up our games. 

Jul 28 2019

1hr 26mins

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Rank #3: Ludology Episode 145 - Six Ways From Sunday

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Mike and Geoff discuss multi-use cards - their history, and how they can be used by designers.

Duration: 1:03:53

Feb 12 2017

1hr 3mins

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Rank #4: Ludology Episode 38 - You Are Here

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Ryan and Geoff talk about maps, geography, and spatial relations in game design.

Duration: 1:25:15

Aug 05 2012

1hr 25mins

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Rank #5: Ludology 206 - Ahead of the Curve

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Emma and Gil welcome accomplished designer Tom Lehmann (Race for the Galaxy, Res Arcana, and many others) to discuss game arcs versus story arcs and how an inflection point can help the arc of a longer game. We also get into how the plot of Romeo & Juliet compares to a cooperative game, and how game design could possibly connect to contra dancing.

Aug 11 2019

59mins

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Rank #6: Ludology Episode 124 - Checking It Twice

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Mike and Geoff continue their discussion of the Game Design checklist, with questions about game mechanics.

Duration: 01:16:59

Mar 20 2016

1hr 17mins

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Rank #7: Ludology Episode 66 - Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?

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Ryan and Geoff are joined by special guest Corey Koneiczka of Fantasy Flight Games designer of such classics as Battlestar Galactica, Mansions of Madness, and the upcoming Eldritch Horror. The topic? Expansions! Are they good or bad for the industry? Do you design a game with expansions in mind or bolt things on afterwards? What are the do's and don't's of expansions?

 Duration: 01:03:29

This episode of Ludology is sponsored by Scott King Photography, for all of your game photographing needs!

Oct 06 2013

1hr 3mins

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Rank #8: Ludology Episode 160 - Law and Order

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Gil and Geoff take a look at the different ways of controlling turn order in a game. What are the rules of thumb for when to use the different methods?

Duration: 1:23:17

Sep 24 2017

1hr 23mins

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Rank #9: Ludology Episode 143 - Two Players! Three Players! Four Players! Bwahahah!

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How do different player counts affect the design process? How important is it that a game support a variety of player counts?

Duration: 1:08:06

Jan 15 2017

1hr 8mins

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Rank #10: Ludology Episode 44a - The Rubber Meets the Road

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Finally! Ryan corrals his buddies into trying Trading in the Mediterranean, and records their thoughts afterwards. 

Reviewing the rules, cards, and other playtest materials may be helpful to understanding this episode.

Duration: 33:30

Nov 25 2012

33mins

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Rank #11: Ludology Episode 164 - First Steps

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Gil and Geoff discuss the very early stages of design and play testing. How much should be on paper, and how much in your head?

Duration 1:05:21

Nov 19 2017

1hr 1min

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Rank #12: Ludology Episode 163 - A Pain In the Asymmetry

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Gil and Geoff are pleased to welcome guests Patrick Leader (Vast) and Cole Wehrle (Root, An Infamous Traffic) to discuss asymmetry in games, and the particular challenges it presents to the designer.

Duration: 1:07:19

Nov 05 2017

1hr 7mins

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Rank #13: Ludology 222 - Johnny Fairplay

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Emma and Gil welcome accomplished designer Cole Wehrle, designer of Root, Oath, and Pax Pamir (Second Edition), back to the show (Cole previously appeared on Ludology 163 - A Pain in the Asymmetry). We discuss fairness in games. Has it been around for as long as we think it has? What can an "unfair" game do that other games can't?

Cole is a staff designer at Leder Games, and co-founded  Wehrlegig Games with his brother Drew.

SHOW NOTES

2m18s: You can watch Cole's GDC talk here.

12m02s: Learn more about Twilight Imperium (this is the most recent version, but there were previous versions with slightly different rulesets)

13m52s: Learn more about Memoir '44.

14m25s: Learn more about Scythe.

16m04s: Learn more about Blood Rage and Sushi Go!

19m30s: Gil remembers a bunch of Viking games in the mid-aughts. One of the biggest was Michael Kiesling's Vikings, whose gameplay, while clever, did little to evoke actual Vikings.

22m41s: The book Strike Four was recommended to me by Dennis Goodman, who is himself a baseball historian and rules expert, and has written a streamlined rulebook for the sport.

24m16s: The book Cole refers to is The Games Ethic and Imperialism (Sport in the Global Society) by J. A. Mangan.

25m14s: I'm referring to the book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer/Football, by David Goldblatt. The exact title depends on if you buy the US or UK version; this link is to the US version.

27m07s: Cole refers to the book Making England Western, by Saree Makdisi.

27m33s: Thomas Arnold was headmaster of Rugby School from 1828, and was influential in reforming the British public school system. Tom Brown's School Days was written by Thomas Hughes and published in 1857, and popularized British public schools as a literary setting. 

28m11s: If you're curious, here is the official 2019 NFL rulebook. If your eyes aren't crossed yet, here is the official 2019 MLB rulebook (though note Dennis Goodman's streamlined take on the rules of baseball, mentioned above). And to finish you off, here is the official ICC web page on all the Playing Conditions of every form of cricket (although to be fair, they have to handle all three major forms of the game - imagine if the NFL rulebook had to account for Canadian and Arena Football as well!)

Side note: I also checked out the official Laws of World Rugby Union, and I was stunned to see how clearly-written they were! They are made to be read by a layperson, not a lawyer, and come with many video examples of rule violations.

30m42s: This is a good time to remind you to check out Scott Rogers' Biography of a Board Game last week for The Game of the Goose. It's not technically a Victorian board game - no one knows how old it is - but it's the template for many Victorian parlor games. (I wish we could say we planned these episodes to run consecutively, but it was just a happy coincidence!)

32m08s: We're discussing The Landlord's Game, by Elizabeth Magie  (interestingly, Hasbro still does not officially acknowledge Magie's role in the creation of Monopoly, perhaps for legal reasons)

32m56s: More like 150-175 years old, really. Most sports rules began getting formally codified in the mid-19th century (though cricket had already started getting codified in the 18th century).

33m14s: The Eton Wall Game is still played today. And yes, there's video of it! Note that Eton has a second code of football, the Eton Field Game, which is closer to soccer, but still contains many elements found in rugby. There's a video of the Eton Field Game  here.

36m34s: Cole is referring to Bernie De Koven and his book The Well-Played Game. He also refers to the games Acquire and Caylus.

37m23s: To Emma's point, Prussian college professor Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig invented the first wargame in 1780, but it was Kriegsspiel, designed by Prussian nobleman George Leopold von Reisswitz in 1812 and refined by his soldier son Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz in 1824, that introduced realism and verisimilitude into the form. Note that these wargames were designed more for military training than recreation.

37m43s: H.G. Wells, who wrote many seminal science-fiction novels like The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, was also a game designer. In his books Floor Games and Little Wars, he establishes rules for the first recreational wargames. (Also, the idea of games solving world problems is still alive, most notably by Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken.)

38m53s: Alexander Pope's classic (albeit somewhat overly-dramatically-named) poem The Rape of the Lock. Read it here.

39m58s: Roger Caillois' Man, Play and Games, written in 1961, probably deserves its own episode.

42m00s: Hare and Tortoise is, of course, the first Spiel des Jahres winner. (On a related note, Scott's Biography of a Board Game about Eurogames is a really good listen on this subject.) Cole then mentions Die Macher and Catan.

46m20s: I did not come up with this "roll a die at the end of a game of Chess to see who wins" thought experiment, but I can't remember where I read it! Maybe Characteristics of Games?

47m29s: Relevant quote from Mike Selinker from Ludology 189 - Missing Selinker: "Frustration is a valuable, positive thing up to a point. You’ve just got to know where the table flip is."

48m08s: Cole is kind enough to mention Gil's forthcoming game High Rise after playing it at GDC 2019. Cole gave his talk on defending kingmaking; Gil gave his talk on how indirect interaction in games can be good.

52m21s: More info about Descent, Dark Venture, and Tomb.

59m30s: More info about Byzantine themes.

1h04m44s: More info about Liberté.

1h06m36s: More info about The History of Rome podcast.

1h08m58s: The political compass of Root, as suggested by Reddit user u/orionsbelt05.

Apr 05 2020

1hr 13mins

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Rank #14: Ludology Episode 187 - Balancing Act

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Gil and Geoff take a look at game balance. What is it, exactly?

Duration: 54:34

Nov 04 2018

54mins

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Rank #15: Ludology Episode 69 - Area 69

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Hot on the heels of talking about Set Collection, Ryan and Geoff tackle its cousin, Area Majority, a mechanic which comes wearing many disguises.  How does it differ from Set Collection? What makes it work or not?

Duration: 01:11:12

Nov 17 2013

1hr 11mins

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Rank #16: Ludology Episode 159 - Getting Out Scott Free

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Gil and Geoff are pleased to welcome Professor Scott Nicholson from Wilfrid Laurier University to discuss Escape Rooms. What are they, how do they work, and what lessons do they hold for game design?

If you're not familiar with Escape Rooms, please check out this video from Scott with an overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tqnw7g5iIFQ

Duration: 1:19:47

Sep 10 2017

1hr 19mins

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Rank #17: Ludology Episode 98 - Gathering the Magic

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Ryan and Geoff are thrilled to welcome Richard Garfield, designer of Magic: The Gathering, Robo Rally, Netrunner, King of Tokyo and more, along with bonus guest Mike Fitzgerald, whose latest designs include Diamonds and Baseball Highlights: 2045.

We discuss Richard's design philosophy, the origins of Magic, types of gamers, and much more.

Please also visit our geeklist to share your memories of Ludology for our 100th episode spectacular!

Duration: 01:31:23

Feb 22 2015

1hr 31mins

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Rank #18: Ludology Episode 147 - Listen Up!

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Mike and Geoff field a bevy of listener questions.

Duration: 1:10:21

Mar 12 2017

1hr 10mins

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Rank #19: Ludology Episode 103 - House of Cards

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Mike and Geoff dive deeper into the world of cards. What is a card? What tools do cards give the designer? What card games exhibit great depth?

Duration: 01:22:22

May 03 2015

1hr 22mins

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Rank #20: Ludology Episode 58 - Back to Basics?

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Ryan proposes a radical change to the mechanics of Trading in the Mediterranean to simplify and smooth our the gameplay, and Geoff wants to talk about it.  Will it throw the baby out with the bathwater? What is the heart of the game?

Duration: 1:16:05

Jun 16 2013

1hr 16mins

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Ludology 226 - Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo

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Emma and Gil welcome Dr. Mary Flanagan, designer of Monarch, Visitor in Blackwood Grove, Buffalo, Awkward Moment, and plethora of other games in a myriad of styles and platforms, from party to strategy on digital in tabletop. Dr. Flanagan is also an artist, having exhibited works (many game-related) all around the world, and teaches game design at Dartmouth, who also hosts her game design and research lab, Tiltfactor.

We discuss designing games from the perspectives of fun and meaningful change. How does one make a transformative game that players actually enjoy, but that is still effective at building empathy and fighting prejudice?

CONTENT WARNING: There is a brief mention of racial prejudice, and sexual assault in literary works towards the end of the episode.

SHOW NOTES

0m21s: "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" is a grammatically correct sentence. This video explains it, and other lexically ambiguous sentences.

1m21s: Tiltfactor, Dr. Flanagan's game design and research lab at Dartmouth 

1m57s: If you're reading this, congratulations, you're reading the show notes!

3m58s: Professor Scott Rogers covered The Game of The Goose in Biography of a Board Game 221.5.

4m27s: For more information on these French Revolution-themed versions of Game of the Goose (Jeu de la Revolution Francaise), check out page 17 of this PDF. It's also interesting to note that Robespierre attempted to install a new state religion for France during the Revolution, the Cult of the Supreme Being (Culte de l'Être suprême); it's entirely possible that its dogma was reinforced through things like board games. Perhaps it also helped with the bizarre decimal-time-based calendar that Robespierre couldn't get to stick, but that still frustrates historians to this day.

5m30s: More information about Dr. Flanagan's book, Critical Play.

6m39s: The Landlord's Game by Lizzie Magie is the game that Monopoly was based on.

7m51s: September 12: A Toy World is a game where a player is trying to kill terrorists by firing missiles at a village. But every terrorist you kill creates more terrorists, as the locals get angrier at your actions. Soon, the village is gone and you are surrounded by terrorists. There is no way to win the game through shooting.

7m56s: Paolo Pedercini also makes commentary games. (Note that this link contains adult content.) Jump to the McDonald's Videogame here

8m13s: More info on Profit Seed.

8m33s: More info on Layoff.

9m40s: More info on Pox: Save the Puppies.

10m32s: "Designing Games to Foster Empathy," the paper Dr. Flanagan wrote with Jonathan Belman.

15m04s: More info about psychological distance.

16m16s: Gil is referring to Ludology 213.5 - The Incan Gold Experiment, run by Dr. Stephen Blessing and research assistant Elena Sakosky. (Gil refers to the game from the original European release's name, Diamant, but it was released in English as Incan Gold.)

19m51s: For a longer discussion on what "fun" means in a game, and on a deeper level, how games create meaning, check out Ludology 201 - Are We Having Fun Yet?

21m20s: More info on the party game Buffalo.

24m14s: More info on social identity complexity

26m13s: More info on the party game Awkward Moment.

31m10s: For more discussion on board games and colonialism, check out Ludology Episode 197 - Empires Up in Arms. For more information about the effects of "terra nullius" in board games, check out this article from Nancy Foasberg.

32m26s: "Failed Games: Lessons Learned from Promising but Problematic Game Prototypes in Designing for Diversity," by Dr. Flanagan, Max Seidman, and Geoff Kaufman.

34m15s: Dr. Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, has suggested that biological differences could explain why there were fewer women in science. 

36m18s: More info about Blokus.

39m39s: More info on the strategy game Monarch.

40m04s: Dr. Flanagan's book (with co-author Helen Nissenbaum) Values at Play.

40m18s: Here are some articles on Will Wright and Chris Trottier.

45m12s: More info on This War of Mine: The Board Game and Freedom: The Underground Railroad.

49m05s: More info on Dr. Flanagan's art, including giantJoystick.

50m40s: Gabriel Orozco's Horses Running Endlessly.

51m48s: Dr. Flanagan's paper, with Sukdith Punjasthitkul and Geoff Kaufman, on "Social Loafing."

54m53s: The article in question is "The Mechanical Muse," published in The New Yorker on January 7, 2020.

56m28s: Here's an article in Wired on the paper in question, in which large collections of photos used to train image-recognition software - including one used by Google and Microsoft - were found to amplify exisiting biases. 

57m15s: In 2015, Google apologized for their facial recognition software mislabeling Black people as "gorillas." 

57m42s: More info about Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture.

58m49s: The story here is "No Woman Born," by C.L. Moore.

1h03m31s: The show will be called "Gameplay: Video Game Culture," at the CCCB in Barcelona, Spain. 

1h04m07s: "Max" is Max Seidman, game designer at Resonym and frequent collaborator with Dr. Flanagan.

1h05m41s: We've covered the lightweight interactive fiction platform Twine before on the show, most notably on Ludology 217 - What IF? 

May 31 2020

1hr 8mins

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Biography of a Board Game 225.5 - Mousetrap

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Join Scott as he recounts the history of the game that blurred the line between a game and a toy: Mousetrap. 

Bibliography of a Board Game for Mouse Trap It’s All a Game by Tristan Donovan A World Without Reality: Inside Marvin Glass’s Toy Vault by Bill Paxton Mental Floss – Mouse Trap Game Facts Chicago Tribune – Toying with Success Best Play – History of Mouse Trap: Murder, Playboys and Plagiarism Google Patents Rube Goldberg.com Smithsonian Mag – Teaching physics with a massive game of mouse trap

May 24 2020

12mins

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Ludology 225 - A Study in Emma-rald

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Today, we put Emma in the spotlight to find out what went into designing her newest game, Abandon All Artichokes, how many cards she actually designed for it, and how the game was almost derailed by an Infinite Potato Problem.

SHOW NOTES

5m44s: Magic: The Gathering and the marvelous deckbuilding video game Slay the Spire. Also check out Ludology 198 - Inspired, featuring Slay the Spire's co-designer Anthony Giovannetti.

6m00s: Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, two video games where the player starts in a remote area with very little in the way of equipment, and ends up building a small town.

7m22s: If you want to check out more deck-wreckers, try Xenon Profiteer (one of Gil's personal favorite games), or Fine Sand.

8m39s: Don't let the bean theme throw you off. Bohnanza is one of the best trading games you'll find.

9m15s: Bonnie Pang did the wonderful art for Artichokes.

9m43s: Sushi Go, by Phil Walker-Harding and also published by Gamewright, is an excellent light drafting game. It was good enough to spawn a family of light, charming drafting games. 

Phil has mentioned in passing that Sushi Go took many, many tries to get right. Another example of how hard it is to make a good, light game!

11m16s: Emma mentions some other Gamewright titles that fit a similar mold: Go Nuts for Donuts and Qwixx.

15m22s: Emma casually references Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey here.

26m29s: Seth Jaffee's article on balancing game elements and "finding the unit" is still immensely valuable to game designers everywhere.

31m59s: Cardboard Edison's publisher directory is an invaluable resource to game designers looking for a publisher for their prototypes.

48m44s: The incredibly adorable Abandon All Artichokes trailer  and its accompanying how-to-play video

49m18s: We'll post a link to the design diary in the Ludology forums as soon as it goes online!

55m16s: Emma's first episode.

56m43s: Dominion, the game that popularized deckbuilding as an in-game mechanism.

May 17 2020

58mins

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GameTek Classic 224.5 - Game Balance and AI

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Geoff ruminates on the limitations of using AI to balance games. Why can't we use machine learning to fully balance a game experience, and finally make a game that everyone on BGG will find perfectly fair on the first play?

SHOW NOTES

1m17s: For more on this subject, check out our two GameTek episodes on AlphaGo : GameTek Classic 218.5 Alpha Zero, and GameTek Classic 222.5 Alpha Zero, Part 2. 2m00s: Geoff's game The Expanse. 5m29s: The fantastic trading game Sidereal Confluence (which will soon have a new edition!) 6m18s: League of Legends has grappled for a long time with how to balance their champions for players of all skill levels. Here's their latest approach on how they're trying to do it.

May 10 2020

8mins

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Ludology 224 - Putting the Fun in Funko

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Emma and Gil sit down with Chris Rowlands of Funko Games to discuss the design of IP-based games, and what it's like to design as part of a group collective.

SHOW NOTES

0m00s: Playtest safely online with Gil and Emma! 4m11s: Mox Boarding House is one of the premier board game stores in Seattle. (Here's hoping they can stick around until everything is able to reopen!) 12m21s: The Frosthaven Kickstarter project. 16m45s: Personal plug: Abandon All Artichokes is Emma's newest game. 19m47s: Power Grid is the #36th ranked game on BGG. (Rankings are not absolute, objective measures of quality, of course, but still. It's a big game.) 24m01s: Beth Hawley was responsible for the amazing art in Chris' game Under My Bed. 27m18s: Disney Villainous, in which each player is a Disney villain with unique special powers, is one of their more well-known titles. 29m05s: The party game Yeah Nope. 30m52s: Funkoverse, the tactical minis game using modified Funko figurines. 32m33s: All of "Prospero Hall's" credited games on BGG. 34m04s: The games Horrified and Jaws. 38m17s: Prospero Hall's website.  43m28s: The "tracer" scene from Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy.  (Explicit language warning) 50m31s: Personal plug: Avowel is currently available on Android, and coming to iOS soon! 54m10s: The game Jurassic Park: Danger. 1h02m35s: Paper Girls and Manifest Destiny  1h03m26s: Sea of Thieves  1h03m48s: Infocom's original help guide entry to the horrible and notorious Babel Fish puzzle in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy video game, written by Douglas Adams himself, is an absolute wonder to read. Keep clicking "Next Answer." Favorite quote on step 19 of the hint: "At this point, brave men have been known to break down and cry."  1h05m11s: Building the Game, a podcast on game design. 1h06m34s: Some articles about wrestling's current audience-less format.  1h12m04s: Our episode on ludonarrative dissonance was Ludology 192 - Diabolus in Ludica. 1h14m04s: Back to the Future: Back in Time and Last Defense!

May 03 2020

1hr 16mins

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Biography of a Board Game 223.5 - The Game of Life

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Scott goes into the checkered history of The Game of Life, which has had many inspirations and incarnations, and is still going strong. 

(Content warning: this episode contains quick, passing references to sex and suicide.)

0m00s: Join Gil's and Emma's remote playtesting groups! 1m44s: A Little Pretty Pocket Book. Fun fact: this book contains the first appearance of the term "base-ball," although that term at the time was an alternative regional name for the sport now known as Rounders. 2m37s: The New Game of Human Life. Here's the original French game that inspired it, which BGG has under the name La Vie Humaine un Nouveau Jeu. 3m19s: More information about the teetotum, which was often used to avoid the impression of gambling.  5m48s: The Reward of Merit, The Mirror of Truth: Exhibiting a variety of Biographical Anecdotes and Moral Essays calculated to Inspire a Love of Virtue and Abhorrence of Vice, and The Mansion of Happiness. 7m45s: The Checkered Game of Life. 9m17s: The Game of the Telegraph Boy, Game of To the North Pole By Airship, and The Game of Playing Department Store. 9m32s: More information about toy and game designer Reuben Klamer.  10m48s: The famous blue and pink pegs are, of course, the inspiration for the name of the excellent board game podcast Blue Peg, Pink Peg. 11m44s: Here's a page with a photo of the 1960 edition of The Game of Life. 12m28s: More information about the resolution of the lawsuit between Klamer and Markham.  13m32s: The Game of Life: Twists and Turns  14m08s: The Game of Life Express  16m33s: This would also be a good time to mention some modern board games that handle the same subject matter, and were no doubt somehow inspired by The Game of Life. The Pursuit of Happiness, Funny Friends, CV, and My Story.

Apr 26 2020

17mins

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Ludology 223 - Kick Out the Jams

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Emma and Gil welcome Anya Combs and Luke Crane from Kickstarter to discuss how crowdfunding is changing, especially in light of recent events.

Anya: anya@kickstarter.com, games@kickstarter.com, @anyayna Luke: @burning_luke, burningwheel.com

Note that this episode was recorded on March 25, 2020, so if we talk about things happening "a few weeks ago," we're referring to late February/early March. This wouldn't normally be an important detail, but things are changing a lot quickly these days.

SHOW NOTES

0m00s: Playtest safely online with Gil and Emma!

1m28s: For those who have never heard it, the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" set a template for punk rock's sound well before its time. (Explicit language warning) 

3m52s: More info about the Burning Wheel roleplaying system. 

8m32s: The original Alien Frontiers and Cards Against Humanity  projects. Both were modest successes. Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, and Shenmue were much larger successes.

9m48s: The original Kingdom Death: Monster was a wild success, but the second edition was one of the largest Kickstarter Games campaigns ever run.

9m56s: We recorded this episode before Frosthaven launched. As of the time of this episode's release, it has raised over $7 million USD.

10m31s: Gil's Kickstarter projects are all visible here

12m39s: The Dispel Dice Kickstarter project.

17m23s: The F*** Yeah Dice Kickstarter project (Explicit language warning, of course).

16m56s: Itten made the unique game Stonehenge and the Sun. Oink and Bouken don't have any Kickstarter projects, but their games are worth your attention for their distinctive look and style. Luke also brings up Bouken's game Diet & Friends.

17m17s: W.M. Akers has a series of baseball simulators called Deadball.

18m23s: You can find Emma's weekly news show on Twitch every Friday at 2 pm Pacific.

20m00s: Here's the Fantastic Factories Kickstarter project. Here's the Kickstarter for Coloma, designed by Jonny Pac, who was on Ludology 221: The Pac Less Traveled

20m36s: Here's the Gladius Kickstarter project. 

21m51s: More info about the Skylanders video game, which discontinued support in 2017. 

24m42s: Here's the Multiverse Kickstarter project. (Incidentally, if you're interested in a platform similar to Multiverse, check out Roll20).

27m34s: More info about the Jackbox party games. 

28m20s: The Spaceteam Kickstarter project (Note that this is for the original video game, not the card game inspired by it).

30m10s: More info about Twine. We go more into detail about this platform in Ludology 217: What IF?

30m43s: More info about AVOWEL, the mobile version of Wordsy. 

31m05s: The latest Chronicles of Crime Kickstarter. 

32m46s: Commands & Colors by Richard Borg is a family of outstanding light wargames that includes BattleLore and Memoir '44

34m33s: More information about Kickstarter's Make100 and ZineQuest initiatives.

43m16s: More information about the newest God of War game https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_War_(2018_video_game).

43m36s: Animal Crossing! Hoo hoo! That's a link to more info about New Horizons, the newest game in the series. There's a lot of interesting discussion going on about the game and how timely it is, how its soothing imagery is perfect for the current times, and how it offers an escapist fantasy (literally escaping to a desert island) to people who are stuck at home.

47m13s: Ankh, the newest CMON game, is at over $1 million USD from about 14,000 backers at the time of this episode release. Tapeworm has not yet launched at the time of this episode release.

46m45s: Pax Pamir's most recent Kickstarter. It's from Cole Wehrle (and his brother Drew), whom you heard two weeks ago on Ludology 222: Johnny Fairplay.

47m06s: The Sea of Stars Kickstarter project, and the Swords 'n Magic and Stuff project.

52m34s: Anya performs in the Hungry March Band, the Funkrust Brass Band, and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony.

55m26s: Of course, Team Ludology does not subscribe to Luke's spicy hot take here, and we're pretty sure Rob Daviau has played D&D more than once. :) Rob was guest on Ludology 70: Risky Business. If you want to hear him GM, check out the actual play podcast Story Roost and its first story arc, The Unmarked. (Explicit language warning)

59m17s: DRUGGIES AND BULLIES BEWARE BULLYPROOF Kickstarter project.

1h00m30s: OLDIE BINGO Kickstarter project.

Apr 19 2020

1hr 3mins

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GameTek Classic 222.5 - Alpha Zero, Part 2

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Geoff continues the discussion about Alpha Zero, this time pointing out the impact a self-learning AI can have on an established tournament meta, like Magic or Hearthstone.

Show Notes:

0m47s: More info about Agent57, the DeepMind AI that can beat humans at 57 different Atari 2600 games.  1m52s: The Ares Project, Geoff's first published board game (designed with his son Brian) 2m15s: More info about the Halifax Hammer strategy from A Few Acres of Snow.  2m29s: The current list of banned cards in Magic: The Gathering.  And, the current list of changed Hearthstone cards

Apr 12 2020

6mins

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Ludology 222 - Johnny Fairplay

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Emma and Gil welcome accomplished designer Cole Wehrle, designer of Root, Oath, and Pax Pamir (Second Edition), back to the show (Cole previously appeared on Ludology 163 - A Pain in the Asymmetry). We discuss fairness in games. Has it been around for as long as we think it has? What can an "unfair" game do that other games can't?

Cole is a staff designer at Leder Games, and co-founded  Wehrlegig Games with his brother Drew.

SHOW NOTES

2m18s: You can watch Cole's GDC talk here.

12m02s: Learn more about Twilight Imperium (this is the most recent version, but there were previous versions with slightly different rulesets)

13m52s: Learn more about Memoir '44.

14m25s: Learn more about Scythe.

16m04s: Learn more about Blood Rage and Sushi Go!

19m30s: Gil remembers a bunch of Viking games in the mid-aughts. One of the biggest was Michael Kiesling's Vikings, whose gameplay, while clever, did little to evoke actual Vikings.

22m41s: The book Strike Four was recommended to me by Dennis Goodman, who is himself a baseball historian and rules expert, and has written a streamlined rulebook for the sport.

24m16s: The book Cole refers to is The Games Ethic and Imperialism (Sport in the Global Society) by J. A. Mangan.

25m14s: I'm referring to the book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer/Football, by David Goldblatt. The exact title depends on if you buy the US or UK version; this link is to the US version.

27m07s: Cole refers to the book Making England Western, by Saree Makdisi.

27m33s: Thomas Arnold was headmaster of Rugby School from 1828, and was influential in reforming the British public school system. Tom Brown's School Days was written by Thomas Hughes and published in 1857, and popularized British public schools as a literary setting. 

28m11s: If you're curious, here is the official 2019 NFL rulebook. If your eyes aren't crossed yet, here is the official 2019 MLB rulebook (though note Dennis Goodman's streamlined take on the rules of baseball, mentioned above). And to finish you off, here is the official ICC web page on all the Playing Conditions of every form of cricket (although to be fair, they have to handle all three major forms of the game - imagine if the NFL rulebook had to account for Canadian and Arena Football as well!)

Side note: I also checked out the official Laws of World Rugby Union, and I was stunned to see how clearly-written they were! They are made to be read by a layperson, not a lawyer, and come with many video examples of rule violations.

30m42s: This is a good time to remind you to check out Scott Rogers' Biography of a Board Game last week for The Game of the Goose. It's not technically a Victorian board game - no one knows how old it is - but it's the template for many Victorian parlor games. (I wish we could say we planned these episodes to run consecutively, but it was just a happy coincidence!)

32m08s: We're discussing The Landlord's Game, by Elizabeth Magie  (interestingly, Hasbro still does not officially acknowledge Magie's role in the creation of Monopoly, perhaps for legal reasons)

32m56s: More like 150-175 years old, really. Most sports rules began getting formally codified in the mid-19th century (though cricket had already started getting codified in the 18th century).

33m14s: The Eton Wall Game is still played today. And yes, there's video of it! Note that Eton has a second code of football, the Eton Field Game, which is closer to soccer, but still contains many elements found in rugby. There's a video of the Eton Field Game  here.

36m34s: Cole is referring to Bernie De Koven and his book The Well-Played Game. He also refers to the games Acquire and Caylus.

37m23s: To Emma's point, Prussian college professor Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig invented the first wargame in 1780, but it was Kriegsspiel, designed by Prussian nobleman George Leopold von Reisswitz in 1812 and refined by his soldier son Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz in 1824, that introduced realism and verisimilitude into the form. Note that these wargames were designed more for military training than recreation.

37m43s: H.G. Wells, who wrote many seminal science-fiction novels like The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, was also a game designer. In his books Floor Games and Little Wars, he establishes rules for the first recreational wargames. (Also, the idea of games solving world problems is still alive, most notably by Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken.)

38m53s: Alexander Pope's classic (albeit somewhat overly-dramatically-named) poem The Rape of the Lock. Read it here.

39m58s: Roger Caillois' Man, Play and Games, written in 1961, probably deserves its own episode.

42m00s: Hare and Tortoise is, of course, the first Spiel des Jahres winner. (On a related note, Scott's Biography of a Board Game about Eurogames is a really good listen on this subject.) Cole then mentions Die Macher and Catan.

46m20s: I did not come up with this "roll a die at the end of a game of Chess to see who wins" thought experiment, but I can't remember where I read it! Maybe Characteristics of Games?

47m29s: Relevant quote from Mike Selinker from Ludology 189 - Missing Selinker: "Frustration is a valuable, positive thing up to a point. You’ve just got to know where the table flip is."

48m08s: Cole is kind enough to mention Gil's forthcoming game High Rise after playing it at GDC 2019. Cole gave his talk on defending kingmaking; Gil gave his talk on how indirect interaction in games can be good.

52m21s: More info about Descent, Dark Venture, and Tomb.

59m30s: More info about Byzantine themes.

1h04m44s: More info about Liberté.

1h06m36s: More info about The History of Rome podcast.

1h08m58s: The political compass of Root, as suggested by Reddit user u/orionsbelt05.

Apr 05 2020

1hr 13mins

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Biography of a Board Game 221.5 - The Game of the Goose

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In today's Biography of a Board Game, Scott takes us through the long history of The Game of the Goose, which became a template for almost every roll-and-move game into Victorian times and beyond.

Show notes:

1m49s: The ancient Egyptian game of Mehen

2m04s: History of the labyrinth

2m24s: The Discus of Phaistos, also known as the Phaistos Disc 

2m50s: Games mentioned

3m33s: Bibliothèque curieuse et instructive de divers ouvrages anciens et modernes, a book by Claude-François Ménestrier, is available to read online in French.

4m33s: Works mentioned:

5m07s: Works mentioned:

Mar 29 2020

8mins

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Ludology 221 - The Pac Less Traveled

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Emma and Gil welcome Jonny Pac, designer of Coloma and other games set in the Gold Rush West. Our main topic of discussion is multiple paths to victory: what it brings to a game, what kinds of games need it, what kinds of games don't, and how to avoid the dreaded "point salad" effect.

Jonny's published games:

  • Hangtown
  • Coloma
  • A Fistful of Meeples
  • Sierra West
  • Lions of Lydia (on Kickstarter as of the release of this episode!)
  • Merchant's Cove

Show notes:

06m28s: Jonny likens Scythe to a race game. Check out Chapter 2 of Characteristics of Games (George Skaff Elias, Richard Garfield, K. Robert Gutschera) for more information about the distinction between a "race" and a "brawl."

07m35s: Games mentioned: Lords of Waterdeep Caylus Caylus 1303

08m32s: Games mentioned: Catan

09m48s: Games mentioned: 7 Wonders Duel 12m56s: Ah, the "Victory Points Suck" argument! Here is the original talk, and here is the rebuttal blog post that Gil wrote. (Scott Westerfeld is actually a really cool person; he was just being a bit hyperbolic.)

13m32s: Games mentioned: Get Bit Red Dragon Inn 15m02s: Games mentioned: Agricola 18m06s: Games mentioned: Azul El Grande 6 Nimmt! 22m27s: Games mentioned: Point Salad

32m01s: Games mentioned: Century: Spice Road 34m09s: Games mentioned: Dominion 35m58s: Games mentioned: Tzolk'in Terra Mystica 42m12s: Games mentioned: Carcassonne 46m47s: Games mentioned: Ticket to Ride Amazonas 49m28s: Zero-level heuristics - the strategies and tactics players embrace when first learning the game. Go back to Characteristics of Games, Chapter 4, for an excellent introduction to this topic.

51m11s: Games mentioned: Stone Age 53m14s: Games mentioned: Concordia 56m38s: Tragedy of the Commons is a well-known game theory problem that pits collective good versus self-interest. 

1h01m55s: Games mentioned: Santa Maria Raja of the Ganges Castles of Burgundy 1h04m58s: For those who may not know, ASCAP and BMI are the two largest music performance rights organizations in America. They monitor radio play and live performances, and make sure that every time a song is played publicly, its rightsholder gets paid.

1h06m27s: Eat Poop You Cat is the activity that Telestrations was based on.

1h09m42s: More info on Placerville, CA

1h13m42s: Games mentioned: Five Tribes Trajan Istanbul Spacewalk 1h14m34s: Jonny is referring to Ludology 176 - Taxonomy Driver.

Mar 22 2020

1hr 20mins

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GameTek 220.5 - Quantum Computing

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Geoff welcomes Dr. James Wootton, quantum computing expert and one of the people behind the digital game Hello Quantum, which is made to teach its player about the fundamentals of quantum computing. 

Here is Dr. Wootton's blog.

Here is the Quantum Information Science Kit (QISKIT) blog Dr. Wootton mentioned.

If you're technically inclined, here is Dr. Wootton's GitHub repository. And if you want to take a quantum computer out for a spin, here is the cloud-based service Dr. Wootton mentioned.

Mar 15 2020

21mins

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Ludology 220 - Adventures in Storytelling

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Emma and Gil welcome Jennifer Ellis and Keith Baker of Twogether Studios. We discuss their approach for integrating stories into their game, whether directly embedded in their game, letting them emerge from the players, or evoked from the look of the product. 

Show notes:

05m03s: Check out Keith and Jenn's games: Gloom Illimat Action Cats Phoenix: Dawn Command

17m04s: Keith and Jenn's forthcoming Adventure Zone game is based on the Adventure Zone D&D actual play series

36m46: More info about Descent.

38m36s: Illimat is a card game conceived by and designed with the band The Decemberists.

40m00s: More info about Cthulhu Fluxx.

49m19s: More info about Keith's award-winning D&D setting Eberron.

Mar 08 2020

1hr 2mins

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Biography of a Board Game 219.5 - Trivial Pursuit

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Scott leads us through the history of Trivial Pursuit, from its conception from two Canadian journalists after trying to play a game of Scrabble with missing pieces, to a full-fledged global 80s fad, to a billion-dollar empire.

Mar 01 2020

12mins

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Ludology 219 - Professor Scott's Wild Ride

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Professor Scott Rogers joins Gil and Emma once again! This time, we're discussing Scott's time as an Imagineer designing games and experiences for Disneyland, and his subsequent work designing VR attractions. It's a fascinating topic, with a surprising amount of overlap into any kind of game design! 

Show notes:

05m45s: More info about Disney Play here. 

08m06s: Scott is right, sportscaster Al Michaels was indeed traded for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

18m16s: Ludology 189 - Missing Selinker, wherein Mike Selinker shares a funny story testing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom: 

30m20s: The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman. Highly recommended to anyone who wants a better understanding of how people interact with objects. 

40m53s: The history of how Tetris has chosen its pieces is really fascinating! 

41m29s: Some more information about Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush.

46m09s: We discussed dark rides and the challenge of choice in an immersive environment Ludology 214 - Escape from Reality with Strange Bird Immersive. 

52m34s: Two-Bit Circus, the place in LA where you can experience the Terminator-themed dark ride that Scott worked on. 

1h02m46s: Geoff interviewed Curtis Hickman, CCO of The Void, in GameTek 134

1h05m51s: More info about Dreamscape.

1h06m37s: More info about Evermore.

1h10m58s: We discussed emergent vs. embedded narrative in Ludology 213 - Your Humble Narrator.

1h11m24s: Look, it was a long recording session, okay? :)

Feb 23 2020

1hr 16mins

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GameTek Classic 218.5 - Alpha Zero

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Geoff discusses Alpha Zero, a neural net that can play Go, Chess, and Shogi better than anyone in the world. It defeated the best AI in those respective games (each of whom had previously defeated the best humans in the world) with only a few hours of training. What does this spell for the future of AI, and the future of game design?

Feb 16 2020

6mins

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Ludology 218 - Building Games, Bit By Bit

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Emma and Gil welcome Geoff Engelstein and Isaac Shalev back to the show to discuss their new book Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design. This is a reference of board game mechanisms that any designer, new or experienced, can use to look up different tools they can use to solve problems in game design.

Games and other things mentioned in this episode:

19m30s: 

  • Kraftwagen
  • Glen More
  • Francis Drake
  • Egezia
  • High Rise

19m39s:

22m13s:

  • Impulse

23m11s:

  • Great Western Trail

33m55s:

  • Empire Builder

35m22s:

  • Monopoly
  • Sushi Go
  • Advanced Squad Leader

41m07s:

51m30s:

  • Diplomacy

52m10s:

  • Republic of Rome 
  • Cutthroat Caverns

53m07s:

54m27s:

  • Catan

55m55s:

1h04m54s:

Feb 09 2020

1hr 7mins

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Biography of a Board Game 217.5 - Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots

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Scott uncovers the history of the classic game Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, which has been delighting kids (and kids-at-heart) since 1964. He discusses the influences that converged in making the game, why the combatants are robots, and how it's influenced everything from video games to real-life combat robotics.

Feb 02 2020

10mins

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Ludology 217 - What IF?

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Legendary Interactive Fiction writer Andrew Plotkin joins Gil and Emma to talk about text-based stories that players can participate in. We explore the form's history and unique strengths, and discuss what good writing can bring to a game's experience.

Interactive Fiction platforms mentioned in this episode:

Check out some of Andrew's IF work:

  • Shade
  • Spider & Web
  • Hadean Lands

Other video games mentioned in this episode:

  • Colossal Cave Adventure
  • Zork
  • Donut County
  • 80 Days
  • Heaven's Vault
  • Galatea
  • AI Dungeon
  • No Man's Sky

Board games and analog IF mentioned in this episode:

  • Werewolf
  • 7th Continent
  • 1,001 Odysseys
  • Choose Your Own Adventure™ books
  • Meanwhile
  • Fighting Fantasy books
  • Leanna Fled the Cranberry Bog

If you would like to explore the world of IF, a good place to start is the Interactive Fiction Database - it's like the BGG of IF!

Some good games to start with (this is hardly an authoritative list):

  • 9:05 - You can easily play this in one sitting, and in most cases, you will want to immediately play again when you finish it the first time.
  • Photopia - This is a spectacularly well-written game, but it can bring up some intense emotions.
  • The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo - A fun horror game.
  • Howling Dogs - This is a work by Porpentine, whom Gil has raved about several times on the show and this episode. Be sure to find both endings.
  • Counterfeit Monkey - A fairly long game by Emily Short built around some remarkably brilliant word-manipulation mechanisms. You will likely need to use an emulator if you want to save your game and use the game's graphical map.

Enjoy exploring the IF rabbit hole!

Jan 26 2020

1hr 4mins

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GameTek Classic 216.5 - Path Dependence

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In this GameTek Classic, Geoff describes the idea of "path dependence," and discusses how human game players allow their past to affect their present. Should players care about how they got to a certain point in their game?

Jan 19 2020

6mins

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Great for gamers

By Butter-J - Dec 17 2019
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If you wanna learn about the nitty gritty of board gaming, this is basically the best podcast.

The best game design podcast

By ZebadiahM - Jul 20 2017
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Ludology is an example for all others to follow.