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The Thoughtful Gamer Podcast

A conversation about tabletop games

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Ep 33: A Conversation With Eric Reuss

Marc, Orion, and Matt sit down with Eric Reuss, designer of Spirit Island. This is one of our longest podcasts ever, but it might be our best ever. Eric was a delightful conversationalist, and we learned so much about the design and lore of Spirit Island. We were absolutely amazed to hear about all of the thought and work that went into the design. There's so much going on underneath the surface that you only see glimpses of in the game itself. I think you'll be equally enthralled. Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

2hr 12mins

13 Jun 2018

Rank #1

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Book Discussion: The Three Body Problem Part 1

Join Marc, Matt, and Orion as they discuss a truly wonderful sci-fi series: The Three Body Problem. Here they discuss the first of this trilogy, looking at memorable moments and thematic elements of interest. A lot of what we find here will carry over into the broader second and third installments. 2:15 - Pre-spoilers: should you read this book?9:14 - Spoilers ahoy!9:48 - The "three body problem" in physics12:39 - Cultural revolution and science in society15:17 - Two great early scenes21:56 - The VR game23:03 - Okay, we're spoiling everything, for reals, now27:35 - Underestimating scope and human scrappiness32:34 - Tripwires and pessimism Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

38mins

17 Jan 2019

Rank #2

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Ep 4: Star Wars Rebellion vs. War of the Ring

Marc, Matt, and Orion dive deep to compare and contrast these two amazing games to find the areas in which they succeed, as well as where they fall a bit short.  In this episode: Matt gets nerd-shamed, Orion proclaims his War of the Ring superiority, and Marc's name remains unchanged. Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 17mins

2 May 2017

Rank #3

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Ep 10: Mage Knight Rage Night!

Our most heated debate yet! Join Marc, Matt, and Orion as we discuss the merits of Vlaada Chvatil's massive adventure game: Mage Knight. Is it a masterpiece of design or merely "fine"? Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 12mins

26 Jul 2017

Rank #4

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Ep 52: A Journey Into 18xx

We've finally taken the plunge into 18xx train games, and guess what? They're awesome! Marc and Orion talk about what makes a game an 18xx game, what the appeal is, and some of their favorite experiences yet. 1:14 - It's not that intimidating, we promise3:07 - Overview and history of 18xx7:04 - Fundamental principles of 18xx14:24 - Brutal indirect conflict17:51 - Two design philosophies/emphases in different 18xx games -- operational and financial27:19 - Why having friends is good28:32 - Emergent strategic exploration35:48 - 18xx as narrative-creating experiences50:08 - Barriers to getting into 18xx57:16 - Amina the cat voices her opinions Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 5mins

1 Jun 2019

Rank #5

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Marc's Top 100 Games 2018 Edition: 100-81

The countdown has returned! Marc has expanded the list to 100 games this time, so there's double the fun. In this installment Marc and Orion blast through numbers 100-81. They're all great games you should check out! SPOILERS BELOW . . . . . . . . . 5:11 - Seikatsu 7:32 - Sekigahara 9:25 - Terraforming Mars 12:26 - Medici: The Card Game 14:08 - Descent 2nd Edition 18:22 - For-Ex 24:16 - The Shipwreck Arcana 28:53 - Isle Of Skye 30:54 - Time of Crisis 37:12 - Deception: Murder In Hong Kong 39:16 - Evolution: Climate 44:30 - 1960: The Making Of The President 47:09 - Alchemists 50:30 - Scrabble 52:07 - Caverna: The Cave Farmers 57:09 - Exceed 1:01:18 - Riftwalker 1:06:22 - Sagrada 1:07:34 - Ticket To Ride: Europe 1:11:18 - Three Kingdoms Redux Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 18mins

26 Apr 2018

Rank #6

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Ep 14: A Conversation With Michael Heron From Meeple Like Us

In this episode, Michael and I confront the age-old question: how much of a podcast can be made up of tangents before the tangents become the subject of the podcast? Also in this episode we talk about Meeple Like Us and issues of accessibility in board gaming, a bunch of random political things, our favorite games, gender representation, ethical choices in video games, the state of criticism and if it's okay for publishers to pay reviewers for reviews, and....Nazis?  It was a wild ride, but a tremendously fun discussion. 0:00 - Accessibility 3:40 - Controversial parts of Meeple Like Us 9:47 - Limitations of internet platforms like Reddit and Twitter 15:02 - Working with publishers on accessibility 26:24 - Gender representation/random hotbed political topics 54:36 - Some of our favorite games 1:02:44 - Criticism in board gaming and publishers paying for reviews 1:28:57 - Ethical choices within video games and board games Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 44mins

21 Sep 2017

Rank #7

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Marc's Top 50 Games: 30-21

The journey continues. Soon we will arrive at the peak--those top 10 magnificent games, shrouded in mystery and emblazoned with greatness. For now, join Marc, Matt, Orion, Ben, and Amber as they discuss games 30-21. Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

55mins

24 May 2017

Rank #8

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Ep 3: Oversight Moments, Analysis Paralysis, and Satisficing

Marc and Matt discuss a situation that happened in a recent game of Dominant Species where Matt missed a very obvious play to his detriment. The discussion then morphs into the psychology of analysis paralysis. Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

55mins

18 Apr 2017

Rank #9

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Ep 63: A Conversation With Ben Maddox

Five Games for Doomsday quickly established itself as one of the premier board game podcasts. In it, Ben Maddox interviews people from all parts of the board game world with incisive questions, illuminating who they are as people. I sat down with Ben to talk a bit about his work with the podcast and a lot about board game reviewing. What is the role of the reviewer? What are our approaches to analyzing a game? What does objectivity mean, anyway? Find more about Ben here: https://fivegamesfordoomsday.com/ 2:08 - Ben's history with podcasting6:00 - Five Games For Doomsday11:57 - The role of the reviewer16:15 - Reviewing structure23:48 - Objectivity30:23 - Civilization games and value35:26 - Game reviewers we like38:43 - Why negative reviews are necessary49:03 - Ben's approach to writing a review55:47 - Concluding thoughts Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr

8 Jan 2020

Rank #10

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Ep 12: New Games and Old Games and GenCon

We've got a beast of an episode today! Inspired by GenCon, the game conference behemoth, Marc, Matt, and Orion discuss some of the games announced there, some of the games they've been playing recently, and their top 10 favorite old games. 4:12 - 1960: The Making Of The President 18:29 - Seikatsu 23:01 - Outpost: Siberia 27:59 - The Bloody Inn 33:55 - 1960 (reprise) 41:00 - Half-Witted Scruffy-Looking Podcast Recap 1:02:04 - GenCon 1:22:23 - Top 10 Games At Least 10 Years Old 1:52:41 - Netrunner Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 57mins

23 Aug 2017

Rank #11

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Desk-side Talks With Marc #4: Twilight Imperium 4

Out of nowhere, Fantasy Flight announced earlier this week that Twilight Imperium 4th edition would be released later this year! Obviously I am very excited about this, but it has a very hefty price tag. I take my critical eye to what we know about the game to help out those wondering if they should buy the 3rd edition now or wait for the new one. Just as I was about to upload this podcast I saw that Fantasy Flight had released the rulebook. I just read through it--here are my thoughts on the new information the rules revealed. Consider this a supplement to the thoughts on the podcast. 1. The rulebook is exceptionally clear and a huge improvement over the 3rd edition rulebook, which was decent. Fantasy Flight has really done a fantastic job with their rulebooks over the last couple of years, and they deserve a lot of praise for that. It's a remarkeable acheivement, particularly given how inelegant (I say with all fondness) and complicated their games can be. 2. Trade is much more freeform in this edition, with people able to trade both commodities (benign trade goods that don't become active until they're traded) and promissory notes (special powers and benefits on cards) on their turn, Catan-style. The trade strategy card merely refreshes the commodities. I love the idea of promissory notes, and I'm super excited to see what they contain, but I'm skeptical of the more open trading style. As players of Catan know, open trading like that can really slow down a game. I also feel like this weakens the trade strategy card a bit, which is mildly concerning. 3. Invading Mecatol Rex costs influence. Very intriguing. I like special rules involving this center planet, and I'm not sure what to think of this particular wrinkle. 4. The only listed variant ("advanced rules") just adds the promissory notes. I'm quite saddened by this, though I do understand that they're trying to provide the definitive version of the game. I desperately hope that there will be an expansion with a boatload of optional modules to give back that DIY feel to the game. But given that this version is retailing for over 50% more money, that's a very significant monetary investment. I said in the podcast that I was cautiously optimistic. After seeing the rulebook I'm a hair more optimistic, though I still have a couple of very mild concerns.  Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

29mins

16 Aug 2017

Rank #12

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Ep 24: Hunt For The Ring vs. Fury Of Dracula

Join Marc, Orion, Matt, and Wes in a hidden movement cage fight! The old Fantasy Flight standard goes up against the new hotness. Which one is better? Only one way to find out. Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 25mins

9 Feb 2018

Rank #13

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Ep 71: Best Games of 2019

The world's gone crazy! Viruses roam the streets, Matt sounds like he's turning into a robot, and computer gremlins are devouring random bits of podcast. But never fear, we at The Thoughtful Gamer are here to provide a perfectly sane, intelligent conversation about the best games of last year. We rag on a few stinkers too. Come! Escape the madness of the world and find respite with our soothing voices. And thanks to our sponsor, Engro Games! Their kickstarter was successful and late pledges are open until April 15. Click here to get Reach and Okazaki before it's too late. Spoilers below. 2:53 - Wavelength Diversion5:24 - Board gaming in a pandemic15:55 - Suspense building before the list16:54 - Honorable "reprint" mention: Dune22:13 - What is "up"?23:55 - More grade A suspense25:22 - #10: Goat n Goat29:32 - #9: Cooper Island30:36 - Orion relays a cryptic message regarding a "theory"31:26 - #8: Stay Cool35:03 - #7: The Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook37:40 - A word about our sponsor: Engro Games38:37 - #6: The Crew46:30 - Best art of 201950:46 - Worst games of 201952:52 - Most disappointing game of 201954:17 - Most mediocre game of 201954:40 - Most ambitious but not quite successful game of 201958:50 - #5: Tiny Towns1:04:14 - #4: Pax Pamir 2nd Edition1:09:44 - #3: Caylus 13031:11:52 - #2: Pipeline1:18:22 - #1: Pax Transhumanity1:25:00 - Tragedy strikes and a hero emerges Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 38mins

5 Apr 2020

Rank #14

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Ep 28: How To Not Be Awful At Board Games

Ever feel like you're just not doing as well as you should at games? Want that secret sauce so you can beat your friends? Marc, Orion, Matt, Matt's secret brother Dave, and another Matt who we call Bubba are here to help! We're sometimes not bad at games and we have a variety of tips to help you out. 4:17 - Find The Bottlenecks 9:06 - Understand Resource Values 15:30 - Identify Action Loops 22:23 - Digression - Who Is This Advice For? 23:32 - FOO Strategies 33:34 - Be Aware Of Remaining Time 42:58 - Always Draw First 44:31 - Sports Digression 45:05 - Deck Efficiency 53:22 - Figure Out If You Should Differentiate Or Follow 56:31 - Disguise Your Strength 1:01:35 - In Co-Ops, Maximize Your Offense 1:04:50 - Leave Your Options Open 1:16:16 - Subvert Common Expectations 1:22:34 - Reverse Engineer From The Victory Condition Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 27mins

5 Apr 2018

Rank #15

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Ep 37: VlaadaCast!

How'd we get through 36 episodes without doing a deep-dive into the oeuvre of our favorite designer? This oversight has now been fixed, as Marc and Matt talk about every single game Vlaada Chvatil has ever made. 5:20 - Arena: Morituri te salutant6:55 - Prophecy8:27 - Sherwood10:23 - Through The Ages25:51 - Graenaland27:14 - Kámen – Zbraně – Papír 28:05 - Galaxy Trucker34:16 - Space Alert36:48 - Dungeon Lords48:24 - Bunny Bunny Moose Moose49:50 - Babes In The Wood50:33 - Travel Blog51:02 - Sneaks and Snitches51:41 - Pictomania56:50 - Dungeon Petz1:02:18 - Mage Knight1:05:24 - Tash Kalar1:08:08 - Codenames1:11:26 - Codenames: Duet1:14:29 - Star Trek Frontiers1:15:28 - That's A Question!1:17:29 - Design Consistencies: Humor1:19:52 - Design Consistencies: Complexity As Mechanism1:22:44 - Design Consistencies: Inelegance1:26:30 - Design Consistencies: Mean Games1:28:03 - Design Consistencies: Multiple Success Tiers Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 34mins

18 Aug 2018

Rank #16

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Ep 7: Near and Far and Campaign Games

In this episode, Marc and Matt discuss one of our most anticipated games of 2017: Near and Far. We give our first impressions of this beautiful campaign game. Halfway through Orion pops in in a villianous role. Then we talk about campaign games in general and what principles designers should consider when designing them. Finally, we end with some of Marc's half-baked campaign game design ideas. Also in this episode: Matt gets too excited about hockey, we say the word "whimsical" too much, and Matt poorly mixes a drink. Disclaimer: Very light spoilers for Near and Far. Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 23mins

14 Jun 2017

Rank #17

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Ep 38: Randomness and Uncertainty

Marc and Matt are joined by Orion (who is on a train) to talk about randomness. What is randomness? No, really, what is it? What kinds of randomness work best in board games, and what are some of the most interesting applications of random elements we've seen? Will we finish before Orion's train arrives?! (Spoiler: no) 4:22 - Defining Randomness17:31 - Input/Output Randomness; Acceptable Amounts of Randomness40:32 - White and Pink Noise47:05 - Chaos59:10 - Games With Interesting Randomness Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 13mins

30 Aug 2018

Rank #18

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Ep 36: Ameritrash

Marc, Orion, and Bubba talk about that most peculiarly-named genre of game: Ameritrash. We talk dice rolling, card pulling, combat-focsed narrative games. What makes some of them some of our favorite games of all time, and what makes others frustrating to the extreme? Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

59mins

28 Jul 2018

Rank #19

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Ep 39: Root And Other Games

Marc and Orion discuss the talk of the boardgaming town these days: Root! But first, we went to the New Hampshire Comicon's board game room and had a wonderful time with great people and great games!  4:16 - Baseball Highlights 204513:58 - Roll Player33:07 - Sticheln35:45 - Tribe38:38 - El Grande41:01 - Root Music: Sailing The Solar Wind by Abstraction Like the podcast? Want to watch it being recorded, live? Consider supporting it on Patreon.

1hr 8mins

16 Sep 2018

Rank #20