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, as well as discuss game history, game design and game players.

Ludology is made possible by the support and donations of listeners like you.

Have your own thoughts about our topics? We encourage you to visit us at our guild on Boardgamegeek to get involved in a continuing discussion.

You can also email us at gil@ludology.net or geoff@ludology.net.

Ludology is part of The Dice Tower Network, the premier board game media network.

For the final full episode of 2012, Ryand and Geoff are very pleased to welcome Martin Wallace to the program, designer of such classics as Age of Steam, Brass, and Runebound.

We discuss Mr. Wallace's design approach and philosophy, and dig deeply into Age of Steam and Brass. Big question of the episode - Can Ryan keep his fanboy gushing in check? Listen and find out! (Spoiler alert: No.)

Duration: 56:45

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_46.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about the art of rules writing. Why is it hard? What options are available to the designer?

Duration: 10:15

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_45_-_Writing_Rules.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff are very pleased to welcome Eric Zimmerman of the NYU Game Center, and author of the book Rules of Play. Yes, that's three links in one sentence, but Eric is worth it!  

After a brief overview of Eric's work at NYU, the gang dives into a discussion of Emergence, when the unexpected emerges from a basic set of rules. What conditions are more likely to result in emergence? Can a designer truly design in emergent behavior? And is it important for a good game, anyway?

Duration: 1:08

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_45.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

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

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_44a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff welcome special guest Christopher Badell, designer of Sentinels of the Multiverse and one of the principals of Greater Than Games.  We have a wide-ranging discussion about starting and growing a small game publishing company, specifically for a 'Single Game Game Company'.

How does just having a single game system impact the marketing, growth, and design direction for a publisher? Is it good to have focus, or do you get pigeon-holed? When is Kickstarter good for a small publisher, and when is it bad?

Duration: 56:45

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_44.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek from February 2010, Geoff introduces the FIRST Robotics competition and the way the program is structured around games.

Duration: 8:54

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_43_-_Rules_for_Robots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:24am EST

Ryan stays up past his bedtime as he and Geoff welcome special guest Jason Matthews to the show.  Jason is the codesigner of Twilight Struggle, 1960, Founding Fathers, 1989, and other great political games.  What makes Twilight Struggle tick? What special considersations are required for the design of political games?

Duration: 55:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_43.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:54am EST

In this classic GameTek from January of 2010, Geoff discusses the economics of gift-giving, and some games that explore gift exchanges.

Duration: 06:45

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_42_-_Gifting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:28am EST

Ryan and Geoff get down in the weeds to discuss the details of the cards and card mix in Trading in the Mediterranean.  How will the trade goods relate to the ideas? How will they be acquired? How many of each combination should there be?  Hopefully this is more interesting than it sounds.

Duration: 24:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_42a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff are joined by special guest Eric Summerer for a deep dive into Pick Up and Deliver games. What are some of the best examples of this genre? What makes them appealing? When do they work, and when do they fail? Will Eric make it through the Lightning Round?

All these questions and more, will be answered!

Duration: 1:08

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_42.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this GameTek from December of 2009, Geoff discusses advances in 'multitouch table' technology, tech which eventually found it's way into tablets like the iPad.

Duration: 07:45

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_41_-_Multitouch_Tables_Revisited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff tackle some more listener questions in the aptly named 'Listener Spectacular 2'.

Duration: 55:57

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_41.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff takes a look at rules. Can you learn everything there is to know about a game just by reading the rules?

Duration: 07:00

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_40_-_Emergent_Behavior.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:15am EST

Ryan and Geoff are joined by special guest Giles Pritchard to discuss the use of games in the classroom. Both Ryan and Giles teach kids ages 8-11, and have extensively used games to augment the traditional curriculum.

Geoff has taught no one, and is happy to moderate and share embarassing stories about his childhood.

In addition, Ryan discusses his new venture Games Teach, which is designed to spread the use of games by creative teachers, and is launching on Kickstarter on September 18th.

Duration 1:22

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_40.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff continue brainstorming on Trading in the Mediterranean, trying to zero in on how different types of governments and social factors can be incorporated into the design.

Duration: 28:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_39a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

After a brief summer break, the Ludology team is back!

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff discuss Roll and Move games, including their history, what they do well, and what they do poorly. What attempts have been made to bring roll and move into the modern era? What has worked and what hasn't? Is there a place for roll and move in the game designer's toolbox?

Duration: 1:14:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_39.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff continue their development of Trading in the Mediterranean, working to flesh out how to include 'ideas' in the game.

Duration: 48:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_38a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

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

Duration: 1:25:15

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_38.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In place of the 'Classic GameTek' segment that we normally post in between full episodes of Ludology, we are posting some bonus content about the design process for Trading in the Mediterranean.

Make sure you let us know what you think about Ryan's "interesting" idea for voyages!

Duration: 38:00

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_37a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff discuss different approaches to starting a new game design. And then, they embark on a grand project of their own, designing a game of their own!

Duration: 1:04:30

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_37.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek segment Geoff talks about NP Complete problems in mathematics, and the ways that certain problems can be transformed into others.

Duration: 06:00

(Yes, I know there was no GameTek Classic 35. Real Life got in the way a few weeks ago, and I decided to keep the numbering in sync with the Ludology numbering for simplicity)

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_36_-_NP_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff take a close analytical look at Alan Moon's Ticket To Ride, and lift up the hood to figure out what makes it tick.  What design decisions set it apart from similar games?  How does it draw on Moon's earlier work? And what does it do better than other mainstream euro games like Settlers of Catan?

Duration: 01:15

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_36.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:40pm EST

In this episode Ryan and Geoff analyze the environment that games create. Some games tend to be very competitive and tense, and others light and social. What pushes gameplay in these directions? What should game designers look for if they want to create a specific environment for the players?


Duration: 1:30:53

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_35.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:47am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff and Brian continue to talk about The Ares Project, and the design challenges they faced. They specifically discuss designing with constraints as a way to spark creative solutions.

Duration: 6:00

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_34_-_Design_and_Creativity.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30pm EST

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

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_34.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff announces that he is going to publishing a game with Z-Man Games called - wait for it - The Ares Project.  This was originally broadcast in August of 2009 on Dice Tower episode 154.

Duration: 07:15

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_33_-_Intro_to_The_Ares_Project.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09pm EST

This episode Ryan and Geoff are very pleased to welcome Michael Lee, founder and co-owner of Panda Games, manufacturer of games like Pandemic and Eclipse, to discuss the nuts and bolts of actually getting a physical game into the world.

Duration: 1:10:50

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_33.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:07pm EST

In this GameTek segment Geoff looks at the math behind Push Your Luck games. When another roll is one roll too many...

This was originally broadcast in Dice Tower episode 143 in March of 2009.

Duration: 05:50

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_32_-_Push_Your_Luck.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50pm EST

Ryan and Geoff tackle reviews and criticism. What are the different types? What drives people to write reviews? How do people use them? Do game reviews need to differ from film or book reviews? All these questions, and more, are discussed, dear listener, in this latest episode of Ludology.

Duration: 1:05

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_32.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about the characteristics of a good trading game. What drives the gameplay? How much does value need to be obscured? Is it better or worse to have stuff worth more to some players than others?

Duration: 5 minutes

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_31_-_Trading_Games.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff conduct a 'virtual interview' with William Attia, the designer, most notably, of Caylus.  Ryan declares that Caylus is the "most important game since Puerto Rico". Can he support that bold contention?

Note: This file has corrected the 'stereo' issue with the earlier posting.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_31a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:46am EST

Well before the current wave of online boardgames, both web-based and mobile, Geoff reflected on his experience with PBEM gaming back in the dark ages in this classic GameTek episode.

05:00

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_30_-_PBEM_History.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51am EST

Geoff and Ryan field several listener questions this episode, weighing in on quite a diverse range of topics. To add to the difficulty, Ryan responds to all questions with the flu.

Length: 1:01

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_30.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek Geoff looks at research linking temperature to social interactions. When should you give your opponents a cup of coffee instead of a soda?

We have also started a new file naming scheme with this episode that hopefully will meet everyone's needs.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_29_-_Hot_and_Cold.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff continue their discussion of the Auction mechanic. How much should the true value of what you're bidding on be hidden? And how can that be done? Plus, mechanics that really are auctions but don't look like one, and the Sturm Theory of Unified Prioritization.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04pm EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff discusses the concept of Visibility in computer games versus board games, using the PC game Armageddon Empires as a case study. How do board games and computer games differ in the way they present information to players?

Note that this was put out many years before smart phones, so there are many more boardgame implementations that you can carry around on a portable device. But the contrast still remains relevant.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_28_-_Visibility.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27am EST

Ryan and Geoff begin their two-part exploration of auction mechanics. Auctions are a part of many games, sometimes just as a minor role, and sometimes as the star.

What are the advantages of the auction mechanic? What are the different ways it can be implemented? And what would we like to see more and less of?

49' 26"

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_28.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am EST

This classic GameTek was originally broadcast during a Dice Tower episode on Train Games. Geoff explores the connections (get it - connections?) between creating rail networks and the branch of mathematics called Graph Theory.

5' 35"

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Graph_Theory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:18pm EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff look at the hot new space game Eclipse as a way of revisiting topics from prior shows. How does Eclipse handle issues like multiple strategies, turn sequence, and victory points? What works and what doesn't? Please join us for an in depth exploration of the design of Eclipse.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_27.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff examines games about evolution. Which work, and which don't, and do any of them accurately capture the key concepts of evolutionary science?

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Evolution.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff are joined by Dr. Lewis Pulsipher to talk about games that feel epic.  What features are required for a game to feel epic? Can a short game be epic? Is it impossible to make an epic game about certain topics?

Dr. Pulsipher is the designer of Britannia, and a noted writer on game theory.  

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_26.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff takes a look at hot streaks, cold streaks, and our predisposition to see patterns in what is actually random data.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Past_Present_and_Future.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Today is Superbowl Sunday, and Team Ludology is tackling sports boardgames with guests Cody Jones and John Richard from Game On with Cody & John.  Are there game design challenges particular to sports games? What has worked and what doesn't? And what do we want to see more of?  All your questions will be answered in this action packed episode! (Well, not really, but some questions and a bit of action).

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_25.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this GameTek from 2008 Geoff discusses voting in general, and the specific voting system in the United States. Do the rules in the United States lead towards a two-party system? Or is it possible for a third party to have a shot at the presidency?

(Note: This podcast is not endorsing any particular party or candidate. It is merely a discussion of the 'rules' of voting and how that may impact results)

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Voting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54am EST

A bit of a departure for Ludology, as we take a more topical look at the state of the gaming hobby as we move into the new year.

To give a business perspective, Ryan and Geoff are joined by industry insider Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games. Ryan believes we are at a 'fulcrum', trading quality for quantity, and is concerned for the future. Do Geoff and Stephen agree? And what does all this have to do with the movie industry?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_24.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about how people approach gains and losses differently. This peculiarity of human psychology is the basis for Prospect Theory, developed by Kahneman and Tversky in the 1970's.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Prospect_Theory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

We are pleased to welcome special guest Russ Wakelin, from The D6 Generation to discuss graphic design. The graphic design of a game can have a huge impact on the playability of the game and our enjoyment. What do we look for in great graphic design? What games have excellent graphic design and which are lacking?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_23.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST