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.

Gil and Emma discuss narrative in games. How can narrative improve games? What is the difference between embedded and emergent narrative? And what the are common ways that prototypes of narrative games can fail?

Direct download: Ludology_213_Mixdown.mp3
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In this special episode of Ludology, recorded live at GrandCon 2019, Gil and Geoff go back in time to recount their earliest game designs. Were they as embarrassing? Were they any good? What is Gil's infamous action mechanism, and was Geoff able to capture the essence of the Battle of Cannae for a school assignment? We also take some live listener questions at the end.

Direct download: Ludology_212.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Emma and Gil welcome mass-market game and toy inventor Kim Vandenbrouke to the show. How is "inventing" a mass-market game different than "designing" a hobby game? Why is the toy/mass-market industry so much more secretive? And how does one deal with all the publisher rejection?

You can read Kim's writings on the toy and mass-market game industry here: https://www.thegameaisle.com/kim-vandenbroucke/

Direct download: Ludology_212_Mixdown.mp3
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Geoff welcomes digital archaeoludologist Cameron Browne, principal investigator of the Digital Ludeme Project, to find out how we can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to try to derive the rules to ancient games like Senet by breaking games down into what Browne calles "ludemes."

Find out more about the Digital Ludeme Project on Twitter (@archaeoludology) or the web: http://ludeme.eu/

You can play some games that Browne has constructed from ludemes here: https://ludii.games/

Direct download: Ludology_211.5_Mixdown.mp3
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In May 2012, Geoff and Ryan brought Michael Lee, owner of the relatively new company Panda Games Manufacturing, on the show to discuss the art and design of manufacturing games.

Over 5 and a half years later, Gil and Emma are delighted to welcome Michael back! Panda Games Manufacturing has grown along with the industry, and Michael hasn't stopped focusing on the intersection of components and game design.

What has changed in manufacturing since 2012? What kinds of components does Michael find most exciting? And how do components inform the experience of a game, especially in the current gaming boom?

You can find Panda Games Manufacturing on Twitter and Instagram at @pandagm.

Direct download: Ludology_211_Mixdown.mp3
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Scott covers the lineage of games that began in 2004 with Wings of War: Famous Aces. The "Flight Path" system that appeared in this game spawned follow-up titles Wings of Glory, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Card Game, Star Trek: Attack Wing, D&D: Attack Wing, and Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles

Direct download: Ludology_210.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Gil and Emma are joined by game designer Jenn Sandercock to discuss her edible games. How do you design a game where the players eat the components? What design challenges does that bring up? And how do players react to being allowed to literally play with their food?

Find out more about Jenn here: http://jennsand.com/

Find out more about Jenn's edible games here: https://ediblegames.com/

Direct download: Ludology_210_Mixdown.mp3
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In this GameTek Classic, Geoff covers the history of dice, and the social stigma attached to them. Who were the first civilizations to play with dice, and how did they deal with the way their society frowned on them?

Direct download: Ludology_209.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Emma, Gil, and Scott discuss a theory Scott is working on that describes 6 distinct physical zones when playing a board game. How does the physical dimensionality of a board game affect its gameplay?

Read more about the 6 Zones of Play here:

https://mrbossdesign.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-6-zones-of-play.html

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/94203/pleasure-arousal-dominance

Direct download: Ludology_209_Mixdown.mp3
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Scott takes a peek at the history of the frantic real-time co-op game Space Cadets, designed by our own Geoff Engelstein, his daughter Sydney Engelstein, and his son Brian Engelstein. 

Direct download: Ludology_208.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Emma and Gil welcome the multitalented Hawke Robinson, who discusses his experiences using role-playing games as therapy for at-risk youth and adults. How can games help people gain empathy and pull them into a positive mindset? And how has Hawke's 40+ years of RPG experience helped him form these programs?

You can learn more about Hawke and his work here: http://www.hawkerobinson.com/

CONTENT WARNING: This episode touches on sensitive topics like suicide, homicide, violence against children, and sexual assault.

 

Direct download: Ludology_208_Mixdown.mp3
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Geoff reviews the concept of "information" from a mathematical perspective, which might be different from the definition you're used to. What real-world implications did this concept lay the groundwork for?

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Emma and Gil welcome Justin Gary, designer of Ascension and Shards of Infinity, to discuss card-based strategy games. What makes them so different than other games? How does one handle things like balance, plans for expansions, and in-game marriage proposals?

Direct download: Ludology_207_Mixdown.mp3
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Gil, Emma, and Geoff field listeners' questions in an episode recorded live at Gen Con 2019 in Indianapolis.

Direct download: Ludology_206.5_Mixdown.mp3
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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.

Direct download: Ludology_206_Mixdown.mp3
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In this GameTek from August 2017, Geoff goes through three interesting bits of of game design-related research. Is there such a thing as momentum in sports? How does the brain react to the prospect of punishing others for violating social norms? And how does the Prisoner's Dilemma change if we alter its framing?

Direct download: Ludology_205.5_Mixdown.mp3
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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. 

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Scott covers the history of the seminal board game Dune, its legal tangles with its IP, and its retheming as Rex: Final Days of an Empire.

Direct download: Ludology_204.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Daniel Solis (@danielsolis) joins Gil and Emma to talk about graphic design from a nuts-and-bolts perspective. What are the elements of graphic design that game designers should be aware of? 

During the show, Daniel mentions the website https://blambot.com for fonts, and https://game-icons.net and http://thenounproject.com for icons. We also bring up his Bird Bucks (https://www.drivethrucards.com/product/128925/Bird-Bucks) project that replaces generic paper money in games.

Direct download: Ludology_204_Mixdown.mp3
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In this special GameTek, Geoff sits down with Micha Le Bourhis of Asmodee Research to discuss how Asmodee scientifically studies people's interactions with board games.

For more information, go to the Asmodee Research website here (French only, at the time of this episode release): https://www.game-in-lab.org/

Direct download: Ludology_203.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Elizabeth Hargrave (@elizhargrave) joins Gil and Emma to discuss the design of her hit strategy game Wingspan. We start by discussing engine-building games, but we'll also touch on the benefits of a rigorous playtest schedule, the best ways to prepare a prototype, scaling to a good player count, working with Stonemaier Games, and the range of things people can really say with flowers. 

Direct download: Ludology_203_Mixdown.mp3
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Scott tells us about Icehouse, the real-time game that's celebrating its 30th birthday this year, and whose distinctive plastic pyramids launched an entire game system.

Direct download: Ludology_202.5_Mixdown.mp3
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Jeroen Doumen, co-founder of Splotter and co-designer of games Food Chain Magnate, Antiquity, and Roads & Boats, joins Gil and Emma to discuss the design of unforgiving games. What choices do you have to make when making a game that can be harsh to mistakes? We also talk about testing, publishing, and of course, hamburgers.

You can reach Jeroen by emailing him at jeroen@splotter.nl.

Direct download: Ludology_202_Mixdown.mp3
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Geoff discusses an unusual and somewhat tragic condition in sports called "The Yips." Is it mental, or does it have a physiological basis?

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Gil, Emma, and Scott talk about fun and meaning in games. What is fun, and how can we achieve fun in our games? What are games that try to balance fun within a more serious topic? And how about games that are not meant to be fun at all; how do they provide meaning for their players?

During the episode, Scott discusses Marc LeBlanc's 8 Types of Fun, which you can read more about here: https://theangrygm.com/gaming-for-fun-part-1-eight-kinds-of-fun/

Note: In the last 20 minutes of the episode, be advised that we discuss games that deal with traumatic subjects, like the deaths of close family members. 

Direct download: Ludology_201_Mixdown.mp3
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Scott discusses the history of the legendary deduction game Cluedo. 

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After 200 episodes, Geoff has decided to step back from Ludology to focus on game design and book writing. So we've gathered previous co-hosts Ryan Sturm and Mike Fitzgerald, as well as future co-host Emma Larkins and future contributor Professor Scott Rogers, for a big slam-bang going away party! 

You'll continue to hear Geoff with his GameTek segment every 4 weeks. And if you'd like to stay in touch, follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gengelstein

Direct download: Ludology_200_Mixdown.mp3
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Geoff discusses the art of x-ray diffraction, and how it relates to board games.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_199_Crystallography.mp3
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Gil and Geoff discuss uncertainty in games, using Greg Costikyan's _Uncertainty in Games_ as a guide. What kinds of uncertainty are there in games? How do they affect the game experience? 

Direct download: Ludology_199_Mixdown.mp3
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Scott takes a deep dive into the twisted and fascinating history of the game Othello.

Direct download: Biography_of_a_Boardgame_198.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are delighted to be joined by Anthony Giovannetti, one of the designers of the popular video game Slay the Spire, a deck-building rogue-like dungeon crawl.

How did the board game concepts of deckbuilding translate into a computer game? What advantages did the solo roguelike format give the designers?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_198.mp3
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Geoff takes a look at the long history of drinking games.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_197_Drinking_Games.mp3
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Gil and Geoff welcome Mikael Jakobsson and Rick Eberhardt from the MIT Game Lab to discuss their research into colonial themes in board games, and the game design workshops they run in former colonial countries.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_197.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with a new Biography of a Board Game, this time looking at Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_196_Apples_Against_Humanity.mp3
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Gil and Geoff welcome guests Allison Parrish and Tim Szetela, designers of Rewordable, to discuss word games. What particular design techniques are required for this type of game?

 

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_196.mp3
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In this GameTek, Geoff explores the connection between Ritual and Play.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_195_Ritual.mp3
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Gil and Geoff discuss valuation within games - what are the different ways of determining resource value? How does value flow and change over the course of play?

 

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_195.mp3
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In this new interview, Geoff talks with Nolan Bard from Google Deep Mind and Jakob Foerster from Oxford University about their proposal to use the card game Hanabi as the next frontier in Machine Learning and AI research.

The original paper can be found at https://arxiv.org/abs/1902.00506.

 

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_194_The_Hanabi_Challenge.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are live at ToyFair NY with the designer of Fog of Love, Jacob Jaskov. What was his development process like for this innovative design? What does that tell us about creating narrative inside games?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_194.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with the biography of Merchant of Venus!

Direct download: Gametek_Classic_193_Merchant_of_Venus.mp3
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Gil and Geoff welcome back Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games for their traditional annual State of the Industry discussion. What trends did we see in 2018? What do we see for the future of tabletop gaming?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_193.mp3
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In this classic GameTek Geoff talks about ties and tie-breakers. What makes a good tiebreaker?

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_192_Ties.mp3
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Gil and Geoff talk about Game Loops and how they can be designed to accomplish a variety of goals.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_192.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about the work of Thomas Schelling.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_191_Schelling.mp3
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Gil and Geoff welcome Scott Rogers to discuss party games. What features make for a good party game? What are the dos and don'ts for designers?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_191.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with Part 2 of his Eurogame-Ameritrash series!

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_190_Ameritrash.mp3
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Gil and Geoff discuss the idea of Ludonarrative Dissonance. What is it? How can it sink a game or make it soar?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_190.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff looks at the criminally under-used "I Cut, You Choose" mechanism.

 

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_189_I_Cut_You_Choose.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are joined by game and puzzle designer Mike Selinker to discuss the relationship between puzzles and games.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_189.mp3
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Scott Rogers takes a look at the origin of the term "Eurogames".

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_188_Eurogames.mp3
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Gil and Geoff welcome designer Corey Konieczka to discuss his new "Unique" game, Discover: Lands Unknown. What is it like to design a game that will have a unique combination of components in each copy? How does it impact playtesting and production?

Duration: 47:14

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_188.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff takes a look at a recent study about who wants to play games - and why.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_187_Games_For_the_Really_Really_Smart.mp3
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Gil and Geoff take a look at game balance. What is it, exactly?

Duration: 54:34

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_187.mp3
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In a spooky Biography of a Board Game, Scott Rogers takes a look at Chill: Black Morn Manor and Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_186_Black_Morn_Betrayal.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are joined by Isaac Vega, designer of Dead of Winter and Neon Gods to discuss ways to integrate story into the board games.

Duration: 55:25

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_186.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff dives into the details of the AI that defeated the top poker players on the planet.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_185_Libratus.mp3
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Gil and Geoff discuss hard incentives vs soft incentives. What makes people want to play a game? What makes them have fun? What makes them want to play again?

Duration: 56:12

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_185.mp3
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Professor Scott Rogers is back with the biography of Twilight Imperium.

Duration: 10:20

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_184_Twilight_Imperium.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are delighted to welcome Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier games. We discuss life after Kickstarter, and Jamey's design philosophy.

Duration: 58:18

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_184.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff looks at the relationship between luck and strategy.

Duration: 6:20

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Gil and Geoff deconstruct the new Wolfgang Warsch game The Mind. What makes it tick? What does it do right, and what does it do wrong?

Duration: 1:02:19

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_183.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with a look at the history of Pandemic!

Duration: 5:17

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Gil and Geoff once again welcome Ryan Sturm to recap the development of Trade on the Tigris.

Duration: 1:17:14

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_182.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about the Talmud, and it's relation to game rules.

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_181_Talmud.mp3
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Gil and Geoff broadcast live from Gencon with super-special guest Ryan Sturm!

Duration: 51:31

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Gil and Geoff are joined by special guest Suzanne Sheldon to talk about Roll and Write games! What makes them tick? What special design considerations are there?

Duration: 1:03:49

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Scott Rogers is back with another Biography of a Board Game! This time - Kill Dr. Lucky from James Earnest!

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_179_Kill_Dr_Lucky.mp3
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Contest results! Gil and Geoff wade into an incredibly strong field to pick the top 16 entries in the latest theme/mechanism competition. Who will end up on the top of the heap?

Duration: 59:05

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_179.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff discusses design considerations for real time games. Plus a coda!

Duration: 9:11

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Gil and Geoff are pleased to welcome Volko Ruhnke, designer of the COIN series, about Counter-Intelligence operations throughout history. How do you capture the dynamics of these complex conflicts in a game? What are the challenges with designing simulations and general? And what can he tell us about his time in the CIA?

Duration: 1:09:25

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_178.mp3
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Professor Scott Rogers is back with another Biography of a Board Game! This time, Agricola is under the spotlight.

Duration: 11:55

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_177_Agricola.mp3
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We welcome Theresa Duringer of Temple Gates Games, developer of the Race for the Galaxy app to talk about the process of developing and incorporating AI, how to make it smarter or dumber or more human, and more.

Duration: 59:27

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_177.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about how we see patterns even when there aren't any, and what that means for game designers.

Duration: 8:01

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_176_Apophenia.mp3
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Since there were humans, they've been putting things into categories. What are some of the ways games are categorized? Is this useful, or a distraction?

Duration: 59:56

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_176.mp3
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Professor Scott Rogers is back with another Bio of a Board Game, taking a look at Talisman!

Duration: 9:28

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_175_Talisman.mp3
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Recorded live at the Gathering of Friends, Gil and Geoff have an opportunity to sit down and chat with Eric Lang, designer of Rising Sun, the Dice Masters series, and much more. We talk about his role at CMON, his design process, and the state of the industry.

Duration: 44:36

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_175.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33am EST

Gil and Geoff are pleased to welcome guest Naomi Clark, professor at the NYU Game Center, and designer most recently of the card game Consentacle. We discuss tackling adult themes in board games in a serious way, and what she learned during the development of Consentacle.

Duration: 1:15:54

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_174.mp3
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Professor Scott Rogers is back with another Biography of a Board Game. This episode he heads to the old west to check out Bang!

Duration: 07:55

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_173_Bang.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are pleased to welcome guest Isaac Shalev to discuss the idea of Design Patterns for tabletop games. What are Design Patterns, and how are they helpful? What are some examples?

Duration: 1:08:34

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_173.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff discusses his experience with a new type of VR.

Duration: 5:40

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_172_Hyperreality.mp3
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Gil and Geoff take a look at the different ways that subsystems of a game can be coupled, and what that means for complexity and player agency.

Duration: 1:05:44

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_172.mp3
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We are pleased to welcome podcaster, gamer, actor, and all-around great guy Jeff Cannata to Ludology! Jeff can be heard on DLC, We Have Concerns, and the /Filmcast.

We take a very deep dive into the contrasts between tabletop and video games. This one gets very philosophical, so be prepared :)

Duration: 1:18:32

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_171.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff takes a look at some recent court cases involving games.

Duration: 5:59

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_170_Court_Cases.mp3
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Gil and Geoff field a litany of listener questions!

Duration: 1:20:22

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_170.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with another Biography of a Board Game, this time focusing on Scrabble! 

KWYJIBO for the win!

Duration: 9:56

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_169_Scrabble.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are thrilled to welcome Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun, and video game designer. We talk about a wide range of topics, include MMOs, keeping players engaged, emotions in games, and, of course, fun.

Duration: 1:28:41

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_169.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about the Prisoner's Dilemma facing Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.

Duration: 6:05

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_168_Economic_Prisoners_Dilemma.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:42am EST

Gil and Geoff talk about designing low-interaction games. Sometimes you just want to work on your own little corner of the world - and some players prefer that. What are techniques create engaging experiences without conflict?

Duration: 56:53

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_168.mp3
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A sweet surprise! Biography of a Board Game takes a look at Candyland.

Duration: 8:51

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_167_Candyland.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:24am EST

Gil and Geoff are joined by Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games to discuss the state of the board game industry as we enter 2018.

Duration: 1:12:05

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_167.mp3
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Geoff has an insight about how game structure can keep players engaged, and is excited to share.

Duration 56:39

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_166.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about how we are really bad at telling how good we really are.

Duration: 6:03

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_165_Dunning-Kruger.mp3
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Gil and Geoff are delighted to welcome Tim Fowers to discuss player psychology, and how that can be leveraged by game designers.

Tim is the designer of Burgle Bros, Paperback, and more, and the owner of Fowers Games, which publishes his titles.

Duration: 1:11:46

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_165.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with a super-sized Bio of a Board Game, with the history of The Settlers of Catan!

Duration: 12:14

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_164_Catan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:27am EST

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

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_164.mp3
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In this classic GameTek, Geoff takes a different angle on the connection between theme, mechanics, and player experience.

Duration: 6:40

Direct download: Gametek_Classic_163_Theme_Mechanic_Experience.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:38am EST

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

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_163.mp3
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Scott Rogers is back with another Biography of a Board Game! This time, he talks about the history of Scotland Yard, and early SdJ winner!

Duration: 7:25

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_162_Scotland_Yard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Gil and Geoff take a deep dive into the design of Terraforming Mars. What makes it tick? What works and what doesn't?

Duration: 1:17:52

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_162.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff looks at classic story-telling techniques to see how they might apply to game design.

Duration: 05:52

Direct download: GameTek_Classic_161_The_Inciting_Incident.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:15pm EST