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.

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.






Ludology 226 - Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo

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...


Biography of a Board Game 225.5 - Mousetrap

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 Smithsonian Mag – Teaching physics with a massive...


Ludology 225 - A Study in Emma-rald

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...


GameTek Classic 224.5 - Game Balance and AI

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...


Ludology 224 - Putting the Fun in Funko

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...


Biography of a Board Game 223.5 - The Game of Life

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...


Ludology 223 - Kick Out the Jams

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


GameTek Classic 222.5 - Alpha Zero, Part 2

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...


Ludology 222 - Johnny Fairplay

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:...


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

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 The Mansion of HappinessThe Checkered Game of Life 3m33s: Bibliothèque curieuse et instructive de divers ouvrages anciens...


Ludology 221 - The Pac Less Traveled

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: on Kickstarter 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...


GameTek 220.5 - Quantum Computing

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...


Ludology 220 - Adventures in Storytelling

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...


Biography of a Board Game 219.5 - Trivial Pursuit

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.


Ludology 219 - Professor Scott's Wild Ride

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,...


GameTek Classic 218.5 - Alpha Zero

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?


Ludology 218 - Building Games, Bit By Bit

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: KraftwagenGlen MoreFrancis DrakeEgeziaHigh Rise 19m39s: Opinionated Gamers article on time track vs. one-way track...


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

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.


Ludology 217 - What IF?

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: InformTwine ChoiceScriptInk Check out some of Andrew's IF work: Other video games mentioned in this episode: Board games and analog IF mentioned in this episode: If you would like...


GameTek Classic 216.5 - Path Dependence

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?