Episode 308: Rajas of the Ganges

Release Date: Dec. 10, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   88 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


India, at the time of the Mughal Empire. The Taj Mahal shines like a jewel. The call has gone out to each provincial leader - expand and develop your holdings. Who among you will be the greatest among all the Rajas of the Ganges?

Rajas of the Ganges is a beautiful reflection of eastern philosophy. It's a game about balance and karma.

Players gather fame and money along two separate tracks until they meet. You must find harmony between these goals to succeed. 

You do this using dice, but you're not pawn of fate. Spending karma gives you agency over your fate to some degree. Your task is to manage your karma for greater rewards in the end.

Listen in to explore Rajas of the Ganges (and the history behind it) and discover why this pressure packed race game earns our Spiel of Approval.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 307: The Mind

Release Date: Oct. 18, 2018

Download: PDF

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch

Publisher:  NSV, Pandasaurus

2-4 pl  | 15 min  |  ages 8+  |  MSRP $15


Have you ever been in The Zone? Maybe you found it playing music. Everyone in the orchestra playing in perfect time. That pure sweet sound is impossible to forget. Or you found it on the basketball court - each teammate anticipating the moves of the next - it’s like poetry - no one can stop you and no one can miss.

It’s special, being in The Zone - a moment of perfect harmony - being totally in synch with everyone around you. Special because The Zone is so hard to find and special because it’s so hard to stay in The Zone once you do! If you get there even for a few fleeting seconds, it’s like magic. The Zone leaves its mark on you and you’ll strive to find it again and again.

The Mind is a cooperative card game that wants its players to find The Zone…and stay there as long as they can!  Over the course of several rounds, your team must find a common wavelength to play numbered cards in order to a single stack hoping to reach your goal.

Written review continues after the break.

Essen 2018 - Communication in Games

Release Date: Nov. 9, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   54 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Games are vehicles for social interaction. They build bridges between us. They give us a way to interact with each other, to learn from each other, to know each other in a way that is different from the everyday world. 

Games offer us a new language and new ways to communicate.

Whether it’s through words spoken or written, or symbols or gestures or a glance or even our sense of touch, game designers shape the way we communicate when we play. 

And each method of communication brings with it a different set of challenges to face and puzzle through.

The goal of this panel is to explore how communication shapes the enjoyment and connections we discover in games. 

The panel:

Antoine Bauza

Rikki Tahta

Rory O'Connor

John Knoerzer

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - Game Culture Around the World

Release Date: Nov. 8, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   55 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

There's no doubt the world of games is global. We are all united by our love of fun and the joy play can bring to everyone at the table. But what many may not realize is how gaming culture is different depending on where you play. 

This panel explores gaming culture through the eyes of game designers and publishers from Israel, Taiwan, and Spain.

The panel:

Elad Goldsteen (Golden Egg Games - Israel)

Smoox Chen (Taiwan Boardgame Design - Taiwan)

Guillermo Soria (Gen-X Games - Spain)

Servando Carballar (Gen-X Games - Spain)

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - Whither the Rulebook?

Release Date: Nov. 7, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   43 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

You buy a game. You bring it home. You crack the shrink wrap, You punch the counters. You shuffle the cards and admire the dice and the board. You’re itching to call your friends right now to come over and play except for that one small thing…. the rules!

Now no one wants to sit through you reading the rules out loud at the table to everyone. So there’s going to be a pause before we are able to get to the fun. Because somebody has to learn the rules well enough to teach everyone at the table how to play.

At one time, not so long ago, that was the only option available.

Today, you may have more options than a date with the rulebook.

Some game publishers are moving away from traditional rulebooks to video tutorials or even third party teachers. You may be able to watch a playthrough or follow along with a step by step digital guide through your first play.

The goal of this panel is to ask the question whither the rulebook? 

What responsibilities does a publisher have regarding the rules and teaching players how to play? What form should a 21st century rulebook take?

The panel:

Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules)

Ignacy Trzewiczek (Portal Games)

Ted Alspach (Bezier Games)

Jouni Jussila (Dized)

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - What's In A Name?

Release Date: Nov. 6, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   35 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

The title is a player’s first introduction to a game.

It’s the first step in creating a world  or experience someone might want to explore. Done well, it opens a door into that world and invites players in. Done poorly, the game might not even rate a second glance. As such, this simple word or phrase, the name of the game carries with it a LOT of power.

But considering how much hangs on it, the title doesn’t get a lot of attention beyond the people publishing games.

Well that changes today with this panel.

The naming game is important but it is not easy. Our panelists wrestle with how to settle on the best title for a game. There are  a lot of factors that weigh into this decision and the goal of our discussion is to explore as many as we can.

The panel:

Stephen Buonocore (Stronghold Games)

Kuba Polkowski (NSKN Games)

Sara Erickson (Renegade Game Studios)

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - Games Where You Learn By Accident

Release Date: Nov. 5, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   42 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

There are plenty of games available that are trying to teach you something. And, by and large, the more overtly educational a game tries to be, the less likely it will succeed. Their heart might be in the right place, but self proclaimed educational games cannot get out of their own way.

That’s because they’re not really games. They are learning exercises dressed up like games. And they’re just plain no fun.

This panel sits at the intersection between learning and play and fun.

There are many games that offer up legitimate opportunities for learning, but they do it by offering up an equal measure of fun. This means learning through play. Not despite it, because of it! 

And when this happens the learning feels almost accidental. You don’t even realize you’ve absorbed some knowledge or basic concept  until the game is over. These games are sneaky. And while this learning might seem accidental, it’s not!

Our panelists know this better than most. We explore the sneaky ways we learn through play. How games promote this type of learning and how to achieve it. 

The panel:

Tanya Thompson (Hasbro, HATCH)

Phil Eklund (Sierra Madre Games)

Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro (What's Your Game?)

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - The 25 Year Club

Release Date: Nov. 2, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   52 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


Michael Schacht, Bruno Faidutti, and Martin Wallace have a special perspective on the playful world we live in today.

They helped create it.

Over the past quarter century each has been designing games.

This panel calls to order the first ever meeting of the 25 Year Club.

Each member of this club has witnessed the changing landscape of games, publishing, and the community of players as his career evolved.

Listen and learn from some of the masters of modern game design.

And, by understanding their playful past, we may also gain a better sense of how the future of games is being shaped today.

The panel:

Michael Schacht

Bruno Faidutti

Martin Wallace

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Essen 2018 - State of the Industry

Release Date: Nov. 1, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   54 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


We are living in an era when board games are more popular than ever. More people are playing, more people are designing, more companies are manufacturing and publishing than ever before.

BUT… the purpose of this panel is not to take a victory lap.

We’re going to dig deeper and take a look at the state of the industry from many different perspectives - as members of the media, as players, as designers, as manufacturers. The goal being to take the pulse of the industry on each layer or level.

What trends do we see? Are there problems or issues simmering that need to be addressed? And since the industry is so global, no one person can get a full glimpse of the entire playful world. But collectively, we hope to assemble a clearer picture and provide a snapshot of where the game industry is today and perhaps even where we think it’s headed.

The panel:

Katie Aidley (Katie's Game Corner)

Helena Tzioti (Board Game News Online)

Odd Hackwelder (InkPlay Games)

Darrell Ottery (Eclectic Games)

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 306: Calimala

Release Date: Oct. 17, 2018

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   67 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


In 13th and 14th century Florence, the guild of cloth merchants known as the Arte di Calimala wielded enormous economic power. Their trade houses across Europe became financial hubs and helped to bankroll kingdoms and wars.

In Calimala, you play a member of the guild trying to spread your network of merchants and allow them to prosper. To do this you'll send workers out into the streets of Florence to take actions. Most of the time, you'll end up allowing other guild members to act as well!

The group will collectively trigger 15 different area-control scoring rounds plus work toward secret goals at the end of the game. If all goes well you will take your place on the city council and contribute to the massive cathedrals under construction. Which merchant family will rise above the rest?

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.