The Short List - 2020


We play hundreds of games every year. Each one is given due consideration for  The Spiel of Approval and Major Fun Awards.

Out of these hundreds, only a dozen or so games are selected per award. 

Inevitably, there are games that might not fit all of the award criteria but are games we really enjoy nonetheless.

These games make our Short List. 

Think of the Short List as an Honorable Mention category.  

They might not have made the final cut, but any game on our Short List is one we think is engaging and fun.

Read on to explore the list.

I bet you'll find at least a couple you'll be itching to try! 

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 363 - Holiday Party

Release Date: Dec. 21, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   225 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


Join our party of misfit nerds for fun, games, and freewheeling conversations spanning the wide world of geekdom.

We hope you'll be in a festive mood for the season after being part of some Grade A goofing around.


Francie Broadie (Indianapolis, IN)

Stephen Buonocore (Boynton Beach, FL)

Allen Chen (Cupertino, CA)

Alex Despres (Arlington, TX)

Suzie Despres (Arlington, TX)

James Engelhardt (Greenville, SC)

Gubbins (Indianapolis, IN)

Jeremy Piets (Midway Point, Tasmania)

Debbie Ohi (Toronto, Canada)

Darrell Ottery (Reading, UK)

Jeff Ridpath (Toronto, Canada)

Lucio Rodriguez (Riverside, CA)

Katherine Rosland (Stavanger, Norway)

Kristof Tersago (Sint Truiden, Belgium)

Mark Smalley (Indianapolis, IN)

Mark Wilder (Chicago, IL)


Debbie Ohi provided the fun and festive artwork for this episode! 

You can watch the party on Youtube here!


Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 362 - Nova Luna

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  85 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


We humans are caught in a cosmic conversation with the Moon. Its monthly dance pulls at our planet. Nova Luna (New Moon) is the start of another cycle; it has come to symbolize a new beginning, a chance to plan for the future.

Nova Luna is an abstract game of new beginnings. Players select and place colored tiles from the Moon clock, hoping to create patterns which allow them to place scoring tokens on the tiles. As the moon moves through its cycle, new choices and strategies will arise. The moon will talk to you through her tiles. Listen close and you’ll make the right connection.

Tune in explore the game and discover why it earns our Spiel of Approval.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 361: Calico

Release Date:  Nov. 2, 2020

Download: PDF

Designer: Kevin Russ

Publishers: Flatout Games, AEG

1-4 players  | 30-45 min  |  ages 12+  | 5-8 min to learn | $40


Your calico quilt starts as a pile of simple fabric in colorful floral patterns. Patiently you cut, fold, and sew each piece into precise shapes and designs. Your goal? Create a cozy refuge, an irresistible napping platform for every cat in the house.

Calico is a charming tile laying game filled with simple beauty and hidden depth. Your final quilt won’t be perfect. And that's ok. Calico is a game about creating something lovely with what you have on hand. Your decisions create the beauty in the game.

Read on to explore Calico and discover why we think it is worthy of both our awards!

Written review continues after the break.

Episode 360 - The Isle of Cats

Release Date: October 26, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  104 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


You are on a rescue mission to the fabled Isle of Cats. But you must hurry! The dread pirate Vesh is coming to loot and pillage, destroying anything in his path. Explore the island, gather cats and ancient treasures, and find a way to fit them all on your boat before Vesh arrives.

The Isle of Cats is a wonderful mix of puzzle and strategy. Draft a hand of cards and use fish to pay for them. Cards help you lure cats, find loot, learn lessons from past visitors, or even discover mythical kitties. Now the real fun begins, each cat and treasure you acquire is a tetris-like tile you must fit onto your ship, covering as many rooms and rats as you can to score.

The Isle of Cats fuses these elements seamlessly and presents them as a portal to a rich story which is part of a larger world. Listen in to discover why we think the Isle of Cats is a puzzle with a purpose - combining gameplay with a story that moves us to be playful and stand up for what is right - risking all to save what can be saved.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 359: Beasty Bar

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  28 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


There's a party at the club and all the animals from the neighborhood are clamoring to get in! Each turn, a new animal arrives in the line, jostling to get past the bouncer.

The tall Giraffe can step past shorter animals one at a time. The sneaky Weasel scootches past bigger animals. The speedy Cheetah replaces the slowest animal. The hungry Crocodile eats all animals lower on the food chain.

When the line is filled with five beasts, the club doors open and the first two animals in line are let into the bar. How many of your party animals can you get into the Beasty Bar before the night is over?

Beasty Bar is a family of whimsical card games with elements of trick-taking and hand management. Each game features the same core set of rules but adds a new set of animals and abilities to explore. You can play each game separately or combine cards across editions to create your own deck of twelve party animals.

Listen in to discover why we we aren't lion when we say Beasty Bar is a whale of a good time (and also Major Fun).

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 358 - 1987 Channel Tunnel

Release Date: Sept. 28, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  150 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


Sometimes rivals, sometimes allies, Great Britain and France are connected across an ocean of history. Only the English channel has kept each nation at a distance… until now.

The year is 1987. You are in charge of one of the most massive engineering efforts in human history - the construction of the Channel Tunnel, affectionately known as the Chunnel.

English and French teams begin digging with the intent of meeting in the middle. Plan your course, rally investors, develop new technologies and drill! But beware, if you stray too far off course, the whole project could be scuttled.

1987 Channel Tunnel is a 2-player action selection game powered by clever auctions and multi-use cards. Listen in to explore the game and discover how it packs a whole word of strategy and history into its small box.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 357 - Artbox

Release Date: Sept. 14, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  28 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


Here are three circles and a square… Can you make a toaster? Or a banana? 

Working from a common set of shape dice, can you create a simple drawing, hoping others can select your magic word from a grid of cards?

Artbox is a game about perception. How to say a lot with a little. And much like negative space in a painting, what you leave out helps define what everyone gets to see.

Listen in to explore this wonderful game of drawing and deduction!

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 356: Similo

Release Date: August 24, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  109 min.

Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS


Similo is a cooperative game of characters, communication, and deduction. Can you guide your team to the secret character in a grid of cards using only other character cards as clues? A vertical clue means the card is similar to the secret character. A horizontal clue means the card is different. Each round the pressure mounts, because the team has to remove more cards from the grid!

Similo comes in three flavors. You can play with people from history, myth, and storybook legend. If you're up for a real challenge, you can even combine decks!

Similo is a springboard into the minds of everyone at the table. It provides a puzzle and laughs in equal measure. That's a sure sign of Major Fun.

Listen in for our in-depth review!

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 355: Gridopolis

Release Date:  August 17, 2020

Download: PDF

Designer: David Schultze

Publishers: Gridopolis Games

2-4 players  | 20-60 min  |  ages 8+  | 5-6 min to learn | $50


Combine the Lego-like joy of building with the meditative fun of playing 3-D chess versus Mr Spock and you get... Gridopolis!

Gridopolis is a game of construction and capture. Players build a multi-level modular board and then use pawns and kings to jump and capture their opponent’s pieces. Teleporters and blockers present challenges and opportunities in equal measure. And the game board itself will shape every decision you make, because each player has a chance to add new elements to it as the game unfolds! 

Read on to discover why we think Gridopolis is Major Fun.

Written review continues after the break.