The Short List - 2018


We play hundreds of different games every year. Each and every one is given due consideration for our two award programs: The Major Fun Award and The Spiel of Approval. 

Out of these hundreds only 12-15 games are selected per award. And these are the games we cover with in-depth audio and written reviews.

Every year, though, inevitably, there are games that might not be a good fit for the award criteria but are games we really enjoy nonetheless.

So, starting this year, we are going to do a round up of games that made our short list. It's not a comprehensive list by any stretch, but rather a snapshot look at some games that may have slipped past your attention.

Think of  the Short List as an Honorable Mention category from this point forward.  These games didn't make the final cut, but we think they're 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 309 - Holiday Party 2018

Release Date: Dec. 21, 2018

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Running Time:   200 min.

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Old pillow cases, burritos filled with pop rocks, nutmeg jail, Gobblesquatch, oh, and a board game or two.

From Tasmania to Norway and Toronto and across the USA, join our party of misfit nerds for a festive, freewheeling conversation spanning the wide world of geekdom.

Most of all, be ready to laugh!


Jay Bartelt (Racine, WI)

Francie Broadie (Indianapolis, IN)

Stephen Buonocore (Boyton Beach, FL)

Maggi Cottrell (Seattle, WA)

Ezra Denney (Alameda, CA)

Gubbins (Indianapolis, IN)

Miklos Fitch (Houston, TX)

Starla Fitch (Houston, TX)

Beth Heile (Chicago, IL)

Debbie Ohi (Toronto, Canada)

Mark Rickards (Hobart, Tasmania)

Jeff Ridpath (Toronto, Canada)

Katherine Rosland (Stavanger, Norway)

Mark Smalley (Indianapolis, IN)

Mark Wilder (Chicago, IL)


Debbie Ohi provided the artwork for this episode. She was doodling while we recorded and, after you listen, you'll see lots of fun tie-ins!

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 308: Rajas of the Ganges

Release Date: Dec. 10, 2018

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Running Time:   88 min.

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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

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Running Time:   54 min.

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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

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Running Time:   55 min.

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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

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Running Time:   43 min.

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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

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Running Time:   35 min.

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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

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Running Time:   42 min.

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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

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Running Time:   52 min.

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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.