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.

Are the kids out of school yet? If so, here's a bonus GameTek that is sure to keep their math skills freshly honed during the break. Geoff discusses how to estimate the 'Expectation Value' and how you can use that to help your gaming.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Expectation_Value.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Ryan and Geoff are pleased to be joined by special guest Phil Eklund, designer of many games including High Frontier and Origins: How We Became Human.  

We discuss designing games as simulations, rather than just as games. What are the specific design challenges that are faced? How do you balance accuracy, playability, and fun?  And can novel things be learned from a game?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_22.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm EST

Following up on the last bonus GameTek episode about Regression Towards the Mean, Geoff discusses the USCF chess rating system with it's developer, Dr. Mark Glickman.  How are they calculated? How is the system designed to prevent 'gaming' the system? And once again we tackle the question of how you know if you're getting better or not.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Chess_Ratings.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03am EST

It's Thanksgiving in the USA, so everything is bigger than usual. In this supersized 90 minute Ludology, Ryan and Geoff tackle the question of innovation in games. Where does innovation come from? What games are innovative and which build on existing mechanics?  Is it possible for a game to be too innovative?

Plus Ryan and Geoff reveal their picks for the most innovative game of the modern era. Do you agree?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_21.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:31am EST

Why do we get worse after we get better? In this classic GameTek Geoff explores the concept of 'Regression Towards the Mean', and tries to figure out how we can really tell if we're improving or just getting lucky.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Regression_Towards_the_Mean.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39pm EST

In the episode, Geoff & Ryan discuss Victory Points - What are the different ways they are used? What works and what doesn't? Are they a crutch for lazy design or a useful tool in the arsenal of the game designer?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_20.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:47am EST

In this classic GameTek Geoff talks about Group Think in games - what causes it, and different ways to think about it.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Group_Think.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:20pm EST

With Geoff out of commission due to a freak snowstorm, Mark Johnson steps up to the plate to join Ryan in a discussion of two versus three player games. What are the differences? What design choices does player count present the designer? 

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_19.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff discusses shuffling - A little of the math behind it, how online shuffling works, and a brief glimpse into the science of thermodynamics. Not bad for five minutes!

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Shuffling.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff interview Dr. Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews.  Dr. Rendell's team conducts research on social learning and the spread of ideas and culture throughout society. To assist in their reserach they ran a tournament in 2009 where anyone could submit a strategy to play a game based on social learning.

Dr. Rendell is now sponsoring a new tournament with some added depth to the game, this time with a 25,000 euro prize. for the best solutions.

We invited Dr. Rendell to join us to discuss the role of gaming in research, what they have learned from the prior tournament, and possible pitfalls.

If you are interested in learning more about the competition, including full game rules, please check out the link here.

Note that this time they are having a special 1,000 euro prize for the best performing strategy submitted by a a school class (through high school), so if you are a teacher this may be an excellent project for a group of interested students.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_18.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Back in 2009 Geoff interviewed Scott Nesin, builder of a Dice Tower capable of rolling 1.3 million dice per day. What inspired him to take on a project like that?

Check out the video before listening to the inteview:


Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Giant_Dice_Tower.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:45am EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff are joined by special guest Norbert Brunhuber, who is very active in the Warmachine/Hordes community.  The discussion centers around two topics:

'Monogamers' - those who play only a single game or game system (not gamers who have mono!). What is necessary in a game that will hold someone's interest for years? Why do some people prefer a single game system and others want to play a different game every week?

Miniature Gaming - what is the appeal? What are the differences between board and miniature games, and where is there crossover?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

Back in 2008 Geoff talked about a tournament to learn about how individuals interact within a social group.  He and his family submitted an entry, but sadly did not win the 10,000 euro prize.

However there's a successor tournament with more options and more strategies to explore. In this week's Ludology we replay the original segment, and give a quick review of some of the changes this time around.

If you're interested in the finding out more about the tournament, check it out here: Social Learning Strategies Tournament.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Cultaptation_Tournament.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:12am EST

Ryan and Geoff look deep into the heart of cooperative games to figure out why some work and some don't.  What special problems face the designer of a coop?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_16.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek, Geoff talks about streakiness in dice rolling in The Settlers of Catan. How often should it occur? And what effect does a 'Dice Deck' have on the game?

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Dice_Decks.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Fresh off of their visit to Gencon in August, Ryan and Geoff talk about the subcultures of gaming, their similarities, differences, and the ways they interact.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16am EST

Original research from the GameTek Laboratories! Geoff looks at the Cube Tower from Wallenstein/Shogun and experiments to see if there is any pattern to when the cubes fall out. Take your Shogun game to the next level!

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_The_Cube_Tower.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff finally resolve the cliff-hanger back from episode 12 and reveal the game they think brought dice back into popularity as a design tool not just a randomizer but as an integral part of gaming mechanics. They discuss a variety of techniques that have been used to incorporate dice into modern games, and speculate on what the future will bring.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:41pm EST

What is involved in localizing a game into a different language? Geoff talks with the team who worked to translate Agricola from German to English and finds out.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Agricola_Translation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am EST

This episode we are pleased to be joined by Mike Elliott. Mike is the designer of Quarriors and Thunderstone, and also worked for many years with Wizards of the Coast doing design work on Magic and other CCGs. We discuss the specific design issues that arise for deck-building games and collectible card games.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_13.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Can you outguess your opponent?  Geoff digs into some experiments that may give the answer in this classic GameTek episode.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Beauty_Contest.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30am EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff explore dice, and dissect the history of their use in games.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

In this classic GameTek episode, Geoff takes a look at the classic Rock, Paper, Scissors, and what it tells us about game theory.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Rock_Paper_Scissors.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff discuss Family Games - What are they and what makes them work?  Ryan goes back to his educational theory studies to break it down.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_11.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek episode, Geoff takes a look at abstract games, and attempts to solve them by computer. And does it matter if they are?

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Abstract_Games.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff are very pleased to be joined this episode by special guest Scott Nicholson, of On Boardgames, and Boardgames with Scott.  They discuss complexity - different types of complexity, when complexity is called for, and how it can be managed.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_10.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek episode, Geoff takes a look at research that was done on the fairness of dice. How 'unfair' can standard off-the-shelf dice get?

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Fair_Dice.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff discuss the differences between turn-based and simultaneous-action games. What are the advantages of each type of design?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_9.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this episode, Geoff explores the Ultimatum Game, which is used by social scientists to explore human concepts of fairness, competition, and cooperation.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Ultimatum_Game.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff tackle another angle on story in games - the narrative arc. What creates rising tension, and what game elements can create a dramatic climax?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_8.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

In this classic GameTek episode, Geoff talks about the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, and what it implies about social science and evolution.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Prisoners_Dilemma_Part_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Ryan and Geoff are joined by special guest Andy Parks to begin their discussion on how games incorporate story and narrative structure elements.

Andy is a game designer of many games including Ideology and Camelot Legends, and is the author of a recent article on creating narrative in games for the website Booklife.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_7.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

In this classic GameTek episode, Geoff talks about the Prisoner's Dilemma and how it applies to board games.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Prisoners_Dilemma_Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:11am EST

Ryan and Geoff conclude their discussion of balance by looking at a variety of questions:

What does it mean for a game to be balanced?

What are the different types of balance?

Can a game be too balanced?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_6.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

In this classic GameTek segment Geoff takes a look at triangular numbers and the way they are used in game designs. Features a bonus appearance by Alan Moon (sort of)!

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Triangular_Numbers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:48am EST

Games that seem to have multiple strategies sometimes end up having just one dominant strategy that players follow. In this episode, Ryan and Geoff discuss ways the pitfalls of game design that can lead to this, and ways designers avoid it.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_5-2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11pm EST

In this classic GameTek episode from 2007 Geoff talks about Multitouch Tables like the Microsoft Surface, and the role they may play in the future of boardgames.

Direct download: Ludology_-_GameTek_Classic_-_Mutlitouch_Tables.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:17pm EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff discuss the difference between strategy and tactics, and the different forms that strategy can take in games.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EST

What, another Ludology episode already?

In episode 3, Catch The Leader, Ryan and Geoff both opined that the turn order mechanic in Power Grid diminishes the overall experience.  This prompted a lot of passionate debate in the forums.

For this bonus episode, we are joined by listener and poster Tim Koppang, who defends this Catch the Leader mechanic as integral to the Power Grid experience, and essential to gameplay.

Episode 4 will be posted as scheduled, on March 20.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_3A.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Here is the next classic GameTek episode. This is on one of Tom Vasel's favorite topics - reviews!

This is purely 'bonus' content, and we will still be keeping to our regular two week release schedule.

Direct download: Ludology_Bonus_2_GameTek_-_Reviews.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

In this episode, Ryan and Geoff begin their series on balance.  First up: Catch The Leader.

What exactly is Catch The Leader? When is it needed, if ever? When does it work and when doesn't it?

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Regular Ludology episodes will be released every two weeks.

As an experiment, on the 'in between' weeks we are going to be releasing classic GameTek segments from The Dice Tower.  This is the very first GameTek that was ever aired, on the topic of luck, and like all GameTeks is about 5 minutes long.

This is purely 'bonus' content, and we will still be keeping to our regular two week release schedule.

Please drop by our BGG guild and let us know if you enjoy these bonus releases!

Direct download: Ludology_Bonus_Episode_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

In our second episode we take a look at what attracts people to games, and what keeps them coming back for more.  Plus Ryan and Geoff share personal stories about some of their game experiences over the years.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_2a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Welcome to Ludology! In this, our first episode, we tackle the question of what is a game, and what isn't.

Direct download: Ludology_Episode_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EST