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Welcome to Ludology, an analytical discussion of the hows and whys 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.

We post a new Ludology episode every other week. In these episodes, hosts Emma Larkins and Gil Hova (sometimes with Professor Scott Rogers) deep-dive into a single topic within game design, often with a well-regarded guest from the game industry. We generally focus on board game design, but we often pull in experts from all forms of games, from video games to slot machines.

On weeks where there is no flagship Ludology episode, we will alternate between two smaller mini-sodes.

GameTek is a long-running feature from the Dice Tower podcast by Ludology co-founder Geoff Engelstein that explores the math and science behind games.  GameTek Classic episodes were once broadcast on The Dice Tower podcast, while other GameTek episodes were recorded specially for Ludology.

Biography of a Board Game is a series hosted by Scott Rogers that explores the history behind classic and modern board games. It was once on The Dice Tower, but has since moved full-time to Ludology.

We aim for most Ludology episodes to be timeless, so you are welcome to explore our entire catalog. Most of it should age quite well. The podcast was started in 2011 by Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm, with Mike Fitzgerald taking over for Ryan in 2015. Gil joined the show in 2017 when Mike stepped aside, and Emma joined in 2019 when Geoff ended his tenure as host.

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Mar 22, 2020

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:

  • Hangtown
  • Coloma
  • A Fistful of Meeples
  • Sierra West
  • Lions of Lydia (on Kickstarter as of the release of this episode!)
  • Merchant's Cove

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 more information about the distinction between a "race" and a "brawl."

07m35s: Games mentioned:
Lords of Waterdeep
Caylus
Caylus 1303

08m32s: Games mentioned:
Catan

09m48s: Games mentioned:
7 Wonders Duel

12m56s: Ah, the "Victory Points Suck" argument! Here is the original talk, and here is the rebuttal blog post that Gil wrote. (Scott Westerfeld is actually a really cool person; he was just being a bit hyperbolic.)

13m32s: Games mentioned:
Get Bit
Red Dragon Inn

15m02s: Games mentioned:
Agricola

18m06s: Games mentioned:
Azul
El Grande
6 Nimmt!

22m27s: Games mentioned:
Point Salad

32m01s: Games mentioned:
Century: Spice Road

34m09s: Games mentioned:
Dominion

35m58s: Games mentioned:
Tzolk'in
Terra Mystica

42m12s: Games mentioned:
Carcassonne

46m47s: Games mentioned:
Ticket to Ride
Amazonas

49m28s: Zero-level heuristics - the strategies and tactics players embrace when first learning the game. Go back to Characteristics of Games, Chapter 4, for an excellent introduction to this topic.

51m11s: Games mentioned:
Stone Age

53m14s: Games mentioned:
Concordia

56m38s: Tragedy of the Commons is a well-known game theory problem that pits collective good versus self-interest. 

1h01m55s: Games mentioned:
Santa Maria
Raja of the Ganges
Castles of Burgundy

1h04m58s: For those who may not know, ASCAP and BMI are the two largest music performance rights organizations in America. They monitor radio play and live performances, and make sure that every time a song is played publicly, its rightsholder gets paid.

1h06m27s: Eat Poop You Cat is the activity that Telestrations was based on.

1h09m42s: More info on Placerville, CA

1h13m42s: Games mentioned:
Five Tribes
Trajan
Istanbul
Spacewalk

1h14m34s: Jonny is referring to Ludology 176 - Taxonomy Driver.