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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 Erica Bouyouris, Gil Hova, Scott Rogers, and Sen-Foong Lim deep-dive into a single topic within game design, often with a well-regarded guest from the game industry. We generally focus on tabletop game design (mainly board games and RPGs), but we often pull in experts from all forms of games, from video games to escape rooms 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. Emma left in 2021, and Erica and Sen joined us.

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Oct 4, 2020

Today, we are continuing our series of exploring the design decisions behind our own games! Emma and Scott sit down with Gil to talk about his game High Rise; about how it started life as an auction game, and the twisty route it took to publication.


1m23s - Gil discussed the Wag auction in his Networks design diary on BGG.

2m45s - Gil's game Battle Merchants.

3m31s - A "MacGuffin" is an object in a film that the characters all want, but the actual nature of the object is irrelevant (like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction). All that matters from the perspective of the film is that the characters want it. Looney Labs has since published an actual game with this term, Get the MacGuffin.

4m03s - Gil's game The Networks.

6m24s - Games with auctions as an element in the game: Princes of Florence, Goa

6m54s - Knizia games that are built entirely around their auctions: Ra, Modern Art, Medici, High Society

8m18s - The digital board game Sumer (Gil credited Josh Raab with the game design, but neglected to mention co-designers Geoffrey Suthers, Misha Favorov, and Sig Gunnarsson).

8m51s - The legendary video game M.U.L.E. - not a commercial success, but since regarded as seminal and influential. For a while, "M.U.L.E. as a board game" was a game designer's grail, but that's since been handled by board games Wealth of Nations, Planet Steam, and of course, M.U.L.E. The Board Game.

14m41s - Gil is talking about Roger Caillois, and his book Man, Play, and Games. Play is usually associated with having no real-world implications, but Caillois knew to draw in gambling as a counter-example.

19m04s - High Rise's look would not have nearly been so amazing without the graphic design of Heiko Günther and the illustrations of Kwanchai Moriya.

20m36s - Rocco is also designer of the game Ninja Dice.

23m04s - You can follow the High Rise Kickstarter here; it goes live on October 6.

24m54s - Bryn Smith runs Doomsday Robots, a board game publishing company.

27m02s - Expancity, Manhattan. The Manhattan kaiju "expansion" Gil was thinking of turned out to be a variant designed by Brian Bankler and Eric Moore.

27m56s - The amazing Daniel Newman, who is quite an excellent game designer himself (he made Dead Man's Cabal), and who is designing the High Rise plastic buildings.

28m11s - Not to mention, Elastoplast is a brand of bandages.

28m59s - The High Rise design diary.

30m28s - Gil's online playtest group, Remote Playtesting.

32m24s - Two rondel games, both by Mac Gerdts: Navegador, and Imperial.

33m57s - Time track games similar to High Rise: Tokaido, Glen More, Francis Drake, and Kraftwagen.

34m28s - Ryan Courtney, designer of Pipeline

36m29s - Eric Lang's tweet about turn angst. You can hear more directly from Eric in Ludology 175 - Auld Lang Design.

38m33s - Food Chain Magnate.

45m33s - Geoff and Gil discussed ludonarrative dissonance in Ludology 190 - Diabolus in Ludica. A positive example of ludonarrative dissonance: Unspeakable Words.

46m55s - Cloudspire.

50m28s - Emma is referring to Ludology 209 - The 6 Zones of Play.

51m51s - Bohnanza

51m58s - Here's an example of Magic Card flicking. It's even worse when the cards are sleeved.

55m36s - Uno, The Mystery Rummy series of games.

59m33s - The Sears Tower in Chicago is now called the Willis Tower.

1h02m57s - The preview page for the High Rise Kickstarter campaign.