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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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Apr 5, 2020

Emma and Gil welcome accomplished designer Cole Wehrle, designer of Root, Oath, and Pax Pamir (Second Edition), back to the show (Cole previously appeared on Ludology 163 - A Pain in the Asymmetry). We discuss fairness in games. Has it been around for as long as we think it has? What can an "unfair" game do that other games can't?

Cole is a staff designer at Leder Games, and co-founded  Wehrlegig Games with his brother Drew.

SHOW NOTES

2m18s: You can watch Cole's GDC talk here.

12m02s: Learn more about Twilight Imperium (this is the most recent version, but there were previous versions with slightly different rulesets)

13m52s: Learn more about Memoir '44.

14m25s: Learn more about Scythe.

16m04s: Learn more about Blood Rage and Sushi Go!

19m30s: Gil remembers a bunch of Viking games in the mid-aughts. One of the biggest was Michael Kiesling's Vikings, whose gameplay, while clever, did little to evoke actual Vikings.

22m41s: The book Strike Four was recommended to me by Dennis Goodman, who is himself a baseball historian and rules expert, and has written a streamlined rulebook for the sport.

24m16s: The book Cole refers to is The Games Ethic and Imperialism (Sport in the Global Society) by J. A. Mangan.

25m14s: I'm referring to the book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer/Football, by David Goldblatt. The exact title depends on if you buy the US or UK version; this link is to the US version.

27m07s: Cole refers to the book Making England Western, by Saree Makdisi.

27m33s: Thomas Arnold was headmaster of Rugby School from 1828, and was influential in reforming the British public school system. Tom Brown's School Days was written by Thomas Hughes and published in 1857, and popularized British public schools as a literary setting. 

28m11s: If you're curious, here is the official 2019 NFL rulebook. If your eyes aren't crossed yet, here is the official 2019 MLB rulebook (though note Dennis Goodman's streamlined take on the rules of baseball, mentioned above). And to finish you off, here is the official ICC web page on all the Playing Conditions of every form of cricket (although to be fair, they have to handle all three major forms of the game - imagine if the NFL rulebook had to account for Canadian and Arena Football as well!)

Side note: I also checked out the official Laws of World Rugby Union, and I was stunned to see how clearly-written they were! They are made to be read by a layperson, not a lawyer, and come with many video examples of rule violations.

30m42s: This is a good time to remind you to check out Scott Rogers' Biography of a Board Game last week for The Game of the Goose. It's not technically a Victorian board game - no one knows how old it is - but it's the template for many Victorian parlor games. (I wish we could say we planned these episodes to run consecutively, but it was just a happy coincidence!)

32m08s: We're discussing The Landlord's Game, by Elizabeth Magie  (interestingly, Hasbro still does not officially acknowledge Magie's role in the creation of Monopoly, perhaps for legal reasons)

32m56s: More like 150-175 years old, really. Most sports rules began getting formally codified in the mid-19th century (though cricket had already started getting codified in the 18th century).

33m14s: The Eton Wall Game is still played today. And yes, there's video of it! Note that Eton has a second code of football, the Eton Field Game, which is closer to soccer, but still contains many elements found in rugby. There's a video of the Eton Field Game  here.

36m34s: Cole is referring to Bernie De Koven and his book The Well-Played Game. He also refers to the games Acquire and Caylus.

37m23s: To Emma's point, Prussian college professor Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig invented the first wargame in 1780, but it was Kriegsspiel, designed by Prussian nobleman George Leopold von Reisswitz in 1812 and refined by his soldier son Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz in 1824, that introduced realism and verisimilitude into the form. Note that these wargames were designed more for military training than recreation.

37m43s: H.G. Wells, who wrote many seminal science-fiction novels like The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, was also a game designer. In his books Floor Games and Little Wars, he establishes rules for the first recreational wargames. (Also, the idea of games solving world problems is still alive, most notably by Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken.)

38m53s: Alexander Pope's classic (albeit somewhat overly-dramatically-named) poem The Rape of the Lock. Read it here.

39m58s: Roger Caillois' Man, Play and Games, written in 1961, probably deserves its own episode.

42m00s: Hare and Tortoise is, of course, the first Spiel des Jahres winner. (On a related note, Scott's Biography of a Board Game about Eurogames is a really good listen on this subject.) Cole then mentions Die Macher and Catan.

46m20s: I did not come up with this "roll a die at the end of a game of Chess to see who wins" thought experiment, but I can't remember where I read it! Maybe Characteristics of Games?

47m29s: Relevant quote from Mike Selinker from Ludology 189 - Missing Selinker: "Frustration is a valuable, positive thing up to a point. You’ve just got to know where the table flip is."

48m08s: Cole is kind enough to mention Gil's forthcoming game High Rise after playing it at GDC 2019. Cole gave his talk on defending kingmaking; Gil gave his talk on how indirect interaction in games can be good.

52m21s: More info about Descent, Dark Venture, and Tomb.

59m30s: More info about Byzantine themes.

1h04m44s: More info about Liberté.

1h06m36s: More info about The History of Rome podcast.

1h08m58s: The political compass of Root, as suggested by Reddit user u/orionsbelt05.