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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I'm the first to say that I think Podcasting is a great idea. It does for AM radio what the printing press did for newspapers - strengthen free speech while choking us on content. Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean that it's reasoned enough to broadcast. Rush Limbaugh is a prime example - most of his commentary is mudslinging. Disagreeing with Hillary Clinton is one thing, putting a chihuahua head on her body is childish and pathetic. I don't listen to Air America for the same reason, it seems that the only answer liberals had (once it was clear that reason loses to screaming every time) was to play the same game.

Now everyone, no matter how misinformed, can have their own talk show and niche audience. While it's a good thing in the sense that a hobby like boardgaming in the US has several podcasts from which to choose, but wouldn't it be nice to have a good podcast?

I've only listened to a few 'casts so far, but I'm having trouble finding one I like. The first one I heard was on the 'Geek, and I can't remember who did it. I distinctly remember them interviewing Jay Tummelson, who almost singlehandedly brought eurogaming to the US, and giving him a lot of crap for Fossil. To make things worse, they interrupted Jay repeatedly, who was giving his time freely (and did, to be fair, get to advertise his upcoming games, but most internet savvy gamers would be aware of what those are). While they weren't as bad as Rush, they were working on it.

Recently I tried out The Dice Tower, done by Tom Vasel [note: apologies to Tom for misspelling his name in the original post] and The Cranky Guy. I know, it's Joe Steadman, but boy is he cranky. Perhaps I could have done better than listen to the two episodes that featured the top ten most underrated/overrated games. I hate top 10 lists, as I feel that it is pretty much pointless to compare apples to oranges to kumquats, which is what any gaming list does (how can you really compare a wargame to a euro?)

The list of things I dislike about this particular podcast is pretty amazing. First, the humor is sophmoric, especially from Joe and whoever they let in the studio that day. It's like being trapped in a high school D&D session. Tom, to his credit, attempts to rise above the childishness, but it's a losing battle when you go up against the screamers. I'd listen to drive-time radio if I wanted this brand of humor. When you get people who do understand how to speak information clearly, like the guys who do the German and Boardgame news, their professionalism only demonstrates my point.

Second is the inability to pronounce game companies correctly. Dez Cartez is pronounced Dey-Cahrt, guys, just like the philosopher/mathemetician. That's the matter with Kansas, right there. I don't feel like you need to get the accent right, but at least get close. I certainly never get the impression that Joe is trying too hard.

But to be honest, I can live with these minor nits. What I do hate is the reviews and evaluations. Most reviews consist of describing the game's mechanisms, then saying they like it or don't. Very little qualitative information, just they don't like it. My favorite so far was Joe saying he didn't like Evo, and not just because of the theme. The politics of evolution aside (he must really hate anything to do with cavemen, as Evo doesn't even posit that people are the result of evolution), that was literally his only comment on the game. No "it's too slow," or "too chaotic" or "I don't like the neon colors", just "Ick". I know you guys are LDS, you certainly hit us over the head with it in pretty much every episode, but to dislike a game's theme simply because it doens't reinforce your worldview speaks volumes about one's insecurities. I'm not anti-LDS, although I do wonder how anyone gets involved in a religion found under a rock in upstate New York, but if I wanted to get a sermon on the evils of teaching evolution I'd find a different podcast. [Author's note: no one associated with The Dice tower is LDS. I made an assumption based on a couple of terms I'd heard used in the podcast to make an inaccurate guess. In fact, pretty much everything involving mentioning a specific faith should have been left out of the entry, but I am leaving it in place to avoid confusion and to avoid looking like I'm sweeping anything under the rug.]

Tom isn't much better, saying that he disliked Paths of Glory as it was too complex. It's a wargame, Tom. They are, by their very definition, complex, because they attempt to simulate, at some level, a historical event. Euros can simply use a historical theme and don't have that burden, so they require zero chrome. Yes, Tom claimed that the top ten list of overrated games was sort of a joke, but he might as well have included all wargames or none. Either way, saying something is "too complex" is like saying that since calculus is too hard we shouldn't teach it in schools. Not everyone will take it, but there are significant populations that should. If you don't get it, Tom, don't review it.

I can't even fall asleep listening to this stuff with all the snorting and chortling going on behind the scenes. It's like having lunch at a McDonald's close to a high school.

I understand that podcasting is a difficult and often thankless business (although there was a comment that Tom gets free games in return for his work on the Tower, followed by an awkward silence), and most people don't realize how much work goes into such an endeavor (I do, I've been a musician for decades and know my way around a mixing board). The basic truth still remains, however, that if you want to be a critic you should be good at it, and that includes having more of an opinion than "too hard" or "doesn't fit in with my religion".

It's really too bad, because I've enjoyed Tom's written reviews on the 'Geek, but listening to him talk has made me considerably less interested in his opinion regardless of the medium. And Joe? Yikes.

Yes, 'casting is a fledgling medium. Yes, 90% of anything is crap according to Sturgeon's Law. I'm just waiting for the 10% to start showing up in boardgaming 'casts. Perhaps audio is a poor choice for boardgaming, although if you think you don't want to hear boardgamers talking, you really don't want to see them. However, a well-done and well-produced 'cast, 30 minutes in duration, would take probably three-four hours to prep effectively, plus another hour of post-production. Perhaps this is what Tom and Joe should shoot for, doing 30 minutes instead of 60. Cutting out the top 10 list (is there any format more tired than this one?) would probably do the trick. And let's leave the snorty friends out of the taping session, hmm?

Guess I better do my own gaming podcast now or face the accusation of being an armchair podcaster.
[Author's Note: And, I better not be as cranky. This entry was too harsh in tone, although I stand by the issues I raise.]


  • At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Doug,

    You are SO right about the dicetower podcast !

    Looking forward to yours...

  • At 12:19 PM, Blogger Wes M said…

    Perhaps audio is a poor choice for boardgaming, although if you think you don't want to hear boardgamers talking, you really don't want to see them.

    While I've only seen one episode of Scott Nicholson's 'Boardgames with Scott' (http://boardgameswithscott.com), the one on Antike (as prep for Gamestorm,) I have to say it wasn't bad at all.

  • At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yup, it's very easy to criticize, but a lot harder to create.

    Looking forward to your "good" podcast.

  • At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Have you tried Boardgames to go? I haven't listened to many episodes, but I listened to the Mike Siggins interviews. They were very interesting and informative. The only complaint about them is that they were a bit on the long side.

  • At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tom and Joe are LDS?

  • At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The issue of The Dice Tower you mention was by no means their best. I'd check out some of the other ones.

  • At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Could not agree more. I can cringe my way through geekspeak but I can't even listen to the dice tower. There are a couple others I tried like boardgamestogo, they are ok but mostly boring.

    Melissa's podcasts are actually the best. Probably because they are so short (about 15 minutes) and because her accent is so easy on the ears if you know what I mean.

  • At 5:55 PM, Blogger Scott Nicholson said…

    One of the problems we have now with these media is a lack of focus. Think about television, books, magazies - most television shows have a specific topic or method of presentation. That's how we think about our information sources. There are some talk shows, but there's a lot more out there.

    My goal of Board Games with Scott is to introduce new people to the hobby and introduce new games to existing gamers. I use the language of "explaining and lightly reviewing" a game, as that's what I am aiming to do. If you already know the game, the most you'll get out of BGWS is a chuckle and perhaps some ideas on how to teach it yourself; people who already know the game are not the target audience for BGWS.

    I'm a teacher by trade, so my videos are teaching videos - I tend to play games a few amount of times and move on, and thus, my shows reflect that lack of deep analysis of a game.

    In addition, I'm not going to review games I'm not enthusiastic about. When I pick games, I skip over those games I don't enjoy. This means that you won't see negative reviews; again, that's not my goal with my show.

    As part of my goal is to get new people into the hobby, I want to present these games as something that gets me excited. Again, it's all about focusing on the goal of the show, and if you don't have a goal, you can't do that.

    I agree in that there's room for a criticial review show. So... want to join us, the body of board game broadcasters?

  • At 8:14 PM, Blogger George said…

    What I find most remarkable about this post by Dug is that most of the comments are made by 'anymous'.

    Is it amusing or frightening that people can't stand for their opinions anymore?

    What happened to Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?


  • At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    >> What I find most remarkable about this post by Dug is that most of the comments are made by 'anymous'.

    Its one less password to remember.

  • At 9:17 PM, Blogger dave said…

    And here I was worried about you alienating readers by using the word "porn"...

    Seriously, I wonder whether folks hold podcasts to a higher quality than blogs and such given that it takes longer to consume the information. God forbid that GoE undergo microanalysis...

  • At 9:37 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    Interesting post. I'm thinking you're trying out for the Mr. Cranky position, though.

    I'm seeing podcasting as yet another internet case of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

    First (for those in the developer crowd) it was early Visual Basic 1.0 applications - my gawd those were the ugliest things ever created.

    Second, once domain names were easily acquired, it was personal webpages.

    Third was blogging.

    Now, it's podcasting. Vlogging (or whatever the buzzword of the week for video podcasting is lately) is next.

    Eventually, the fad will pass and most of the people left doing it will be the ones that actually know what they're doing.

    For now, however, it's simply painful to listen to most of it. And no, I know I can't do any better, so I'm not even going to bother try.

  • At 10:35 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "Third was blogging. [...] Eventually, the fad will pass and most of the people left doing it will be the ones that actually know what they're doing."

    We had a good run... *sigh*

  • At 10:03 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    I am impressed to see that so many people read this blog! So much of the time it feels as if we are typing into a void. It's a shame that it requires a controversial entry to generate discussion. Next week I will discuss why we should invade Burma! ;-)

    Actually, make that a :-/

    I have no problem with anonymous comments, although I do feel that if I leave a critical comment I should also leave my name as well. Otherwise it tends to minimize my argument. I do understand that people don't want to register with a commercial entity just to agree/disagree, and I am happy that Blogger provides a way for people to do this.

    The biggest difference I see between written and audio/video content is that the author tends to have the luxury of reviewing written content more easily. While it can be done for audio, there is considerably more of a technical challenge. For video, other than simply removing material, most of us are hopelessly without the necessary skillset.

    Me, I tend to use a stream-of-consciousness writing style that essentially got me kicked out of a post-grad program. Put simply, I think out loud (or with a keyboard). I do go back and edit my posts, at least some of the time, mostly to shorten them and remove points that aren't necessary to support my thesis. However, it is in it's most basic form, diarrhea. Perhaps eloquent and informed, perhaps not, but still it's from my brain to the page.

    Perhaps I will put my money where my keyboard is and create a podcast on gaming, perhaps not. I always have the best intentions, but then I get sidetracked by a video game and that's that. I've certainly got all of the gear to do so. I will post a link on a future blog should I get my *ss in gear.

    Thanks to all for the comments, both in support, against, and those with recommendations for other 'casts. I will give them a try and report back in the future.

  • At 1:42 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    I just don't have time to listen to podcasts and they're usually not edited at all so not only can I read blog entries faster than I can listen to podcasts, the blogs are usually higher quality.

  • At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Ed Jamer said…

    You have some interesting points about the current shortcomings of board game-related podcasts, but we seem to disagree on most of them.

    Does GeekSpeak/BoardGameSpeak deserve to be panned for displaying the personalities of two people who helped to create one of the best board game resources available? The same two people that broke new ground by creating the first major board game podcast and allowing us all to hear interviews and discussions with some of the best-known reviewers, developers, designers, publishers, and players?

    The Dice Tower is another free podcast that doesn't try to hide or misrepresent what it is. Your criticsm on Tom Vasal's comment about Paths of Glory being overrated seems to be reflected in your own comments: you may not like "Top 10" lists, but many others do -- so why bother sounding off about the show here?

    Admittedly, there are flaws and problems with the current model of low-production cost/free distribution podcasting. It is a medium that will probably always be dominated by amateurs. But there is nobody forcing you to listen in.

    My point: Instead of complaining in another amateur and generally useless medium that suffers far more from the same malaise (blogs), why not use your energy to do something to better the situation? People will listen (to just about anything), and some would probably identify with and enjoy your contribution...

  • At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    >> Tom and Joe are LDS?

    No, they aren't.

  • At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Dwayne "aka okiedokie" said…

    There really should be no anon comments on blogger, it gives you the option called "other" to post whatever name you want.

    Second, podcasting is hard & time consuming. My son & I tried to run a weekly one on Survivor & Amazing Race and then he had finals week and my homework ramped up fulltime, so that's sitting on hold for now. Were we good? nah but we were having fun.

    Third, game reviewing is hard work. I hardly feel qualified to post anything about games reviews unless they are first impressions. A good review has at least a couple of plays behind it and an analysis has a ton of play time and lots of research in it. I like what Scott is doing, I get to see the game and see how the parts move around. After doing a podcast, I don't want to think of the time involved for a vcast.

    Lastly, your review of the podcasts weren't out of line. You had a few comments that could have been taken as jabs at religion, but believe me, they were minor. I feel that the criticisms that you have given the Dice Tower were more informative and helpful than the criticisms you cited toward some of the games on the podcast. Being a good critic is hard, you have to analyze WHY you don't like something and be able to offer alternatives to ither correct those things or be able to identify why you are not the target audience and who would be in that audience. I don't feel that you have to justify anything you say by going out and doing your own cast. We all have opinions and you stated yours mostly with tact and insight.

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    There's been a couple of comments on my statement that I thought that Joe and Tom were LDS (Mormons for the uninformed).

    While I have problems with this particular religion as an institution that are beyond the scope of this comment, I have no problem with people who belong to the church. I meant no disrespect to the Mormon church, and I'm pretty sure I kept that out.

    What made me think that Tom and Joe were LDS were references to a ward (like a parish), missionaries (very common among male LDS youth), Joe's dislike of evolution theory, and several mentions of family. A pretty understandable mistake, if you are familiar with this particular faith (and I do have some experience with it).

  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Ed Jamer made some comments I'd like to respond to:

    1) BGG is a great site. Just because someone is good at web authoring does not make them a good public speaker.

    2) Why should I limit criticism to inanimate objects and not people? Good criticism, as has been pointed out in other comments, should improve what it critiques. That includes critiquing criticism, which is what you were doing, and thus you manage to critique yourself in the process! And now I critique you critiquing me critiquing Dice Tower! Of course, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be critiquing people...

    This has been a great discussion, and I honestly do welcome criticism, although I do reserve the right to ignore some and take some to heart. If I get you thinking, I am doing my job. If I get you to make a comment on what I write, I am successful beyond my wildest hopes. OK, slightly wild hopes...

  • At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm glad you wrote this piece. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in my opinion of the Dice Tower. I made it through about two episodes before deciding to abandon it. Like listening to two tittering 14 yr olds. Oy. They've got some maturing to do.

    I'll stick to Vasel's written reviews, but even those are now a bit tainted by my limited experience with Dice Tower.

  • At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My understanding is that Joe is Baptist. A little research at his web page might have put a bit of light on that misconception. The religious bias is annoying. But every critic has bias they bring to a review, so it is no surprise they are so dense about evolution.

    BGG is not a 'great' site. It's a very useful site. But like many other places on the web, such as wikipedia, one gets volumes of mis-information along with useful information. It's not going to be great so long as it's a group effort by thousands of people. It will be useful, helpful, even perhaps significant as being most frequented, but that alone will not make it great. And ratings as promoted there is pretty flat out dumb because the ratings are no more than a lame popularity contest overwhelmed by the happy fad of the moment.

    It's very true Tom and Joe sound like awkward amatuers. They are nervous as hell every time they record one of those things. The sophomoric crap is the symptom that gives it away. It might help to offer up some more constructive criticism for how to lose on air nervousness, so they improve. They actually do record one of these things every week. Who else is out there doing that? It means they are dedicated to getting something together once a week even when nervous that the microphone is on.

    As long as they continue to deliver they will slowly improve. To get them to improve more, get them the criticisms that make them pay attention. It's entirely possible there could be a lot to offer that they can deliver if they get community support instead of a bickering backbiting drilling every time they try to record a show.

    Bring it on, gaming is a community, not a pit fight for roosters.

  • At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The comment here that Dice Tower should focus their attention on shorter shows is probably right, but I guess they figure they are giving board game fans regular content so that's okay. They claim to have 2000 listeners so a few complainers here are probably not bothering them.

    Otherwise, the points here are pretty dead-on - Joe is the real problem with his incredibly poor grammar (this guy's a teacher?) and scattershot assessments of games (and pretty much everything). Tom could probably do a reasonable show on his own that was a little shorter, but Joe constantly brings it down.

    The general rule would seem to be - if they seem to be having more fun than you are as a listener, that is not a good thing. Garrett's Game Geekiness seems to have the same problem.

    BGS has changed their format but now it is boring. I would forgive their past sins because they were the first ones out there. Boardgames To Go is probably the show you want if you want something serious.

  • At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Tom Vasel said…

    Well, THIS was entirely fun to read!

    Or maybe not.

    I've really given up on trying to please everyone, and the fact that the podcast is downloaded quite a bit and we get a rather huge response from people means that at least some people like it.

    If the humor is sophmoric, I apologize. When I play a game, it's the same type of humor that I love in those I play against, and I like a game that has a jovial, fun atmosphere.

    I work hard at editing out any caustic remarks (if they're even made), or anything that folks might think insulting. I also try quite a bit during podcasts to keep them in focus and on track.

    I agree that sometimes our reviews don't have quite the substance I'd like - but you would be suprised how difficult it is to do this in audio format, rather than writing it down. I'm a little discouraged that people would take my audio persona and hold that against my written reviews.

    As to the specific comments about Paths of Glory, I thought that I was rather clear in that it was a wargame, probably a very good one, but that _I_ didn't like it because of the complexity. That's all. Me, and only me. And I even stated over and over again that the "overrated" monniker wasn't real - they were simply games that I didn't like as much as other people. I knew that I would still catch a bit of flak over it.

    For all those who criticize, I WELCOME it. I wish that you would send me emails, though, rather than publicly air it. I'm certainly willing to listen to criticism - we've changed a lot on the show because of stuff people have told me. My email is tomvasel@gmail.com, and I'm willing to listen to anything - no matter how negative. I can't promise that we'll change it, but I can promise that I'll listen with an open mind.

    And for those who were turned off by the show because of different factors, I encourage you to listen to the show starting later in June - as it will undergo a fairly heavy overhaul.

  • At 3:54 AM, Blogger Sam Healey said…

    Wow!! I guess this guy really doesn't like us very much...:)

    I'm the "snorty" friend that Tom and Joe have on their show every so often...my name is Sam Healey. I, too, tend to take criticism rather well, and welcome it. But quite frankly, I was rather insulted by this Doug's apparent disregard for Tom's feelings...and all that after listening to a grand total of TWO shows (out of over 40). Joe would probably just holler at you and be done with it, and the show isn't really my baby. But it most definitely is Tom's baby, and he puts a LOT of work into it. I know that since we air this show publically, we have to be open to public critique, and we are completely. However, there was entirely too much "mudslinging" in this post...especially since its author seems to be an opponent of said activity...and not enough constructive criticism. It seemed as though you were out to damage rather than build.

    Tom, Joe, and I are not LDS...not even close. We are Baptists, which, by the way, also disapprove of the theory of evolution, generally speaking. And Baptists also tend to have families as well...not to mention missionaries all over the world, too. I don't mean to sound rude here, but really, you should do your own homework before making such a remark. I mean, to say that you "know" we are LDS without actually knowing is rather foolish to say the least. Not that what our "religion" is should have any bearing on the quality, or lack thereof (depending on your point of view), of our boardgaming podcast. It sounded like you thought you had run into some more Mormons, with which you seem to have an axe to grind, and you wanted to let us have it. Whether that is the case or not, I know not. Furthermore, you assume because we announce our dislike of a game because of its evolutional theme that we are insecure. What kind of insecurity would you mean? That an evolutionally-themed boardgame might change my beliefs on the origin of the world? How absurd.

    At any rate, I would simply like to say that we try to have fun while recording the Dice Tower. Yes, we are concerned with quality and enjoyment for our listeners. And we most assuredly welcome all CONSTRUCTIVE criticisms that people wish to send us. But Tom said it very accurately here...we cannot please every one all the time. Should people wish to send remarks to me personally, my address is samuelhealey@gmail.com. Another poster here said it well, in that the boardgaming community is just that, a community...not a "pit fight for roosters". So, on that light note I will close this and say thank you for the criticism, and we shall endeavor to improve in the future.

    Until next time...Sam Healey.

  • At 5:20 AM, Blogger Melissa said…

    I think that one of the issues with podcasts is that people decide to start one, have a few good ideas, then fizzle out, or feel pressured to keep delivering.

    Unlike you, I enjoy BoardGameSpeak - although I enjoy it precisely because it is amateurish, chatty and casual.

    I have made some shorter voice posts at Gone Gaming (10-15 minutes each) - I don't call them podcasts because I don't want to feel like I have to do them regularly - and each has taken well over an hour to record and edit - at least twice that if I include preparation time. I have even re-recorded because I wasn't happy with something.

    I'm by no means an expert, but I do have a new appreciation for how difficult it is to record a post or podcast.

  • At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Jim Van Verth said…

    If you want a 30 minute podcast on boardgames, I'd recommend checking out Have Games, Will Travel or Boardgame Babylon.

    In defense of Tom and Joe, I think their show is one of the better organized ones out there -- it has a clear format (review, Moritz, Rick, Top Ten) and usually falls in at around 50-60 minutes. And I, at least, find it entertaining and informative even if I wince at the occasional mispronounciation or disagree with what is being said.

    One final note: I at one time thought it was easy to put together a podcast, and I too have radio and sound design experience. I discovered it's not easy. Like Melissa says, it's a lot of work. Sometimes, too much.

  • At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Joe Andrews said…

    As someone who is in radio, I have to chime in.

    Tom & Joe (& Sam) have something going here. It's called (gasp) good radio, and it's because their show is being debated here. The author of the post doesn't like it. Others responded. A debate ensued.

    That's good radio.

    The sophomoric humor, fights on the show about games, hit and miss reviews, reports from Moritz and Rick, top ten lists (that they themselves talk about as apples/oranges) each appeal to someone different. The fact that so many listen to a show like theirs about boardgames is incredible.

    If you haven't listened to their show, you owe it to yourself. If you don't like the show, turn it off. If you come here and say that you don't like the show, I chalk it up as good radio.

  • At 7:58 AM, Anonymous ed jamer said…

    "Good criticism, as has been pointed out in other comments, should improve what it critiques. That includes critiquing criticism, which is what you were doing, and thus you manage to critique yourself in the process!"

    Well said, though it makes me wonder if we aren't both providing poor criticsm. ;)

    Re-reading my comment, it came across as heavier than intended... but I'm pretty sure you took it with the intended grain of salt. (Notice my complete lack of a podcast, weblog, or any noticable contribution to the boardgaming hobby before thinking that I'm getting down on anyone.)

    One point that didn't come across well and deserves more emphasize is that there is an amazingly diverse audience out there. The points you dislike about podcast X might be the exact reason that I enjoy it (or that the creators enjoy when making the show).

    It's simply not possible to please everyone, and since most of this amateur media is being provided for free the producers really only have to ensure that *they* enjoy the end result. So I wonder how effective criticsm is in cases like this?

    While watching podcasts evolve and develop into better shows (as the better ones inevitably do) is always interesting, but sometimes if you are looking for different content you need to look elsewhere instead of trying to alter what already exists.

    For example: The Dice Tower is a showcase for Tom and Joe's personalities - because of that, I really doubt that this show will *ever* appeal to some people; BoardGameSpeak has changed and their format to focus around a discussion of a single game, but has received vocal criticsm in the process.


    Sorry this is so disjointed -- it's basically about 4 thoughts that rushed out at once when I didn't have enough time to edit or organize them... If this makes any sense at all, then hooray for stream-of-consciousness.

    If you decide to post a podcast talking about board games, then I look forward to hearing what you've got to say. And if you don't, then I look forward to continuing to read this blog.


  • At 10:52 AM, Blogger Chris Farrell said…

    I could live with at least some of the gaming podcasts' problems if they weren't so freaking long. As a consequence, I don't listen to any of them either. 60 minutes of my life for The Dice Tower or BoardGameSpeak? It's just not going to happen. My time is limited and I could listen to an NPR podcast (if I want content) or Ricky Gervais (if I want personality) or something else by someone who is a professional. Or I'll just listen to baseball.

    I think this ties in with my main frustration with a lot of gaming content, and that is that it seems that people quit gaming by the time they turn 30. I'd like to see more people who respect my limited time and diverse interests.

    My experience here is limited - I've only done a couple podcasts. But it seems to me that doing a good podcast is as hard as you want to make it. If you throw time at the problem, it'll be expensive. If you can stay focussed on reasonable objectives (as I think Scott does - although clearly I'm not in his target demographic, unfortunately), and give us twenty minutes of good content every other week, there is no reason that this can't be done with a reasonable investment.

    In the end, I think I like the idea of doing a podcast more than actually producing or listening to one. I can edit my blog to my heart's delight before posting it, and most of my posts do end up being heavily edited. With the podcast, though, editing is harder, and I probably lack the attention span to develop the skill set required.

  • At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Brett C said…


    I think you highlighted some valid criticism, but the conclusions you draw from these criticisms isn't credible.

    First, the idea that Rush Limbaugh is a prima facie example of "mudslinging" is just your highly underdeveloped opinion (as presented here). Ironically, you later criticize Tom and Joe for performing the same kind of analysis on boardgames, e.g. Joe just says a game is "too chaotic."

    I do agree that Joe's reviews aren't particularly qualitative. ALL of his reviews have this problem, but then you pick Evo and suggest his real problem with it is the evolution theme... even tho Joe specifically said it wasn't. So what's the real reason Joe likes/doesn't like all the other games he fails to qualitatively review? Are there unspoken religious conflicts with those too? How does the fact that Tom said he did like Evo impact your view of their alleged biases?

    I think your post is intended as a "hit piece." You glossed over the show's strengths (Moritz, Board Game News, the gamer types), highlighted some valid criticisms, then took them into bizarre directions culminating in a fatalistic "thumbs down."

    The problems with the show are fixable. I've listened to at least ten episodes of Dice Tower. It has grown much more sophomoric the past few episodes, but the hosts are always listening to feedback from their audience.

    For a casual gamer like myself, The Dice Tower is superior entertainment to something like Boardgames To Go. I love the idea that someone can talk about La Citta for two hours, but I can't get into it. DT is a little more varied with a mix of different things to appeal to someone who just wants to keep up on what's happening in boardgames.

  • At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kudos for Tom and Sam for listening to the feedback and their replies here. I for one appreciate their continual improvement of the show.


  • At 7:19 PM, Anonymous E.R. Burgess said…

    First off, I think both Dice Tower and Boardgame Speak are meant as entertainment, not "serious" game criticism. Although the opinions on the shows may seem slight compared to some of the blogs people talk about here, uh - dude, this is a radio show. The medium is completely different and both shows do a good job of producing a presentation that feels like drive-time radio - but with board games (well, maybe not the new BGS).

    That is one of the fundamental problems of some of the fussing here - if you think that these podcasts are trying to compete for your time spent reading blogs with pedantic analysis of board games, you are wrong. These shows are meant to be heard while you are commuting in your car or while washing dishes or finally painting the bathroom or whatever. They are not asking for "60 minutes of your life".

    I don't have the luxury of time to read many blogs, so I appreciate these shows. Those of you without a lengthy commute probably find less to like about the podcasts. Personally, I appreciate the contributions of all the podcasters - not least Tom and Joe, who put out a show like clockwork every week with some fun stuff, often a contest I can win, and some game news I can hear while I drive to work. If you prefer to spend this sort of time thoughtfully considering some recent blog chatter about the best opening moves in Age of Steam (or better yet, listening to content from "professionals" like Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern or David Lee Roth), you are certainly welcome to do so.

  • At 3:22 AM, Blogger Steadman said…


    So, my reviews are bad, my pronunciation of words is horrible, my humor is sophomoric, and my religious views are overwhelming? Thanks for all the great words…I will keep mine to myself.

    The show is supposed to be conversational light hearted. I will admit that our first 10 shows or so were a bit rough but in my opinion and about 2000 others we seem to be doing fine now. We hardly ever mention our faith and frankly it tells me a lot about you that you seemed to make this such a big part of your criticism.

    You going to Origins? I’d like to meet you face to face and share with you a bit more in detail about my thoughts… (don’t take that as a threat, I am a missionary after all)

  • At 4:22 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Somehow, the last comment I posted hasn't shown up. Probably too long.

    First of all, I am not critiquing individuals, I am critiquing podcasting personalities. When the REC light comes on, people are different than they are in real life. My rant was about the show and what's presented on it, I'm not making any attacks against the individuals involved.

    Second, I have made a couple of notes to the original blog entry, both additions and in italics. The first note, which I should have done right away (I forget we can edit after the fact) is to state that I was incorrect in assigning a specific faith to Tom, Joe, and Sam. I also apologize for the snippy comment about the Mormon faith, although to be fair it was accurate.

    The note at the end is to say that I was too harsh in tone. I tend to type as I think, and in this case I really should have let this post stew a while before posting. My bad, and I apologize for my heavy handedness. I didn't realize how harsh I had been until I went back and reread the entry. I still stand by the comments.

    Third, I want to be very clear about the comment involving religion. I am a big believer in the First Amendment, and that includes freedom of religion. My beef was that Joe chose to dislike a game because he didn't like the theme, and thus it was overrated. While Joe did say that there were other reasons, not a single one was given. Thus, I am left to believe that the only reason you felt the game was overrated was due to the theme not fitting in with your worldview. Personally, I find the idea of exploring a new land and exploiting the indigenous people's a pretty negative theme, and I nearly passed on El Caballero years ago because of it. However, I would hesitate to publicly state that the game was overrated because of this one element.

    That was it. That was the only reason religion got brought into it.

    Finally, it bears mentioning that anytime you put yourself out in the public eye, you become a legitimate target. That includes me, as we've seen from this thread. I'm fine with that, as I am with the Three Amigos defending themselves in this forum. If all this blog were here for was for the four of us to spout our opinions without feedback, it would be a waste of my time.

    And that, as they say, is that.


  • At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Timb said…

    I enjoyed reading your comments and all the debate it sparked.

    Personally, I love The Dice Tower. I've listened to every show and while some are better than others, (and the two you listened to were certainly not the best) I'm a fan.

    I agree with your statement that some of the reviews lack substance. I've said so to Tom and Joe in a few emails where I offered what I thought was constructive criticism on better ways to present an audio review.

    I'll take a moment to make a constructive criticism here and say that some of the remarks you made in your blog sounded to me like personal attacks on these guys. Perhaps you should consider these things more objectively in future entries. I think it makes you look a little petty to appear to attack people because you disagree with their tastes.

    Apparently, what you dislike about podcasts is exactly what I like. I love the way The Dice Tower sounds like a couple of guys who like games having a conversation about them. I've listen to just about every games related podcast and a few on other subjects too. What keeps me listening to an hour of Tom and Joe is the silly banter and the real life conversations that go on. By your comments I assume you would rather have more of an impersonal monologue than this. I find other shows like this dry and often boring. But, as several have stated here, that's just an opinion. I like The Dice Tower, so I listen each week. Feel free to not if you chose.

  • At 7:49 PM, Blogger Steadman said…


    My feelings on the game Evo have nothing to do with the theme (while I do admit not liking the theme). I made sure to be clear on that as I knew a few out there would “assume” my poor thoughts on the game were based in the who evolution thing. I could careless about the tacked on theme and play plenty of other games who’s theme would not necessarily lineup with my “worldview”. I think you were just looking for some more meat for your “Joe Rant” and built a case out of nothing.

    Sure I mispronounce words a lot, been doing that since age 3, sure I am an opinionated loud mouth at times, and sure I make fun of Euro-games and Euro-winnies at times… but I am who I am. :-)

  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger Sam Healey said…

    In defense of Joe, I don't see a problem with disliking a game because of it's theme. I can see your point of including the game on a specifically ordered list, thus setting it apart as overrated. But it's HIS list...if he thinks it's overrated for whatever reasons (however small or large), he can do that. Also, he did say, by your own admission, that there were other reasons. To, in effect, disregard that statement, and assume that there are no other reasons for his thoughts just because he doesn't mention them is adolescent at best. It is his burden to supply the public with his own reasonings, but to assume that they don't exist after he said that they do is illogical. Isn't it completely possible that there were too many to cover in the allotted time?

    Furthermore, you chose a very personal avenue with which you attacked amatuer "podcasting personalities" in general. Let me first say that, in my opinion, this is a semantical difference, and nothing more. When you attack a "PERSONality", you are indeed attacking the person which conveys that personality. That was your first mistake, if indeed you did not intend a personal attack on any of the three of us. For example, how was calling Joe "Mr. Cranky Guy" (however truthful or not the statement may be) an attack on podcasting personalities in general? Is there a mass of cranky podcast personalities out there? If you wanted to simply give an example of your thoughts on cranky amatuer podcasting personalities, you could have simply said, "Go listen to Podcast XYZ for an example of what I am talking about," and then move on. There was no need whatsoever to specifically name any one person unless you were looking to bash any one person.

    I completely understand your situation of not re-reading your post before clicking the post button. I've done that many times myself, as we all have more than likely. However, had you re-read your post, you probably would have noticed just how weak and inductive your reasoning turned out. Do you realize that you passed judgement on The Dice Tower after listening to a whopping 4% (2 episodes) of the total podcasts available (45 episodes)? That would be like walking into a Super Wal-Mart, surveying one or two aisles, walking out, and finally coming to the conclusion that they don't carry the product for which you were looking!

    Anyway, I think I can safely say for all three of us that your apologies, where given, are definitely accepted. I think I can also say that we encourage criticism of our show...it's what ultimately makes the show better. We just simply ask that one puts a little more effort into making the criticism both valid and constructive. All three of us consider the hatchet buried, so to speak. And I am refreshed that you did take the time to respond to our comments and others, rather than simply sitting back, and watching the flame-war rage. I also would like to say that I have read through some of your material here on your blog, and it seems that you have some quality work. So, I would wish you the best in your endeavors.

    Until next time...Sam.

  • At 1:36 AM, Anonymous 100%Blade said…

    Sam said "Do you realize that you passed judgement on The Dice Tower after listening to a whopping 4% (2 episodes) of the total podcasts available (45 episodes)?"

    I think listening to two epsiodes is legitimate to have an opinion on the DiceTower itself (although some of the criticism became a bit personal). How many times did, for example, Joe play Evo - or Tom play Paths of Glory - before giving their opinion?

    I've listened to all the episodes but my view hasn't changed much over that time. If anything I am finding it a bit tedious and repetitive simply because of the formulaic approach.

    An interesting discussion though and one that was probably inevitable at some point.

  • At 3:50 AM, Blogger Rick said…

    I think there were two key points made here. Scott talked about focus for media. TDT's focus is for gamer geeks. Any non-gamer attempting to listen in will be totally and completely lost in the sea of game titles that Tom, Joe and Sam toss out there each week. Eric noted that TDT is entertainment. I have to agree.

    I've listened to every single show of Geekspeak, BGTG, TDT, HGWT and BGB (I have a very long commute). TDT definitely falls into the entertainment category, rather than the information category. This changed a bit when Thornquist and Eggert started contributing, but the majority of the time is spent kidding around about games on the Top 10 lists.

    Of all the boardgame podcasts, TDT is probably the least sophisticated and informative. I don't think Tom and Joe ever presented themselves as anything but amateurs doing this for fun - that IS the spirit of podcasting. Anyone can grab a $2 mike, download Audacity, record into mp3 and post it on the web via libsyn.

    As for sophomoric humor, I understand many Americans enjoy Jerry Springer, so what's new?

    TDT has its niche, and it has its audience. That's all any audio-based media needs.

  • At 5:23 AM, Blogger Sam Healey said…


    Playing a game, and getting the full feel for a podcast or radio show are two completely different things.

    When you play a game, you read the rulebook, maybe even stumble through a "learning game", and then play it again "for real"...at least that has been my experience since I've been playing games. That would make it at least three times, generally speaking, that one would go over the game mechanics and what-not. I don't know how many times either Tom or Joe played those games respectively, but I would say that it doesn't really matter, because your logic on this point is fallacious. Getting the feel for a game is much more simple than getting the feel for a radio show or other audio media. I will say that one could realize in the first 20 minutes of a show that it isn't for them, or they just don't like it...and that's fine. But something like that isn't justification for the personal barrage that was fired at The Dice Tower.

    Until next time...Sam.

  • At 6:00 AM, Anonymous 100%Blade said…

    I maintain that a couple of listens is enough to form an opinion (particularly where the Dice Tower is concerned where the episodes are very similar) and getting the feel for a game such as Paths of Glory is certainly not simpler than getting the feel for a radio show.

    I do agree however that that some of the criticism that was levelled was personal and not necessary.

    One thing I do agree with the original article though surrounds the quality of the reviews on the show. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard the line "go buy this game because, well it's just a great game, what more can I say"

    There is obviously a market out there for this type of show - at the moment it even includes me although I suspect that as more gaming podcasts become available I will spend my limited time listening to ones that more suit my own tastes.

  • At 4:55 PM, Blogger Sam Healey said…

    I think I agreed with the forming an opinion aspect, but what Dug did was much more than just forming an opinion...and I think you agreed with that, too. Forming an opinion, in my estimation is simply saying, "I like it," OR "I don't like it." I think we both agree, as would Dug, I believe, that he went much further than that. So, I believe we are in agreement here.

    However, your assumption at the end of your message that you would move on to another podcast as more became available also assumes that The Dice Tower isn't going to improve...give us a chance, here :). And I know that you are already a listener, which I entirely appreciate. Just don't count us out prematurely. :) If I may ask, though, what are some things that you would like to see on the show? Are there any particular kinds of segments that you think would be interesting? Let me know at samuelhealey@gmail.com, or let Tom know at tomvasel@gmail.com, or Joe at joesteadman@gmail.com...and thanks again for listening.

    Until next time...Sam.

  • At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Doug's use of the word "target" as referring to Joe and Tom, accurately sets forth his pre-conceived mindset on his rant about TheDicetower. He already has a preconceived notion about the Dicetower. "Let no one dissuade me with the facts!" Doug is an engineer? Come on Doug, you are supposed to look at the facts then evaluate the facts and then come to a conclusion. Listening to 2% of the podcasts has caused you to misidentify their religion, cast dispersions on their character and badmouthed them to the web public. Some engineer you are! Remind me not to use any products you engineer!! It is a fun-to-listen to-show, informative and entertaining.

  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger OldLarue said…

    I enjoy The Dice Tower. I look forward to listening. I enjoy the banter. Tom, Joe and Sam sound like a group of good friends talking about games. The show is relaxed, and sometimes pretty funny. Despite the casual atmosphere they stay on topic and progress through a respectable amount of information in each episode. I've learned about a lot of games by listening, and have bought a few because of what I've heard on the show...Dungeon Twister and Formula De Mini come to mind. I've not been disappointed. I look forward to the next Dice Tower, and at the same time I doubt I'll have occasion to visit this blog again. Tom S.

  • At 2:50 AM, Anonymous bazik said…

    aren't podcasts like these a form of a live radio show more than anything else? that invalidates (imo) most of the criticism here as it feels like its authors decide 'i have 1 hour of free time, what should i do, hmmm listen to diceTower'. i listen to diceTower driving to work, as it's 1000x more fun then browsing through radio stations dodging politicians speak, and my favourite way to listen is actually while watching champions league :-) the soccer games themselves are fun, but the people commenting in both the stations i watch are not

  • At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Steve said…

    I think the proof that The Dice Tower is a good show is finding out about this blog from their show. Lots of people would ignore the critics and certainly not mention them "on air".
    The fact that they've read your comments and responded speaks volumes about their integrity and their interest in making their podcast even better.


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