After the astronomic growth and resounding success of Dice Tower Con, The Dice Tower has decided to change the convention so that the team has more creative control and direction in running the event. In a live Q&A Session on The Dice Tower channel, Tom detailed the planned changes.
Dice Tower East will be shrinking in size to accommodate around 1800 people (subject to change depending on room available at the venue). The Florida Hotel, part of The Florida Mall, will serve as the new venue. It’s just off the turnpike in Orlando, very near the airport, and will retain the same event dates over the July 4th week. Several rooms will be available for Open Gaming (four ballrooms and a few smaller rooms). There are still plans to have a vendor presence there, though it may not be as big as in the past due to space limitations, as well as a Kids Area, Hot Games Area, and flea markets. Food options are abundant, with the venue being part of a mall, and parking will not be an issue either.
With The Dice Tower team in control of all four of their events, Dice Tower East, Dice Tower West, Dice Tower Retreat, and Dice Tower Cruise, it means that The Dice Tower library will be consistent at the different events they will run. There are some logistical issues to handle in order to make this possible but that is their plans. Plans are also afoot to double the current Dice Tower library catalog. Tom will continue to curate the library and will be working with publishers and accessory companies with the goal of making it the best board game library in the world.
Official Dice Tower events will also be reduced so that The Dice Tower team are more available to play games with. This means that The Dice Tower Awards will also be pulled from the convention and be run online so that the focus of the event can be on gaming. There will still be game shows, Pitch Car Tournaments, and plans for the return of Wits & Wagers.
The real magic that makes the new Above Board television show
special is the cast. The dozen or so actors in Above Board clearly have a
special knowledge of sketch comedy, and all work together beautifully, playing
off of each other in a natural manner. While attending the studio filming, I
was able to speak to each cast member and get their take on the show, board
games, and the community at large.
The production creates a “meta of the show” with actors
using their real names and often their real jobs. You get to know the
characters they portray, from the picked-on intern Curtiss, to psychotic Kurt
the Sound Guy, and Brett the hopeless, possibly homeless, victim of destiny.
Ideas, gags, and characters come around a second and third time, creating
inside jokes that make the viewer feel like they are part of this hysterical,
Producer/Writer/Director Travis Oates was the owner and
teacher at the ACME Comedy Theater in
L.A., where he trained most of the cast of Above Board in sketch and improv
comedy. He was host of Arena
on G4, director of Don’t Blink
(2014), and has been the official voice of Piglet for Disney for more than 15 years. Travis’
natural comfort in front of the camera and finely honed comedic timing and wit are
what make this show special. He is also a true board game connoisseur (read: junkie).
His personal collection of games is immense, and many of the cast have ridiculed
his Kickstarter addiction. In fact,
a compilation video of Travis wandering conventions, continually stating “I
Kickstarted that” is rumored to exist. Curtiss Frisle commented that
“Travis can swim in a pile of games like Scrooge McDuck”.
Gantvoort is the perfect straight man to Travis Oates’ sarcastic prodding
and taunting, and the two are a natural hosting pair. Leif has known Travis for
decades and directed at ACME. His on
screen innocence from the hobby is an act, as Leif was getting into gaming well
before production on the show started. However, Leif did express surprise at the
sheer scope he witnessed during his trip to GenCon.
In fact, while “researching” titles in the show, his personal collection increased
significantly, including favorites Twilight
Imperium and Heroes of
Land, Sea & Air. Plus, Leif killed Uncle Ben.
Like most of the cast, Kim Evey, along with her better
half Greg Benson, were with
Travis at ACME. The two of them
worked on the comedy web series The Guild,
as well as behind the scenes at the nerd vacation JoCo Cruise. Between these projects, the
couple was in touch with the gamer community and fully knew what they were
getting in to, although they consider themselves “gamer adjacent”. Kim admits
that one of the better perks of the production was the necessity of “playing in
depth games for research”. Greg does recall Quarto as being one of his
favorite games from ages past. Greg plays a hyperbolic game show host who
bursts in during competitions between the hosts, perfectly mediating metaphorical
battles to the death. Kim’s segments add a bubbly, delightful innocence and
energy to the show, although her more evil intelligent side does show through –
most notably when she makes short work of YouTube celebrity guest Chaz Marler. Charlie,
3 years old but instrumental behind the scenes of Above Board, lists Snug as a
Bug in a Rug as a favorite to play with parents Greg and Kim.
really is the sound guy when on location, but he steals the show as Kurt the
Sound Guy. Large and imposing, Kurt the Sound Guy doesn’t say much, but what he
does say touches your brain in a way that makes you innately uncomfortable. In
real life, Kurt is a delight who has been playing RPGs, Warhammer 40K,
and Star Fleet
Battles forever. Kurt said of the community around board gaming, “You can’t
be an ass and expect to be invited back”. Similarly, Curtiss Frisle embodies the simple,
naïve Curtiss the Intern, who takes constant physical and mental punishment
from the hosts, yet always runs back, just excited to be there. Curtiss acted
in Travis’ feature film Don’t
Blink (2014), and identifies himself as more of a video gamer than a board
gamer. However, constant exposure during filming has made Curtiss a fan of Star Realms, Zombicide:
Black Plague and Heroes of
Land Sea & Air.
Spillane tends to burst in unannounced to “Spillane it to you”, laughably
botching board game definitions or terms, much to the delight of Travis and annoyance of Leif. Brian portrays the kind,
but completely lost and out of his element, wannabe expert. Spillane admits to
not being much of a gamer prior to Above Board, but has since
fallen in love with classics such as Orleans, Mysterium and Terraforming
plays a perpetually angry, intense correspondent, whose ranting screams brought
the audience to tears several times. A veteran actor of 25 years, Dan lists Game
the Game on Geek and Sundry among
his many roles. Dan has been playing RPGs forever, attending NecronomiCon on a regular
basis, and was well versed in board games before production on Above Board. Dan
remembers playing Dead
of Winter preparing for the show, although he admits he is always the traitor.
His favorite game of late is Pandemic.
dominates her scenes, often in an appropriate barbarian outfit, intimidating
the hosts and exploding with gaming excitement. She also brings a musical
element to the show, singing amazing board game song parodies. Beth commented
that the show is “not being faked. [There is a] legitimate gaming community in
this group”. Games were relatively new to Beth, but during the production she
learned about the titles, many of which she now plays with her kids.
Sheridan portrays an innocent who through the hosts’ pranks or simple fate,
seems to constantly run into bad luck. Brett might live in his car, may be wounded
or trapped, but always steals the audience’s heart and sympathy. A long term ACME veteran, Brett acted on The Guild with Greg and Kim. Games were relatively new
to Brett before the show, but now “family time has increased since getting into
games”, and games have become a necessary way to unplug.
also plays many roles on Above Board, starring in varied sketches, and brings a
humorous intensity to his segments. Miles is a veteran actor who trained at ACME with Travis, and although he played
some RPGs as a kid, board games are a relatively new world for him.
It is obvious watching the cast at work that they enjoy what
they do, they enjoy working together, and this bursts through in the final
product. Miles Grose best
summarized the passion behind Above
Board: “When you have a pitch, [you have to think] not only is it a good
idea, but are you the right person to
pitch it? Travis is the
Last week, I had the great opportunity to visit the set for the upcoming television show Above Board. The brain child of Travis Oates, Above Board is a lifestyle comedy show celebrating our little corner of the vast nerd multiverse – board games, role playing games and collectible card games. The show combines inside jokes about modern board games with tongue in cheek interviews and smart comedy. Above Board will not feature play through videos or reviews, preferring to leave that angle to the people who already do it well – the YouTube personalities we all know and love. (But look for YouTube celebrity cameos). In this article I will review the various segments featured on the show.
shines due to its roots in improv sketch comedy. Travis was the owner of the ACME Comedy Theater in L.A. in the
2000s, and most of the cast and crew has previously worked with Travis and with
each other through ACME. Everybody on the show has practiced humor, enthusiasm,
and charisma that comes from a shared experience in live improv. A majority of
the show involves smart banter between the hosts: board game savvy Travis Oates, and the more
refined, board game innocent straight man Leif Gantvoort. The humor
shines through as Travis continually lies, cheats, and steals in order to
embarrass and one-up Leif.
Each show spotlights
three board games, beauty shot in a dynamic, close camera fly-by of the board
and components (lens flare included). This “car commercial style” has witty
narration and ends with a great list of the proper player qualifications for
the game. These back of the box “badges” go above and beyond the classic “age 8
and up” in truly surprising ways – think “appropriate for cube fetishists”.
interspersed in the show allow the rest of the talented cast to shine. Quick Picks has a cast member creating
a crazy top 5 list, such as “board games I cannot pronounce”. Retro Spectrum presents an entire line
of games, with every version and expansion listed and duly noted. Let Me Spillane It To You features
Brian Spillane confidently explaining a board game concept completely wrong. Versus pits two cast members against
each other, debating which of two completely unrelated games is superior, often
leading to hysterical comparisons – imagine “Gloom vs. Gloomhaven”. Lights
and alarms announce surprise game show type competitions between the hosts
(usually rigged by Travis) involving crazy tasks. And the frosting on the cake
is that our own Tom
Vasel does a regular Top Ten List,
themed but with surprise twists.
segments are also an important part of the show. Visits to board game
conventions, component factories, and field reporter interviews are reminiscent
of The Daily
Show or Top Gear. The cast made
pilgrimages to both Essen Spiel and
GenCon, and the footage and interviews
from these huge conventions is priceless. Ludicrous historical newsreels show
imagined origins of classic games, and fake commercials for our well known
maladies, such as Analysis Paralysis, had the audience in stitches. Role
Playing segments feature cast members arguing inane points, then transitioning
to the miniatures on the table, having the actual fantasy characters continue
the arguments to great effect.
initially worried that a television show about board games might take the low
road, bashing the eccentric uniqueness of our passion for a cheap laugh, or the
opposite and turn into a bland reference documentary. The show consistently exceeded
my expectations, balancing smart inside jokes and skits with informed knowledge
about the games we love. Above all, the comedy shines through, crafted by a
cast well versed in timing, surprise, pathos and satire. I, for one, am looking
forward to Above Board and
cannot wait for its release.
Dice Tower News has previously reported about a board game television show in production- namely Above Board, created by actor/producer/director Travis Oates. The show will combine intelligent journalistic humor (think Daily Show or Last Week Tonight) with sketch comedy and features all the inside jokes and strange personalities that make our industry so special. Segments of the show are filmed with a live studio audience, and the Dice Tower community (that’s you, guys) is being given advance notice to become a part of history. If you are going to be in the Los Angeles area on May 1-3, you can be part of the audience for the next 6 episodes of Above Board. Just to sweeten the pot a bit, there will be game giveaways, food and general frivolity. Rumor has it that our own Tom Vasel may be present, as well as other surprise guests..
All the details are in the call for audience members below, so make sure to hit that phone hotline – I’m sure the show will fill up soon.
Board game enthusiasts rejoice, for we will likely have a main stream television show all to our own. Producer/Director/Actor Travis Oates has been sneaking around behind the scenes for the past 9 months creating a television series called Above Board, targeted to hit one of the popular streaming services we all love so well. According to Travis (who, by the way, is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met), the show has elements of the popular car show Top Gear, combining real love of board games with comedic parody, and Daily Show type tongue-in-cheek interviews. Already included in the show are board game designers Jamey Stegmaier, Stefan Feld, and Dr. Reiner Knizia, companies like Broken Token, publishers Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games and Paul Saxberg from Roxely Game Laboratories. But wait, there’s more – celebrity guests, and a regular segment by our own Tom Vasel. Six episodes are under construction now, hopefully with many more planned. I was lucky enough to screen some clips, and found the humor witty and sarcastic without dumbing down the content. Keep an eye out for this exciting initial foray of our hobby into mainstream media.
Games ran a contest from October 1st, 2018 to January 15th,
2019 where contestants could submit a trickshot video for ICECOOL
to win a two-person trip to visit real penguins in Antarctica. The contest received 262 entries from 27
territories, with South Korea submitting the most entries with 86 followed by
USA with 65 entries. Serving on the
global judge’s panel was Dice Tower’s own Tom Vasel, Joachim Ulbrich (Amigo
Spiele CEO), and Egils Grasmanis (Brain Games CEO). There were some amazing submissions and each
region had their own assortment of prizes.
The grand prize-winning contestant submitted a skillful and creative
musical trickshot. Check out the winning video and all the other submissions at
2019 marks the 15th season for The Dice Tower and it’s network of gaming reviews, news, and convention coverage. The Dice Tower has grown each year to bring more content at increasing quality, but only due to the generosity of you – all of our viewers and readers! It is because of you that we are able to do what we love and give as much as we can back to the community. So it is once again time that we humbly ask for your support with the 2019 fundraising campaign.
Like the previous campaigns, this fundraiser is full of incentives ranging from gaming gear, exclusive Dice Tower products, and promos. There are decals, pins, coasters, tokens, card sleeves, component storage bins, games bags, dice pouches, and of course, dice towers. Returning in the fundraiser are dice, including a metal pair, with the Dice Tower logo. Promos for some of the hottest games of 2017 including Champions of Midgard: Valhalla, Bunny Kingdom, Onitama, Time of Legends:Joan of Arc, Fireball Island, Alien Artifacts, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Flamme Rouge, Spyfall, Suburbia, Roll Player, and so much more!
Video credits, custom voicemails, and even a custom video just for you are a couple of the unique perks to pledge. There is even an opportunity to share a meal with the Dice Tower crew at one of the conventions or to come spend a day of gaming at with the Dice Tower crew at Mac & Cheese, a gaming cafe.
There is always the option to donate however much you want regardless of perks, as any and all support is greatly appreciated. If you’ve ever benefited from a review, preview, top 10 list, news article, or convention coverage, please consider supporting this Kickstarter campaign. On behalf of all of us in the Dice Tower Network, we value your many years of viewership and patronage, and we hope to continue serving you great content in the years to come. Thank you!
Pitchcar is a very popular dexterity game and one of Tom Vasel’s favorite, so much so that he has a “World Championship” every year at Dice Tower Con. There have been several expansions for the game already adding in things like long straight aways, ramps, hazards, race track crossings, and more. But they haven’t been able to add one thing to the game yet, and that is a full 360 degree loop, that is, until now. Pitchcar Expansion #7 finally brings in the loop, using a specially made flexible material that allows not only standard loops, but loops that turn 90 degree, loops that come back in the same direction you went in, and even a corkscrew. This will add a whole new dimension to your Pitchcar races so you will want to grab it while you can.
A pledge for a single loop will run you $52 plus shipping, but order two and you get a discount with the pair only costing $99 plus shipping. You also have the option to add on some other items like additional cars, slide powder to reduce track friction, 1 meter of foam rail, and the epsilon pieces. The foam rail is special because it is sticky on one side and is meant to be put anywhere on the track, allowing for you to customize your guardrails for even more variability. And the epsilon pieces add in yet another feature to the track, and that is the ability to split the track into two and then merge it back into one. So if you want even more crazy combos out of your Pitchcar set, check out this Kickstarter today.
Project: ELITE is a fast-paced cooperative board game for 1 to 6 players who take on the role of members of an ELITE squad recruited to stop an invading alien force. Featuring the frantic real-time action of the critically-acclaimed original this edition re-imagines Project: ELITE with vivid new art and amazing miniatures. In each Mission, you will have rounds of 2 minutes before the window of operations closes and time runs out!
Want to see it in action before committing? Tom, Zee, and Sam have already posted a few live play-throughs of the new CMON version of the game. After you check those videos out, head over to the Kickstarter page to learn more about CMON’s latest big box Kickstarter and see if you and your ELITE squad has what it takes to stop the alien invasion.
That’s right folks, the Dice Tower Live Gaming Marathon has officially launched and will going on until 2pm on Friday the 12th. You will be able to watch the Dice Tower crew with special guests play through a whole bunch of different games into and out of the wee hours of the morning. Some of the highlights include Grimm Forest, Near and Far, Pie Town and more. But even more amazing is that they will be doing contests live throughout the marathon, but you have to be watching because the contest will be announced, and concluded within the live stream. So pull up a chair and have fun watching ‘da crew play all the latest and fun games. (Click here for a full list of links)!