tom vasel

Tickets for Dice Tower East are on sale now! The tickets went up for sale on October 8th at 12pm EST and are selling briskly, so you do not want to miss out!

Next year’s convention will be the first run in Orlando exclusively by the Dice Tower. There are approximately 1800 tickets available for the event. By comparison, this year’s Florida convention had over 3000 tickets sold, so the upcoming East convention will be a bit smaller and more intimate than the one held in 2019. The event dates (around July 4th week) will remain the same as in previous years.

The 2020 convention is being held in a different hotel than in previous years, The Florida Hotel (check out the link here for photos and other information on the hotel.) The hotel is very close to the Orlando airport.

If nothing else, you surely want to investigate the Dice Tower library, right? Tom has been adding to the library to ensure it is one of the best gaming libraries in existence. One of the reasons that the number of tickets being sold was lowered is so that the emphasis of the convention will be on gaming – hopefully with more of the Dice Tower crew.

Please come and join in the fun! We would love to see you there!

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.

Registrations will open on October 2nd, 2019. For more information, watch Tom’s Q&A Session on The Dice Tower channel.

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, dysfunctional family.

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”.

Leif 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.

Kurt Engstrom 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.

Brian 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 Mars.

Dan Billet 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.

Beth Leckbee 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. 

Brett 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.

Pauline Yasuda plays a disaffected, emo correspondent, laughably despondent in her many roles in the show. She calls her trip to Essen “very intense”, its mere size and scope a real eye opener. Pauline has since fallen in love with games Dead of Winter and Trekking the National Parks.

Miles Grose 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 right person”.

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.

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”.

Live skits 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.

Pre-recorded 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.

I was 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.

Brain 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.

Here’s your chance to own and play what Tom Vasel has been calling one of his favorite games of all time. Project: ELITE is getting the deluxe CMON treatment with a completely revamped production.

Now live on Kickstarter,

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.