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Cardboard Children: Tom Vasel

Hello youse.

You might remember that a few months ago, I wrote about Tom Vasel and his wee boy Jack. Jack was born prematurely and had a real fight to endure – sadly, this week, Jack lost that fight. As a father myself, I can’t imagine what Tom Vasel’s going through right now. It’s been great to see the board game community rallying round the big man and trying to do something to help.

For those who don’t remember me mentioning this before, I should explain who Tom Vasel is. Put simply, Tom Vasel is probably the most important voice in tabletop gaming today. His Dice Tower video review series, and Dice Tower podcast, are simply the best boardgames coverage on the internet. Tom films his reviews from his home, and often features his kids in the videos. He’s enthusiastic, funny, charming, and entertaining. He’s a good guy.

How I feel about this has got me thinking about the whole “making stuff for the net” thing. It definitely brings us all closer, doesn’t it? The internet still feels like our thing, a thing that hasn’t quite been sullied by corporate media yet, not completely. The internet still feels like a thing that we get and “they” don’t quite understand. So, when Tom Vasel does his videos from a room in his house, with his beautiful kids, it feels like we have a far more personal relationship with him. It’s real. We can comment on those videos. We can ask questions and get replies. We can say thanks.

I’ve noticed it myself. When someone recognises me from one of my TV shows, and comes up to say hello, there’s always a feel of “hey, there’s that guy off the telly” about it. There’s an awkwardness, maybe. A sense of distance. They only recognise me. They don’t know me. But if someone who’s seen some of my online stuff comes over to say hello, a Consolevania viewer maybe, then it’s different. It’s warmer. It’s more real. They probably do know me. They’ve seen stuff I’ve filmed at home, with no make-up, probably hungover. They’ll have heard me do jokes I now regret, and express opinions I now no longer hold. And we’ll share a passion for video games. We’re on the same wavelength. So it’s different. It’s like we’re friends who haven’t met.

That’s how I feel about Tom Vasel. That’s how a lot of us who are into the board gaming scene feel about Tom. Take the whole BoardGameGeek/Fortress: Ameritrash thing, for example. Two different board game websites, constantly at odds with each other. (On the Fortress: Ameritrash forum, BoardGameGeek is referred to as TOS. That Other Site.) These sites are like rival factions in the board game community. BGG for the Eurogamers and bores, F:AT for the fun guys, the trashers. The common bond is Vasel. We all love Vasel. He’s an Ameritrasher at heart, but he loves an elegant Euro design. We all want him on our team. You can’t fail to love a guy who sometimes sums up his reasons for loving a game with a grin and a simple “It’s just fun!”

Anyway, over on BGG there’s a big auction to raise some money for Tom. You can take part here – http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/63654/i-need-to-do-something-a-jack-vasel-auction/ It’s an amazing thing, with some incredible stuff being offered. There’s a guy offering to pro-paint 12 board game minis of your choice. Another guy is offering to custom design and produce a board game on a theme of your choice. Game publishers are getting in on it, too, offering signed first editions of games. It’s crazy. And beautiful. It’s the internet at its best. Go on over and check it out. Buy something. I certainly will.

And listen, I’m handing my column over to Tom for the day. Watch some videos. Watch his Top 10 board games. See how it’s done. He’s the reason I did my Downtime Town board game videos back in the day. I thought “Can I do it better than Tom Vasel?” I couldn’t.

He’s the boss.

Thanks, Tom. My thoughts are with you and yours.

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Robert Florence

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