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 – 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.


  1. AiglosCelt says:

    I’m convinced Tom is the nicest person on the internet. The worst things seem to happen to the best people >:

  2. Temple to Tei says:

    Yeah, dumb to feel close to someone you only see on the internet, but damn.

    I never know what to do or say in person at a time like this that doesn’t seem trite.
    Worse on the internet.
    Damn. Liked him, liked his reviews would not wish this on anyone.

  3. JackShandy says:

    I just heard about Yomi through Tom vasel, and I’ve been playing it constantly since. The last I’d heard Jack was still in hospital, I hadn’t seen the news until this column. This is heartbreaking.

  4. Curvespace says:

    Really sad news :(

    Seems like a good time to say ‘thanks’ for the Cardboard Children series. I’ve got a few friends who’d have not touched a boardgame were it not for these posts. They are now addicted and need no convincing to spend an evening playing something. Much appreciated! :)

  5. Dominic White says:

    Tragic. There really is no justice in this world.

    And as others have said, and will continue to say, thanks for Downtimetown and Cardboard Children. You’ve introduced me to a whole new range of ways to fritter away my precious free time, and have fun doing so.

    Hats off to you and Tom.

  6. pkt-zer0 says:

    I thought “Can I do it better than Tom Vasel?” I couldn’t.

    Can’t agree on that part.

  7. Martha Stuart says:

    You are a King among pawns, Tom!! Are thoughts are with you!!

  8. Swanky says:

    Damn, that’s horrible news. I still haven’t bought that many board games but I enjoy both Tom’s and Rob’s reviews because it’s just fun to watch people talk about something they love. Tom’s family often feature in his vids, so it’s all the more gutting to hear about his son. Really sad.

  9. The Great Wayne says:

    There are no words to properly explain or comfort the loss of a child.

    For all that it’s worth, my deepest condolences to Tom and his family. Witnessing nice people going through hard times always leave a bitter taste, thinking about it.

    Also, Rob, I tip my hat to you sir. You bring honour to the geek community. Keep it up.

  10. adonf says:

    This is very sad. There seems to be a lot of love in his family. Having a baby daughter myself, I was really touched by how his daughters seemed to enjoy being in these videos with him. A good man, without any doubt.

    Ok sorry about that, now back to being an ass on the internets.

  11. The Hammer says:

    Very sad news. Hope he and his family get through everything OK.

  12. JFS says:

    Real men play boardgames and support Tom Vasel. The world isn’t nice sometimes.

  13. AnakinOU says:

    Yeah, Tom’s a great guy. Please keep him in your prayers…

    Here’s his post about Jack over at BGG – link to

    A “geeklist” in memory of Jack – link to

    And an auction, with all proceeds going to the Vasels – link to

  14. McDan says:

    He is the boss, thoughts are with you Tom.

  15. President Weasel says:

    That is a damn shame. He seems such a genuinely nice guy from the stuff he’s done that I’ve seen.
    Not that you’d want that to happen to anyone.

  16. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I’m proud to say that I’ve got stuff in that auction!

    It’s been awesome watching things escalate – when I got in, it was just some collectors, and some people with some nice rare stuff (Not me – I just put up one of my favorites). Then Kovalic popped in and started to offer things like Munchkin:Zombie drawings, and a custom munchkin card, then SJ games posted some stuff, and it’s just steamrolled.

  17. Tatourmi says:

    Well, maybe I am the only one here that does not like his work and his reviews at all. Guess it is not the good time though.

  18. frags says:

    Oh, I feel sorry for his loss. No wonder he hasn’t posted any videos for a while now. Amazing guy, with a bunch of awesome kids.

  19. Eric says:

    I’ve only recently become familiar with Tom’s work (partly through RPS), but everything I’ve seen has been just top notch.

    So sorry to hear about his loss.

    If you end up at this thread, Tom, thank you so much for sharing your love of games and your family with us. I hope we’re able to help give back even a little of what you’ve given us.

  20. Daiv says:

    Great videos, if only it wasn’t something so tragic that brought them to my attention.

  21. adonf says:

    Oh, Heroscape is number two *and* number one! I had a question about Heroscape back in November but I posted it weeks after the article was published and didn’t get any answers, so let me re-post it:

    Any recommendations as to what constitutes a good starter kit for Heroscape ? From what I gathered there are 3 master sets set in the main world and one in the D&D world (Wait, D&D has a game world now ? It’s not just vanilla fantasy ???) and one in the Marvel super heroes world.
    The ‘main world’ master set 1 has plenty of stuff but I’m not sure if it’s still available, even before WOTC discontinued the game. Master sets 2 & 3 look rather empty in comparison but I may be completely wrong on that.
    The D&D master set seems like a good alternative and the Marvel set has no appeal to me.
    So, any suggestions ?
    Also everyone who’s remotely interested in this needs to watch Tom Vasel ‘s five Heroscape review videos on
    Also this article is two week old an no one’s going to see this post.

    Shouldn’t we say “Disney super heroes” anyways ?

    • Reapy says:

      Hey, this might be late again for your question but I’ll try to answer anyway.

      Well first off the best source for heroscape stuff is so you will probably get a much more thorough response over there.

      I got heroscape late, but not as late as it is now, but I still managed to find the 1st rise of the Valkyrie master set for 25 bucks, so I got that to start, loved it, and bought 1 more rotv for terrain and got the set 2, swarm of the marrow set in addition.

      I like ROTV a little better than SOTM because its got a pretty good variety of units and a little bit more terrain than SOTM. Either master set is good to start with, but I kinda liked the wide variety of rise. The one thing rise lacks I think is a bunch of common units and it is more heavy on hero types.

      I don’t have the d&d heroscape set, but that would be the easiest to find, but I think it isn’t really 100% in the spirit of heroscape ‘classic’.

      Breaking it down though you probably want, in order of map building importance:
      -1+ master set(s)
      -2 road to forgotton forest sets
      -1 jungle set
      -1 fortress set

      For most of the great tournament maps you can find on heroscapers, you will need at least 2 road sets to make them. I don’t have a jungle set, but just got a fortress set. There are a lot of maps I can’t build due to not having the jungle set.

      Finally the main thing you want is terrain + figures you like. At the end of the day there are tons of pretty easy methods to construct your own new or proxy terrain pieces. All of the game unit cards are available on heroscapers, and there are threads going that give you alternative proxy mini’s to use in place of heroscape now that it’s been canceled.

      Anyway good luck, it’s a freaken great game and worth the trouble to find everything (though I guess for me the part I liked was that it WAS inexpensive to boot).

  22. Sic says:

    Those last couple of minutes of the last video was a bit hard to watch.

  23. Tetragrammaton says:

    Poor guy. It really is heartening to see the community get behind him in such a way though – lord knows he deserves it.

  24. thebigJ_A says:

    I was just watching some of the videos on Dice Tower, and there were some vids about some wargames.

    This made me think of something. I’m not a board-gamer or a war-gamer. I am, however, a huge history buff, especially military history (especially especially Napoleonic military history, but that’s neither here nor there). It’s one of few things I hold in common with my father.

    I got to thinking, since we both love that kind of stuff so much, perhaps playing a wargame would be a cool way to spend some time with my old man (who also has never, to my knowledge, played such a game).

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a newb-friendly, but interesting, 2 player wargame that might work for that purpose?

    • frags says:

      Oh gosh. Tom would definitely say this(and I would agree). Memoir 44. It’s not that wargamey, but very easy to pick up and play.

  25. MadTinkerer says:

    Man, that last video is a real tear-jerker in the context of the news. :(