Ruel Gaviola grew up around games, mainly at family parties where games of poker and mah jong were not uncommon. For years his idea of game night centered around poker and all of its variations. It wasn’t until he discovered Pandemic that he was drawn into the wonderful world of tabletop gaming and his passion for the hobby grew.

A writer and educator based in Southern California, Ruel writes about board games for Geek & Sundry and iSlaytheDragon.com.

Teaching TakenokoWhat are your all-time favorite games, and what genres do you gravitate towards?

I’m an omni board gamer: I like playing a wide variety of games, from press-your-luck dice rollers to brain-burning, cube-pushing Euros. My favorite games and genres change, depending on what kind of gaming mood I’m in. I generally prefer games that take about an hour or so to play (although I’m a sucker for a three-hour Battlestar Galactica session).

Two games that I’ll never get rid of: Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. Pandemic is the game that got me hooked into the hobby a few years ago. What’s funny is that I’d bought Carcassonne over a decade ago, but never played it. I learned to play it from the old Board Games By Scott video and even printed a player aid from Board Game Geek (BGG). Unfortunately, it just sat unplayed. Years later I got it out of storage, re-read about it on BGG, which somehow led me to finding Pandemic.

I ordered Pandemic from Amazon and while waiting for it to arrive, I stumbled upon the Tabletop video series with Wil Wheaton and watched the Pandemic episode, which led me to finding more games that looked just as cool.

I’ll always have a copy of Ticket to Ride (TTR) on my shelves because it’s the one I’ve taught the most to non-gamers and I still enjoy it, especially with the Pennsylvania expansion. I have fond memories of the first few games with my wife; we played TTR once or twice every night for a week straight. It was a blast sharing the experience with her and even though I became totally obsessed with the hobby, she still likes playing games, too.

 

What are a couple games you played recently that you can’t wait to get back to?

I really enjoyed Century: Spice Road; it features elegant, streamlined play with a subtle depth in strategy. It’s a next-step Splendor and I love games with simple turns and deeper-than-expected strategy. If not for the colorblind issues I deal with (red and green give me trouble), I’d already own a copy of it. Hopefully, they’ll fix this with later printings. I’ll gladly buy it then.

An older game that I finally played for the first time was Mission: Red Planet. It was awesome! The role selection reminded me of Citadels, but it’s a much better game, especially with its steampunk sci-fi theme and area control mechanism. I’m always happy when one of my gaming buddies brings it to game night and I’ve added it to my unending list of games to buy.

Finally, I just got back into Baseball Highlights: 2045. It’s one of my favorite deck builders and since it’s the baseball postseason, I find myself consumed with America’s pastime. Go Dodgers!

Teaching "For Sale"

How often do you game, and do you have a core group of gaming friends?

I game every Wednesday night at my local comic book store; it’s the group that I first found when I got into the hobby and they’ll always be my core gaming buddies. I also game on the occasional Thursday night with a group I found on Meetup. I’m grateful for both groups; I’ve made some good friends who are just as passionate about the hobby as I am. I also solo games several times a week and have the occasional family game night.

How does your wife view your gaming? Is it something you can do together?

I love gaming with my wife. She’s a casual gamer and she supports my obsession. When we were dating we’d play Scrabble or backgammon, with the occasional game of cards Pusoy (aka Russian Poker). Our favorite these days is Patchwork and we’ve enjoyed a lot of games like Karuba, Trains, Ca$h ‘n Guns, Paperback and others.

Our daughter is also supportive of the hobby. She and her boyfriend are actually part of my Pandemic Legacy group, and we host an annual game night for her close friends.

Who are some of your favorite gaming journalists?

There are so many that I’ll apologize now for forgetting someone, but I’m a huge fan of Suzanne Sheldon: she’s such a positive, inclusive voice in the board game community and I have the utmost respect for her.

I love reading Jamey Stegmaier’s blogs. I enjoy listening to the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast. Of course, I listen and watch a lot of content from Tom Vasel and the Dice Tower News crew (they’ve become even better now that Suzanne and Mandi Hutchinson are co-hosting), Meeple Lady, the What Did You Play This Week podcast people, Geoff Engelstein, W. Eric Martin, and more.

Your background is primarily in technical writing, how did you have to adapt your skills for games journalism?

Technical writing is all about being able to explain things in an easy-to-understand format. It’s no-nonsense and orderly writing so it was a natural fit to start writing about games, especially from the standpoint of explaining rules. Admittedly, I write a bit more off-the-cuff on my blog and Twitter, but I like to think that it’s not too difficult to read my stuff.

Wife and I on cruise to MexicoHow did you start writing for iSlaytheDragon.com?

I’d been following them on Twitter for a while and one day they announced they were looking for writers. I applied and before I knew it, I was their Knightly News Person. I recently started writing reviews and I’m fortunate to be working with so many talented reviewers: Jonathan Wolf, Jason Meyers, Jonathan Schindler, Jennifer Derrick, Alex Singh, and Andrew Brooks set a high standard for written reviews. Alex and Andrew are also amazing photographers who also inspire me to take better pictures with my smartphone.

And how did the opportunity to contribute to Geek and Sundry come up?

A friend of a friend posted on a local Facebook group about the opportunity. I sent samples of my work from my blog and iSlaytheDragon.com and wound up with the gig, which I’m extremely grateful for. I love the Geek & Sundry community and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

You blogged every day in 2015, what inspired that madness?

It was definitely madness! I was inspired by Chris Guillebeau, who’s most famous for travelling to all 193 countries in the world. He also writes books about being a nonconformist and doing meaningful work.

I may do the blog-every-day-for-a-year challenge again in the future. I’ve also done a play-a-game-and-blog-about-it-every-day-for-month challenge which was a lot of fun.Wife and I represent Yelp LA

Outside of gaming, what are some of your favorite things to write about?

I love writing about food (yes, I’m a Yelper) and pop culture, especially Star Wars (I’m an Original Trilogy geek). But I really love writing about board games and the people that play them. I’ve done a handful of articles for Geek & Sundry about people who own board games stores and cafes, which was fascinating, and I do an occasional Humans of the Tabletop post, which was inspired by Humans of New York.

Which Star Wars movie are you most excited about, Han Solo or Episode VIII? Also, who shot first?

Episode VIII because I’m excited to see where the saga goes; I thought J.J. Abrams did a fine job introducing Rey, Finn, etc., but I can’t wait to see these characters develop into ones that this generation of fans can claim as their own. There was nothing cooler than going to my niece’s Star-Wars-themed birthday party and seeing her dressed up as Rey.

Han shot first. That’s why he gets his own movie.

Follow Ruel on twitter @RuelGaviola