From November 1 to November 18 BoardGameGeek.com is hosting a charity auction to benefit the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. The fund exists in memory of Jack Vasel, the infant son of game guru Tom Vasel, who passed away in January, 2011. Famous for more than 1,200 game reviews, Tom Vasel heads Dice Tower and is the Executive Editor for Game Salute News. When his son passed away, the gaming community rallied around Tom Vasel and his family to help cover medical expenses. Vasel was so touched by the generosity of the gaming community that he started the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund to help others in the gaming community faced with similar circumstances.
There were 346 board games, RPGs, and card games up on offer at the auction Monday afternoon according to Vasel with many titles from AEG and R&R Games, Kickstarter-only gaming components and add-ons, signed copies of games, and even more personalized offers. The charity auction is the main method of fundraising for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund with other funds coming from direct donations to the charity and the proceeds from the live auction at Dice Tower Con, held in Orlando every July beginning this year. Vasel estimates that over $20,000 was raised in the last auction. Past recipients of the charity’s funds include a family that experienced a home fire, one coping with cancer, and one dealing with the death of a family member. One criterion for the fund’s charity is that the life crisis impacting the gamer is of a traumatic nature, while another is that the source of the problem is external and isn’t due to the gamer himself or herself, such as poor investments or gambling addiction. Due to privacy concerns, Vasel cannot discuss the individual circumstances of each family, but last year $15,000 from the fund was spent on four families.
More on Tom Vasel
Vasel however is very vocal in which games he enjoys, though he cannot always keep them himself. Vasel will probably keep less than a dozen games from 2012 simply because he does not have enough room in his home in Homestead, Florida to store all of the titles he’s enjoyed. Definite keepers from 2012 for Vasel include Mage Wars, Suburbia, Mice and Mystics, Seasons, Masters of Commerce, First and Goal, and newcomer Marvel Legendary. When asked if there had been any new game he had “immensely” enjoyed playing recently, Vasel picked Marvel Legendary, the deck-building card game set in the Marvel Universe from Upper Deck Entertainment which will hit store shelves November 13. At a recent gaming event Vasel restricted himself to games he had already played before, because his friends aren’t always interested in playing a new game every time. As a prolific reviewer, Vasel gets most games for free, but did purchase Gale Force 9’s Spartacus because he knew his podcast and Youtube followers would want a review of the game. While Vasel liked aspects of the game, it did not make the cut, and will be moving on for another gamer to enjoy.
Super fans of print and play (PnP) games will not want to miss Jim Flemming’s auction listing. Flemming is offering the top five bidders constructed versions of the games which end users usually print out themselves. Flemming expects each game to possibly take up to two weeks of construction. For Flemming it goes a bit deeper than a desire to simply help out a fellow gamer; Flemming is a past recipient of Jack Vasel Memorial Fund charity. A fan of Dice Tower who found himself in dire straits both medically and financially, Flemming contacted the Memorial Fund, but assumed that his “situation was not serious enough to warrant assistance”. The charity’s board thought otherwise and came to his aid. Times are still hard for Flemming and his hopes of being able to pay back the charity in kind with donations of prized games from his own collection have not materialized; Flemming has sold the games just to make ends meet. Wanting to do his part though, he has turned past success at crafting PnP games for himself into an asset for others and describes himself as “overwhelmed” by the response he has received on BoardGameGeek. As of November 6, Flemming’s unique contribution is set to bring in at least $600 for the fund.
“I donate my game, someone else donates to the charity fund (and receives the game) and we both gain some benefit from our contribution…And the game gets played for sure. And that’s pretty important too.”
– Greg Taylor
Greg Taylor of Bellevue, Washington is another contributor. For Taylor it was a choice between donating his seldom-played board games to the children’s hospital outreach program Child’s Play in Seattle or the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Child’s Play’s focus on handheld games is ultimately why Taylor went with the Jack Vasel Fund, with Taylor offering seven listings, including Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne: The City, and Nuns on the Run. Taylor, a 12 year veteran video game programmer, finds the “conciseness and tightness of the designs in board games” to be a good influence on his A.I. and gameplay design. Like many of the other contributors he has listened to Dice Tower podcasts and watched Youtube reviews of games. Ultimately for Taylor, a first time donator to the charity auction, it’s a win-win situation. As he says, “I donate my game, someone else donates to the charity fund (and receives the game) and we both gain some benefit from our contribution…And the game gets played for sure. And that’s pretty important too.”
IT professionals have good representation on BoardGameGeek and in the charity auction with Chris Heuer of Eagan, Michigan putting up 13 items. Heuer is a software engineer and has been involved in both the initial auction to help the Vasel family with its crisis and with subsequent game donations to the 2011 Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Heuer’s listings are among the first on the BGG geeklist thread because he was “super ready” to help this year. Heuer points to the significant international community found on BoardGameGeek as the reason he is including free worldwide shipping on his auctions, in hopes of seeing even higher bids on some of his items, to provide even more help to those who need it.