Ruel Gaviola (Right) playing a game of Twilight Imperium with friends.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community and it’s also a way for us to stay in touch with our cultural heritage.”

-Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola and I spoke on September 9th, 2019 about the hobby and about SIPA, an organization that helps Pilipino Americans.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Ruel, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Ruel Gaviola: Hi Chris, happy to be here. I’m Ruel Gaviola, a writer and content creator based in Southern California. Many moons ago I was an English major at UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos!) and after graduating I worked in various wordsmith-related jobs, from the publications department at an aerospace company to technical writer for a few software companies. I’ve been involved in writing, editing, and teaching for many years.

Ruel with his wife, Michelle, playing Spell Smashers at GameSchoolCon

Ruel: Five years ago I stumbled upon Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series on YouTube. I devoured the episodes and started poking around BGG. I was blown away by how many board games there were. As a birthday gift to myself, I bought Pandemic. I quickly taught myself how to play and introduced it to my wife. She wasn’t really into it, so I just continued to solo the heck out of it. About a month later I bought Ticket to Ride. THAT was the game that she loved and it really solidified my entry into the hobby. We played TTR every night for a week straight. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: Who won the most?

Ruel: She did! We both still remember her amazing seven-game winning streak. It was so much fun.

Playing Wreck Raiders with the Brothers Murph and friends at Dice Tower West 2019

Ruel: So I started buying games from Amazon every now and then. In September of that year (2015) I went to my first gaming meetup at my local comic book store. This was also around the time I started curating board game news for

I was getting deeper and deeper into the hobby. While my wife was, and still is, a casual gamer, we’ve had a blast playing games. We used to play the occasional game of Scrabble or backgammon. Modern board games were much more fun.I started going to more game nights in the area and the big gaming convention in LA, Strategicon. It’s actually three cons every years.

Lauren, Ruel’s daughter, prepping lunches at the SIPA event

Ruel: As I became more involved in the hobby, I had an opportunity to write for Geek & Sundry. I submitted a few pieces and I was given some articles to write and they accepted them. I was beyond excited! I love writing for G&S. I was a huge fan, thanks to Tabletop. To be involved was a thrill. As a regular contributor to G&S I’ve had some incredible opportunities. Mike from The Five By podcast reached out to me and I was excited to join his team. I was a fan of the podcast since they launched and becoming a contributor was another awesome moment. Being a guest on Game the Game with Becca Scott was absolutely amazing! It felt like I’d come full circle, watching board game videos on YouTube to actually being on an episode, playing a game. Becca and the entire Game the Game staff are incredibly talented people. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

Ruel: Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition. One of my goals this year is to play it 10 times. I just played it for the 8th time last weekend.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What has been the longest play of TI4? I hear it can go for a long time.

Ruel: The longest one during this challenge has been eight hours, but most games are between 4.5 to 5.5 hours. Obviously, it’s not something I play every game night, but I do love its epic theme and gameplay. 

At SIPA prepping bag lunches for the local community

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about SIPA. What does it stand for, and what does it mean to you?

Ruel: SIPA is Search to Involve Pilipino Americans. It’s an organization based in Los Angeles. I’m gonna quote from their Facebook page: “SIPA’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of Pilipino Americans and other ethnic communities through youth development, health, economic, and social services. SIPA also develops affordable family housing and other projects that promote cultural identity, economic stability, self-sufficiency, and civic participation. All of these programs and services are facilitated through community-based, collaborative relationships.” My wife and I support SIPA and a few other Filipino-focused non-profits and charities. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: What got you involved with SIPA?

Ruel: It’s our way of giving back to the community, and it’s also a way for us to stay in touch with our cultural heritage. We’d been to a few events at their center and other events/festivals where they had a presence. We were always impressed with the volunteers and their mission. We’re actually an hour away from LA so we don’t get to be as involved as we’d like to be, so we try to donate whenever we can. Our daughter is also involved with Filipino-based non-profits and charities, which is nice to see. 

Ruel and his family volunteering at the SIPA event in December

Ruel: As a family, we participated in SIPA’s annual food drive. We helped the center put together bagged lunches for the needy in the local community. It was awesome to see so many people at that event. I was really inspired by everyone at SIPA. Not just the organizers, but all of the young people who showed up to help.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Ruel, where can we learn more about SIPA?

Ruel: You can go to their Facebook page for more info:

TheCharityBoardGamer: Thank you, Ruel, for talking with us today about yourself and about SIPA.

Ruel: Thanks, Chris! And kudos to you for all you do for the charities you support!