A Few Distinguished Board Game Industry Awards
Competition is in our blood. As humans, we crave recognition and reaffirmation of the things we ourselves take pride in, and when it is a skill that we are proud of it is hard not to compare ourselves to others who do the same. Musicians, athletes, artists, dancers, and writers all spend countless hours of their lives dedicated to improving their craft and be the best that they can be. And beyond. The Emmy Award, the Grammy Award, Olympic Gold Metals, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Nobel Peace Prize are all used recognize the best individuals of their craft.
Out of this innate competitiveness comes awards. If any skill or form of entertainment receive enough of an audience, we naturally find the need to distinguish outstandingly talented and hardworking individuals and use them as the standard for others to aim for. In the board game world, this comes in the form of annual awards that are both international or based in a single country. The United States has a number of distinguished board game awards which can be used to find exceptional games to add to your shopping cart the next time you hunting for new ones. In light of the Spiel des Jahres being awarded recently (which you can read about here), let's look at a few other board and card game awards that recognize the hard work and creativity of those in the community.
Considered the most prestigious board and card game award in the world, the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) is a German board game award with a purpose of "rewarding excellence in game design, and promoting top-quality games in the German market." The award is given by a jury of German-speaking game critics who review games released in Germany based on game concept, rule structure, layout, and design within the past 12 months. Along with the Spiel des Jahres, the judges also award the Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur-Enthusiast Game of the Year) for more complex games and the Kinderpsiel des Jahres (Children's Game of the Year) for games that are tailored more for children. Nominees are chosen by the jury of judges themselves through a multi-staged elimination process and the jury presents the awards with no superior private or state authority other than themselves as competent game critics. The winners of 2019 were recently announced, the Spiel des Jahres of 2019 being Just One, the Kennerspiel des Jahres Wingspan, and the Kinderspiel des Jahres Valley of the Vikings.
This award is sadly completely unrelated to British novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, and short story writer Diana Wynne Jones (who is one of my favorite authors, go read the Chronicles of Chrestomanci), but was named after the Diana Jones trophy which is awarded to winners. The trophy is a perspex pyramid that contains the burnt remains of the last unsold copy of The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game created by Tactical Studies Rules (the company that created Dungeons & Dragons) to commemorate the end of their license to publish the game. The name comes from the only legible words of the burnt pieces, which are "diana Jones." It was first presented in 2001 and is awarded in Indianapolis on July 31, the night before the Gen Con games convention opens to the public.
The Diana Jones Award winners are chosen by a secretive committee and "presented annually to the person, product, company, event, movement or any other thing that has, in the opinion of its committee, best demonstrated the quality of ‘excellence’ in the world of hobby-gaming in the previous year." It has been called "the Nobel Peace Prize of Gaming" with previous winners being figures (such as Peter Adkison and Eric Lang), board games (like Dominion and Ticket to Ride), and even the website Board Game Geek. The winner in 2018 was "Actual Play," the global community of game streamers who share their gaming experiences online. The award is given by a panel of distinguished members of the hobby gaming business who can chose whether or not to make their membership public. The full list of members has not been made known.
The Mensa Select is awarded annually by the American Mensa, a non-profit organization open to people who score in the 98th percentile or higher on standardized IQ tests. Hundreds of Mensa (which means "table" in Latin) members gather over one weekend to play and rate the board games of each year. Five games, awarded based on originality, complexity, and design, are given the opportunity to display the "Mensa Select" seal on their packaging. It was first awarded in 1990 and the winners are announced at the annual Mensa Mind Games competition. The winners of 2019 are Architects of the West Kingdom, Gizmos, Gunkimono, Planet, and Victorian Masterminds.
These annual awards are presented by The Dice Tower, a group of gaming enthusiast who use videos and audio podcasts to promoting board and card games, the hobby, and the people involved in the industry who nominate games each year. The awards first began in 2007 with the purpose of encouraging new developments and innovations in the board game industry, promoting board and card games to a larger audience, presenting a slate of games with wide appeal from a variety of genres, and pointing out games that are simply fun. It has since expanded to 14 different categories, each recognizing a distinct genre or aspect of board games. Root was awarded as the group's Game of the Year for 2019.
A full list of the categories are:
- Game of the Year
- Best Family Game
- Best New Designer
- Best Game Reprint
- Best Production Value
- Best Small Publisher
- Best Party Game
- Best Game Expansion
- Most Innovative Game
- Best Game Artwork
- Best Game Theming
- Best Two-Player Game
- Best Co-op Game
- Best Strategy Game
The Origins Awards are given annually by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Art and Design," a peer based network of gaming industry professionals whose mission is to promote innovation and excellence in design and production of games and game related materials," with the purpose of rewarding excellence in game design. Any publisher or designer can submit eligible product for consideration during the year before the published deadline. The nominees are chosen by the Academy Jury after the GAMA (Game Manufacturers Association) Trade Show in March, the winners are determined by vote of the Jury and announced at the Origins Game Fair in June. The Origins Game of the Year for 2019 was Root.
There are currently 11 different categories:
- Game of the Year
- Board Game
- Card Game
- Collectible Game
- Family Game
- Gaming Accessory
- Miniatures Game
- Role-Playing Game
- Role-Playing Game Supplement
- AAGAD Hall of Fame
- AAGAD Rising Star
The Golden Geek Awards are awarded by the users of the website Board Game Geek that are presented every year at the BGG.Con event in Dallas, Texas. Games are nominated by the votes of the user communities of the websites Board Game Geek, RPG Geek, and Video Game Geek. There are 34 categories, with not all of them pertaining to board games. They do however have a Board Game of the Year award. The "nomination round" is held for about one month at the beginning of the year during which the communities nominate games that were released over the past year. Every eligible voter can nominate up to 10 games in each of the categories. The "voting round" is around 3 weeks during which the top 10-15 nominated games of each categories are presented. Eligible voters are user who "have purchased an avatar or a geekbadge, voters who pay a one-time 20 GeekGold fee or supporting users." The winners of each category are sent a physical metal and letter and both nominees and winners can display their awards for the appropriate year. A full list of the categories can be found here. The Board Game of the Year for 2017 was Gloomhaven.
...these are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other board game awards in other countries that may not include American board games. A few examples of board game awards in countries other than the US are:
Deutscher Spiele Preis (German Game Prize): A German board game award that was started in 1990 by the magazine, Die Pöppel-Revue. The magazine collects votes from board game industry's stores, magazines, professionals and game clubs in order to determine winners from first to tenth place along with a best children's game. Unlike the Spiel des Jahres, which usually awards family games, the Deutscher Spiel Preis awards more complex games like the Kennerspiel des Jahres does. The winners are announced at the Spiel game fair in Essen, Germany and the first place winner of 2018 was Azul.
As d'Or-Jeu de l'Année (Golden Ace-Game of the Year): A French board game award that is a combination of the As d'Or started in 1988 in the city of Cannes at the Festival International des Jeux and the Jeu de l'Anée, which was created in 2003 by the French Association for Promotion and Evaluation of Board Games. These two awards merged in 2005 due to their similar criteria of awarding quality materials, good functioning mechanisms, game aesthetics, and creativity, and has since awarded an "all audience" game, "children's" game, and an "expert" game every year. Three games are nominated by the Jury of the International Games Festival of Cannes in January and winners are announced at the festival in February. The Mind, Where's Mr Wolf, and Detective were the winners of 2019.
Årets Spel (Game of the Year): A Swedish award that began in 1984 by the Swedish toy company Riksförbund. Three categories are awarded which are "Best Children's Game," "Best Family Game," and "Best Adult Game," which started in 2003. Games are chosen based on innovation, entertainment, durability, functionality, and clarity. The jury is selected by Lek-och Babybranschen (The Toy and Baby Industry) in Sweden and the physical award is a large wooden dice called the Guldtärningen (The Golden Die). Number Ninja, Diamant, and EXIT: The Game were 2018's winners.
Nevertheless, these six awards mentioned are distinguished within the US and carry adequate amounts of credibility and prestige. If you are interested in adding a new board game to your collection, I would highly recommend looking at the recipients of all these awards.