Why I think that the DiceTower Awards are important…
Boy we’ve got it good nowadays, we board gamers. There is a real wealth of games out there and the variety is terrific. There are literally games to suit every taste and every age. Quality games. Interesting games. FUN games. It’s really fantastic.
One thing we don’t do well enough as gamers is celebrate and recognize excellence. Too busy gaming I guess. Yes there are the Spiele des Jahres Awards which are recognized as very important in Germany. And it does mean that the winner of the 3 SDJ award categories will shift a lot of units. But to the general public outside of Germany, this is pretty much meaningless, although useful to gamers for sure. Also, there are only 3 categories which cover the Family game of the year, “Gamer” game of the year for more advanced games and Children’s game of the year. Useful as these are, the variety of categories is such that it leaves a lot of lost opportunities to inform regarding all the aspects that go into creating games. Like the Oscars and the Golden Globes recognize the many aspects of creating films and TV.
Yes, there are the Boardgamegeek Awards but to be honest, BGG is a relatively horrific website to negotiate unless you are familiar with it and also it is very prone to devolve into slanging matches over opinions over games rather than just celebrating the achievements. Also, it is not an inviting website for non-gamers in any way if I’m honest. You need to persevere.
Then there are various other smaller awards, usually associated with game conventions which largely require game companies to submit games for consideration and seemingly loose criteria to be considered. So they tend not to consider the whole range of games published across a given year and makes a nonsense of the awards. The Origins Awards, have been slammed as being completely irrelevant, for example. I would say that about many of the awards out there really.
So where does that leave us?
Well, I really think that the approach that Tom Vasel is taking with the DiceTower Awards is very helpful and certainly the most accessible. Tom is clearly trying to make these awards a useful guide to excellence in board games across many categories and has a large group of judges behind him to assess the many games published over a given year.
The purpose of the awards is to:
- Encourage new developments and innovations in the board game industry.
- Promote board and card games to a larger audience
- Award the best games in different categories released each year.
- Present a slate of games with wide appeal from a variety of genres.
- Point out games that are simply fun!
The categories winners for 2011 are:
Best Game of the year – Eclipse
Best Family Game – King of Tokyo
Best New Game Designer – Flash Point Fire Rescue
Best Game Reprint – Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War
Best Production Values – Mansions of Madness
Best Small Publisher – Flash Point Fire Rescue
Best Party Game – Dixit Odyssey
Best Game Expansion – Summoner Wars Master Set
Most Innovative Game – Risk: Legacy
Best Game Artwork – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Best War Game – A Few Acres of Snow
Best Game Theme – Flash Point Fire Rescue
Best Digital Board Game – Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
Its certainly not perfect but I already think this is the best of the awards and a great reference if you want to look for the best games available to spend your money on. Listening to Tom on his podcast, its clear that this is all still an evolving work in progress. The variety of categories is interesting and recognizes a number of aspects that go into board games.Its not limited to games submitted. Its not a popularity contest. Tom himself admits that the winners aren’t necessarily his choices. The Dice Tower podcast is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. The website is accessible and the approach is welcoming. These are all important points to help broaden board gaming’s appeal which neither the SDJ nor BGG awards do as effectively.
This is the kind of awards that we need as they are accessible, useful and I would not have any worries about pointing my non-gamer friends to. It’s an easy choice really.
Do we need more awards to raise awareness? No! This just confuses matters. What we need is a useful set of awards which is much broader and accessible than the SDJ and a lot easier to navigate and less insular than the BGG awards. I heartily recommend that we should do all we can to support and promote the DiceTower Awards as the best representation of our wonderful hobby!