A Perspective of Game Awards.
While we would like to think that the Boardgames Australia awards are the greatest thing since someone decided to take a slicer to a loaf of bread, we of course acknowledge the many other game awards out there, all catering for different needs and different target markets. The Spiel des Jahres award from Germany was announced recently, and the winner Keltis should make for a great family game when the English-language version reaches Australia. The Spiel des Jahres (the German Game of the Year award) is an award that specifically picks games best suited to German families, and the games selected are widely regarded as of the highest quality in the light/middle-weight Designer style of game (also known in the hobby as German or Euro games).
Some of you reading this may be asking what is meant by the term ‘light/middle-weight’, let alone by ‘Designer game’? The ‘Designer’ label is easy to answer: you can see the name of the game’s author on the box! This tells you it is a genuine new idea and not just a re-packaging of some older game with a new look. The game’s ‘weight’ has the same connotation as a light or heavy book – one suited for the airport or contemplative reading. For games, the idea of weight relates to the complexity of the rules, duration of play, and the level of thought and planning involved in the game. A Light game is one that is usually short (less than 60 minutes), doesn’t need a degree in rocket science, and has short, simple rules (less than 2 pages). Examples of mainstream games that are fairly light would include Uno and Life. Middle-weight games have rules that are longer and more detailed (up to 8 pages), the strategy is deeper and needs more thought, and the games usually take longer to play (up to 90 minutes). These categories are not very precise – what about long but fairly simple games like Monopoly? The games that won the 2007 Boardgames Australia Awards fit somewhere between the Light and Middle-weight categories. There are of course Heavy games which have detailed rules (often more than 8 pages), take a longer time to play (usually more than 90 minutes) and ask you to think deeply by rewarding good decisions and punishing poor choices. Heavier games are also often referred to as ‘Gamers games’, while Lighter games are often referred to as ‘Family games’.
Different awards cater for different markets: while the Spiel des Jahres rewards Light to Medium games and targets the family market, the International Gamers’ Awards reward Heavier games. TheInternational Gamers’ Award group announced their short-lists recently, and you can see these at their website. Heavy games are popular in the board games community because they combine many of the excellent aspects of lighter games (such as fun social interaction and tension) with elements many board gamers seem to enjoy – including thinking deeply and hatching elaborate plots. The games short-listed for the International Gamers’ Award are an excellent selection for any Heavy game lover. Other well-regarded heavy games include Tigris and Euphrates, Powergrid, Age of Steam, and Agricola.
Some awards try to cover all bases by offering awards in various categories: for example, the BoardGameGeek community awards (affectionately called the Geekies) reward games across a diverse range of categories, including Gamer Game and Family Game. Of course the users at BoardGameGeek who nominate and vote on the awards, are by their own admission ‘Game Geeks’ and so the winning games tend to be slightly heavier than games typical for the category they win. Another set of awards that does a similar thing is the Dice Tower awards: nominated and voted on by a group of people who podcast about the gaming hobby (including one of our Committe, Giles Pritchard). The awards target different areas of the market by having a range of categories including Game of the Year (for a heavier game), through to Family and Children’s Game (lighter games). There are also specific awards to try to recognise new game companies and new game designers.
So where does this leave our own Boardgames Australia awards? The award guidelines on our website provide a detailed picture of our motivation and what we are looking to reward, but the core idea is to provide families in Australia with a credible and reliable award, so that if they bought the games we awarded they could be assured they would be buying a good quality and intelligently-designed game the family could enjoy for many years. The other key reason we set up the awards was to promote the board gaming hobby in Australia, which is why we have an award category that specifically deals with Australian-designed games. We are passionate about our hobby, and all of us on the Committee and Judging Panels love good games. Of course we all have a slightly different ideas on what makes a good game, and we plan to list our personal favourites over the next few months, but we hope that if you play the games that we have awarded that you will agree with us – they are worthy winners and excellent games.