Monday, March 20, 2006

Origin Award Nominees Announced

Every year the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design of the Game Manufacturers Association announce the nominations for the "Origin Awards" or the American Gaming Oscars. Thanks to Matt Forbeck's site, I am able to list the nominees. But to be fair to Matt I will only post the categories I have something to say about, and I will post comments as well. If you want a complete list go to Matt's site.

Nominees for Board Game or Board Game Expansion of the Year: (Board Game College)
Amazonas by Mayfair Games, Inc.
Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean by Z-Man Games, Inc.
Rheinlander by Face 2 Face Games, Inc.
Shadows over Camelot by Days of Wonder
Vegas Showdown by Avalon Hill

Of these games, I own Vegas Showdown and Shadows over Camelot and I have to be honest that I do wish I owned the others. But finances and time are limited and so must my choices be. Of the two I own, I am particularly fond of the Camelot game. I like collaborative games and this is a good collaborative game. The added effect of the possibility that one of the knights working to save Camelot may indeed be a traitor adds some nice depth.

Vegas Showdown was a pleasantly surprising game. Players pretend they are Steve Wynn and try to become casino moguls, not at all what I expected by the title. The components, like much of Avalon Hill these days, don't keep pace with other company's offerings, but the design and playability make up for it.

Disappointments: Where is World of Warcraft?

My Vote: Shadows over Camelot.

Nominees for Traditional Card Game or Expansion of the Year: (Traditional Card Game College)
Gloom by Atlas Games
Oriente by Mayfair Games, Inc.
Paranoia by Mongoose Publishing
Plunder by Laughing Pan Productions
Reiner Knizia’s Poison by Playroom Entertainment

This is an extremely strong category. I own all the games except Plunder, they are all fun, but Gloom holds a special place in my heart. Poison is published by Playroom Entertainment and I have to be honest that their Killer Bunnies card game is one of the best games ever made.

Nominees for Role-Playing Game of the Year: (Role-Playing College)
Army of Darkness by Eden Studios
Artesia by Archia Studios Press
Deryni Adventure Game by Grey Ghost Press Inc.
Serenity by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.
World of Warcraft by Sword and Sorcery Studios

It is a sad year when none of the roleplaying games nominated feature original game mechanics and when they are universally from licensed products. This is not to say that individually these are bad games, but it does say something about the state of the industry when licenses and reused mechanics are the nominees.

Artesia uses the sometimes maligned, but quite good, Fuzion system as its basis for mechanics. Fuzion was originally designed as a reboot for the Champions rpg. While the system was quick, easy, and innovative, the grognards of Champions largely rejected it.

Serenity uses the system used in the first release of the Sovereign Stone RPG (Sovereign Stone eventually went to d20 in order to increase sales). The mechanics are solid and work similar to those of Savage Worlds, there was talk on the Savage boards about how Serenity seemed "too similar," but those players didn't realize that the similarities came not from the rules being inspired by Savage Worlds, but from The Great Rail Wars which also served as the inspiration for Savage. Yes GRW was inspired by Deadlands which was inspired by...(we don't have to take the regression too far do we?) Serenity is a good game based on a cult show/film.

Army of Darkness is has high production qualities and uses Eden Studio's Uni -System. With a little work Ash can fight Buffy and Angel and All The World's Zombies. The mechanics are good, why reinvent the wheel, and the semicompatability with other rules sets expands the playability of the game.

Deryni, which came out late from Grey Ghost, uses the Fudge rules set. Fudge is to RPGs what Linux is to programmers (d20 is Windows, and Champions/Gurps are Apple OS). That is to say, it is something that appears simple, but then requires a lot of work and that most of the support comes from other individuals who have very little consensus regarding mechanics. Grey Ghost is a great company who released a game based on Dying Earth a couple of years back. Deryni is a good product, but I don't think it quite measures up to Dying Earth.

World of Warcraft is this year's obligatory d20 nomination. I can say without a doubt that I love the d20 system, I honestly believe that Dungeons and Dragons is the greatest rpg ever made. I often defend the ability of d20 to simulate any genre, but I don't think it can reflect accurately every IP. WoW is case and point. After seeing how well Fantasy Flight mirrored the MMORPG experience with its boardgame mechanics, it is hard for me to play a d20 Warcraft game. I think Savage Worlds or an extrapolated version of Fantasy Flight's boardgame system would be more suitable to the feel of Warcraft. If you want to use d20 well, you have to be flexible like the Game Mechanics or Green Ronin.

Nominees for Role-Playing Game Supplement of the Year: (Role-Playing College)
Exalted Autochthonians by Whitewolf
GURPS Infinite Worlds by Steve Jackson Games
Mage by RPG Whitewolf
Midnight 2nd ed. RPG by Fantasy Flight
Shackled City by Paizo Publishing, LLC.

All I have to say is that you need to go out and buy Shackled City now. After that, you might want to buy Midnight just to read, but Shackled City demands to be played. Shackled City collects a series of adventures published in Dungeon magazine which form a campaign spanning from first through about twentieth level (D&D). The adventures are well written, balanced, and fun. Even if you don't play them, the book is a perfect text for how to design a compelling campaign.

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