Thursday, May 08, 2008

Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Announces Origin Awards Nominees (Part One)

Last week the Game Manufacturer's Association (GAMA) announced their annual list of Origins Award Nominees. The Origins Awards are the most prestigious award in the Adventure Gaming hobby and the winners are determined by the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, a committee of GAMA. This year's list contains a wide variety of nominees, covering many genres within the gaming hobby.

Below is the list of nominees followed by my own commentary regarding the individual products:

The first category this year is MINIATURE OR MINIATURES LINE. As one might guess, miniatures can be an important component of the adventure gaming hobby. There are those who prefer to play "merely in the minds of the players," and that works very well for many games. But as someone who has gamed for over 25 years, there are times -- surprising as it may seem to say -- when using miniatures can add a wonderful narrative component to an evening's play. A picture can be worth a thousand words after all.


Having limited talents in the painting of figures, and even less time to develop an talents I do have, my unpainted miniatures purchases have always been limited. Add to that the creation of the D&D Miniatures pre-painted line and my purchase of unpainted miniatures has completely died off. This being the case, I'll leave opinions of which line/individual miniature deserves this year's award up to you the reader. Following each nominee I am providing a representative image provided by the manufacturer of the line/individual miniature. Some of these are particularly nice.

Skarrd Raze #2
by Dark Age Games

George R.R. Martin Masterworks - Premium Miniature Line
by Dark Sword Miniatures, Inc.

Titanius Fury
by Dragonfire Laser Crafts Inc.

Apparently this is a typo at the GAMA site. According to the Dragonfire site, it should be Titania's Fury. If this is indeed the product in question, it gets my vote hands down as a useful and innovative product.

Bronzeback Titan, HORDES: Evolution Miniatures Line
by Privateer Press

Dark Heaven Legends Fantasy Miniatures
by Reaper Miniatures

You really need to click on the link above to get a sense of the entire Dark Heaven line produced by Reaper Miniatures. It is the last of the old school lines of RPG miniatures and is a very good, and very deep, product line. Below is a sample of one of the figures in the line.

Following the MINIATURE or MINIATURES LINE award comes the award for best MINIATURES RULES. It should be noted that this award is central to the adventure gaming hobby. Were it not for H.G. Wells' book Little Wars or for Gary Gygax and Jeff Perrin's CHAINMAIL, the adventure gaming hobby would not exist as it does today.


Classic Battletech

Published by Catalyst Game Labs
Created by Jordan Weisman
Edited by Michelle Lyons, Diane Piron-Gelman

In an era of click based miniature games and collectible card games, it is heartwarming to see that one of the great miniature games of the past continues to perform strongly and receive the recognition it is due. Classic Battletech is one of the few games that truly deserves to have the word "classic" attached to it. The latest version of the rules updates battlemech construction to ensure more balanced encounters and has been well supported by the fine folks at Catalyst Game Labs.

Saganami Island Tactical Simulator, Second Edition
Published by Ad Astra Games
Created by Ken Burnside and Thomas Pope

While my friends might believe that I own every game actually in print, I don't own a copy of this space combat miniatures simulation. The game is inspired by Baen Books' Honor Harrington military SF fiction series. When it comes to ship to ship space combat games, I tend to stick with SILENT DEATH and BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC or RENEGADE LEGION. When it comes to fun and games, I tend to avoid those that require the use of 3D vector space. I'm chicken. I admit it.

Forces of WARMACHINE: Pirates of the Broken Coast

Published by Privateer Press
Created by Brian Snoddy and Matt Wilson

Pirates, Steam Powered Magical Robots, and a coherent rules set...what's not to love. Privateer Press' WARMACHINE line is a great product line that rivals Rackham for the quality of sculpts. Unlike Rackham's games, one doesn't have to read awkwardly translated French to learn the rules. This is a great addition to a great game. Privateer Press is an exciting gaming company. From their first module for 3rd edition D&D to their card games, they strive for quality.

Published by Rackham
Created by Arnaud Cuidet, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, Nicolas Raoult, and Jerome Rigal

Having been a WARHAMMER 40K player for over 15 years, it would have taken something pretty special to get me to pack up my Eldar and Space Marines in favor of another game system. AT-43 is that system. As a Rackham game, it has simply some of the best sculpting I have ever seen in the gaming industry. Rackham miniatures are beautiful, and AT-43's are pre-painted. Add to this a good list of affordable terrain features that can be used in other games as well, and I didn't mind having to read poorly translated French in order to learn how to play this game. This is a fun game with beautiful components and an interesting backstory which, like many games coming out of Europe today, has some salient things to say about modern international politics.

Song of Blades and Heroes
Published by Andrea Sfiligoi
Created by Andrea Sfiligoi

It's quite the honor for a "independent" game to be nominated for an Origin award. I haven't play tested this game, but at $15 with an Origin nomination this game is on my short list of games to buy and try.

MY PICK: AT-43 -- It's a great addition to the French invasion in adventure gaming. If only I could find a copy of Asmodee Games' C.O.P.S. roleplaying game. I'd be a happy man.

There's more to adventure gaming than the games. Many gaming companies publish non-fiction and fiction books in support of their product lines, the hobby, or topics related to the hobby. TSR was the first company to publish media tie-in fiction with their roleplaying game, but many have followed and some companies publish non-media tie-in fiction as well.

Astounding Hero Tales
Published by Hero Games
Edited by James Lowder

While related to Hero Games' PULP HERO sourcebook in theme, this anthology of pulp fiction is a worthy addition to any pulp fans bookshelf. Edited by James Lowder this anthology includes stories by Hugh B. Cave and Lester Dent in addition to pulp tales written by veterans of the game industry. Cinerati's companion podcast Geekerati had an interview with editor James Lowder last year where discussion of this book came up.

Dragons of the Highlord Skies
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The line of books that established that rpg media tie-in books could be profitable continues with this bestselling novel. With this book, readers learn what happened "between the lines" of the original trilogy.

Frontier Cthulhu

Published by Chaosium
Edited by William Jones

In BLACK STRANGER, Robert E. Howard spun a yarn simulating what might have happened if Conan had lived among the native Americans. The Picts of that tale were closer to the Sioux than the historic Picts. With the Frontier Cthulhu anthology, Chaosium Games gives us 14 tales of what might have happened as people explored American frontiers.

The Orc King
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by R.A. Salvatore

Who says archetypal pulp adventurers are dead? In THE ORC KING, R.A. Salvatore shares with us the continuing saga of one of the most popular characters in fantasy fiction Drizzt Do'Urden. Where Elric was the anti-Conan, Drizzt is in many ways the anti-Elric.

The Time Curse

Published by Margaret Weis Productions
Written by James M. Ward

Last year saw a return of the Endless Quest/Choose Your Own Adventure style books of my childhood and Margaret Weis Productions were at the forefront of that wave. James Ward's THE TIME CURSE is a fun jaunt and a good representation of the genre. And while the book is still available, it is sad to see that the Weis Productions website is downplaying the Paths of Doom line of books.

MY PICK: ASTOUNDING HERO TALES, but you should really pick up THE TIME CURSE as well. It's only $4.50, and it's fun.

Last year was a big year in non-fiction publication for the adventure gaming hobby. Some great books came out last year, and the list of nominees shows that strength.


40 Years of Gen Con
Published by Atlas Games
Written by Robin D. Laws

Long gone are the days when Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in America, was held in Milwaukee, WI. I attended the con the final year it was held in that fine city and I had a great time. In this volume, edited by Robin D. Laws, several gaming luminaries -- including the now deceased creator of the D&D game Gary Gygax -- share their thoughts on the first 40 years of this conventions history. Given that the company who currently hosts the con is having some legal troubles with Lucas, let's hope that this doesn't become the definitive complete history of the con.

Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Shelly Mazzanoble

This book, by Shelly Mazzanoble, was aimed at informing women about roleplaying games in general and D&D in particular. Shelly succeeds masterfully at this task. And though she has received some minor criticism from some members of the the "He Man Women Hater's Club," she has also managed to write what might be the best introduction to the D&D game published to date...regardless of sex. While it's true that male readers will have to tolerate side comments about Sex in the City and trips to the mall, it is also true that Shelly has captured the essence of what makes this hobby so much fun for me.

Shelly was recently a guest on the Geekerati Podcast.

Grand History of the Realms

Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood

While the Forgotten Realms isn't the first world setting for a roleplaying game, it is one of the best selling...if not the best selling. This non-fiction -- and rules free -- book is a must have for any long time fan of the Realms, whether in its game of fiction form. This book gives a good overview of the history of the Realms and gives some glimpses at what the future holds in store as well.

Hobby Games: The 100 Best
Published by Green Ronin
Edited by James Lowder

In HOBBY GAMES: THE 100 BEST, James Lowder brings together 100 essays written by the cream of the crop of the gaming industry to write about their favorite hobby game. Over the years there have been too few books about the gaming hobby, but books of this quality fill quite the gap in quantity. Most of the 100 essays in this book are insightful and well written. In fact, I'll bet you that if you buy this book you will buy no fewer than 5 new games based on the stories/recommendations herein. You might even spend a month on Ebay looking for a good copy of an out of print game. Lord knows I did. James Lowder discussed this book in detail during our podcast interview last year.

No Quarter Magazine
Published by Privateer Press
Nathan Letsinger, editor-in-chief
Eric Cagle, editor
Josh Manderville, art director

NO QUARTER seems to have taken this year's slot as "token gaming magazine" in this category after the death of the physical DRAGON magazine this past year. It will be interesting to see if next year's awards include Wolfgang Baur's KOBOLD QUARTERLY or the online editions of the DUNGEON and DRAGON magazines.

MY PICK: It's a tough toss up between Shelly Mazzanoble's book and the James Lowder Collection, but I'm going to have to cast my vote for CONFESSIONS. If you want a copy, let me know and I'll mail you one (only applies to the first few requests).

Tomorrow, I'll cover part two of this list...The actual games.

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