Friday, April 02, 2010

The 2010 Origins Awards Examined Part 2 -- Children's, Family, or Party Game

Tuesday, I gave a list of all the nominees for this year's Origin Awards -- the Hobby Gaming Oscars -- and included some closer examination of two of the categories. I was impressed with all the Card Game and Board Game nominees, but it was probably pretty clear that a couple of them held particularly special places in my heart. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Origin Awards (Awarded in June at GAMA's Origins gaming convention) are the gaming hobby equivalent of the Academy Award. Technically, the Origins award is the official award of the "Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design." The Academy is made up of both professional and hobbyists, and the nominee selection process has participation at the hobbyist, professional designer, and retail distribution levels.

This has been true for quite some time, and the public/industry nature of the award is one of its great strengths. Looking back at a February 1982 issue of The Space Gamer (one of the leading gaming hobby magazines of the 1980s) one finds a nomination ballot soliciting nominations from fandom at large -- a process that is not longer followed for a variety of reasons. In that ballot, the selection committee is described as follows, "An international Awards Committee of 25 hobbyists (some professionals, but primarily independents) directs and administers the awards system." I'll write more about the process in my post regarding the failure of some publishers to properly promote their work by submitting to the Juries this year in a future post. Suffice to say that the Academy is, and has always been, an organization of professionals and amateurs working together to ensure that the best in the hobby get proper consideration.

Today I'd like to take a look at another category. I'll be providing information about the Children's, Family, or Party Game nominees.

Children’s, Family, or Party Game

As the Dice Tower review makes clear this game is a faster and more chaotic version of the traditional game Werewolf, a version that is significantly removed from the traditional game that inspired it. This is a game that has great potential for fun, or great potential for boredom depending on the group it is played with. One can imagine dynamic games where long conversation periods precede the accusation process, but one can also picture games where the accusations come so swiftly as to undermine the game play value. Typical of Looney Labs creations this game is very loose in structure and you need to consider the playing group that you are with before considering playing this game. One advantage this game has over traditional Werewolf games is that no players are ever eliminated from play. The winners of a round receive points and play moves on to the next round. This prevents any players from feeling left out as the game continues and is one of the great innovations in this adaptation.

Duck! Duck! SAFARI! is the latest in Ape Games duck! duck! series of games featuring a broad array of rubber ducky themed toys. SAFARI contains the rules and pieces for five different games, the rules for a sixth game have been added on the website, for players ages 6 and up. I am a fan of games like this, and Stonehenge, that offer gamers a decent bang for their gaming dollar. The package includes traditional race games and memory based games with excellent components. Besides, who isn't a sucker for things this cute?

Do you want all the panic and chaos of moving day, including wondering just how you are going to fit your giant library of games into the moving truck, without any of the back ache? Then Pack and Stack is the game for you. Mayfair Games has made a business of importing entertaining family games from Germany to the United States and this is yet another feather in their cap.

A few years back, Atlas Games released a wonderful little card game by the title Gloom which featured two wonderful game play innovations -- a requirement that to win you had to make the life of your opponent better than your own, and the use of translucent cards that layered effects on your base playing card. With Ren Faire designers Michelle Nephew and Wendy Wyman have found another way to create competitive play that doesn't feel competitive. Ren Faire is a game of Ren Faire noobs who are desperate to garb themselves in appropriate attire in order to fit in with the rest of the crowd. The game uses transparent cards to represent the clothing that will go upon your avatar, but to get those clothes you must play performance cards to earn the money to buy the clothes. This is where Nephew and Wyman's innovation comes in. Players must actually perform the actions described on the performance cards. This can lead to mayhem and amusement. Mechanically, this game is a perfect fit in Atlas Games line of non-rpgs. I have long considered their Once Upon a Time to be among the best games with regard to combining card games with performance, and now they have added another game to the list.

Ever since Out of the Box Games release their excellent Apples to Apples game, the company has been a leader in the independent Children's and Family game market. With Cineplexity, they demonstrated that they could make a movie trivia game with extraordinarily high replayability. Last year's release of Word on the Street once again demonstrates the company's ability to create trivia games with tremendous replay value. The goal of the game is to bring all of the letter tiles onto your side of the board by selecting a word based upon a category card, think Fact in Five, and pulling over every letter tile that the word contains one lane closer to your side. One twist, you have a time limit and when time is up you can no longer move tiles. You and your team must choose words that move the most tiles, but you must do so quickly and as the other team tries to distract you -- possibly by claiming that your word doesn't fit the category. Spend to much time defending the "legality" of your word and you might no move any tiles. The game combines elements of Scrabble, Boggle, and Apples to Apples to create an entertaining experience.

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