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Committee releases Diana Jones Award nominees

By Nick Bullock
Published: June 16, 2014
Gen Con 2014 is quickly approaching. But before “The Best Four Days in Gaming” can kick off, this year’s Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming must be awarded.

The Diana Jones Committee announced its five nominees for the award, which will be presented at the annual Diana Jones Party, held Aug. 13, the night before Gen Con opens to the public. All games industry professionals are invited to the award presentation, which will take place at the Cadillac Ranch in Indianapolis.

This year, the committee nominated two games publishers, a hobby game, a family game and a role-playing game for the industry honor.

Evil Hat Productions, the first nominee, has brought the industry such games as Don’t Rest Your Head; Happy Birthday, Robot; Diaspora; Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies; and, of course, the popular Fate Core System and its expansions. Evil Hat co-created Bits and Mortar, a retailer-publisher initiative that supplies a customer with a free PDF book copy when that customer purchases a Bits and Mortar–published book from a brick-and-mortar retailer. “Evil Hat pioneered PDF-retailer cooperation,” the committee said. Evil Hat funded five books through Kickstarter in 2013, and it produced and sold more than 60,000 copies.

Hillfolk, the second nominee, is a role-playing game designed by Robin D. Laws at Pelgrane Press. Hillfolk’s Kickstarter campaign had a $3,000 goal to produce a 96-page softcover. When the campaign ended, it had raised $93,000, and two full-color hardcovers were produced. Hillfolk features a game engine that’s an “elegant and clever take on group storytelling that puts gameplay and competition on equal footing with structured narrative and individual creativity,” according to the committee.

Paizo Publishing, the third nominee, produces the popular Pathfinder RPG that in 2013 began outselling Dungeons & Dragons, according to the committee. “It’s official: Paizo has used the (Open Game License) and a single-minded commitment to talent and quality to create a better D&D than D&D,” the committee said. Paizo also raised $1 million through crowdfunding to create a Pathfinder-based massively multiplayer online game in January.

ROFL!, the fourth nominee, was designed by John Kovalic and published by Cryptozoic Entertainment. The committee praised Kovalic’s simplistic yet elegant design for a family game. “Though created by someone steeped in the adventure-game tradition, it could and should appear on shelves at mass-market retailers wherever they are found,” the committee said.

Terra Mystica, the fifth nominee, is a strategy board game designed by Helge Ostertag and Jens Jens Drögemüller and published by Feuerland Spiele and Z-Man Games. The game features 14 races in seven landscapes. Each race must terraform neighboring landscapes into its home environment while competing with others. “There are no stunning new mechanics here, but the game takes a number of clever, intriguing systems and combines them in a bravura piece of game-creation to build a sublimely engaging experience,” the committee said.

The Diana Jones Award was founded and first awarded in 2001. It’s presented annual to the person, product, company or event that best demonstrated the quality of “excellence” in the hobby gaming world.

Past Diana Jones Trophy winners include Peter Adkison, Jordan Weisman, the games Robilis, Socerer, Fiasco, Dominion and Ticket to Ride, the website BoardGameGeek, and Wil Wheaton’s Web series Tabletop.