Five diverse games and books from around the world vie for hobby-gaming’s most exclusive trophy
From another long and eclectic collection of nominees, the secretive committee of the Diana Jones Award has distilled a shortlist of five contenders that it believes best exemplified ‘excellence’ in the field of gaming in 2014. The Diana Jones Committee is proud to announce that the shortlist for its 2015 award for Excellence in Gaming is:
COLLEGE OF WIZARDRY
A live-action roleplay game by Liveform and Rollespilsfabrikken
Rendering a magical world into a physical, playable reality is always a challenge. Rollespilsfabrikken and Liveform, the Danish-Polish team behind the live action role-playing game College of Wizardry, took a post-Potter setting and added a new school of magic in Czocha, Poland. The larp is a witches’ brew of game design enabling free play, an ensemble of dedicated co-creative players, and the truly enchanting location of the Czocha castle, filled with secret passages. The participants played juniors, sophomores, and seniors, as well as teachers, ghosts, and a wide variety of magical creatures for three days at the start of the school year. The open design of the larp was particularly robust; this was a larp that would not break—and would still make sense no matter how many dark rituals were performed. The global media attention that College of Wizardry received was unprecedented and unanimously positive.
DESIGNERS & DRAGONS second edition
A series of books by Shannon Appelcline
Published by Evil Hat Productions
Without art history there can be no lasting art.
GUIDE TO GLORANTHA
A role-playing sourcebook by Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Sandy Petersen
Published by Moon Design Publications
Since the appearance of the White Bear and Red Moon board game forty years ago, Greg Stafford’s beguiling, mythic world of Glorantha has been a seminal setting for tabletop game play. A testament not only to the depth of the world but also to the loving dedication of its fan base, Guide to Glorantha ballooned into titanic life through a massively successful crowdfunding campaign. Co-authored by past DJA winner Greg Stafford, the equally legendary Sandy Petersen, and the indefatigable Jeff Richard, it thunks onto the table in jaw-dropping, two-volume, 800-page, full-colour, coffee-table-sized glory. (Not to mention a separate map pack!) The book’s art direction nods to past RuneQuest glories while serving up gorgeous yet illustrative new pieces from the obsessive likes of Jan Pospisil and Jeff Laubenstein. A compendium in every sense of the word, this is the publishing project only a world as rich as Glorantha could sustain. Whether you’re a mechanistic dwarf, an all-devouring troll, or a paradoxical red moon goddess, you have to stand back in awe at both its towering ambition and maniacally detailed execution.
A card game by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko
Published by IGAMES
In game design, as in perfume making, sometimes two familiar essences can combine to create something totally new. The Ukrainian game Mysterium takes the structured murder-solving heart of Clue/Cluedo, adds the card-identifying charm of Dixit, and blends them into an entirely new game that is atmospheric, suspenseful, narrative, co-operative, delightful and deeply satisfying. One player is a ghost who must communicate the details of its murder to a crew of psychic investigators—the other players—through seven nights of dreams, represented by cards with surreal illustrations. The result is gameplay that’s simple but brilliant: the ghost may be telling you about the general, the postman or the nun but your only clue is a picture of a chair on a tightrope. It is a game about the joy of over-thinking the obvious, and when you fail you curse not the cards, the mechanics, fate or your fellow players, but your own poverty of imagination. Being the out-of-wedlock progeny of a family staple and a Spiel des Jahres winner sets high expectations but Mysterium is more than the sum of its parts, it is an instant classic.
A role-playing game by Thor Olavsrud and Luke Crane
Published by Burning Wheel
Combining sleek, modern game design with an unabashed love letter to red-box D&D, Torchbearer celebrates and revels in the nearly-lost notion that roleplaying games can challenge you as a player—and that you can get better at them. Starting from the primordial fortune-seeking adventuring party, Torchbearer quickly strips away the familiar comforts of heroic fantasy. True to its name, you’ll be managing light sources—as well as food, water and other minutia—as you crawl through miserable caves seeking treasure. Torchbearer‘s brilliance quickly becomes apparent as the crunchy details of low-level delves, so often a stumbling block, become simultaneously central to play and effortless to implement. Never has a heartless, brutal grind been so much fun.
The Diana Jones Award is an annual award created to publicly acknowledge excellence in gaming. The award was first made for the year 2000, and the first award ceremony was on August 4, 2001.
The Diana Jones trophy was created in the UK offices of TSR in the mid 1980s to commemorate the ending of their license to publish The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game. The trophy itself is a perspex pyramid containing the burnt remains of the last unsold copy of the game; all that is legible of the title is “diana Jones“. The trophy was “liberated” and eventually ended up with the Diana Jones committee. The destruction of “one of the least-loved and critically savaged games of all time” was seen an appropriate symbol for an award for excellence in gaming. The trophy also contains a counter that reads “Nazi™” from the game.