- The SdJ is a German award for a casual or family game.
- The DSP is likewise a German award for more serious games, though the results have been getting more casual as they've started to let the masses vote.
- The Origins board & card game awards are, first of all, more beauty contests than anything else, where people vote on companies as much as products. In addition they tend to award American take-that style play. If you're looking for a new Munchkin, look here. (Since splitting into the Origins award & Choice awards, Origins proper has gotten somewhat better, while the Choice awards continue to be about what you'd expect.)
- The Games 100 are a very eclectic mix, centering on ultra-casual strategy-light games that'll appeal to the (American) mass market, but extending somewhat to more gamist games, thanks primarily to the fact that they get to name 100 picks.
I don't say that out of any disrespect, but rather because I have no idea what they stand for. Chris Farrell made the same comment last year, but based on that year's nominations suggested that there was a "new emphasis on some decent, off-mainstream games". Of course, Ticket to Ride: Europe won, and it was one of the two most mainstream games on the list.
I think part of the reason that the IGA continues to confuse me is because they insist on being international. Of this year's 11 multiplayer nominations, five don't have any real English-world distribution--Antike, Das Ende Des Triumvirats, Indonesia, Jenseits von Theban, and Un Krone und Kragen--though Antike, Das Ende Des Triumvirats, and Un Krone und Kragen are scheduled for September while Indonesia was published in a bilingual edition and has us much distribution as you'd expect for an indie game from Netherlands that's at least trying to get into the U.S. A sixth game, Blue Moon City, is just two weeks' old is in US printing. I honestly can't see how nominating games not particularly available to their primarily English-speaking audience is that helpful to anyone but the most diehard grognards, and I can see how it makes the IGA awards fade right into the spectrum between the SDJ and the DSP--which explains why I don't know what they stand for, because as far as I can tell they're just a second edition of the DSP.
If I ruled the world, the IGAs would explicitly and specifically give awards to gamers' games available to the English-speaking American public, because neither the Origins Awards nor the Games 100 go for that demographic. You could thus use American publication dates rather than German publication dates, differentiating the IGA even further from its German brethren. But I don't run the world, and so I'm afraid that in another year the IGA is going to be even more confused, given the entry of another (as if we needed that) gaming award on the scene, the Geekies.
Enough rant, I want to talk more about the games up for this year's multiplayer IGA.
(If you want to know about the two-player IGA, look to tomorrow's post.)
The Multiplayer IGA Nominees
The IGA put up 11 nominees for this year's awards. Despite the fact that I usually try and get to the new games as fast as I can, I've only played five of them. (Though I probably would have gotten to Blue Moon City last week if Tempus hadn't been available for play too.) Here's my general thoughts on everything I can talk about to any extent, with a bonus comment from Coldfoot, who played one of the six I hadn't.
Antike is a new entrant into the Civ Light category, and its a pretty good contender for that Holy Grail in pure scope of gameplay. You have your technology, your warfare, and your resource management; the only thing really missing from the old Civ formula is trade. On the downside it's a poorly developed game with issues with both combat and victory, where things can go badly if you play "wrong". I've ranted more than once about OK games that could have been truly great if an external developer had gotten to them. This is another, and I doubt it'll win the IGA for reason of these sharp edges.
Blue Moon City is a game that I haven't gotten to play, but that I'm looking forward to. As a Knizian resource-management game I think it's going to be fine release, but the hype I've heard thus far is pretty low key, which suggests to me that this is going to fit right into Knizia's more recent category of strategic games like Tower of Babel that are nonetheless very light weight.
Caylus is pretty clearly the most strategic game on this list among those that I've played. It's Puerto Rico for people who think that Puerto Rico is too simple and short. Like Antike I think it could have been a truly great game if it had some outside development, but unlike Antike I think it's already a pretty fine game (though again it has gameplay problems if you play it "wrong", a recurring theme among indies). If the IGA judges decide on a heavy-weight game, I have faith that it'll be this one.
Des Endes des Triumvirats is a game that I feel is just wasting space on the IGA nominations list, along with Indonesia, and Jenseits von Theban. These games have gotten so little buzz that they're going to be pretty unknown to most anyone who looks at the awards, and I think the public and the awards would have been better served by these games actually showing up in the awards during a year in which they'd seen American publication. And I can't see any of these winning an IGA award as a result.
Hacienda is a decent tile-laying game by Wolfgang Kramer that reminds me a bit of Through the Desert with a lot more complexity. You score points by building sets of land and in the process must manage funds through the placement of animals. It's got a lot of interconnected systems that work together decently well, but never click as a whole. It's a good game that I've played 5 times since its release and that I'd give a solid "B" to, but I don't think it's award-winning material.
Coldfoot offers the following on Indonesia:
|Indonesia is clearly the best game among the handful of nominees I have played (Caylus, RR Tycoon, Hacienda, and Thurn and Taxis), although I have high hopes for Antike. There are some production gaffes, which is not that uncommon for these small-publisher games, and there are a jillion cardboard chits, both of which will weigh heavily against Indonesia in the final balloting. Indonesia is a game of production, distribution, business mergers, and expansion. It is almost an exercise in book keeping, still it is less book keeping intensive than some other fine Splotter-Spellen games. There is some hubbub on the net about the so called "shipping strategy", but I'm here to tell you that the shipping strategy is much more viable as the number of players increases. Keep that in mind and don't let the shipping companies go for less than they are worth, which will change with the number of players.|
Mykerinos is the one game that I'd previously heard of and was surprised to see on this list. It's a recent Ystari release that had none of the sturm und drang of Ys or Caylus. (Would you look at that ... every one of their games has a "Y", then a "S" in it.) Further, I've heard some concerns about degenerate play. So, I think this one is a pretty longshot for the IGA, but that's spoken from a position of ignorance as I've never played it. (I really should.)
Railroad Tycoon was a game that I was surprised didn't show up in the Origins awards. It wasn't even nominated. (But then, that's always been a problem with the Origins; great games sometimes randomly don't win because they weren't submitted.) In the landscape of American games, I can see Railroad Tycoon as a great contender. It's a great Eurostyle game with some pretty random cards, some kick-ass pieces, and a very long playing time, and thus it should really become the King of the American Games. Among Eurogames, it's a photocopy of Age of Steam with some systems improved, some not, and I can't see the IGA being awarded to a photocopy: if they'd wanted to highlight this game, the publication of Age of Steam was the right time. (But then I would have offered the same argument after last year's nomination of Ticket to Ride Europe.)
Thurn und Taxis is what I see as the other strongest contender for the IGA, with the difference between it and Caylus mainly being whether they decide to honor a light game or a heavy one. T&T is a connection game with aspects of card management, brinkmanship, and role selection. It all fits together into a superb harmonious whole that's enjoyable to play. In many ways it feels like an attempt to create an entirely new and original Ticket to Ride and in that it succeeds, except for the fact that it's a bit more shallow in replayability. I had no doubt that T&T would win the SdJ due to its German theming. That's not going to help in the IGA, which drops it down a little in my handicapping.
Um Krone und Kragen I haven't played due to its lack of release in the U.S. However, it's gotten some nice hype due to its design by Tom Lehmann and its description as "Super Yahtzee". I've heard enough about the game that it's interesting me much more than it originally did, and I'd place it as a dark-horse third-best contender for the IGA, after Caylus and Thurn & Taxis.
That it's for my thoughts on the IGA. I like and respect a lot of people involved in the award, and I have no doubt that a bunch of good games were put up, but I'm still confused as to its reason for existence. The schizophrenic split between the sorts of games you'd see in the main German awards, and the indie games that aren't available in the U.S. anyway confuses me, and so I'm still not sure what the IGA offers that other awards don't. However, I'll keep an eye out for the results, and if the winner is something I haven't played, I'll inevitably make an attempt to try and play it.
For more on the IGA watch for tomorrow's Gone Gaming when Kris Hall will talk about the 2-player nominees with some help from myself.