Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Origins Awards Announced, and My Predictions

The nominees for the 2015 Origins Awards have been announced, and I'm surprised and pleased to see that I've played most of the games in the board and card game categories. Given my penchant for expressing opinions about games I've played, I decided to do a quick review of the nominees, and my make predictions for the winners. 

Some of these games were released prior to 2014, so I'm not sure exactly what the nomination criteria are, but I believe the lists represent a fairly well-considered splice of recent gaming releases, so I've got no beef with the nominations. 

If'd like to see the full set of nominees, click here! For my consideration of the nominees, and my predictions, continue! 
Best Board Game
From this list, the only game I haven't played is The Battle of Five Armies. I've played Abyss and Cash n Guns 2nd Edition once each, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game four times, and Sheriff of Nottingham at least ten times.
Cash n Guns is an updated release with additional game content, and I'm surprised to see it nominated in place of Splendor, which is included in the Best Card Game nominees. I think it's an interesting distinction on the part of the judges, as Cash n Guns is also mostly cards, with foam guns and some cardboard pieces being the only non-card components in the game. 
Abyss is a gorgeous game that I enjoyed when I played, but after an initial hype-bubble it hasn't risen to the surface in my play group, or in the Nerd Night community the way Dead of Winter and Sheriff of Nottingham have. 
My prediction: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game will take the award handily. Sheriff of Nottingham deserves a lot of credit for being a wonderful game (as I said recently in a review), but the amazing reception for DoW sets it apart. I'll be shocked if it's not recognized for its success, both in terms of sales (indicating widespread acceptance by casual hobby gamers) and its rise to #17 in the BGG rankings (indicating widespread acceptance by hardcore hobby gamers). This should be a no-brainer for the judges. 
Best Card Game
  • Among the Stars - Stronghold Games, Designers:  Antonis Papantoniou & Odysseas Stamoglou, BGG Rank: 282
  • Linko! - Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH, Designers:  Michael Kiesling & Wolfgang Kramer, BGG Rank: 609
  • Star Realms - White Wizard Games, Designers:  Robert Dougherty & Darwin Kastle. BGG Rank: 57
  • Splendor - Asmodee, Designer:  Marc Andre, BGG Rank: 68
  • Sushi Go! - Gamewright, Designers:  Nan Rangisma, Tobias Schweiger, & Phil Walker-Harding, BGG Rank: 343
I've played each of these games extensively, with the exception of Linko!, which I hadn't heard of until I saw the nominations. As I said above, I'm surprised that Splendor was considered a card game for the awards, especially given that the other nominees each seem to be small-box, all-cards games (with the exception of Among the Stars, which houses a few cardboard chips and components). 

Among the Stars and Sushi Go! are both terrific games that belong in any game collection, but are unfortunately grouped with arguably two of the three most popular games of 2014.

I imagine the judges will have a difficult time deciding between Splendor and Star Realms, each of which has a major claim to "most popular hobby game of 2014". Star Realms has redefined value at $15 for 120 cards and massive game play, and the designers continue to release content on the kind of aggressive schedule usually reserved for an LCG or CCG. Splendor, of course, seems like an instant evergreen for hobby gamers all over the world, and is the game that made me reconsider what I enjoy about games, and prompted me to re-evaluate my entire approach to reviewing and expressing opinions on games

My prediction: As much as I love Star Realms (my review here), Splendor reminds me of Netflix or Tesla stock from earlier this decade - anybody betting against it was wrong, then more wrong, then more wrong - and at some point "hype" becomes "reality" and as a gamer I've just got to accept that Splendor is the most popular game from 2014, and it deserves all the awards it wins. It already cleaned house in BGG's Golden Geek awards, and I predict it will do the same in the Origin Awards. 

Things Not On The List / My Biggest Surprises

There are a few games from 2014 that I'm really surprised aren't finalists on the Origins list. I'm shocked that Machi Koro (technically released in 2012, but brought to the US in 2014) isn't included in the "Best Card Games" nominees, particularly since Splendor is considered a card game in the nominations, and Machi Koro's component set is similar, sans the poker chips. It's been a Cinderella game and has had significant hype since early 2014. It's incredibly popular with gateway gamers, and I've seen it on the table at most Nerd Night events since it was released. 

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is another mega-popular game that seems like it should be recognized with a nomination, given it's status as the current most popular party game, and almost 4000 rankings on BoardGameGeek, where it's ranked as the #127 board game. Like Dead of Winter, it's a game that's popular with casual and hardcore hobby gamers, which likely turns it into an evergreen game that makes it into the backpack or box for game nights for years to come. 

I suppose Five Tribes was left off the board game nominees, as Bruno Cathala already had Abyss on the list. In terms of popularity, it seems that Five Tribes is the pick here, but I've played both and can't definitively say which I prefer, and I imagine judges felt like they needed to choose one. After all, Bruno can't have all the awards... can he?

Given that Sushi Go! is a 2013 release and is still a nominee in this year's awards, I'm genuinely shocked that Concept, another 2013 release, isn't included here. It's not a traditional hobby game, in the sense that it's 100% playable in the mass market by families who enjoy charades and other light party games, but it's outstanding, and it and Splendor win my "most likely to be enjoyed by my in-laws for years to come" award that I just made up. 

Other games worth mentioning: Pandemic: The Cure, Castles of Mad King LudwigImperial SettlersPanamaxDeusIstanbulRoll For The Galaxy, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault, plus every other game I forgot. Also, after originally posting the article, it came to my attention that Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men was a 2014 release, and was without a doubt the hottest item in our local board game group for at least three months. I can't help but wonder if it would have been the runaway game of the year if it had been in stock consistently from launch - there was more hype around MDM than any other game I can remember in the three years of DFW Nerd Night. It's hard to believe that was just a year ago - in gamer years, it feels like a decade. 

What are you surprised by? What you vote as the winners in each category, and what would you have included if you were the universal judge of all things board game? Let me know in the comments, or send me a tweet

--
JR Honeycutt is a full-time husband and game-player, Community Manager at Level 99 Games, and co-host of The Nerd Nighters. You can find him on Twitter at @JayAhre or at a Friendly Local Game Store in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Some of his reviews are also published in Ravage Magazine or at Tabletop Gaming News