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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:

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.

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 for Excellence in Gaming was founded and first awarded in 2001. It is presented annually to the person, product, company, event or any other thing that has, in the opinion of its committee, best demonstrated the quality of excellence in the world of hobby-gaming in the previous year. The winner of the award receives the Diana Jones trophy.

Past winners include industry figures such as Peter Adkison and Jordan Weisman, the role-playing games Nobilis, Sorcerer, and Fiasco, the board-games Dominion and Ticket to Ride, the website BoardGameGeek, and Wil Wheaton’s TabletopLast year’s winner was Robin D. Laws’s Hillfolk. This is the fifteenth year of the Award.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on July 29, at the annual Diana Jones Award and Freelancer Party in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con games convention.

Special thanks to the sponsors of this year’s Diana Jones Award ceremony: