The 2009 Award

The WinnerThe NomineesThe Award Ceremony

The 2009 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming has been given to Dominion, a card game by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Rio Grande Games.

DOMINION by Donald X. Vaccarino

Donald X. Vaccarino’s card game of competitive kingdom building, Dominion, infuses the deck-customizing meta-play of collectible card games directly into the game-table experience. It elegantly eliminates the highest hurdle to an otherwise compelling genre, making it convenient and accessible to a broader audience.

In Dominion, a broad variety of strategies bear fruit, and a wide variety of components bring replayability rarely found in a stand-alone title. As with any strong design, its rules are easy but not simple, but Dominion exceeds even other strong games in the subtle brilliance with which it encourages speedy play and engages all players for its entire length.

7th August 2009, London: After much debate the shortlist for the ninth annual Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, covering the year 2008, has been announced.

The Diana Jones Award is given to whatever the Diana Jones Committee believes has best demonstrated ‘excellence in gaming’ in the previous year. This year the committee has shortlisted five potential winners. In alphabetical order, they are:

DOMINION

by Donald X. Vaccarino
Published by Rio Grande Games

Dominion infuses the deck-customizing meta-play of collectible card games directly into the game-table experience, elegantly eliminating the highest hurdle to an otherwise compelling genre, making it convenient and accessible to a broader audience. A wide variety of strategies bear fruit, and a wide variety of components bring replayability rarely found in a stand-alone title. As with any strong design, its rules are easy but not simple, but Dominion exceeds even other strong games in the subtle brilliance with which it encourages speedy play and engages all players for its entire length.

4TH EDITION DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

by Rob Heinsoo, James Wyatt, Andy Collins, Mike Mearls and Stephen Schubert
Published by Wizards of the Coast

4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons advances the art of roleplaying game design while boldly reinventing an industry flagship. Its central innovation, importing the exceptions-based principles first seen in the collectible card game, speeds and clarifies play. Creature statistics achieve a compactness and ease of use rarely seen in crunch-heavy games. The new logic allows for the dispatch of long-standing rules bugaboos in the briefest of paragraphs. Recalibrated math keeps the game stable over disparate levels of play. All said, though, the conceptual repercussions of its technical achievement would mean nothing if the game wasn’t so lovingly attuned to the primal joys of kicking down doors, walloping orcs, and taking their stuff.

VI ÅKER JEEP/’JEEPFORM’

Vi åker jeep (‘We go by jeep’) is a Nordic collective that has developed an innovative and increasingly influential style of roleplaying. Taking the best from multiple styles and infusing the result with a clear-eyed and mature sensibility, Jeepform games are often deeply moving, occasionally hilarious, and always compelling. Exploring concepts like character monogamy, transparency, and even what constitutes appropriate subject matter for roleplaying, Jeepform takes the hobby in an exciting and often challenging direction.

MOUSE GUARD

by Luke Crane
Published by Archaia Studios Press

Mouse Guard is a beautiful game. From the thought that has gone into its graphic design to the intelligence with which David Petersen’s world of medieval mice is coupled to Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel game system, Mouse Guard is a delight to handle, read and play. Moving away from the trend of seeing the games designer as artist or auteur, it draws attention to the importance of craftsmanship and expertise at every level of the game-design process. Licensed properties bolted to existing game-engines are often a recipe for mediocrity, but Mouse Guard is a giant in its field.

SWEET AGATHA

by Kevin Allen, Jr. (self-published)

Kevin Allen, Jr.’s Sweet Agatha is a brilliant sandbox game disguised as a quest. For two players, it utilizes narrative elements selected by the GM and explained by the player to uncover the fate of the eponymous Agatha—whose life and environs the rulebook documents in evocative photography and elliptical notes. Evading the trap of ‘designer as GM’ so common to narrativist play, it embraces and liberates cooperative storytelling, providing mystery and beauty instead of constraints and programmed story. A first game of Sweet Agatha is a literally unrepeatable experience; a second game is as close as tabletop gaming has come to packaging a dream recalled.

The winner was announced at a private ceremony packed with games industry professionals, from designers to publishers and distributors. This was held in Indianapolis at 9 PM Wednesday, August 12, the day before the opening of the Gen Con game convention.

As one of the few publicly known members of the Diana Jones Award committee, Matt Forbeck revealed this year’s winners before the packed house. Donald X. Vaccarino was not in attendance, but Jay Tummelson, owner of Rio Grande Games, made a short acceptance speech on Donald’s behalf.

Afterward, the celebration continued into the night.

Many thanks to the sponsors of this year’s ceremony: CCP, Matt Forbeck, Gen Con, Ed Healy, Hidden City Games, Mind Storm Labs, Profantasy, Janice Sellers, Stonehouse Miniatures, Super Genius Games, Paul Tevis, and West End Games.