The 2016 Award

The WinnerThe NomineesThe Award Ceremony

The winner of the 2016 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming is the games designer Eric M. Lang.

To say that Eric Lang is a prolific game designer is the punchline of a joke hilarious in its understatement. This year’s Gen Con, for example, sees the release of no fewer than four new Lang designs or co-designs: Bloodborne: The Card Game, The Others: 7 Sins, Arcane Academy (with Kevin Wilson), and HMS Dolores (with Bruno Faidutti).

A small sampling of Lang’s past designs include Blood Rage, Dice Masters (with Mike Elliott), 2010 Diana Jones nominee Chaos in the Old World, and Living Card Game designs for A Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Warhammer 40,000.

And these games are not sausage, vomited from an assembly line and rushed to market carelessly undercooked. Rather, Lang’s games are perennial inhabitants of lists that laud both evergreen sales and — in the parlance of BoardGameGeek — “Hotness.”

The variety and quality of Lang’s co-designers speak to the joy of collaborating with him. It’s telling that those who’ve worked with him in the past would not hesitate to do so again, whatever the project. The top-shelf media properties that Lang has adapted for the tabletop demonstrate the trust that publishers put in Lang’s insight, skill, and ability to deliver.

Lang’s ludography is worthy of celebration on its own, but Eric’s sincere love for games, gamers, the gaming hobby, and the art of game design are exemplars not only for his immediate peers, but for those who strive in literally any field of endeavor. If you ran marathons, or raised children, or played heavy metal music with the same spirit that Eric brings to game design, you would exemplify the best spirit of those callings, and the world would be better for it.

It is the opinion of the Diana Jones Award Committee that Eric Lang exemplifies excellence in gaming. We are proud to award him our trophy for this year.

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 2015. The nominees for its 2016 award for Excellence in Gaming are:

ConTessa
An organization

ConTessa is fresh, passionate organization dedicated to getting more women to play, discuss, and create tabletop roleplaying games. They started out as a blog dedicated to this purpose and quickly developed a series of free online seminars, hangouts, and events to bring women into the RPG fold. Last year they moved into face-to-face encounters by launching a track of their own inside Gen Gen, the largest tabletop gaming convention in the world, innovatively creating a con inside a con.

Eric M. Lang
A game designer

Eric M. Lang is the prolific designer of a staggering collection of board and card games whose volume is exceeded by their quality and acclaim. His deep love of games, gaming, and gamers inspires his co-designers and publishing partners with such grace and good nature that it’s impossible to feel the worse for failing to live up to his example. A very small sample of his achievements include Blood Rage, Dice Masters (with Mike Elliott), Chaos in the Old World (a 2010 Diana Jones nominee), and Living Card Game designs for properties including A Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Warhammer 40,000.

Fall of Magic
A story-game by Ross Cowman, published by Heart of the Deernicorn

Fall of Magic is Ross Cowman’s elegiac fantasy game about loss, travel and discovery, all played out in a slowly unfurling landscape full of genuine wonder and weird surprises. The game marries a peaceful, carefully paced aesthetic with tack-sharp design elements that are smarter than they look. It’s hard to get more fantastic or magical than an actual scroll. As a hand-crafted object, Fall of Magic’s cloth-map-as-setting powerfully evokes its themes, and sets a lovely bar for production – small press or otherwise.

Larpwriter Summer School
A course organized by Fantasiförbundet (Norway) and Post (Belarus)

Larpwriter Summer School is a week long intensive course on larp design. Organized annually since 2012 in Lithuania, the curriculum is packed with lectures on design and theory, design exercises, educational games, and playing larps. The summer school is attended each year by around fifty students from around the world who have very little or no experience in larp design, with a crew of twenty people teaching and running the practicalities. The summer school has taught a new generation of designers, developed design theory and tools, and built an international network of alumni – who are all invited back each year. The alumni have gone on to create not only larps, but numerous larp festivals to showcase their works.

Pandemic Legacy
A board-game by Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock, published by Z-Man Games

The Diana Jones Award shortlisted the first Legacy game, Risk Legacy, in 2012, but Pandemic Legacy is such a leap forward from that forerunner that it more than deserves its place on this list. The game brings in elements and influences from other genres inside and outside traditional board-gaming to create an experience where the whole is greater than the sum of its amazing parts. A Pandemic Legacy campaign is an experience unlike anything else in gaming, and the waves it has created are felt across this and many other areas of interactive entertainment.

The winner of the 2016 award was announced to a packed house on the evening of Wednesday 3rd August, at the annual Diana Jones Award and Freelancer Party in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con games convention.

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