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Jury Duty: Picking the Nominees for the 2013 Origins Awards

origins logo smallThis year, I had what can only be called a truly amazing experience for any lifelong gamer: I was invited to be a juror for the 39th Annual 2013 Origins Awards!  For those unfamiliar with the awards, Origins Game Fair in Columbus OH has been hosting a yearly awards ceremony for nearly four decades, which highlights the best games of the previous year, in fifteen categories: Best Roleplaying Game, Best Roleplaying Supplement, Best Board Game, Best Traditional Card Game, Best Family, Party or Children’s Game, Best Gaming Accessory, Best Miniatures Rules, Best Miniature Figure, Best Historical Board Game, Best Historical Miniature Figure, Best Historical Miniature Game Supplement, Best Historical Miniature Rules, and Best Game-Related Publication, and Best Collectible Card Game.
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Each year, the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design awards the winner in each game category with a Calliope, a statue of the Greek muse of the same name.  And in addition to the “Callie”, the Academy has started bestowing a new award – the Vanguard Award – which honors new games and game products which demonstrate highly innovative styles and designs.

But while the 2013 Origins Awards aren’t scheduled to be given out until June 15th, my personal involvement in this year’s awards started several months ago, as 2012 was coming to an end…

Getting Tapped

Back in November 2012, I received a rather startling email in my inbox one afternoon.  I was contacted by the Foreman of the Role-Playing Games jury for the Origins Awards, and asked if I would be interested in becoming a jury member this year.  Obviously, I was very excited at the prospect of taking part in one of the biggest awards for publishers in the RPG gaming community, so I was put in contact with John Ward, the Executive Director of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and Academy Chair of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design.

As it turns out, it was my weekly reviews on EN World News which caught the eye of the Academy, and led them to offer me a post on the jury to decide the nominees for this 2012’s Origins Award.  I suppose it goes to show just how broad the readership is for EN World – and it was an absolute honor to be asked to take part in the awards process, based upon my review blogs!

Sitting in judgment

AAGAD logoAs anyone would guess, confidentiality was essential to avoid any possibility of impropriety on the part of a juror.  However, now that nominations are done, I’ve been told I can discuss a few aspects of what it’s like to be on an Origins Awards jury.

As I previously mentioned, each jury has a Foreman, and there are several other Jurors (along with yours truly) who are tasked with rating games and game products to select the nominees.  At the beginning of 2013, each of us Jurors received a large and very heavy package of games in the mail, along with a sizeable number of games in PDF format.  I was fairly shocked the afternoon I received my package at how weighty the darned thing was, banging up several toes when I tried to nudge the box off my stoop and into my home, not realizing how heavy all those games would be!

From there, I spent the next several weeks reading through all the role-playing games and accessories I’d received, rolling up characters here and there for new game systems, and generally assessing what I liked and didn’t like about each RPG product.  And there were quite a few role-playing games, accessories, and supplements offered up this year to be judged for the Origins Awards – nearly 50 different products all told!  The process of going over that much material in such a short time was both fun and a bit grueling, but it was also utterly fascinating to see just how diverse and creative RPG Designers are becoming these days.

It was interesting to note that the Role-Playing Game Jury didn’t act like a courtroom jury, and there was no discussion during the evaluation process between myself and my fellow Jurors.  In fact, it wasn’t until after the ratings were tallied, and the lists of nominees released, that the Jurors had any discussion among ourselves about the games we were judging.

The jury process worked so that each game or game product was evaluated by each Juror on its own merits.  Games were scored points in six different criteria, which bear some resemblance to my own rating system used in my EN World Reviews.   Once the Jurors submitted all our score sheets to the Academy, the ratings were totaled up, and the top five nominees emerged from among the contestants.

I rather liked this system, as eash game or game product had to impress several persons in order to become a nominee for the Calliope for Best Roleplaying Game.  For those who haven’t seen the list yet for this year, here were the nominees from my jury:

Nominees for the Best Roleplaying Game Award

  • Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG Core Rules by Privateer Press
  • Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Games by Margaret Weis Productions
  • Monsterhearts by Buried Without Ceremony
  • Nights of the Crusades by Aetheric Dreams
  • Primeval RPG by Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.

Overall, I have to say that the scoring process by a jury, comprised of several roleplaying gamers, makes for a pretty even playing field to get a fair result for the Origin Award.

Obviously, there were literally dozens of products judged this time around, and only a tiny fraction of those entrants get to make the Top 5 and become Nominees.  So I wanted to mention a few products I evaluated during my jury duty this year, and found them to be impressive enough to want to recommend them for consideration by the RPG fans in the gaming community:

  • Yggdrasil by Cubical 7 Entertainment – A role-playing game of Viking heroes in an alternative timeline based upon the Norse Sagas and myths.
  • Shadows of Esteren by Agate RPG– A lush and beautiful fantasy role-playing game which takes place in a bleak gothic horror setting.
  • Nights Black Agents by Pelgrane Press – Creepy espionage RPG pitting human spies against vampire agents, using the GUMSHOE Engine.
  • Champions Complete by Hero Games – The most up-to-date edition of the classic superhero roleplaying game.  ‘Nuff said!
  • Streets of Bedlam by FunSizedGames – Thrilling crime-noir style game using the Savage Worlds game system

Needless to say, I’ll certainly be reviewing several of these games on EN World in the coming months!  While I can’t say how these particular games were rated in my own scoring process, I still feel they are worth mentioning in their own right.

As frequent Readers of my blog might guess, I’ll definitely be putting in an appearance at Origins Game Fair this year – particularly when it comes to attending the Origins Award Ceremony on Saturday June 15th.  Aside from the thrill of being honored to be chosen as a Juror, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet some of my fellow Jurors in person.  And most of all, I look forward to seeing the jury process to the very end, and find out who has won the “Callie” for Best Roleplaying Game at the Origins Awards!

So until next blog… I wish you happy gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


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