Every year, there are numerous awards given out for Game of the Year that seemingly fill every need and every niche. There are awards for best family game, best card game, and best gamer’s game. There’s awards given by different countries, different magazines, and different groups of Board Game Geeks. Given all this emphasis on the game of the year, what about the game designer of the year? That was my thinking when I came up with the Designer of the Year award quite a few years ago and enough people found it interesting that I’ve made it an annual ritual.
The purpose of the Designer of the Year award is to recognize the boardgame designer who has released the best body of work over the previous calendar year. So what are the parameters for this award? First of all, I try to keep my own feelings out of it as much as possible. Instead, I try to judge how the hobby as a whole views each designer’s games. Things that I consider are how highly the games are rated on BGG, how many ratings they have, how many major awards and nominations they have won or are projected to win, and how much “buzz” the games are generating. Clearly it’s more of an art than a science, but that’s what makes it a fun exercise.
The second point is that I try to include as many kinds of games as possible. I exclude classic wargames, simply because I know so little about that side of the hobby. But everything else is considered. I usually don’t include expansions, but standalone spinoffs of existing designs are included, although they don’t carry as much weight as completely original designs. A game is a game, so I try to throw as much into the mix as possible.
To give you an idea of my reasoning over the years, here are my selections for DotY since 1990 (the first dozen or so awards were made retroactively). Some years, the decision was too close to call, so I have occasionally made occasional joint awards. For each designer, I’ve listed the major games that made up their portfolio during their award-winning year. If a game is shown in italics, it’s a redesign of a game the designer published earlier.
Year Designer(s) Major Games
1990 Klaus Teuber Adel Verplichtet
1991 Ragnar Brothers History of the World
1992 Reiner Knizia Modern Art; Quo Vadis; Pirat, Revolution
1993 Richard Garfield Magic: The Gathering
1994 Wolfgang Kramer 6 Nimmt!; Big Boss
` Andreas Seyfarth Manhattan; Waldmeister
1995 Klaus Teuber Settlers of Catan; Galopp Royal
1996 Klaus Teuber Settlers of Catan Card Game; Entdecker; Hallo Dachs!
1997 Reiner Knizia Euphrat & Tigris; Titan: The Arena; Mole Hill
1998 Reiner Knizia Durch die Wüste; Samurai; Zirkus Flohcati; Exxtra;
` Honeybears; Katzenjammer Blues
1999 Reiner Knizia Ra; Lost Cities; Stephenson’s Rocket; Schotten-Totten;
` Money; Drahtseilakt; Rheinlander; It’s Mine!; Tabula Rasa
` Wolfgang Kramer Tikal; Torres; Die Händler; Evergreen
2000 Reiner Knizia Taj Mahal; Lord of the Rings; Traumfabrik; Merchants of
` Amsterdam; Battleline; Trendy; Ivanhoe; Vampire
2001 Moon/Weissblum San Marco; Capitol; Das Amulett
` Martin Wallace Liberté; Volldampf; Pampas Railroads
2002 Wolfgang Kramer Pueblo; Mexica; Wildlife; Goldland
2003 Michael Schacht Coloretto; Industria; Magna Grecia; Richelieu; Paris Paris;
` Crazy Chicken; InterUrban
2004 Alan Moon Ticket to Ride; Oasis; Clocktowers; Warriors; Employee of
` the Month
2005 Reiner Knizia Tower of Babel; Beowulf; Palazzo; Pickomino; Poison;
` Euphrat & Tigris Card Game; Head-to-Head Poker
2006 Richard Borg BattleLore; Command and Colors: Ancients
` Bruno Cathala Mr. Jack; Mission: Red Planet; Cleopatra and the Society of
` Architects; Animalia; Du Balai!
2007 Stefan Feld In the Year of the Dragon; Notre Dame
` Tom Lehmann Race for the Galaxy; Phoenicia
` Uwe Rosenberg Agricola
2008 Martin Wallace Tinners’ Trail; Steel Driver; After the Flood; Toledo
2009 Martin Wallace Automobile; Steam; Rise of Empires; Last Train to
` Wensleydale; Waterloo; God’s Playground
2010 Antoine Bauza 7 Wonders; Hanabi & Ikebana; Mystery Express
So that’s where the award has been–let’s see where it’s going. Here are the ten designers that I think had the best group of published games in 2011. They’re listed in alphabetical order, together with their designs. Only a few of the games came out in time to qualify for last year’s annual awards, but for those designs, here is the shorthand I use to show the wins and nominations received. S, D, and I shows an SdJ, DSP, and IGA winner, respectively (with the S notation signifying either the classic SdJ or the new Kennerspiel); s, d, and i shows a nomination for each of these awards (in the case of the DSP, it shows a top ten finish); r shows an SdJ recommendation (the award is so influential that even a recommendation by the jury carries a good deal of weight); and g and G signify, respectively, Golden Geek category winners and the GG Game of the Year. Finally, as in the list of past winners, games in italics are redesigns or expanded versions of titles that were released in earlier years.
Before I start talking about the designers that did make this list, let me once again discuss one that didn’t. For the second year in a row, Reiner Knizia is absent from a list that he used to dominate. At least this year there was some buzz about his designs, but the principal recipient of that, WizKids’ Star Trek: Expeditions, had a disappointing showing. There was also BITS, the sequel to FITS, but there was hardly anything else, making 2011 Knizia’s worst year in 15 years or so. However, before we start holding benefits for the Good Doctor, let me point out that he’s off to a roaring start in 2012, with about a dozen titles being announced already. That’s hardly surprising, as these designer booms and busts are often determined by the vagaries of publisher delays. So the chances of Reiner being represented in next year’s DotY list are extremely good, as they should be.
Here, then, are the leading designers of 2011:
Vlaada Chvatil – Mage Knight; Dungeon Petz; Pictomania
Chvatil has been a reliable source of very good games every year since he burst onto the scene with his iconic Through the Ages back in 2006. But this is the first time since then that he’s given us multiple meaty games during the same twelve month period. Mage Knight has a sky-high rating and has already cracked the top 30 on the Geek. Petz is also doing very well and has an excellent chance of grabbing one or more award nominations later this year. Even Pictomania has a solid rating, despite being basically a party game (which don’t tend to do well on the Geek). It’s a very strong collection and puts the Czech Republic’s most famous gamer in serious contention for the DotY award.
Matthias Cramer – Lancaster(sd); Helvetia; Mieses Karma
One of the most welcome trends this year is the performance of new designers. Cramer followed up with a big year after debuting with the well regarded Glen More in 2010. Both Lancaster and Helvetia have done well and the former even managed two nominations. Karma has been more of an afterthought, but the year was good enough to put this newcomer in contention for the award.
Mike Elliott – Thunderstone: Dragonspire; Quarriors!; Star Trek: Fleet Captains
Elliot isn’t a new name, but he’s a newcomer to this award. The veteran CCG designer had his mainstream breakthrough with Thunderstone in 2009 and its follow-up Dragonspire has already crashed into the Geek’s top 100. Fleet Captains is another hit and has an even higher average rating. Quarriors got a big buildup and hasn’t really lived up to it, but it still sports a decent rating. The fact that Dragonspire is a spin-off hurts Elliott, but there’s no question that this is a notable output; perhaps this will be his first of many visits to the DotY pages.
Stefan Feld – The Castles of Burgundy(rdi); Trajan; Strasbourg(sd)
Feld’s been on quite a roll recently and this is probably the strongest year of his career. Both Burgundy and Trajan sport Geek ratings in the 7.9’s, with the former game garnering three mentions by major awards and a top 50 ranking. Strasbourg’s ratings aren’t quite as good, but it also snagged two nominations. With Trajan having an excellent chance to grab one or two nominations later this year, this is a powerful triumvirate by Herr Feld. Will it be enough to earn him his second DotY? We’ll soon find out.
Friedemann Friese – Power Grid: First Sparks; Friday; Spring Fever; Fauna Kompakt
Friese had a huge year in 2010 and follows it up with this solid showing. Both the slimmed down, prehistoric version of Power Grid and the solo deckbuilder Friday have good ratings and their share of fans. It’s not enough to vie for the title in a strong year, but the Man in Green continues to impress.
Corey Konieczka – Mansions of Madness; Gears of War; Rune Age
FFG’s Konieczka been in the top 5 for Designer of the Year three times in the last four years, a remarkably consistent record. His releases last year give him a good chance of adding to that. Mansions broke into the top 100 on the Geek; Gears of War boasts a rating just under 8.0; and Rune Age has a nice rating and a good deal of buzz. Is this the year Corey finally takes the big step and wins all the marbles?
Michael Rieneck – Santiago de Cuba; Fortuna; Einfach tierisch
When it was announced that Rieneck would have two interesting sounding games coming out at Essen, it sounded like he might make a run for his first DotY. However, Fortuna has been something of a disappointment, while Santiago de Cuba’s ratings are good, but not great. So nothing too exciting this year, but as always, a good showing from this reliable designer.
Michael Schacht – Mondo(rd); Coney Island; Gold!; Dino-Deal
Schacht’s output includes three nice lighter weight games, with the addictive Mondo snagging a couple of nominations. None of these will be the second coming of Zooloretto, but it’s good to see this former DotY winner continuing to produce quality titles.
Touko Tahkokallio – Eclipse; Walnut Grove; Principato
Of all the designers with big breakout years, none has made a bigger splash than Tahkokallio. In fact, his performance this year is more than a little reminiscent of what Vlaada Chvatil did five years ago when he shocked the world with Through the Ages. Like Chvatil, Touko hails from a country (Finland) that up to this point has not been associated with gaming at all. And also like the Czech, he went from a few obscure designs to perhaps the biggest megahit of the year; in this case, Eclipse, which sports a sky-high rating and has already zoomed up to the #7 spot on the Geek. And if that wasn’t enough, Walnut Grove is also making a nice showing. Do we have a new designing star in the firmament? Only time will tell, but there’s no question that for the first time, Finland has a countryman strongly in the running for the Designer of the Year.
Martin Wallace – A Few Acres of Snow(Ig); Discworld: Ankh-Morpork; Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861; Zeitalter der Vernunft; Volle Scholle; Old Men of the Forest; Schlacht am Buffet
Wallace’s amazing hot streak continues, as 2011 gave us another sparkling set of new delights. Leading the way was the hugely innovative IGA winner Few Acres, which brought deckbuilding to the world of historical designs. Discworld, while much lighter, has also fared well. Plus, there’s a bunch of other original games and redesigns (Zeitalter is a somewhat streamlined version of Struggle of Empires). With a major award already in his pocket and a sizeable supporting cast, will this be Martin’s third DotY in four years?
Those are the nominees and I have to say it’s one of the strongest group of hopefuls I’ve seen since I started doing this. Chvatil, Feld, Konieczka, Tahkokallio, and Wallace all have portfolios powerful enough to win in an ordinary year. But, as perhaps you’ve heard before, there can only be one. So, after due consideration, I’m happy to announce that the Designer of the Year for 2011 is…
It wasn’t a straightforward decision, but having a trio of games with excellent ratings and which will likely have multiple nominations apiece is just too strong a combination to overlook. So Feld walks away with his second DotY award.
Wallace, once again, was close–really close. I definitely considered having the award be shared. But when I asked myself which designer most people would say had the better year, I figured I’d get more “Feld” responses than “Wallace” ones. Still, you have to tip your hat to Martin, who now has two first place and two second place finishes over the last four years. And oh yeah, just before that streak started, he released a little game called Brass.
After that, I list Chvatil, Tahkokallio, and Konieczka, in that order. Tough luck for all of them, as those are a really strong set of games to wind up in the 3-5 slots. And to put the final exclamation point on the Year of the New Designer, I’ll put Cramer sixth. It’s a very intriguing mix of old and new names and I expect to see more great things from all of them.
So after a three-year vacation to England and France, the Designer of the Year award returns to its accustomed home in Germany. Will it stay there next year? Or will a yet unknown designer come out of nowhere to claim it? Check this space again twelve months from now and I’ll let you know!
FWIW, it would be a tie between Touko and Feld for me this year. And, if I had more time to play Mage Knight, Vlaada might actually be in the running as well…
I can see lots of differences of opinion on the selection this year, Dale, since there were so many strong candidates. It’s a nice problem to have.
This year, to a greater degree than ever, I think the selection will depend on gamer taste and preference. Feld indeed had a remarkable year, but his games all fit into a particular “meaty Euro” genre for me. Lots of calculating, pretty light on theme, longer play time for a Euro. Still I can’t disagree with the selection. For me it would be a tight contest between Feld and Vlaada Chvatil. Chvatil comes on with two incredibly strong and thematic games that deserve recognition, although again on the longer side of play time.
Wallace, as ever, is all over the map showing his versatility. Still the go-to designer for novelty and story in a game, but while he has a large portfolio it is really one master game and bunch of also published titles this year. I have to say that Corey Konieczka is at this point being hampered in my opinion by the poor standards for technical writing and editing at FFG. In particular, Elder Sign may be a stronger design than first appearances, but it is hard to tell by the published rules.
Of particular note to me this year is the play time of the games I consider strongest across this slate of candidates. The best games of the best candidates trend towards the two hour mark, and some can run substantially longer. Does this mean that many of these games are not Euros or that the classic definition of the Euro as including a shorter play time needs to be changed?
It’s funny you mention game length. We had an old-school game night last night (Through the Desert, Acquire, Web of Power, Liar’s Dice x2) and all the games were so short! :) I certainly think that the most highly thought of games are getting longer and more complex. I don’t mind it at all, really, as I enjoy a longer game as long as the length is not because of downtime/bookkeeping. It was sort of a refreshing experience to play 4 games in a short period of time, with only 1 being a true filler. Maybe I need to seek some games of shorter euros again.
FWIW, I would go with Feld as well. I love all 3 of those games. Tauko and Vlaada are very close behind, though, as Mage Knight and Eclipse are keepers.
I have often wondered about the whole game length = higher rated games phenomenon. I don’t know whether people feel that they’re supposed to like a game more or respect it more because it’s longer and more complex!
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I enjoy longer, more complex games for a number of reasons. The most important of which is that I have trouble emotionally investing in the outcome of a game that is too short or that contains too few decision points. I am very much the play-to-win type, and I relish the protacted tension that comes with knowing only one player will be victorious after three-plus hours of competing. By contrast, even games like Dominion (which I consider very good), feel less significant because we can (and usually do) run through three or four sessions in a row. If I make a bad move in turn three, I can just shrug my shoulders and say “I’ll do better next time,” rather than have to scrape and claw for the next several hours in an attempt to salvage my position.
Another, related reason is that I enjoy games that have sufficient length to develop a narrative arc. My session report for Dominion might read “S/he bought A and B. I bought X and Y. I won.” My session reports for Twilight Struggle innevitably include multiple inflection points: “S/he opened by investing in Europe. I countered by rushing Southeast Asia. S/he countered my counter by realigning me out of the Middle East. I used Five Year Plan to bury Middle East Scoring after the Turn 3 reshuffle.” And so on.
Lastly, while I don’t value conplexity for its own sake, I tend to find that well-done complex games offer more room for strategic variation and (to borrow Jesse’s term) interplay variety. I want a game to be capable of evolving with me over numerous plays as I and my opponents gain experience. Some simple games offer this level of depth (particularly well-designed abstracts), but many offer just a handful of obvious paths and reward players for doing the same things well again and again. I like a game that becomes more engrossing and challenging with experience, not one that becomes second nature.
Anyway, just my $0.02.
I am far from a Feld fan, but it is hard for me to argue with his results this year. His work has been extremely well received by those who are open to his design aesthetic.
Martin Wallace offered high quantity this year, but I suspect few of thise titles appeal to his most loyal fan base in the way that his run of games in, say, 2009 did (looking back at that list just amazes me with the quality and depth of each title). I also can’t help but mentally dock him some points for the issues surrounding A Few Acres of Snow. I do applaud his efforts to fix them, though.
Without having played Dungeon Petz or Mage Knight yet, I can’t justify my preference to see Vlaada Chvatil win thi award. As enjoyable as Pictomania is, it is hardly Designer of the Year material in itself.
If Eclipse maintains its momentum, we may ultimately end up calling this the year that Touko Tahkokallio was robbed. Additionally, the range he has displayed between Eclipse and Walnut Grove is, I think, praiseworthy. In that regard, he is reminiscent of early Chvatil. I look forward to seeing what the future holds from this designer.
Touko Tahkokallio WAS robbed…Feld?? With more euro-hashes this year than any other designer. Larry, you are turning into a dinosaur.
Euro-hashes? So what are Principato and Walnut Grove?
This is going to sound like a broken record by now but I have difficulty giving much credit to Wallace for A Few Acres of Snow because of the severe flaws in the design. Is it innovative? Absolutely. Is it a good game? Any game that is as broken as A Few Acres is clearly not.
My big question is why this seems to be ignored so much?
Obviously, I agree with your point, Jesse (though having not played A Few Acres of Snow myslef, I can’t speak to just how broken it is).
That said, I think that its problems have been forgiven by others in part because many people have been able to enjoy the game despite is problems. Some people will not play the game enough to discover the broken strategy if they did not already know about it. Others may discover it, but be happy with the ten or fifteen plays it took them to find it. Still others seem willing to simply continue to play the game without employing that strategy or with additional house rules that allow them to enjoy the game.
While, on the one hand, a design award should probably account for the fact that the design was flawed, it should not entirely overlook the fact that the flawed design has produced many hours of gaming enjoyment for its players (I suspect more overall enjoyment was derived from A Few Acres of Snow, even if ultimately broken, than will ever be derived from, say, Old Men of the Forest, which is presumably not).
I can understand that from the perslective of the average gamer, sure, even though it is one that I do not share. It just seems that the critical community should not be ignoring it.
Then again I am also confused by the people who say they can play a game and ignore strong strategies or deliberately not play them, but that is another topic altogether. Maybe I have my next blog entry….
I know that folks think AFAoS is terribly broken, but I don’t entirely agree. I do know of cases where beginning players on the French side have beaten ‘strategy aware’ players on the British side. Now, perhaps the strategy wasn’t followed tightly enough, or errors were made, but I think allegations that the winning strategy is obvious (or even readily apparent), easily executed and a guaranteed win are a bit overstated. So, I struggle with the “broken” terminology for this.
Still, I respect the criticism, and put it into the same category as the one I leveled at FFG in my prior comment. As the market is increasingly flooded with product I’d hope that strong companies would distinguish themselves with quality – well-tested -, product.
See, I have trouble accepting that a game should be considered not broken simply because with suboptimal play it kind of works. Optimal (or near-optimal) play is what matters.
Is it Jesse? Is it really?
For determining if a game is broken? Yes.
Or better yet, to determine whether a game is suitable for tournament play. I just returned from this year’s Prezcon in Charlottesville, VA where the A Few Acres of Snow tournament was effectively aborted due to being unable to create a fair way to determine the best player.
I disagree with Jesse, but agree with Tim about tournaments. However, I think the group will have a lot more to say about this subject in a future Roundtable discussion on this site.
“Then again I am also confused by the people who say they can play a game and ignore strong strategies or deliberately not play them.”
Do you never explore alternative strategies in games? The one thing that A Few Acres offers is drastically different game play depending on where you focus during the game. In order for the game to break the British have to follow a very specific course of action: but there are other strong non-broken actions to take, which may lead to a more interesting game for both players involved.
Most of all, however, Wallace was able to create a deck construction game which is the first major innovation to the mechanic since Dominion came out. Just because there is a very niche aspect of brokenness to it doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of accolades.
Sure, I do like to explore alternative strategies, in fact most of my gaming time of late has been spent exhaustively exploring the two best designs of 2011 – Mage Knight and Ora et Labora.
What having such an overwhelmingly dominant strategy as the HH does is short circuit any point in exploring those alternatives. The British have a very strong military advantage and ignoring that will probably hand the game to the French. If you do follow it the natural culmination of the strategy is to capture Quebec. Even with extremely suboptimal play, we were able to figure that out in our first play. It seems for any dedicated explorer of a game to most stumble in the strength of the military path to Quebec.
Also, I think the reason Wallace is getting so much acclaim for A Few Acres as far as innovation goes may simply be a matter of scheduling. Mage Knight is just as innovative (if not moreso) of a departure as A Few Acres with only a four month difference in release date.
I do not deny that A Few Acres should be given proprs for its innovation, it just should not be listed as a reason someone is up for a best designer award or be considered a game of the year. It is far too flawed for that.
“In order for the game to break the British have to follow a very specific course of action: but there are other strong non-broken actions to take, which may lead to a more interesting game for both players involved.”
This is not quite accurate. The dominant HH strategy isn’t like an opening in Chess, where players can opt to just do another opening. All parts of the strategy are in isolation simply good British play. Turning one’s back to these parts in an effort to avoid the HH amounts to “Just play the British poorly”.
Touko was robbed!!!
Vlaada was robbed :)
Yeah, Vlaada or Uwe would get my vote and I am not even that big of a Vlaada fan. The only games of his that I rate 7+ are this years releases.
LOL… saw the banner… Larry choosing … it will be Wallace or Feld. I was right.
Anybody who can design and develop Mage Knight to such a fine edge deserves it. Vlaada for me. (Caveat: have not played Burgundy)
I’m gratified by the response to this article. And I’m very sympathetic to the Vlaada and Touko supporters. Both of their outputs were extremely impressive. It was, as I said, a tough decision.
There is probably a bit of a bias with this award that works against longer, thematic titles like Eclipse and Mage Knight. I put a good deal of weight on performance (or projected performance) in major awards, yet those kinds of games don’t usually do that well in them. That methodology does, to some extent, favor classic Euros with a duration of 90 minutes or less. Of course, that also works against a designer like Wallace and he’s done pretty well with the DotY over the years.
As far as how much credit to give to A Few Acres of Snow, we’re dealing with a game that’s won a major award, has a rating around 8.0, and is in the top 40 on the Geek. It’s hard NOT to give a lot of credit to such a design. I did knock it down a small amount due to the dominant British strategy in the original version, but not really enough to cost Wallace in his duel with Feld.
My position is that a game is worth what people think about it. Last year, the big game was 7 Wonders. Now this is not a deep game and it has a number of issues when you play it with more than 4 players. But it was extremely popular and most gamers loved it. It also swept most of the gaming awards. How can you not give a huge value to such a game, regardless of what you think about its design?
I feel much the same about Few Acres. I realize that there are some who think it’s broken and out of whack. But the game is played and greatly enjoyed by an awful lot of people. You can try to analyze why they like it despite what some feel is a dominant strategy, but I’d rather take their opinions at face value. When you combine that with the IGA award, it’s got to be one of the bigger titles of the year.
My tastes have really diverged from those of the gaming public since about 2007. I’m still finding games I enjoy; for example, I really enjoyed Rails of New England, A Few Acres of Snow, Monster-Falle and the Ticket to Ride Team Asia game from 2011, but I have almost no interest in the “hot” games of the year.
Fortunately, there are enough games being published that one can avoid the “hot” games and still have a great time playing games.
I really like Feld’s games. But I find it a bit unfortunate that last year he proved that based on different good ideas he can and does make the same complex Euro game again and again. That being said, I enjoyed each of the 3 titles mentioned.
My vote would go for Matthias Cramer this year. After Glen More he proved he’s not a one-trick pony. Touko’s Eclipse is great but the other games less so.
Well deserved. The amount of great games that Stefan created in the recent years is just impressive.
I think it’s amusing that Wallace is getting so much credit for AFAoS. Seems like someone stripped out the “boring” bit of Magic the Gathering and made a successful game out of it (Dominion), and now people are trying to find ways to use the idea in a more interesting way. This use of the cards you “build” just seems to me like trying to go back towards Magic from Dominion. In other words, I’m not sure Wallace for example deserves credit for this “innovation”. Or am I way off base here?
“This use of the cards you “build” just seems to me like trying to go back towards Magic from Dominion. In other words, I’m not sure Wallace for example deserves credit for this “innovation”. Or am I way off base here?”
I don’t think I see the connection between A Few Acres and Magic. I’m hard pressed to think of any mechanics they share other than the existence of a deck of cards…could you elaborate on what you mean?
I don’t mean directly. I mean Dominion itself seems to have stripped the deckbuilding out of Magic, and made that aspect the game itself, and it’s been popular, now people are looking for innovative ways to make more use of the cards themselves, but that was precisely what was taken out of Magic to make dominion. AFAoS is just an example of trying to make the actual use and interaction of the cards more direct and more tied to the gameplay than just shuffling percentages based on building the deck itself.
I think that what sets A Few Acres apart from contenders like Ascension or Nightfall is precisely the way it is nothing like Magic: it takes the part of the game that magic itself abstracted(geography) and applies it to a board form. Meanwhile, it keeps other elements abstract (like resource generation and military might) which magic did not. (via lands and creatures having a spot on the table)
In this way the innovation for A Few Acres is special: instead of going back to the roots of Dominion or Magic, it’s going forwards to unite the deck building genre with war games.
just to clarify, Dominion is a successful game based on what many people seem to think is the “boring” bit (i.e. the fun bit of playing the decks is not really present in the same way).. “evolutions” of Dominion seem often to be ways to claw back some of the aspects of the original MtG that were taken away in the first place.
Also if anyone was robbed it was Uwe Rosenberg. He designs a game that has hit the Top 40 without slowing down and does not even make the list? While designers of other, less distinguished games do?
Jesse, it’s always hard for a designer to make the list with just one game. The idea is to recognize the DESIGNER on the year, not the GAME of the year–there are plenty awards for the latter. Occasionally, a designer will gain a nomination with an output of just one game, but it’s usually one that swept the awards. Examples include Vaccarino for Dominion, Attia for Caylus, and Matthews and Gupta for Twilight Struggle. Only one designer has ever won the award with just a single game and it turns out that was Rosenberg, who was a co-winner for Agricola. But it took a weak year for even that extraordinary game to sneak in a win.
Given your preferences, I suspect you won’t agree with that reasoning. But the whole point of the DotY is to reward designers with multiple quality games in a year.