2020 American Tabletop Award Nominees

I absolutely love awards, even ones where I don’t have a stake in them. I’ll watch the Academy Awards with baited breath even though I’ve only seen the animated movies of the year — young kids. Most of all I love board game awards, I love the Deutscher Spiele Preis, I love the International Gamers Award and most of all I love the Spiel des Jahres and the awards that come with it, the Kenner and the Kinder. So I was more than happy to see a committee form last year and try their hands at something new, a more American version of the SdJ. While it definitely lacks in history and some of the credibility built up over the years of the SdJ, the American Tabletop Award is off to a good start.

From the press release:

The American Tabletop Awards are a new annual award designed to celebrate excellent games that came out in the previous calendar year. To decide which games should be chosen for this award, the American Tabletop Awards Committee was formed. The American Tabletop Awards Committee is comprised of 10 members all based in the United States — Brittanie Boe, Becca Scott, Theo Strempel, Suzanne Sheldon, Amber Cook, Jonathan Liu, Ruel Gaviola, Annette Villa, Nicole Brady, and Eric Yurko.

To kind of differentiate the award from other awards they have created four different categories to give awards to. Last year instead of giving nominations and such they just gave the winner of each category an award.

Early Gamers which is for “games intended particularly for younger players (typically ages 12 and under) and players new to modern board games. Game duration usually runs 15 – 45 minutes.” Last year’s winner was Catch the Moon.

Casual Gamers which is for games that are approachable and appealing to gamers at all levels of experience. Play times typically fall into the 30-60 minute play time. Last year’s winner was The Quacks of Quedlinburg.

Strategy Games which is for games that take a step beyond Casual games in their complexity, planning requirements, and duration. Play time typically runs from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Last year’s winner was Chronicles of Crime.

Complex Games which is for Deeply strategic games especially appealing to experienced players. Often employ a myriad of game mechanisms and lean towards longer play times. Last year’s winner was Root.

So, as you can see, the awards kind of line up pretty well with what we see has popular among the newer gamer crowd, and even some of the older crowd. It’s a new award and it’s going to take a bit of time to build up a following, make some inroads into the community and the industry and build up some cred.

This year, they are adding some drama to the awards and announcing all the Finalists a bit early and building up some anticipation. With the announcement sometime in the next week as to what is a Nomination, what’s Recommended and what are the Winners. Here are those Nominations.

Early Gamers

Casual Games

Strategy Games

Complex Games

There ya go, the 2020 American Tabletop Award Nominations, what do you think was omitted? What do you think should win?

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14 Responses to 2020 American Tabletop Award Nominees

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  3. will sargent says:

    I don’t know any of these people and so like most awards these are pretty meaningless, subjective and down to who’s friendly with whom in the industry. Call me prejudiced but I don’t trust a US jury anywhere near as much as a German one, especially Spiel, as your country is far more open to advertorial and paid for promotions, which does little to help consumer decision making.

    What I do know is that if Larry Levvy, Jonathan Franklin, Jeremy Salinas, Zee Garcia or Neil Thompson give a game an 8 or 9, it’s often worth checking out.

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      I agree with most of those names you listed, but there is one in there who is “far more open to advertorial and paid for promotions, which does little to help consumer decision making.”

      Simple fact is, those folks are going to probably pick a lot of the same things as these folks picked, you just have a history with them because that’s what you have read and watched.

      I don’t read or watch a whole lot outside of this circle here any more, but there are lot more folks who do. The board gaming hobby is taking off here in the Americas and these folks want to be part of helping those gamers. I can’t fault them for trying, and in fact, tip my hat to them.

  4. huzonfirst says:

    I love game awards as well, Brandon. But when the ATA debuted last year, my attitude was pretty similar to Will’s: who are these people and why should I care what they think? I’m feeling a bit more positive towards them right now, for two reasons. First, that they stuck around long enough to do this a second year. And second, the nominations are representative and quite good. I’m still not sure about the jury, though. I remember reading their bios last year and not seeing anything to impress me. So my question for Brandon and anyone else who cares to respond: does anyone know who these folks are and what their tie to boardgaming is? Again, is there a reason I should care about what they think?

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      I am also giving them a bit more credit because they are here for the second year and I think that the committee is in it for the long haul. As for does anyone know them? I think that folks do know who most of them are, but I definitely think it’s a different crowd than who is here for the most part. I do have some issues with pay for content with a couple of the members, but for the most part, I don’t think it matters. As you said, the nominees are good and representative. I do wonder how much representation was given in each category from the members, but for now, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

      As for you caring what they think? I’m not sure, I don’t give them any more credence than I do the Academy picking a winning movie, but I enjoy seeing who wins. But I know that there are a LOT of newer gamers who will see this award, and be steered towards these games, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

      • Larry Levy says:

        Fair enough, Brandon. I tend to be skeptical at first, because there are SO many Game of the Year awards these days, some of which are just are just the opinion of 2 or 3 people. But the ATA’s are off to a good start and it appears they have staying power. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and include them on the short list of awards that I follow.

  5. Chris Smith says:

    These “awards” are totally unethical. Mostly a bunch of self-important shills who suckle off the publishers’ teet are giving out awards? They can go away and no one would miss them.

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      So, the nominees aren’t fairly good? These aren’t games that deserve to be nominated? I have a couple issues with choices of games, but for the most part, I think the committee managed to pick out quality games that deserve recognition. So I guess even “self-important shills” can get it right as well.

      It’s fine if the award isn’t for you, but it does reach a certain audience.

      • Will says:

        Well, Taverns probably doesn’t deserve to be on there, and certainly not in the “Strategy” category (and I own and enjoy it).

  6. Greg says:

    I am not typically a fan of awards for some of the reasons stated above, but I do follow the Spiel de Jahres. It would be nice if there was another hobby game award as prestigious as the Spiel des Jahres that spotlighted outstanding games in a (very) few other categories. The only thing is that if there is too much overlap then it is not useful so it really needs to be its own thing. I am not sure if Early, Casual, and Strategy really differs from Kinderspiel, Spiel and Kennerspiel. The SdJ does an excellent job doing what it does. I don’t think an American (or other) version is necessary.

    Although, as I write that, I guess an American version might bring more attention to the hobby on this side of the Atlantic than a German version. I mean that is most of the point of these awards. While I likely won’t pay much attention to this award in its current format (too much overlap with SdJ) I do hope it raises more awareness to “our kind of games” in North America.

  7. Matt J Carlson says:

    Hmmm…. my understanding is that the SdJ has something to do with the game industry – possibly reviewers? are there other connections? Is SdJ solely supported by SdJ or is there a bigger organization they’re attached to?

    In the US case, are these people/awards attached to some larger organization or is it simply these folks who all decided together to make an award?

    I agree the nominations are reasonably solid but am curious how this committee is hoping to establish their credence with the wider population. Do they have connections with mainstream media? Are they simply relying on blanket PR posts? Just curious of how they’re trying to establish themselves. We as gamers would be interested in such a thing, how do these people intend to “reach” the more mass market folks (like the SdJ seems to do…)

  8. Van Damm says:

    By the way, why isn’t there a review for Pax Pamir 2ed from any of opinionated gamers?

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