Boardgame Geek has just announced the nominees for their Game of the Year (GotY) awards for the 2020 calendar year, the Golden Geeks. These were determined by selections made by the BGG community. As usual, there are lists of games for numerous categories, such as best 2-player, best card game, and most innovative. But to me, the most interesting thing about the awards this year is that they’ve changed the format and will now have three separate GotY awards: Best Light Game, Best Medium Game, and Best Heavy Game. This is somewhat comparable to what the SdJ jury does with its awards–the Spiel des Jahres is aimed at families and is a fairly light game, while the Kennerspiel des Jahres is intended for “connoisseurs” (and tends to be a middleweight game).
The guidance for which games were eligible for each of the three Golden Geek awards came from the user-determined Weight for each game. This is not a requirement (the Golden Geeks are famously unregulated), but the voting app employed this year made it considerably easier to only select games for the award which fit its specified range of weights, so I suspect that it will be rare to see a game chosen outside of its natural category (making it unlikely that a game will appear in multiple GotY categories).
Here are the three lists of nominated games, together with their designers. The top 10 games (plus ties) in each category are eligible to compete for the award.
Abandon All Artichokes (Emma Larkins)
Bites (Brigitte & Wolfgang Ditt)
Hues and Cues (Scott Brady)
Marvel United (Eric Lang, Andrea Chiarvesio)
MicroMacro: Crime City (Johannes Sich)
MonsDRAWsity (Eric Slauson)
Mysterium Park (Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko)
Project L (Michal Mikes, Jan Soukal, Adam Spanel)
Santa Monica (Josh Wood)
Spicy (Gyori Gabor)
Trekking the World (Charlie Bink)
Beyond the Sun (Dennis Chan)
Calico (Kevin Russ)
Dune: Imperium (Paul Dennen)
Faiyum (Friedemann Friese)
Fort (Grant Rodiek)
Lost Ruins of Arnak (Michal Stach, Michaela Stachova)
My City (Reiner Knizia)
Nidavellir (Serge Laget)
Oceans (Nick Bentley, Dominic Crapuchettes, Ben Goldman, Brian O’Neill)
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 (Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau)
The Red Cathedral (Israel Cendrero, Sheila Santos)
The Search for Planet X (Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset)
18Chesapeake (Scott Petersen)
Bonfire (Stefan Feld)
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (Isaac Childres)
Hallertau (Uwe Rosenberg)
High Frontier 4 All (Phil Eklund, Justin Grey, Jon Manker, Dom Rougier)
Kanban EV (Vital Lacerda)
On Mars (Vital Lacerda)
Praga Caput Regni (Vladimir Suchy)
Tekhenu (Daniele Tascini, David Turczi)
Viscounts of the West Kingdom (Shem Phillips, SJ Macdonald)
As you can see, the categories are kind of all over the place. The Medium group has reasonably meaty games like Beyond the Sun, Faiyum, and Pandemic Legacy sitting next to much lighter designs like Calico and My City (which is light enough to have received an SdJ nomination, for goodness sakes). The Light group is mostly party-style games, but also includes Marvel United, which is a very different kind of game. There are no egregious choices, but when you make selections by committee, things do tend to be a bit more scattershot than if an individual or a jury was setting the categories.
However, I can’t be too critical, because these are all solid games and most of the notable titles from last year are included. Maybe the biggest omission is Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy, although experience has shown that sequels and spinoffs of successful earlier designs don’t tend to do well with gaming awards. Another highly rated game that is MIA is Dwellings of Everdale, although that might be explained by the fact that it has fewer than 2000 ratings, so there were fewer gamers to vote on it. Still, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is a sequel and has fewer than 2000 ratings, so sometimes, the voters are just gonna have their quirks in picking their favorites. But overall, this is a very nice group of games.
What with the pandemic and all, I haven’t had the chance to play too many of last year’s titles yet, but two of my favorites, Anno 1800 and Pan Am, both got shut out. It’s easy to explain the former’s omission: the English language version won’t be released until next month and the Geek is dominated by English speakers. Unfortunately, that quirk of publication history means that Anno 1800 won’t ever have a chance of getting any Golden Geek recognition (since, as a game which was first published in Germany in 2020, it won’t be eligible for next year’s awards). That’s unfortunate, although the GG’s aren’t the only award that has those kinds of issues with eligibility requirements. It’s undoubtedly better to maintain strict rules for which games can be voted on each year, but it’s unfortunate that that lack of flexibility means that some games will be slighted.
It’ll be interesting to see which games will emerge as the winner of each category. I think what the Golden Geeks are doing is a fascinating experiment, acknowledging the fact that there are many different kinds of gamers out there, so it makes sense to try to honor games of different weights. Essentially, they’re saying it makes little sense to ask people to choose between Root and The Mind (which is basically what happened two years ago), since the two games have so little in common. The lists may not be perfect, but it’s a good start and I look forward to the announcement of the winners in early May.