16 July 2019
Last year’s prize celebrated Actual Play trend
The Diana Jones Award, the eclectic prize recognising ‘excellence in gaming’ that extends beyond games to celebrate people, websites, events and even abstract cultural trends surrounding the hobby, has announced its hopeful nominees for 2019.
In the running this year for the coveted Perspex pyramid containing a burnt copy of the Indiana Jones RPG are a definitive art book, a sobering board game about mortality, a card game that arguably isn’t even a game and a roleplaying game about falling in love via the romantic inclinations of a Jenga tower.
Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana is much more than a collection of pretty pictures from the fantasy RPG, delving into D&D’s evolution over the past 40 years and the creation of some of the game’s most iconic monsters and adventures.
In our own review of Art & Arcana last year, we said: “Flicking through its hundreds of sumptuous images and delightfully captivating stories, it’s impossible not to be swept up by an emotional understanding of why D&D is such a singular creation: not only on the tabletop, but in history. It’s a beautiful book, both on the page and in the heart.”
Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr is just as surprising, embedding a serious discussion of life, memory and mortality into Michael Fox and Rory O’Connor’s co-operative board game. The players take the role of palliative nurses caring for the titular 60-year-old patient as he nears the end of his life following a heart attack on a plane, uncovering stories from his youth across the game’s ten chapters.
Despite reservations about the game’s difficulty, making it a challenge to see the story in full, Dan Jolin found Holding On’s compelling story to be “something very special” when he reviewed it last year, calling it “a bold and significant game that takes the tabletop experience to a new, mature and thoughtful level”.
On the much, much lighter end of the scale is The Mind, the card game that caused a stir upon its debut last summer. Considered by some to be some a social experiment in a small box than a game per say, The Mind sees players trying to play numbered cards in order in the middle of the table, but without the ability to speak or communicate directly – thus establishing some kind of mental link between them.
Diana Jones co-founder James Wallis (who is a regular contributor to Tabletop Gaming) himself reviewed The Mind, saying that it is “a game unlike almost anything you’ve played before”.
Last but not least in the shortlist is Star Crossed, Alex Roberts’ Jenga-powered roleplaying game that uses the inevitable crashing down of a wooden tower of blocks to trigger a revelation of hidden feelings between its characters.
In our review, Richard Jansen-Parkes found the experience a powerful one for both better and worse, saying: “Star Crossed is a game of intense emotion and intimate moments and, while this makes for great stories and excellent roleplaying, it can sometimes be hard to play.”
The winner of 2019’s Diana Jones Award will be decided by its secretive panel of industry insiders and announced on July 31st.