Essen Spiel, the big German tradeshow for the boardgames industry, is just about to begin. A lot of awards are announced in the weeks leading up to the show as a means of celebrating the year that was before shifting focus on all the brand new games surging onto the market for the holiday season. As a result, now's an excellent time to get a sense of the many Canadian games that have been receiving special recognition over the course of 2011.
I'd like to start right here with some Canadian-specific awards. I spent last weekend at FallCon in Calgary, where the Canadian Heritage Collection is kindly recognized as an official sponsor. For the past two years, they've run the Canadian Game Design Award to recognize new, unpublished Canadian designs and ensure they get into print. A single finished copy of 2010's winning prototype, Octopus' Garden (Roberta Taylor / Valley Games), was was flown in hot of the presses for the show and was looking gorgeous. Ask your distributors about it - it's a wonderful family game and should start finding its way onto store shelves soon. As it turns out, 2011's big winner, Undermining (Matt Tolman / Z-Man Games) will be on store shelves around the same time. Newly Canadian publisher Z-Man Games signed it after the game's entry into the contest and launched the game this morning at this year's Essen. Congratulations to Matt and Roberta, Valley Games and Z-Man! Having played both games in their pre-published form, everyone's in for quite a treat with these two well-deserving designs. Interestingly, both games were also manufactured by Vancouver's Panda Games. So congratulations to them as well. Also note that the Montreal-based Ludor Prize is in the final stages and will be announcing a winner any day now.
If I were to pick two of the most popular recent games to spring from the minds of Canadian designers, it would have to be the trick-taking card game Haggis by Canadian Sean Ross (published by Indie Boards & Cards out of the US) and the deck-building dice game Quarriors! by Canadian Eric M. Lang and American Mike Elliot (published by WizKids out of the US). Both are recognized in BoardGameGeek's 2011 Golden Geek Awards, with Haggis currently nominated in the Best Card Game and Best 2-Player Game categories, and Quarriors! nominated in the Best Family Game and Most Innovative Game categories (which was won last year by the Canadian-designed and -published Catacombs). Haggis also received an honorable mention in the Spiel de Josh awards and took 6th place in Fairplay Magazine's 2011 A la Carte awards while Quarriors! was nominated for Best Family Game in the Games 100.
Speaking of the Games 100, the annual awards of the longstanding Games Magazine, there were a number of other Canadian games recognized. Joining Quarriors! in the Best Family Games category was my own game, Two by Two (Rob Bartel / Valley Games), which I'm pleased to say claimed the coveted Runner-Up slot amidst a large pool of worthy competitors. In the Card Game category, Insidious Sevens (Alex Wheldon / MJ Games) was among the nominees. Both the designer and publisher were new to me and unfortunately didn't make it into the 2011 CHC Master Catalog as a result. I've added MJ Games to the Gaming Canadian page, however, and hope to bring you more info about this Montreal-based publisher in the future. Lexigo (Unknown / Wiggles 3D) rounded out this year's Canadian contributions with a nomination in the Word Game category.
With so many Canadian games coming out, awards are a great way to gauge a game's popularity and sales potential over the longer term. Make sure you have stock of these games on hand as you head into the holiday season and consider calling out winners and nominees on your store shelves with a simple sign or a well-chosen display. If you have a newsletter you send out to your customers, take the time to showcase these and other award-winning titles or put together a simple poster for your counter or notice-board.