Yep. The Wizards of the Coast package arrived today. Again, some items I had already seen, some I hadn't.
It's weird, with Wizards, it's like half the people expect them to sweep the thing, and everyone else is split between wanting to see them "upset" and just being another contestant. Here's the thing: there is no "upset" if they don't win every category. Yes, they are the largest gaming company, and the most well-known. Neither of things matter a fart in a tornado to me. Quality of product alone wins the day. I think they do very quality work much of the time, but their designers, writers, and artists would be among the first to tell you this is a hobby where talent isn't just at one or two big companies--it's found everywhere between Renton and that garage press in Wisconsin where some guy is monitoring his sales on lulu.com in the dozens. I suspect that among all the decisions we judges make, either including or excluding various Wizards products from the nominations based on what we think of them will easily be the most controversial and angry-email-producing.
That said, here's a quick look at some of the items I've already seen, and my thoughts:
-D&D Miniatures Starter Set: Keeps up the quality of previous sets, if a little skimpy on the minis included.
-Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk: Erik Mona helped write it. It shows. This is a good thing. Excellent work start to finish, even if it does leave a few holes here and there.
-Inn-Fighting Game: I thought this was a fun, Regalia-type product.
On The Fence:
-Elder Evils, Drow of the Underdark: Nice production values on both, but the writing left me a bit flat in both cases--nothing really jumped out and grabbed or inspired me. Both at least warrant a re-read, and some Actual Play incorporating them.
-The 4e Preview Books: Races & Classes and Worlds & Monsters. The art isn't my style for the most part (though there are some beautiful individual pieces), and it might win the "Least Bang For the Buck Award".
But, again, every entrant deserves the best look we can give them, and that's what Wizards will get, same as anyone. (Oh, and no, Keep on the Shadowfell did not make this year's cutoff date, I don't believe).