Friday, July 8, 2011

The ENnies: I Am Out Of Touch (And That’s OK)

Wow. The thing about cutting wayyyy back on your gaming budget and not messing around as much with games you’ll never play anyway is that you have less of an idea about what the New Hotness is.

I imagine there are many gamers who know precisely what’s going on with all the ENnie Awards nominees this year, but I really don’t. As in, not even 20% of them. Of course, a big part of the ENnies is getting the word out on products the judges feel are excellent, so maybe that’s ok.

Honestly, unless something can be ported to the games I’m likely to run or is system-generic, the reality is I’m probably not going to look at it. Again, I don’t doubt the excellence of many of these products, just the usefulness of this to me personally. Let’s look at it, category by category:

Best Adventure
I have not read any of these items, though I heard good things about Paizo’s entry from one of my Pathfinder buddies.

Best Aid/Accessory
I’ve heard of the Dungeon Tiles set and Vornheim, but didn’t check out either. I actually have checked out the Hero Lab, Gaming Paper, and Eclipse Phase entries. Out of those, I really liked the utility of Gaming Paper Adventure Maps.

Best Cover Art
The only one I really can recall from this list is Eoris Essence, since there was so much hype leading up to the release. Honestly, this category doesn’t matter much to me as it used to.

Best Art, Interior
0-fer, with the exception of the Pathfinder entry.

Best Blog
Now this is a category I can follow! I usually check out all these blogs, except Critical Hits (although I do check in on Chatty DM’s portion of that site regularly). Thistle Games is newer to me, but at least I’ve heard of it. I still believe Gnome Stew is the best blog out there for Game Masters.

Best Cartography
Another wash, except for Gaming Paper.

Best Electronic Book

Best Free Product
OK, here we go! BattleTech, Old School Hack, and Paizo—I’ve checked all those out. I thought all three were pretty cool in their own way.

Best Game
I have actually played Icons, which I liked. I’ve read parts of Dresden, but have only played a short demo.

Best Miniatures Product
Negatory, except for the Honorable Mention. However, I am immensely skeptical of any list not including the products of Fat Dragon Games (assuming they entered). I’m in the market for some cheap, good-looking pre-made minis products at Gen Con, though!

Best Monster/Adversary

Best New Game
Icons and Dresden, again. Stars Without Number was excellent, and a fun campaign. A Taste For Murder is a great name for an Agatha Christie novel, though!

Best Podcast
I really don’t have time to listen to podcasts much right now, but my normal podcasts aren’t really represented here (except for Atomic Array now and again).

Best Production Values
Dresden, again. I heard L5R was purty, though.

Best RPG Related Product
Batting .000 here.

Best Rules
Icons and Dresden once more. Enjoyed Icons. From what I read of Dresden it might be a little heavier than I like, but I’d have to check out some more actual play.

Best Setting
Pathfinder’s Inner Sea World Guide is the only one I’ve checked out. Personally, I think Greyhawk should win every year, even though the line is for now cast aside.

Best Supplement
Pathfinder comes through again!

Best Website
We at last come to a category where I am generally familiar with all the sites listed. Kudos to each of them—I would hate to have to pick from this category!

Best Writing
Gatecrashing and Dresden.

Product of the Year
Pathfinder and Dresden. Outside of that….

The judges of the ENnies definitely get a ton of free gaming books, which is a nice compensation for their time, but it’s still a heck of a responsibility to read and decide on so many products. Cheers to them for their efforts—I’m just not sure how relevant it is to me. I don’t have the time, money, or interest to try umpteen new systems right now. The stuff I do like is by and large not represented. I might not exactly be on the cutting edge of the hobby anymore, but I’m finding more and more I don’t mind.

My favorite things from the past couple years? Joe Bloch’s Castle of the Mad Archmage, which was free. Ditto with much of the classical D&D advice I’ve ported to my Castles & Crusades rules and overall philosophy. Jared Sorensen’s Parsely Games, which cost me 99 cents apiece. Stuff Clash Bowley writes. Gnome Stew’s (Engine Publishing) Eureka, which wasn’t nominated. Stars Without Number, which did get an Honorable Mention at least.

It doesn't mean the ENnie choices are bad; we've just gone in different directions, which means they've lost some relevance to my gaming.


Rob Lang said...

OSH is the only truly free game out of the lot. I still don't appreciate marketing material getting in the way of the wonderful free RPGs there are out there.

Zachary Houghton said...

I can definitely understand that, Rob.

Greg Christopher said...

I don't think it is fair to count quick-starts as free games either.

Zachary Houghton said...

I think it depends on the game. There are some “Lite” versions of games that are certainly as complete as many other full games. But with as much great free stuff as is out there, I would like to see some better representation in that respect.

kelvingreen said...

Vornheim is brilliant, and I'm very pleased to see it recognised. It should win easily, so it's absurd that it's only "mentioned". I smell politics.

Greg Christopher said...

Zak, I feel that stuff like the Battletech quickstart being judged next to truly free games like OSH (or my games, which were not nominated) is just as unfair as holding up standard cable programming to HBO or Cinemax, because those channels occassionally have free weekends.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Kelvin: As I’m sure with any awards ceremony, there’s always a fair amount of discussion behind the scenes to even everything out. I can remember when I was an ENnies judge, there was a big push to bump one entry up from an HM to an actual nominee because of the company having been a big supporter of the ENnies.

I also remember pissing off everyone because I stomped my feet, threw a tantrum, and was generally a pain until a couple of products I felt were deserving got nominations. On a couple of other categories I felt were toss-ups, I was even willing to bargain a bit to get it done.

There’s always “back room deals” and the like that goes on in any awards ceremony. The ENnies are under new management now, though, so I have no greater insight as to how things actually went this year or what were the considerations.

@Greg: Yeah, it wouldn’t be my first pick on how to do it, either, I suppose.

CW Richeson said...

Thanks for the friendly feedback, Zach. For what it's worth it was a politics free process. We just played games, talked about them, and then made arguments for various categories. I don't think any single judge was completely happy with the list, which to me makes it a success.

@Rob - I'd also like to see a more restrictive Best Free Product category.

Zachary Houghton said...

@CW: Thanks for the commentary, buddy. I bet you guys are relieved a bit that your job this year is at an end!

And honestly, my comments are not really about the ENnies as much as they are me and where I’m at in regards to gaming. Like I said, I’m sure a lot of these products are excellent.

Swordgleam said...

Bah, there's finally a best ebook category? I should've entered this year! I just figured, hey, it's been not my most productive year, I'm busy.. Ah well. Next year.

mortellan said...

I second the Greyhawk mention! :D

And I agree on the losing touch part. I attended the Ennies last year, and if Paizo hadn't won every category practically then I would've been lost in the whole event. I do admire any small company that can get recognition. Wizards hardly wins the awards anymore, and that's surprising given ENWorld's origins.

Zachary Houghton said...

I think there's a couple of reasons for that, Mortellan:

-WotC's release schedule has been relatively sparse compared to Paizo's.

-I don't think WotC submits every single product for consideration.

-They no longer have a monopoly on art, production values, etc. Far from it, actually.

charlie said...

vraiment pas mal