Design File

I have been doing Sumo for four years now and, for a while, I've been looking for something a bit more positive and less routine to come out of it. While I have no intention of breaking with the reviews, news, letters and chat formula, I think the addition of some extra sections will keep me enthused and hopefully provide some interesting reading for you. Letters and outside writers help matters, and it is good to have these appearing frequently, but I want to move on to some new areas, specifically that of game design.

Design File is the first step in moving towards this area. We christen the section with Dave Farquhar's interview with Reiner Knizia which I think contains enough fascinating information to be the highlight of the issue and, again, I thank Dave for his work on this piece. I have also reviewed the new gamekit from Warfrog which in most respects is exactly the area in which I would like to see the hobby expanding. Starting with the next issue, and continuing for four issues, there will be an ongoing design feature. The 1994 topic will be F1 Grand Prix games and I will try to cover the existing games, key features to simulate, designing and testing a new system, artwork, production, printing and miscellanea such as information sources, storyboarding and so on. This venture will, by definition, require input from the readers on design approaches and ideas again, we'll see how it goes. Finally, I would like to announce the 1994 Sumo Design Awards. This is something of a gamble in that I can foresee a complete lack of reaction, and perhaps even abuse, but the idea has my full commitment and if successful, it will become an annual event.

The choice of a game design award is easy. It is a subject that I have been getting more and more involved with over the last couple of years, it is considerably more stimulating and challenging than simply buying, playing and reviewing new games and ultimately it is pushing out the hobby into wider areas both personally and in respect of game availability. I don't wish to undersell this aspect as recently, with games such as King's War, The Tour, History of the World, Lords of Creation and Hispania, I have been considerably more impressed by the work of relatively unknown designers than I have by most of the professional titles. With graphics and DTP on a permanent upswing, and low print run costs within reach, things could get distinctly exciting. If this trend can be encouraged in some way, so that John Harrington does his cycling and soccer games, Russell Harris his Graveyard Genealogy game or Charles Vasey Chariot Lords, then it can only be a good thing for the hobby. And those are only some of the games I know about the potential is far, far greater than this. The awards therefore aim to highlight the best gamekits of the year. At the risk of appearing pompous, the aim will be to encourage creativity and quality work.

There will be four categories: for established designers; first time designers; a reader's award; and a special award for designing a game on a specific subject. The best of the category winners will win the overall award of Gamekit of the Year and will reign as Yokozuna for a year. Apart from the latter category, the subject matter is completely open and any type of game is eligible. Fluffy, abstract, wargame, simulation, card based, business, railway, sports, solitaire, multi-player, co- operative anything. The more original the better. The subject of the 1994 Special Award is, perhaps inevitably, sumo wrestling. Any aspect of the sport is acceptable, from a two player card system to a management game. The choice is yours.

The reader's category will be based on your votes for the best five gamekits (and, while you're at it, professional games as well) published in 1994. The two lists require no ranking and should be received here by 31/12/94 with the results tabulated in the first Sumo of '95. It would be great to get a good reaction to this and if a high proportion of readers vote, we should end up with a representative result.

The qualification criteria for all categories is that the gamekit is published (not just designed) for the first time in 1994, that it is your own work, produced by an 'amateur' group or individual, usually involving design, testing and printing by the publisher and some element of construction for the buyer. Big print runs are out these games are covered by the existing Sumos and numerous other awards. As a guide, early Lionels and Lords of Creation would be eligible, Backpacks & Blisters and Men of Iron wouldn't. If there is any doubt on gamekit status, my ruling will be final. The deadline for entry is November 30th 1994 (effectively those gamekits published between 1/11/93 and 30/11/94) and the award winners, selected from those I manage to play, will be announced in the next Sumo after this date. Hopefully this will give you plenty of time, but I wouldn't hang around. If there are no entrants or no game in a category deemed to be of a suitable standard, then there will be no award.

In order to adequately publicise and play the eligible games, I would be grateful for early notification of their availability and price so that I can send in my order or, in the unlikely event that I don't wish to buy the game, list the details in Sumo. Given the choice, bearing in mind the number of games that might appear, I would much prefer that any games being considered are ready for play, with boards, cards and counters cut out and mounted. This is strictly optional, but is going to save me a lot of time this end. Either way, assembly or lack of same will not affect the final decision. The game should however include a set of typed notes outlining how to play, tactics, notes on the design process, rationale, production techniques, playtesting undertaken, the category being entered, price of the game, how to order and any other relevant information. The design notes will be published in a yearbook or abstracted for Design File and your submission should agree to this.

Ideally, I would like the awards to be worth winning from a commercial and personal angle in other words, worth winning for themselves. I guess this depends very much on the number and quality of entries, which is down to you, and the regard in which the venture is held. However, as an incentive, over and above the enormous fame, the Overall Winner and the winner of the Special Award will each receive £100 worth of games from Just Games Ltd. Additionally, all category winners will be invited to a celebratory dinner at a London hostelry. At the moment the sole judge of the awards will be yours truly but I am strongly considering forming a panel if I can convince the right people to participate. If not, you are stuck with me, and I will try to be objective. By the way, would any magazine editors reading this please publicise the awards. Thankyou.

I hope the result of the awards is a number of new gamekits that may, or may not, have appeared anyway but which will at least will be on the market, known to the readers of Sumo and benefitting the hobby. If that means we have fifty, ten or even one more game than we would have had otherwise, then the awards will have been worth the candle. Gentlemen, start your engines.

On to the review of Lords of Creation or back to the Inside Pitch.

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