Revisiting the IGA Winners: A Geeklist of All the Histories/Reviews
Chris Wray
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A couple of years ago, I wrote histories and reviews of the Spiel des Jahres winners, as I detailed in this Geeklist.

A few months after I started that project, Greg Schloesser invited me to do a similar series on the International Gamers Award for Counter Magazine.

I've uploaded reviews through 2004 to BGG, and I've written through 2007. I do one entry each quarter for Counter. The series won't be completed for another three years (a daunting task when I think about it), but you can subscribe to the Geeklist if you might want future updates, or check out the series in Counter.

If you have anything to add to the game history, I'd love to see your comments below.

For those of you unfamiliar with the IGA, back in 1999, as the gaming craze that had started in Germany continued to spread around the globe, the Strategy Gaming Society and a prominent group of gamers founded The Gamers’ Choice Award. That award --- which is today called the International Gamers Award (IGA) --- rapidly grew to prominence, and today it is seen as one of the biggest prizes in gaming.

The initial efforts to found The Gamers’ Choice Award were led by Greg Schloesser, a prolific and influential game reviewer from the United States (and today the editor of Counter Magazine). The first awards were given in 2000, with the eligibility period spanning the previous calendar year. Three awards were given per year: one in a multiplayer category, one in a two-player category, and one in historical simulations. The award has undergone a few changes in the decade and half since, though the aims of the award remain the same. The name of the award changed to the International Gamers Award in 2003 after the jury separated from the Strategy Gaming Society. That same year, the jury switched the eligibility period from the calendar year to the fiscal year used by the German gaming market (July to June), awarding an extra multiplayer category award in 2003 to make up for the stub year. The jury ceased designating a historical simulation award after 2009. The makeup of the jury has changed over the years, but its membership still represents some of the most prominent gamers from around the globe.

The nomination and voting procedures are outlined on the jury’s website (http://www.internationalgamersawards.net/).
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1. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:234]
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2000 Multiplayer: Link to review.

Fun Historic Fact: Kiesling approached Kramer about creating a game based on a city at the bottom of a lake which would occasionally rise to the surface. Kramer liked the idea, and the two started experimenting with mechanics to simulate the city emerging and then submerging again. One day, Kiesling faxed Kramer a picture of hexagonal tiles connected by ladders. The image reminded Kramer of the Mayan Temples, and he immediately contacted Kiesling to suggest that they change the theme to archaeologists excavating Mayan ruins. That game would become Tikal.

Tikal is the only game to have won the SdJ, the DSP, and the International Gamers Award. Because I already uploaded a review for the SdJ series, the link above goes there.
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2. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:309]
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2000 2-player: Link to review.

Fun Historic Fact:
Knizia started developing the game known as Lost Cities in the mid-1990s. He showed it to a few publishers, but they turned him down, questioning the market for two-player games. Nonetheless, his influence as a designer was on the rise (he had twice won the Deutscher Spiele Preis at that point), and in the late 1990s, thinking the game would sell well, he started pressuring publishers into taking a second look. Kosmos picked it up, publishing Lost Cities with its archaeology theme in 1999.

Knizia’s intuition proved to be correct: the game did sell well. Lost Cities was released in nearly a dozen languages that year, and it has been continuously in print since. The game received immediate critical acclaim on release, winning the inaugural two-player Gamers’ Choice Award plus several other awards. It has sold more than 260,000 copies, an enviable number in an industry where the average game sells less than 10,000.

Several years after Lost Cities was released, Knizia designed an offshoot called Lost Cities: The Board Game, which was picked up in the United States by Rio Grande. Kosmos wanted a more abstracted game, and to accommodate that request, Knizia designed the game known today as Keltis, which is distributed throughout the rest of the world. Keltis --- which is, in many ways, a multiplayer version of Lost Cities --- would go on to win the 2008 Spiel des Jahres and sell more than 600,000 copies.
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3. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:141]
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2001 Multiplayer: Link to review.

Fun Historic Fact: Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich had been working together for nearly a decade by the time they published The Princes of Florence in 2000. Ravensburger had introduced the duo in the early 1990s, and in the years leading up to 2000, they had designed more than ten games together, most notably El Grande, winner of the 1996 Spiel des Jahres.

In the late 1990s Ulrich approached Kramer about doing a game themed after a princely royal court. Kramer liked the idea, and he started reading a book about Italian noble families, particularly the families of Florence. They started developing the game, calling it first “Fürstenhöfe,” later “Die Fürsten von Florenz” (“The Princes of Florence”).
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4. Board Game: Battle Cry [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:702]
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2001 2-player: Link to review.

Battle Cry was the first published game in Richard Borg’s “Commands & Colors” system, a system that now includes such notable games as Memoir ‘44, Commands and Colors: Ancients, and BattleLore.

Borg started designing the Commands & Colors system in the late 1970s. He was into big strategy board games and military miniatures, but the games he was playing took all day to play and often did not come to a resolution. Additionally, these games didn’t have a historical feel. While at the Rock Con game convention he purchased a set of American Civil War 25mm miniatures, and soon he started work on rules for a game based on the American Civil War. “I wanted to create a game that played to a conclusion in a few hours, had a winner, and provided players with the feel of the historical period,” Borg said. Taking elements from both board games and miniature gaming, he developed the game system in a few weeks.
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5. Board Game: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:590]
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2002 Multiplayer: Link to review.

San Marco came from a discussion between designers Alan Moon and Aaron Aaron Weissblum about game mechanics. They were discussing the “you divide, I select” pie cutting mechanism that was common in families. As Moon explains, “The idea came from the old gimmick parents used to use, and may still use, with their two kids when having dessert. They would tell one of the kids, usually the eldest, to cut the cake or pie, and then the other got to choose which piece he wanted.”

The game was designed in late 1999 or early 2000. The game started out with the title Venice Again.
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6. Board Game: DVONN [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:387] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
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DVONN is the fourth game in the GIPF Project, an award-winning series of six abstract games by Belgian designer Kris Burm.

DVONN was the first game in the series that Burm published after the split with Schmidt Spiele, who had decided to abandon the project after ZÈRTZ. Burm instead chose to publish the games himself through his company Don & Co., and Schmidt Spiele agreed to distribute the games in German-speaking countries. However, when Burm showed them DVONN, they thought it was too similar to GIPF and requested that Burm rework the design. He declined, and he and the publisher parted ways, causing DVONN to be released later than planned.

The exit of Schmidt Spiele from the scene led to initial difficulty in marketing the game, and a funny story. As Burm explained, “When Schmidt Spiele and I went separate ways, they had the contacts and the channels to spread the news that they stopped carrying project GIPF, but I didn't had the means to let know to the same extent that I was going to proceed with the series as an independent.” DVONN was eventually released at Essen, and a few months later at the Nuremburg Toy Fair, Burm rented a booth to market the game. “The first couple of days it happened a number of times that someone stopped at my booth, looked at my stuff, and next addressed . . . me with the message that project GIPF didn't exist any more. I explained that I, being the designer, had put the series back on the rails with my own company and that I was determined to go on until the project was completed, but some of them simply wouldn't believe what I was saying. Even the presentation of DVONN, a novelty that had never been a Schmidt Spiele game, didn't seem to be a valid argument.” Burm said he found the situation bizarre and a bit demoralizing, explaining “apparently the message that Schmidt Spiele had send out almost a year earlier was still more credible than my word at that very moment.”

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7. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:129]
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2003 Multiplayer: Link to review.

Age of Steam was created by legendary game designer Martin Wallace in 2002. Wallace designed Lancashire Railways for Winsome Games in 1998, giving him some experience with designing train games. In 2000, after playing his first 18xx game, he got the idea for Age of Steam. “It struck me that the goods movement of Lancashire could be combined with the tile system of 18xx,” he said, “resulting in Age of Steam.”

The game was jointly released in 2002 by Wallace’s company, Warfrog Games, and Winsome Games. The game was finished just in time for the Essen fair, leading to a funny story from Wallace: “On the day I was meant to fly over I could not find my passport, so missing the flight. The rest of the group contacted me once they got there to let me know about the mistake on the board (Denver had the wrong number on it). I was able to make up replacement stickers at home to fix this, so maybe somebody upstairs intended me to miss the flight.”
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8. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:21]
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2003 Multiplayer: Link to review.

In the years leading up to Puerto Rico’s release, it looked like Andreas Seyfarth would be a one-hit-wonder. In 1994, Seyfarth---then a little-known game designer---had won the Spiel des Jahres for Manhattan, which was an instant bestseller in Germany. But in the years after that game’s success, Seyfarth went quiet on the game scene. As he later explained in an interview, “In the time after Manhattan I wanted to do another Manhattan. As everyone has noticed, nothing happened for a long time. Then I realized, I have to step out of the long shadows of this game, and I have to do something completely new for me.”

Puerto Rico quickly grabbed the top spot in the recently-created BoardGameGeek ratings, a position it held until mid-2008. It won countless game awards, including the 2002 Deutscher Spiele Preis, the 2002 Meeple’s Choice Award, and the 2003 International Gamers Award. It was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, and it has received several other major awards from around the world.
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9. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:457]
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2003 2-player: Link to review.


Interestingly, Knizia hadn’t always been a fan of Tolkien’s books, saying that the Lord of the Rings had passed his attention when he grew up in Germany. But he had several friends that were enthusiasts, and as he started working on Middle Earth-themed games, they helped him understand Tolkien’s folklore.

When Knizia set out to design Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, he was trying to create a game about good versus evil. He immediately knew that he needed asymmetrical play, and he wanted the focus of the game to be on the Fellowship trying to keep the One Ring hidden. “The hidden aspect is, in my eyes, fundamental to the license,” he said.
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10. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:262]
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2004 Multiplayer: Link to review.


St. Petersburg was designed by a legendary figure in the gaming industry, Bernd Brunnhofer, founder of Hans im Glück (HiG). As a joke, the original design was credited to Michael Tummelhofer, which was a combination of the names Michael Bruinsma (of 999 Games, HiG’s partner in the Netherlands), Jay Tummelson (of Rio Grande Games, HiG’s partner in the USA), and Brunnhofer himself.

St. Petersburg was released in 2004. In an interview with BoardGameGeek News, he said, “I chose the theme of Saint Petersburg because I had been reading about Peter the Great at this time. I thought it would fit the development of a society, but of course other themes also would fit.”
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11. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:123] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
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Memoir '44 is the descendent of a previous winner, Battle Cry. The jury noted that the game had adopted the same fast-paced gameplay as Battle Cry.

Though the gameplay is similar between the various Commands & Colors games, there are variations to account for historical realities. As Borg said, “By design, my chief goal is to make each Commands & Colors game play like history reads. And this is why certain play concepts are in a specific game. They are included to give the historical period more depth, detail and or the proper feel.”
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