July 14, 2021 – An award that has been all about excellence for 10 years has news. The Diana Jones Award 2021 Nominees have been announced. Two conventions, two publishers, a designer, and a board game vie for the respect of a mostly anonymous committee that decides who “demonstrated the quality of excellence in the world of tabletop gaming in recent times.”

The committee of the Diana Jones Award is pleased to announce the finalists for its 2021 award. This year the list contains six finalists that in the opinion of the committee exemplify the best that tabletop gaming has to offer in recent times. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Big Bad Con’s 2019 Babble On Equity Project and PoC Programming, a fundraising effort to bring people of color to Big Bad Con. 
  • The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand manufacturing service for tabletop games. 
  • Nibcard Games, a game publisher/manufacturer. 
  • Mike Pondsmith, a game designer. 
  • Session Zero Online, an online tabletop gaming convention.
  • Wingspan, a board game by Elizabeth Hargrave, published by Stonemaier Games. 

The winner of the 2021 Award will be announced on Wednesday, September 15, at the annual Diana Jones Award ceremony in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con Indy convention.

This year, the committee is also launching the inaugural Diana Jones Emerging Designer Program, which seeks to highlight rising and impactful talent in the tabletop games industry. It takes special care to focus on communities that have historically been excluded from larger industry conversations. This year’s winner will receive a full Gen Con travel package and will be showcased during our annual awards event. 


A fundraising effort to bring people of color to Big Bad Con

Launched by Orion Black, the Babble On Equity Project raised nearly $27,000 to bring 30 game designers, community leaders, players, game masters, and artists of color to Big Bad Con in 2019 by funding their travel and lodging. Combined with Big Bad Con’s other efforts, over 50 POC received financial support to attend the convention. This inspired a number of panels and events at the convention, including the POC Dinner organized by Ajit George, Whitney Beltrán, Banana Chan, and Sean Nittner—which was free for scholarship recipients—and the POC Meet & Greet mixer organized by Ajit George, Whitney Beltrán, Victoria Caña, Sean Nittner, Stephanie Nudelman, and John Stavropoulos, which provided attendees with personalized programs matching them to established industry veterans to meet, based on expressed interests. The POC Meet & Greet opened up a number of professional opportunities for the attendees and led to full-time, contract, and freelance jobs at a variety of companies including Bully Pulpit, Critical Role, Darrington Press, Evil Hat, Harebrained Schemes, Paradox Interactive, and Wizards of the Coast.

A print-on-demand manufacturing service for tabletop games

The Game Crafter provides print-on-demand capacity across a consistently expanding array of component types, operates a marketplace that allows anyone to profitably sell board and card games in quantities as small as a single copy, stocks more than 2,000 generic components, innovated a distinctive crowdfunding model, provides unique software tools, and serves an active design and gaming community. Because of the Game Crafter, today’s games are better, and brought to market faster, than ever before. This is true even of games not sold in the Game Crafter’s marketplace: a great many games printed in the traditional manner have been developed, tested, and iterated using the Game Crafter’s services. To date, more than 220,000 different titles have been created on its servers. The Diana Jones Awards recognizes the Game Crafter’s excellence in gaming this year in observance of its recent tenth anniversary of operation.

A game publisher/manufacturer

Nibcard is the multi-faceted company at the heart of the nascent Nigerian games industry. It designs and publishes its own games but also manufactures for other companies, mentors new designers, evangelizes games as a hobby, and runs Nigeria’s first games cafe and annual convention. All this is down to its founder, the tireless Kenechukwu “KC” Ogbuagu and his vision of “telling Nigerian stories through board games.” Nibcard is much more than a local company doing well. It’s a strong and original voice in publishing, creating a community of new makers and players across Africa and setting an example to the rest of the world of how to use games to make a difference.

A game designer

Mike Pondsmith is a legendary designer and publisher of roleplaying games, board games, and video games. In 1985, he and his wife Lisa formed R. Talsorian Games, through which they published Mike’s tabletop roleplaying games Mekton, Teenagers From Outer Space, Cyberpunk, Castle Falkenstein, Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk 3.0, and the recent Cyberpunk Red, which shows that he’s still at the height of his skills. Mike also designed the Buck Rogers XXVc roleplaying game for TSR and worked on the video games MechCommander 2, The Matrix Online, and Cyberpunk 2077, based on his original creation.

An online tabletop gaming convention

Led by Rachel Teng, the Southeast Asian indie RPG scene brought their Session Zero gathering online during the pandemic on the gather.town platform as a virtual landscape of Southeast Asian and international exhibitors, panels, gaming tables, and activities, delivering to over 600 guests and staff an experience not seen in other online conventions. The exhibitor hall hosted 15 publishers, 55 game designers, 7 merchants, 17 artists, and convention staff, in 95 virtual booths. Video connections were responsive to the context of encounters among attendee avatars, delivering individual and small group conversations in the hallways, one-way video from panelists alongside two-way for conversation with friends in the auditorium, and group conversations in exhibitor stalls and at tables in the gaming room. There were hidden rooms in the landscape that attendees could hunt for that gave digital rewards like downloadable wallpapers or entry to a raffle for handmade dice or game pdfs. The whole event demonstrated extensive human-computer interaction insight, community energy, and the impressive potential of new platforms for online events.

A board game by Elizabeth Hargrave
Published by Stonemaier Games

Wingspan is a board game by Elizabeth Hargrave that has you play bird enthusiasts trying to attract diverse birds to your wildlife refuge. However, to describe the game as a standard victory-points-generating engine builder — a game genre in which you make major investments early in the game to then self-generate points later in the game — is wildly missing the point. Wingspan is a gorgeous work of art both aesthetically and mechanically, with its different components all reinforcing central themes of nurturing, growth, and biodiversity. Even the game’s components are tools to teach you what different species of birds look like, a major credit to artists Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, and Beth Sobel. Hargrave herself has created a blockbuster hit with her first-ever published commercial board game and has used this outsider-to-insider transition to publicly advocate for more equity in a white male-dominated industry. Every person involved with Wingspan, from writer to artists to publisher, is someone to watch.

For more info on all the nominees, see the “Finalists” tab on 2021 Award page.


The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was founded and first awarded in 2001. It is presented annually to the person, product, company, event, or any other thing that has, in the opinion of its committee, best demonstrated the quality of “excellence” in the world of tabletop gaming in recent times. The winner of the award receives the Diana Jones trophy.

The finalists and eventual winner are chosen by the Diana Jones Committee, a partially anonymous group of tabletop gaming industry luminaries that includes designers, publishers, cartoonists, convention organizers, and more. 

Past winners include industry figures such as Peter Adkison, Jordan Weisman, and Eric Lang, the roleplaying game books SorcererNobilisMy Life With Master, The Great Pendragon Campaign, Grey Ranks, FiascoHillfolk, The Guide to Glorantha, and Star Crossed, the board games Dominion and Ticket to Ride, the book Nordic Larp, the website BoardGameGeek.com, the web series Tabletop, Gen Con, Irish games convention charity auctions, the Actual Play movement, and Black excellence in gaming. This is the twenty-first year of the Award.

Source: https://www.dianajonesaward.org/

What do you think of the Diana Jones Award 2021 Nominees? Who do you think should win or not win? Let us know in the comments below!

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