(Deutsche Version hier.)
What does Alfons X. of Castile, Galicia and León (1221-1284) have to do with gaming?Well, he commissioned the “Book of Games” (Libro de los juegos), which contained game rules, chess problems and other things and is considered one of the most important medieval books on the subject of games. Some 730 years later, Laura and Ezequiel Wittner decided to create a game award and called it Premio Alfonso X. In 2017, it will be awarded for the second time. The submission deadline was on January 10th, and the jury has started its work.
What’s special about this prize, you may ask? Aren’t there game awards in countless countries? Every once in a while we hear that one famous game or the other is now also game of the year in Finland, Portugal or San Marino. These awards usually aim at recommending the best games to gamers who aren’t spending all their free time on BGG anyway. It is rare that a game wins a national award which the community hasn’t heard about before.
But when I tell you the titles which compete for the Premio Alfonso X this year, I will assume that hardly any of you has even heard of a single one of these games. Here we go:
– Ciudadano Ilustre
– Código Enigma
– Conejos en el Huerto
– Cultivos Mutantes
– La Macarena
There is a simple reason for this: The Premio Alfonso X will only be awarded to Argentinian designers (or those who have lived in Argentina for at least two years). The point is therefore not to introduce the best of the international gaming scene to an Argentinian audience, but to promote local design and publication efforts so Argentinian games can compete with those from the outside world. Before, domestic games often went entirely unnoticed, partly caused by the fact that production quality and artwork was decidedly mediocre. One geek wrote to me that if I saw the component quality of the Argentinian edition of Catan, I would cry. For those who want to have a look themselves, here is an unboxing video. You can admire the sturdy box at about 7:45 and later the precision of the tile cutting.
This needs to improve, so there is a special award for overall production value as well. And lastly, only games are admitted which state the names of the designers and artists. Somewhat reminiscent of the situation in Germany 30 years ago (but the SdJ jury didn’t mention the designers in the first years, either).
So if there is a prize aimed at promoting domestic games, it doesn’t seem like some nationalistic nonsense, but like an honest effort to make gaming more popular in Argentina. If I wasn’t from Germany, a country with a strong gaming scene, I might be grateful for something like that over here.
You might get an idea about the size of the Argentinian gaming scene when you hear that the nine titles competing for this year’s prize aren’t the finalists or anything, but they are the entire field of contestants (well apart from four submissions in a separate category; games with a circulation of under 50, so essentially prototypes). In other words, that’s more or less what was published in Argentina by local designers in 2016. I assume many of you have purchased more than nine games in 2017 already…
It is probably still a long way to go until the vision of one Argentinian publisher comes true and gaming becomes as popular as football. But you have to start somewhere.
By now, all contestants have their own BGG entries. So let me give you a quick introduction:
Chernobyl is a cooperative game in which you try to rescue survivors from the destroyed reactor. To win the game, you’ll have to bring them to the helipad. There is a competitive mode as well. Chernobyl was designed by Gonzalo Emanuel Aguetti and published by Yamat.
Ciudadano Ilustre (“Famous Citizen”) was crowdfunded, easily breaking its modest target of $737. It’s a trivia game with geography questions mostly about Argentina, but apparently also about some other places. The designers are Vera Mignaqui and Eugenia Pérez, with the latter doing the artwork, too.
Código Enigma (“Enigma Code”) is set in WWII and of course it’s about deciphering German codes. For that, the players collect card sets and try to prevent others from doing the same. Apparently the Germans are also interfering at times. Designers are Joel Pellegrino Hotham and Silvina Fontenla, who also did the artwork. It was published by JuegosdeMesa.com.ar.
In Conejos en el Huerto (“Rabbits in the Orchard”), the players move their two rabbits through the variably set up garden and try to collect valuable vegetables. Their position determines which type of vegetable they can reach. A watchdog is doing its best to stop them. This game was designed by Luis Fernando Marcantoni, with artwork by Celeste Barone. It was published by Ruibal Hermanos S.A.
Cultivos Mutantes (“Mutant Crops”) is a short worker placement game by Sebastian Koziner, illustrated by Rocio Ogñenovich. You use your actions to plant and harvest mutant crops and collect points. It was published as a cooperation between El Dragón Azul and OK Ediciones. An English edition has been announced by Atheris Games already. The kickstarter campaign is scheduled to start on the 21st of March.
Dinosaurus is a microgame with just 36 cards. Dinosaurs from different eras run around on a fantasy island and fight for food. Their favorite snacks are plants, mammals and each other. It was designed and illustrated by Amelia Pereyra and Matías Esandi and published by Rewe Juegos.
La Macarena is a witch or magician looking for a new apprentice. The players collect cards with four elements, and whoever has most of one kind can eventually exchange them against amulets with which they can gain La Macarena’s favor. The game was designed and published by five people under the group name Maldón, with illustrations by Chilean celebrity Alberto Montt. Two of the designers were at the Nuremberg toy fair, so this is the only candidate game that I have actually played myself.
With Venecitas, Joel Pellegrino Hotham has a second game in the race (and he did the illustrations together with Silvina Fontenla as well). Venecitas are some kind of Venetian mosaic tiles, and the goal is to collect colors. You roll a color die, may turn it by one edge, and then everyone gets the color facing them, while the active player also gets the color on top. Certain color combos can be exchanged against victory points. Venecitas was also published by JuegosdeMesa.com.ar.
Zuc! is a party game designed and self-published by Agustin Carpaneto, in which you try not to draw a bomb card (because if you do, you lose). When it’s your turn, you can play cards to shield you from an explosion, force others to draw additional cards or avoid drawing any yourself. Illustrations are by Mariana Ponte.
Who will win?
There are several votes taken into consideration for determining the winners. A jury of eight people has the biggest weight in the decision. It includes a few well-known BGG users like lolcese, Mos Blues and Pastor_Mora as well as last year’s winner Bruss Brussco (whose game KINMO has become a family favorite in our house). 13 Argentinian gaming clubs also cast their votes (ensuring that the games get played by many people in the first place), and there will be some kind of public facebook vote as well.
The award ceremony will take place at the Geek Out Festival in Buenos Aires on the 6th of May, where more than 1500 people are expected.
If you read Spanish, you can learn a lot about the Argentinian gaming scene on the Geek Out website. I find this initiative very impressive and commendable.
Note: If you have anything to share about new games from Latin America, please contact me. I will try to write about these games once in a while.