We all “know” the Golden Geek Awards sponsored by BoardGameGeek are a popularity contest. Although I recognize it as such, I still follow along, if for no other reason than to try to understand why certain games are popular. The 2020 winners represent a mixed bag for me.
I am very happy to see that David Thompson and Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games) won the Best 2-Player Game category. To see a “wargame” gain this wide an acceptance is happiness for this Grognard of 40+ years. On the other hand, I ruefully shake my head at the winners in the Wargame category. At the risk of reigniting the never-ending debate on “What is a wargame” I‘ll just make the observation that the defintion of a strategy conflict game seems very loosely applied here.
Don’t get me wrong; I am very happy to see Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta’s Imperial Struggle (GMT Games) win. After all, it’s the #18-ranked War Game, the #417-ranked Strategy Game, and ranked #842 overall on BGG. A well-deserved kudos is also owed again to David Thompson for Undaunted: North Africa (#91 War/#1130 Overall) as the Runner-Up along with Mark Herman and Geoff Englestein’s Versailles 1919 (GMT Games) which is #247 in War/#1251 Strategy/#3008 Overall.. Each game is a good design and obviously very popular. My personal favorite in this category, The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games) is actually not that far behind, ranked #271 in War and #3223 Overall. The real difference appears to be the number of owners of each game with Imperial Struggle most assuredly benefiting from the Twilight Struggle (GMT Games, now in 8th Printing) legacy as well as the production power of a larger wargame publisher in GMT Games. These factors combine to get this title onto many BGG user’s gaming tables. All three games (four if you count The Shores of Tripoli) are in many ways “cross-over” games that are ideal for what Harold Buchanan calls Convert wargamers.
While some Grognards may be tempted to dismiss the Golden Geeks, I hope instead that everybody recognizes that the hobby boardgame space for wargames is alive and well. Let’s get past the tired old “what is a wargame” arguments and simply focus on good games that we can all share together.