Soon after Gencon last year, I wrote a post noting that the 2016 Ennies would be a tough fight. Now that the nominations are out, it is worth looking back. I can better see my own blinders (games or types of games I knew little about) and there are certainly a number of surprises.
I am not sure if it constitutes a surprise but the biggest pattern emerging from the comparison of my initial projections and the eventual nominations is that importance of timing for releases. A number of the books I had included were not released within the review schedule. This includes: Paranoia, Timewatch, 13th Age Glorantha, Fall of Delta Green, and Mutant Crawl Classics. Paranoia seems to be approaching completion for a late 2016 release. I think Timewatch is a Gencon release. Mutant Crawl Classics is kickstarting now (with a proposed late 2016 release, I believe). These may be showing up next year on the list. I should note that I included some of the list based on what I had seen advertised as "forthcoming" -- slipping to next year does not mean that these books have actually missed any stated release dates (just my guesses).
Another major surprise is that Star Wars: Force and Destiny was shut out of the awards after winning both the Origins award for RPGs and the corresponding fan favorite award. I have heard nothing bad about the game. I think this just speaks to how competitive the Ennies were this year.
I was also quite surprised to see Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition shut out of the awards. I got my copies a little while back and thought the production values were superb. This may have been a casualty of the bad press related to its kickstarter delays or the ambiguity of an extremely long release window (between electronic and physical release). Given the recent physical release, it may be submitted next year.
Some of the nominations revealed gaps in my awareness of the RPG landscape. I am only starting to become more familiar with Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) games. I know very little of other independent games. This is an area of the hobby I need to pay more attention to moving forward. For example, I have started reading Urban Shadows and think it may be a great fit for my home game -- but I was largely ignorant of it last year when making my list.
My final surprise was the lack of more broad support for WotC and Paizo products. The Curse of Strahd got many nominations but it was the only nominee outside of the spotlight awards. This is a year after the new edition of DnD took most of the awards (or so it seemed). Paizo has several nominations for Ultimate Intrigue but this does not reflect their past dominance or their volume of releases. This is a year where the next tiers of companies dominated the nominations. Only time will tell whether the other companies will continue to achieve such representation.
I did have one disappointment. I had understood that the "spotlight" awards were for products that the judges felt deserved more attention but got left out of the nominations. This year two of the spotlight awards went to WotC products. As I see it, every WotC product gets plenty of attention. If a WotC or Paizo product does not get a nomination, it is not due to a lack of attention and exposure. I would prefer those awards go to products from smaller publishers that really could get a boost by the nomination. Of course, the judges can do as they please. I would just use that option for different purposes.
So, who am I voting for? I don't know. There is no way I will read through all of the nominees. I will still vote but I at least want to get through most of the nominees. I have not finished Feng Shui 2 or Urban Shadows. I had not heard of the Maze of the Blue Medusa but it sounds intriguing and will likely check it out. I will probably have to wait on the $100+ Degenesis, though.
In all, the diversity of nominations illustrates the vibrant landscape of RPGs today.