Root designer Cole Wehrle among nominees for lost Diana Jones Award

Root and John Company designer Cole Wehrle has been nominated for the long-running Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, for “some of the finest work that’s ever been done in board game design”.

Wehrle is the sole board gaming nominee in this year’s award, which is traditionally hugely wide-ranging in its choice of candidates.

Previous winners across the award’s 22-year run have included Blood Rage designer Eric Lang, Nigerian games industry publisher and evangelist NIBCARD, and the entire ‘actual play’ movement of people livestreaming and podcasting roleplaying games.

The award committee said Wehrle’s John Company, an economic and negotiation game highlighting colonial exploitation by ambitious families through the British East India Company, “once again shows how broad his ambitions have been over the years, and how well he continues to surpass all expectations”.

Wherle, the co-founder of Wehrle Games and creative director at Root publisher Leder Games, is up against competition from across tabletop gaming for this year’s award.

Other nominees include Rosenstrasse, an immersive roleplaying experience which explores the decade of changing racial policies in Gemany leading up to the eponymous real-life mass-protest in 1943 against the deportation of Jews.

The diverse 18-strong team behind Nebula Award-nominated D&D sourcebook Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel made the shortlist of finalists, being praised as a “groundbreaking anthology [that] transcends typical Eurocentric fantasy with authentic, complex, and emotionally rich stories infused with the cultures and lived experiences of their writers, inviting gamers of all backgrounds to explore new places and perspectives”.

Fellow Nebula Award-nominee Coyote & Crow, a native American alternate history RPG created by Cherokee designer Connor Alexander, is also up for this year’s award, as is tabletop gaming journalist Linda Codega, who was at the centre of reporting on Wizards of the Coast’s disastrous attempt to monetise and appropriate content created by individuals under its Open Gaming Licence.

The Diana Jones award itself, a clear lucite pyramid containing the burned remains of an Indiana Jones roleplaying game from the 1980s, was lost in the post three years ago during the traditional handover from one winner to another.

A statement at the time from the awards committee said, “Due to the amount of time that had passed, no tracking number could be found for the package.

“It is unlikely that it will ever be recovered. Perhaps it now sits in a box inside a warehouse somewhere, as forgotten and unappreciated as the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The winner of the 2023 Award will be announced on August 2 at the annual Diana Jones Award ceremony in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con Indy convention.

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