Diana Jones Award reveals emerging designer winners of $6,500 prize package

The Diana Jones Award Committee has revealed the four latest winners of its emerging designer program, who will each receive a $6,500 prize package that includes an all-expenses trip to Gen Con.

The program aims to amplify the voices of up-and-coming tabletop designers, with a focus on creators from marginalized communities.

Quinn Brander, Taylor Navarro, Clarence Simpson and Basil Wright will all receive an expenses-paid visit to this year’s Gen Con, the largest tabletop game convention in North America, as well as a TableTakes interview at the event and a spot demoing their game on Gen Con TV.

The winners will also pick up a one-year voting membership to trade body GAMA, prototyping credit at The Game Crafter, copies of the Affinity 2 graphic design suite and an online badge to virtual playtesting event Protospiel.

Quinn Brander, a Cree designer of board games and videogames, picked up the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence Award last year for his economic city-building game Rebuilding Seattle.

He is currently working on standalone sequel Rebuilding Chicago, which is set for a 2025 release by WizKids, and a co-op roguelite campaign game with Rose Gauntlet co-founder Isaac Vega.

Taylor Navarro is a Puerto Rican-British TTRPG designer, project manager, editor, and mother of two, who began designing for Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition in 2021.

A Big Bad Con POC Scholar for 2022 and 2023, Navarro currently works as the producer for D&D 5E adventure anthology Tales from Sina Una.

Clarence Simpson a half-Filipino board game designer and video games software engineer, is co-designer of The Wolves, which topped the BGG Hotness chart upon release and has since been localised into 15 languages.

Previously named one of the Top 10 Up and Coming Designers by The Dice Tower, his unpublished design Shaking the Tree won the 2019 HABA USA Design Contest and was a runner-up for the 2020 Cardboard Edison Award.

Basil Wright is a Black and Seminole Florida native whose works include Pelogos, Mouseia, You’re Naked, Run!, and You Can (Not) Pet the Cat.

Their game design philosophy is to create games that promote community and have the lowest barrier of entry, so that everyone can enjoy playing games together.

The Diana Jones committee said they would also like to congratulate the four other award finalists: Armanda, Otto Garay, Laurie O’Connel and Navaar Selk-Jackson.

This is the fourth year of the Diana Jones emerging designer award program, with Jeeyon Shim having picked up the inaugural award in 2021.

Last year’s winners included Kayla Dice, the creator of combat trick-taker Transgender Deathmatch Legend, and Erin Williams, who wrote the adventure “Written In Blood” and created its location, Godsbreath, for D&D adventure anthology Journeys through the Radiant Citadel.

The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was founded and first awarded in 2001, and is agreed upon by a mostly anonymous group of more than 50 tabletop games industry professionals, including designers, publishers, creatives and consultants.

Its namesake main award is presented to the person, product, company, event, movement, concept or any other thing that has, in the opinion of its committee, best demonstrated the quality of “excellence” in the world of hobby-gaming in the previous year – and 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.

Last year’s winner was Coyote & Crow, an RPG created by Cherokee designer Connor Alexander. Finalists included Root and John Company designer Cole Wehrle, who was nominated for “some of the finest work that’s ever been done in board game design”.

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 four 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.”

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