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Naked mole rats, living room murder parties and robot chefs are up for best unpublished board game award

Fourteen worthy tabletop designs advance to a final round of judging for the Cardboard Edison, including titles about comic book sales and fusion reactors.

Kells board game, a finalists for the 2024 Cardboard Edison Award
Image credit: Anne Meyer

Another batch of unpublished board game designs are in the running for the 2024 Cardboard Edison Award. The international contest has announced its finalists, shortlisting 14 finalists among over 300 submissions that will now be played, assessed and judged ahead of crowning one winner.

Hosted by Suzanne Zinsli of US board game design studio Cardboard Edison, this annual award has been running since 2016 and swings the spotlight on worthy board games hidden amongst the constant deluge of crowdfunding campaigns, miniature-filled boxes and the same established names filling shelves in local hobby shops.

An initial pool of 339 entries were judged on “engagement, originality of theme, and originality of mechanics” by Cardboard Edison’s 59 industry experts. Now that they’ve passed the first hurdle, these 14 designs will enjoy enhanced scrutiny in addition to judging “based on engagement, smoothness of play, and fit for the target audience,” according to the award’s website.

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Finalists run the gamut of genres, playstyles, weight and subject matter. James Mapes’ Enemar is a tile-based race to pull carrots and other veggies through the labyrinth of their warrens while also keeping snakes from discovering a direct route to the heart of their underground nest. Starlite Diner by Jay Bucciarelli & Liberty Kifer sounds like a tabletop version of Overcooked set in space, where players pilot robotic chefs with superhuman capabilities to keep up with a galaxy of orders.

Leo Taylor’s Crime Scene Murder Party is a fun mixture of Cluedo and Charades that expands the play area across an entire living room. Cards hidden in furniture, decorations and other faff will lead investigators towards the real culprit: a weapon clue card hidden by the fireplace might mean stones or fire, while a suspect card on a fluffy white blanket could implicate the character portrayed in a cotton jumper.

Comic Book Boom board game, a finalists for the 2024 Cardboard Edison Award
Image credit: Dan Nichols

It’s well worth checking out the full list of finalists, all of which have short pitch videos explaining their designs and prototype components Plenty of past winners of the Cardboard Edison Award have found publishers and become successfully released board games, including Umbra Via, Animal Kingdoms, Castell and last year’s winner - Diatoms.

Cardboard Edison said that they received submissions from designers living in 34 different countries and that the total number grew by about 40% compared to last year. Final judging will begin sometime in April, and the eventual winner should be announced by the end of May.

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