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Attend LGBT balls, fight French colonialists and serve a Hawaiian king in the shortlist for the Zenobia diversity award

46 concepts have been selected from 145 applications.

The initial collection of game proposals for the Zenobia Award, a mentorship program designed to uplift designers from diverse backgrounds, have been revealed.

Announced in November 2020, the Zenobia Award is an initiative in which applicants are invited to pitch their tabletop game concepts with the aim of gaining cash prizes or developing a relationship with key publishing companies. Established by several notable names in the tabletop industry - including Root creator Cole Wehrle and Geoff Engelstein, designer of titles such as Space Cadets and The Expanse - the Zenobia Award is intended to provide an entry point into games design for people who are not “white, male, straight, usually academic, often a part-time dabbler in spurious facial hair”.

By supporting creators who come from diverse backgrounds, the Zenobia Award judges hope to discover more upcoming tabletop games that “tackle some historical subject - political, social, cultural, scientific, economic, military or other,” from an angle that audiences might not have experienced before.

After receiving 145 applications and reviewing 86 proposals for various game concepts, the Zenobia Award volunteers for March 2021 have decided to advance 46 games further in the competition. An image displaying the concepts behind the selected titles has been posted on the award's website, with each one being sorted into a corresponding historical period and geographical area, as well as given labels to indicate what kind of history the game covers.

The concept ideas for the 46 titles range from pre-1500s history right up to the current day, with the subject matters spanning the entire globe. Some games focus on the issue of colonisation, such as Liberation-Haiti by Damon Stone - which sees the players fighting against a French colonialist government attempting to enslave Africans and Maroons - or pre-colonialist societies, such as a game about a pre-Columbian Cherokee village called Winter Rabbit by Will Thompson.

Other game concepts focus on the subject of queer history, including Molly House by Joseph Kelly - a game about a group of gender-defying individuals who meet in London’s 18th-century molly houses - as well as Mano Kapazoglou’s Legendary Children, that has players becoming members of a ballroom community predominantly featuring Black and Latinx LGBT groups.

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Alternatively, titles such as Turmoil in Tiananmen - by Naomi Shi, Catherine Dillman and Juliette Gage - and Longwen Chiang’s The Yellow Revolution look to cover the history of rebellion and protest in China and the Philippines respectively.

The design teams behind the selected prototypes are set to continue developing their game ideas, with feedback from their mentors and technical support from Zenobia volunteers, until June 15th - by which time they’ll need to present their refined designs to the panel of judges.

From the final selection of games, the judges will select three designs - whose creators will win up to $4,000 in cash prizes, as well as receive support in pitching their games to publishers. The announcement date of the winners is yet to be confirmed, but the entire awards process is expected to be completed by October 15th.

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Alex Meehan

Senior Staff Writer

After writing for Kotaku UK, Waypoint and Official Xbox Magazine, Alex became a member of the Dicebreaker editorial family. Having been producing news, features, previews and opinion pieces for Dicebreaker for the past three years, Alex has had plenty of opportunity to indulge in her love of meaty strategy board games and gothic RPGS. Besides writing, Alex appears in Dicebreaker’s D&D actual play series Storybreakers and haunts the occasional stream on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel.