Imagination Gaming Family & Education Awards 2019

“Winning is only half of it, having fun is the other half” once said the famous sports coach Andrew Phillips, and here at Imagination Gaming we couldn’t agree more.  The 2019 Imagination Gaming award winners have been announced and we have had so much fun finding out which games would get a gold award and our coveted seal of approval.

Family, fun and education are what we are all about and our awards were set up to find and celebrate the best games in their field from all over the world. Many of the categories represent our work in schools and we are looking for those games that can teach literacy, maths, cross curricular subjects and problem solving skills in a fun, creative and imaginative way as well as those that are just wonderful family fun.  This year we have been spoilt with nearly 130 games entered into the awards across our 10 awards categories from some of the most exciting games designers and publishers out there.

This spring was like a mini Christmas every week as we opened box after box of exciting new games.  We thought we had seen a lot of family games but our minds have been blown by all the interesting new themes and game mechanics we have seen this year.  Long story short… We all have very long Christmas lists now!

We can’t possibly mention all the great games we have seen but we would like to share some of our team’s personal favourites and some stories from the awards.

Literacy is dear to our hearts so we were very excited to see the games in this category. Junior Alias from Tactic Games (Literacy – Gold), this game of quick and clever descriptions of everyday objects, had us giggling. Just One from Asmodee UK (Literacy - Shortlisted) grabbed our attention from the beginning; clever game play that gets you thinking outside the box; write clues to help your teammates guess the word but make it different from the others or it will go! How do you describe ‘Elf’ without saying Christmas??

Maths made easy was what we were hoping for and that is what we got times 2!  Second Chance from Pegasus Spiele (Maths - Gold) was an almost meditative puzzling experience, fitting the shapes into the grid with as few spare spaces as possible whilst Savvy from Savvy Games Ltd (Maths – Shortlisted) had us bidding higher or lower in this super fun probability game. Wonderful little games that get kids doing maths without them even noticing and proves that great things do come in small packages!

Cross Curriculum saw us seeing nothing, hearing nothing and saying nothing but having a blast with TEAM3 from Brain Games (Cross Curric – Gold).  We loved watching families trying to build a tower with their eyes shut whilst someone else mimed the plans! Sussed - Allsorts from Games To Get Ltd (Cross Curric – Shortlisted) was another interesting game where we found out how each of the IG team feel about being tickled amongst other things! A great PSHE tool to help people get to know each other better and develop empathy skills.

Choosing a game from the problem solving category was a conundrum (get it?) but Cahoots from CoiledSpring  (Problem Solving – Gold) and Assembly from Wren Games (Problem Solving – Shortlisted) were stand out contenders for the IG team.  Cahoots looked fantastic and had simple ‘match the colour or the number’ card play, but was devilishly addictive…  Assembly was a wonderful little game that had battling a computer to get off a space station. The IG team heard “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t let you do that” in their heads all awards season!  Both were so simple, so clever, so playable, again and again.

Family games are at the heart of what we are all about and we had two winners this year; a lighter, younger choice and a longer, slightly more complex choice. Chop Chop from Djeco (Family - Gold) turned us into a stealthy cat and had us chasing our very cute, mice teammates around the kitchen table! Off The Rails from Rotten Games (Family - Gold) was the first game into the 2019 awards and it set the bar very high.  This quirky, strategic race to mine gems before the mine collapses had us plotting and sabotaging in our purple subterranean world, mining pure fun!

If we are being very honest, Young Einsteins is always a hard category for us to choose from.  Our little ones are not so little anymore but when they were, we remember long afternoons playing ‘baby’ games that made us want to cry with boredom so we were delighted to see the new generation of littlies games that adults can actually enjoy playing too. Snail Sprint from HABA (Young Einsteins – Gold) has us racing snails up and over the tin box with it’s ingenious, magnetic snail pieces. Simple, colour to colour movement means young children can begin to learn tactics and strategy with easy to grasp rules. Sweet, fun and a bit smart too!  Monsters Party (Young Einsteins – Shortlisted) is a wonderfully tactile game that had us discovering which monsters we could find to invite to our party by using our sense of touch. Involving feeling inside little cardboard houses, this game asks children to use their sense of touch to match patterns of raised bumps to different monsters who can then be given the cutest little party invitations, “Hello Monster Heart!”.

The UK Games Expo Players Choice Award was the culmination of three super fun and super tiring days on the fantastic UKGE Family Zone. All 130 awards games were there and this year we had our ‘Tablecloth Of Fame’ to record our visitors thoughts and feelings about all of the amazing games they played with us. The game that was scribbled all over the cloth was Farm Rescue from Brain Games (UKGE Players Choice - Gold).  There is not a single IG team member who wouldn’t be happy to join in a game of this! Getting all the animals on the farm into the barn before the wolf arrives or the clever farmer catching the wolf are the ways to win this exciting, co-operative, memory game. We were all on the edge of our seats trying to remember where the red chicken was and we were surprised to find out how engrossed and invested we were in this colourful farm!   A wonderful night of family fun that we cannot recommend highly enough.

Last but not least we have to mention The BIGGY… Curse of Pirate Gold from HABA was the ‘Best Imagination Gaming Game of the Year’. This simple, push-your-luck game of pirate treasure, teaches children about probability and managing risk in a very exciting and hands-on way. Reach into the bag and grab as many coins as you want - If they are all gold you get to keep them but grab a cursed coin as part of the haul and they all go back! Children had to balance high risk, high rewards with the safer, delayed gratification that might just win them the game.

The full list of winners can be found on our Imagination Gaming Website Award Winners page and we would like to finish with a huge thank you to all the judges, the families visiting our Family Zone at the UK Games Expo, the IG team and of course the wonderful games designers and publishers whose support and participation have again made our awards such a great success.  Thank you all and see you again in the Autumn for the 2020 Awards!