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Calgary board game company wins top honors in the Golden Geek Awards

A week after winning one of the top board game awards in the world, a Calgary board game company is hoping to win closer to home, at Alberta’s first gaming industry awards.

Paul Saxberg, community manager at Calgary-based Roxley Game Labratory, said his company learned last week they had won the best strategy game award in the international Golden Geek Awards.

Roxley’s game Brass: Birmingham, was also the runner up for the Game of the Year Award.

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Saxberg explained that the Golden Geek awards are voted on by board game hobbyists who use the website BoardGameGeek.com. He said Brass: Birmingham has acquired a huge popular following.

“You’re playing as industrialists in the time of the industrial revolution and you’re selling cotton and pottery and manufacturing goods, and you’re building canals and railways to transport them,” he said.

On Wednesday night, Saxberg and other game developers from across Alberta will meet in Edmonton for the first ever Design and Game Awards.

It’s a formal gala for both board game and video game designers. Saxberg said the founder of the awards, Scott MacArthur, wanted to add a bit of glitz to the industry, which is growing fast in Alberta.

“Scott observed that everything with the game industry has a casual vibe to it – people are wearing T-shirts, and people are not formal about what they do,” Saxberg said.

“Although we can be professional, we don’t always wear the clothing of professionals.”

Speaking from Edmonton, MacArthur said the industry in Alberta needed a night to celebrate its accomplishments. In a province that’s focused on diversifying its economy, people don’t realize that board and video games are a thriving niche industry.

“When you think of Canadian gaming, you have Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Winnipeg just got an Ubisoft studio,” he said.

But he noted Edmonton was the original home of BioWare, which was one of the first successful video game companies in Canada.

MacArthur said it used to be common for graduates in Alberta to head to California or Vancouver to work in the industry, but more and more, people are finding work here.

“We’re getting to a point where we can stay in our province,” he said.

The Design and Game Awards are unusual in that they’re recognizing both analog and digital games. In some cases, video games will be up against board games in certain categories, such as best visual design, best innovation, and best narrative.

Roxley Game Labratory is up for multiple awards, including game of the year and best analog game.

Saxberg said Roxley has two games in the running for game of the year. Aside from Brass: Birmingham, they also have a less studious dice game called Dice Throne.

“If you took a game like Street Fighter or Mortal Combat, and turned it into battle Yahtzee, that’s Dice Throne,” said Saxberg. “They’re very opposite approaches to gaming and it’s kinda nice to see them both beside each other in this category.”

Several of Roxley’s games have been picked up by major retailers. Dice Throne is now on shelves in the US at Barnes and Noble stores, while another game, Santorini, is in a number of Canadian and American retail stores.

Saxberg said the future looks bright for Roxley and others in the Alberta gaming industry,

“It’s exciting to be doing this and to be in a booming industry, in a booming company in what can be kind of a scary economy sometimes.”