2020 American Tabletop Awards

I said it in my Facebook post this morning, but I’d like to reiterate it here: I’m honored to be a part of the American Tabletop Awards committee. Over the last year we discussed lots of games, finally narrowing down our choices in the four categories before we had our winners. The board game industry continues to put out a lot of quality games and these 20 games (four winners, eight recommended, eight nominated) are the best of the best.

Humans of the Tabletop: Amanda Wong

After meeting Amanda “Panda” Wong last year via social media, I learned that we were fellow foodies and I soon learned of Amanda’s amazing baking skills. Her cookies were a lifesaver during the long hours of convention gaming at Strategicon. We’ve played several games and shared several meals since then.

Amanda Wong grew up with board games in her home, but as an only child whose family moved often, she didn’t always have a playing partner. Although an extrovert, Amanda sometimes didn’t make friends easily, either.

“I feel it’s even harder as an adult. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol or go on causal dates so meeting new people has been tough,” she said. “But gaming has been a great way to meet new friends and keep in touch with old ones. It also keeps my mind sharp. I love trying to solve the puzzles and hone my strategist skills.”

After watching Wil Wheaton on Tabletop nine years ago, Amanda binged on YouTube board game videos, devouring episodes of Watch It Played and Rahdo Runs Through before buying her first modern board game: Caverna. 

When she heard about Game Haus Cafe’s Kickstarter and subsequent grand opening, Amanda brought her friend Ruby to the Los Angeles area’s first board game cafe and connected with the community of gamers there.

“I didn’t own a lot of games and this was a great way to try new-to-me games,” she said. “I found some great geeky girls to play board games with and never looked back. Ruby and I went every Saturday. [Game Haus owners] Robert and Terry were both so welcoming.”

During the gaming cafe’s early days, Amanda, Ruby, and friends were one of the few groups comprised of all women gamers, which led them to being interviewed by podcasts and blogs.

“I guess it was a novelty,” she said. “I didn’t realize how unconventional it was for women to play board games until I started looking into board game conventions.”

Ruby eventually moved away and Amanda stopped going every Saturday, but still visits regularly. “Everyone I’ve met has been really nice. There are other places to play games in the area but they didn’t feel as welcome and comfortable.”

Game Haus has not only been a place to play games both old and new, but to foster relationships in a safe space. 

“I love seeing families inside playing games,” she said. “Game Haus has a great, warm atmosphere. And there’s such a variety of games and players that I don’t think there’s really any judgement on what type of game you like to play.”

Nowadays, Amanda plays a wide variety of tabletop games, from classics like gin rummy and mah jong to modern favorites like Lords of Waterdeep and Star Realms. She always enjoys a game of Takenoko (“If you have a panda in a games, I will definitely be interested”) and worker placement games such as Asking for Trobils are also beloved (“It’s really easy to learn and not as ‘mean’ because you are not blocked from any placement spots”).

When she’s not gaming, Amanda enjoys crafting items by hand and her Instagram is filled with photos of her latest creations. “I know how to knit, crochet, jewelry designing, 3D beading, cross stitching, origami, and right now I am mainly card-making.”

Her love of pandas is also well known; at the gaming table or on social media she’s often referred to as Amanda Panda.

“As I get older, the more panda-like I get,” she laughed. “You know, someone that just wants to eat, play, and sleep.”

Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New YorkHumans of the Tabletop is an ongoing series about the people I’ve played games with. Click here for past Humans of the Tabletop.