How Do You Celebrate?

22 July 2019 | 63 Comments

Something special happened today at Stonemaier Games, and I’d like to share it in a way that hopefully relates to you (and may help me).

First, some context: A long time ago in the year 2015, a game I designed and published did really well on Kickstarter. It was called Scythe, and at the time, it ended the campaign as the highest funded strategy game ever (over $1.8 million).

This is cause to celebrate, yes? And in a way, we did. There were emails exchanged between Jakub (the artist and worldbuilder), the Automa team, my co-founder, my graphic designer, and others. I posted the good news on social media. I was proud of our efforts and appreciative towards our backers.

Then I went to bed, woke up, and got back to work.

I don’t regret the work ethic. But looking back at that time–and looking back again when Scythe received a bunch of awards the next year–I wish I had found a distinct, tangible, and memorable way to celebrate. It just didn’t occur to me, or maybe it did and I didn’t know what to do. It isn’t in my nature to intentionally celebrate myself.

Flash forward to today.

This morning I woke up to learn that Wingspan won the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres, one of the more acclaimed and impactful gaming awards. I’ve known about the nomination for a while and was very happy for Elizabeth Hargrave (designer), but I was genuinely surprised by my reaction: I rushed over to my girlfriend, told her the news, and cried happy tears for a few minutes.

I truly wasn’t expecting that. I don’t make games for awards–my motivation for publishing games is to bring joy to people. But it just felt really good. I felt happy and proud and validated and honored and so much more. While I’m not the designer of Wingspan, I put a lot of time, energy, love, and resources into this game.

After a few minutes, my girlfriend asked, “How are we going to celebrate?”

Just like with Scythe, I hadn’t thought about that. So I replied, “Dinner?”

And maybe dinner tonight is the answer. Dinner is good. But I’m sure there’s a whole world of ways to celebrate that have never even occurred to me.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts. In your life, when you’ve achieved something important and meaningful, how have you celebrated?

Also read: Your Post-Campaign Survival Kit


Also, in case you’re curious about what the Kennerspiel means for a game and how we’ve planned for it, there are two answers: One side of the equation is that Feuerland, our German partner, has prepared for the possibility of winning by working with us to produce a bunch of non-printed components for a potential big German print run. A number of our other localization partners had me initiate additional print runs a few months ago even though they hadn’t even received the current print run.

The other side are the English-language games that Stonemaier Games makes and coordinates. We have a huge print run shipping to distributors in the very near future (as well as a small number currently on our webstore), along with another 55,000 currently in production (most of which were funded from our cash reserves; some were prepaid for by distributors). Hopefully that will cover demand through the holiday season!


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63 Comments on “How Do You Celebrate?

  1. Congrats!
    When I got my first game published, I arranged a gaming party in a local hall for a load of friends. It ended up with about 8 board games being played, 4 of which were my game :) It was lovely, and I still can’t help but smile when I see photos from that event.

    But when I say “I arranged”, I mainly mean “my wife arranged”, because she’s awesome like that.

  2. I don’t always agree with the SDJ awards, but this year I can’t agree enough. I’ve played and really enjoyed the other two nominations, but this was a landslide decision from my point of view. Not only is it well deserved, but your reaction is completely understandable. I can’t say I wouldn’t have reacted the same way.

    My suggestion is to do something permanent that will remind you daily of this achievement. A giant poster on the wall, a bird feeder in the backyard or house; something unique to the game that will remind you that your hard work pays off and is respected.

    Have you thought about creating a shadow box of the game with the box cover and pieces all in there. That would look awesome on your wall.

  3. I never have a tendency to celebrate my wins either, but I’m all in to do it for my wife’s.

    My achievements feel so small when I’m wrapped in the moment, i.e. Things feel easier after I’ve done them so they don’t feel that important.
    That and the “If I’ve done it, anyone can do it too” thinking.

    I do not have this at all when looking at achievements of the people I love, specially my wife’s. Dinner, a weekend getaway or sometimes a good night with friends to celebrate are usually the things we do.

    The good thing about this is that my wife is great at celebrating and highlighting my achievements, so we help each other in that regard!

    Also congratulations to Elizabeth and everyone involved on Wingspan!

  4. Crab Legs…I don’t know why, but when I get a promotion, or something awesome happens in my life, I want Crab Legs. It may sound silly, but attaching a celebration to one particular thing has helped me really experience the joy of whatever I’m celebrating. I really don’t eat them any other time, so the special-ness of the specific meal enhances the celebration.

  5. Super cool, congrats!
    I think that achievements such as these are worth celebrating with the people who made it happen. You wrote that for Scythe you exchanged emails, which leads me to think that you work long distance. However, finding a way to get the team together, go to a nice dinner, drinks, talk about your journey and about your challenges, retrospect and talk about what you learned is a worthy celebration of such an occasion. You will take pictures and videos, and make awesome memories which you will definitely take with you.
    Maybe even go on a short trip together :)

  6. Jamey,

    There’s a wonderful book called The Power of Moments. I’ve gotten a lot out of it. There’s a lot more to it, but basically powerful moments tend to have

    – Elevation (some way to distinguish them from another day – an outfit you wear, a stage, decorations, something)
    – Connection (it involves YOU in particular, and YOU as a member of a GROUP who are all feeling it personally)
    – Insight (recognizing something about yourself or something about the situation)
    – and Pride (particularly recognizing courage and accomplishment).

    This doesn’t give you a recipe for making a moment, but it does give some guidance for turning an event into a moment. I recommend reading the short book – I’ve used it several times now.

  7. I like to celebrate both the immediate excitement as well as have something to remind me on an ongoing basis.

    When I was part of a big acquisition my wife and I celebrated with an over the top dinner that we’d never do normally for the *immediate*. Additionally, I had some great memories with the company founder going to Seattle Sounders (MLS) games throughout our startup years. So I celebrated the *ongoing* by getting 2 season tickets for a few years.

  8. CONGRATULATIONS!! Amazingly wonderful news! When I have a unique and awesome reason to celebrate I immediately purchase a bottle of Don Perignon and enjoy it with the people close to me or the team responsible. I would never normally spend that site if capital on a beverage, but doing so really highlights the uniqueness of the event… and I’ve found it to be cause for outright giddiness. :-) Of course of champagne isn’t someone’s thing it falls a little flat ;-) In any event, so happy for the designer and you and the rest of your team!!

    My best,

  9. Maybe you could do something up like they have when albums go “platinum”. Frame up an 8X8 sized print of the cover art from Wingspan with nice matting and add an engraved plate that says “2019 Winner – Kennerspiel des Jahres – Stonemaier Games – Elizabeth Hargrave. Then you can create a wall of fame in your office space (even go back and add previous awards for Scythe or Viticulture if you want)! You’ll have a nice permanent record of your accomplishments and it doesn’t take up space.

  10. When I finished my PhD, I lay on my bed, put my best headphones on, and listened to music for 4 hours. It was beautiful.

  11. congratulations, these awards don’t always go to the most deserving folks who do excellent stuff for the right reasons, so it is doubly awesome when they do. I hear you about not really knowing how to celebrate, I’m much better at celebrating vicariously for other people than myself

    1. That’s my instinct too, Barry! I think a hybrid approach may work for me–celebrate those who had a hand in making the game (and the fans), and find a more personal way to celebrate.

  12. It’s only a tiny thing, but whenever I pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate something, I write the occasion on the cork with a fine marker pen and save all the corks on a shelf at home. Makes me smile to see them as a reminder.

  13. So extremely well deserved! Both to you and your company for being true “good guys” of the industry, working hard for making not only money – offcourse – but to take the board gaming industry in a BETTER direction, putting out stuff thats intelligent, non-conformative and very enjoyable. I would love seeing more “different” themes on the board from you.

    Elisabeth have made a marvellous game, we were extremely impressed when we got the opportunity to try it out. It’s definetly a keeper and a brilliant revisit to old ornithologist-experiences from the past.

    I totally love that the jury in germany actually chose a game that is both different and brilliant. Its a breath of fresh air, and sits as a great figure head to all that I feel that Stonemaiergames is to me, from afar. :-)

    Well done!! – and on the note of how to celebrate: I would actually recommend going the other way around from parties and big things and seek contact with the feelings inside about the project in hand, the journey it has been getting here and acknowledge all the hard work YOU have done. Remind yourself of all the stones (!) you’ve tripped over getting here, and how sweet the reward tastes. Scream of joy! (Its underrated and it can be done with a loved one aswell!)

  14. First off, congratulations to the entire team of Wingspan. It was a very well deserved award. Elizabeth must be so excited!

    As far as celebrations, the last time I had a big celebration was when I was hired. It had been a really long summer of applications and interviews. Many of the senior teachers in my life had told me that I couldn’t expect to get hired at a good district because I was young, impressionable and inexperienced so schools would prefer to have me as a substitute. By the time I got the call I was feeling pretty dejected. We were in the process of moving when they called to tell me I got the job in the district I had wanted to work for, so I was cleaning our old apartment. I just remember sitting on the floor bawling, and calling Will trying to explain I had gotten the job even though I didn’t think I would because there was so much competition for it.

    We took a break from our moving chores that night, we went to dinner and then went to our local game store. Grabbed a game we had been wanting but hadn’t picked up because of the move. Spent the night playing games and enjoying desserts. Just taking a pause from everything else going on was a great way to celebrate.

  15. First, congratulations! Next, how to celebrate depends up on the “level” at which you want to celebrate. I know one thing, you probably won’t remember a dinner. I would celebrate with a bird-watching outing with my girlfriend. A visit to the nearest National Audubon Society location might be “level one” ( Whereas “level ten” might be a guided bird-watching tour in the Galapogos (

  16. Dinner is good. Get a press clipping or something similar with the date and award info, and frame up something with that and the box cover or similar. Hang this on you wall of fame in your home/office. Then, get back to work making great games and spreading joy to your fellow gamers! ;)

  17. Tiffany and I are pretty bad about celebrating, too. We also tend to do the dinner thing and if we’re celebrating something that involves getting money we tend to buy a nicer piece of furniture or pay down a loan (or both!).

  18. Tiffany and I are pretty bad at celebrating too! Dinner tends to be our go to thing. If the thing we’re celebrating involves getting money, we also tend to either buy a more expensive piece of furniture or pay down a loan or both.

  19. When my wife and I were in college (before we were married even), she was a maid of honor for a friend. This friend had her rehearsal dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It was the BEST meal a couple of college kids like us had ever had. It was epic, and we didn’t even want to know how much the whole thing cost.

    Ten years later, married with 4 kids, I finally passed my last actuarial exam and earned my Fellowship. We celebrated by having dinner at Ruth’s Chris. We wondered if it would be as epic as the first. It was. With every bite I would wave my fork in bliss, a “symphony of flavor”.

    Our next milestone is to pay off our house. When that happens, we are going to do Ruth’s Chris again. And since the other two times were in cities we didn’t live in, were going to keep that tradition as well.

  20. Hi Jamey,

    Congratulations! I loved waking up to this news this morning :) It feels impactful and important and I cannot wait to celebrate, hopefully with a good old game of Wingspan tonight! I thought you said something very meaningful above about memory and wanted to share something a friend told me just before my wedding day. She said with things in your life this big, it’s easy for everything to flash before your eyes and for you to forget. But if, at the end of the day, you take a minute and think of 3 moments that really made the event special, you can carry those with you forever, even when you forget everything else. And she was right! I have 3 memories in my head from that day, and I’ve forgotten everything else, but those 3 memories keep the moment alive for me to think back on any time I want. So regardless of how you celebrate this incredible achievement, I hope you take time to grab 3 moments from it all. Well done on an incredible game, with a fantastic team of developers and creatives behind a wonderful design!

  21. In my opinion the best celebration that exists would be hockey players drinking beer out of the Stanley Cup. Not sure that sipping a Budweiser (would have to be a St. Louis beer, right?) out of a Wingspan box would have the same effect, but it might be worth a try!

  22. Congratulations, Jamie! You have every reason to take a pat on the back, and also give yourself one. Most people are uncomfortable with it. Deal with it. ;)

    Also, Don’t forget to celebrate your whole team in some way. It’s what makes the difference between a great leader and a decent leader.

    It doesn’t have to be an item or large. Print out some certificates and present them to your team for their individual contributions. Take them to lunch (or dinner). Whatever… even a sincere heart-felt “Thank You”, possibly in front of the whole team, goes a long way.

    Keep up the great work!
    Greg P from Pennsylvania

  23. Jamie,
    Congratulations!!!! Big fan of the game. i have already received all the tricked out bits.
    I agree we need to be able to take some time after the grueling price (work hours and commitment) we pay to run a Kickstarter. I always loved the toast you guys did at the end of you campaign! I not sure I have the beer bandwidth lol. I loved this and made me feel special to be a part of it. I may do a live special for our backers with our current campaign. Lastly, I have a backer of our Gen 1 Game Toppers Kickstarter. He brought me a bottle of Champagne so that we could open it up as he knew we would have another successful campaign. This is wonderful!
    Burky – Game Toppers LLC

  24. Totally depends on the celebration, when my work team have won awards, I usually start with thank yous to all the people who support us in a large organisation and passing on the joy I feel about working with such awesome humans, and then a choice of who I want to celebrate with and what might be a meaningful way to celebrate. Often food.

    The team have all done an amazing job with Wingspan, producing a great game, with beautiful components.

  25. Jamey Stegmaier, You just won the Spiel des Jahres! What are going to do now? “I’m going to Disneyland!!”

  26. We do dinner and a nice bottle of wine. Then I save the cork, write the reason for the celebration on it in Sharpie with the date, and throw it in a glass bowl in my dining room. I also post on Facebook and have a scrapbook made from Facebook posts by one of the companies that do that. I figure part of the goal of a good celebration is finding a way to recall it later in life, when you want to look back at the moments that mattered. Congratulations to you and Elizabeth! We’ve enjoyed Wingspan – and Scythe. :)

    1. There are lots of different ways to celebrate this time. If you are looking at this as an accomplishment, or milestone, as I would, then I would get something for yourself to commemorate the moment; a watch, or something similar. If you see this as more of special event, then dinner tonight, or a party, would be a fantastic way to mark the award.

      Anyway you go, the award is well deserved. Wingspan is amazing, and I am looking forward to hearing what you have planned on August. Congratulations!

  27. Celebrations to me are all about my core unit (wife, family and close friends). So whether it’s a dinner, a movie, a play, a sport’s game or a celebratory board game night, I try and get as many of my unit as I can together.

  28. Dinner is a good choice! Go buy yourself some nice chocolate or a good pair of jeans. Send thank you cards to everyone on the team – or get the team together and share a nice bottle of wine. I know awards aren’t necessarily the goal – but they do provide some level of validation and this one is well deserved. I’ve taught Wingspan to more people then I’d care to count – and everyone has enjoyed playing it! I can’t say that I’ve ever had that great of results in teaching another game.

    So… do something special. Dinner with your girlfriend may be that something special. Life is too short to not celebrate when these kind of things happen – so celebrate!

    I like to celebrate others publicly, but myself more privately. So dinner with just my wife is exactly what I would do.

  29. As silly as it sounds. When I’ve gotten a promotion/job or some other big life event I typically celebrate it by doing two things.

    One I go get dinner and an adult beverage. Second I allow myself to spend a little bit more than I have in my fun money budgeted. Which typically means a board game I’ve been eyeing for a while, but haven’t gotten due to just having and sticking to my budget. (We’re paying off our debt at home)

    Its not much, but it feels good to take the time to just sit back and enjoy the moment.

  30. We eat out very very often, but when we’re celebrating the mood is way different and it makes the night special.

    The is important, not the way of celebrating.

    Sometimes me, my gf and few friends would go out for a few drinks and, you know, toast.

    I love the small, but meaningful celebrations much more than over the top tiring events.

  31. Congratulations Jamey, Elizabeth and the Stonemaier / Feuerland teams!

    I had a fascinating conversation with Elizabeth at the Berlin Brettspiel Convention on Saturday (and she very kindly Signed my copy of Flügelschlag that I had bought from the Feuerland stand 5 minutes previously).
    The Flügelschlag Demo tables were all continuously occupied throughout Saturday with more people waiting patiently to get a game.

    I only hope Feuerland have estimated the nett Gernan Print run accurately… As you have said already, the Kennerspiel des Jahres is very significant Award in Germany and has a big impact on sales.

    Anyway, to answer your question “How do you celebrate?” A 10-year old Bushmills would be definately on my list!

  32. I tend to purchase something memorable that will remind me of that which I will continually see. Sometimes that’s something like a watch, or a piece of art to hang on the wall that I have been wanting. It leaves a memory and you can look at it and think how you got it when you reached that significant milestone. Bonus points if it reminds you of the milestone in more than just that you purchased something.

  33. Usually celebrate things by… going out to dinner. I’m on a strict diet and I break it for celebrations so it is a big deal in my book. Congrats. Very well deserved.

  34. Congratulations to Elizabeth and to you and all the people that made this happen. It’s an amazing game and deserves the accolades.
    I wish I had a more distinct example – but I’d extend the celebration to all the fans.
    Some sort of thank you to them? A commemoration of some sort? (apart from the badge on the box, which should absolutely be done) A small add in component and one that fans can order and add to their existing game? Nothing elaborate, just a nice little commemoration of some sort.
    You should have a private celebration (like the “dinner” idea) that includes the people that got you to this milestone- but expanding the celebration to the fans would be awesome.

    1. I agree that it’s worth celebrating the fans of the game. I made sure to mention them on Facebook today, and we are doing something for fans (something that’s already in the works). :)

  35. I’m a bit of a sap so I tend to collect memorabilia from important events and do things with it. I’ve made quilts from pieces of fabric that were important to me (eg dress I wore to my graduation for my Master’s degree). I’ve collected stuff from major trips and turned it into jewelry. I realize those are a bit girly but maybe you could have notes from the development of the game, or in-progress artwork made into cuff links. I like having things that I can use or at least see day to day to remember important moments. Shadow boxes with important parts are pretty easy to throw together too. And as far as celebrating in the more general immediate sense, do what makes you happy! I’m an introvert and the idea of parties and being the center of attention are a no go, but dinner with someone I love, or going to see a performance of an artist I truly enjoy would absolutely be on the table.
    Congrats on the well deserved win!

      1. The copy of “Flügelschlag” I bought at the Feuerland stand at the Berlin Brettspiel copy on Saturday already had the “Nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2019” Logo printed directly on the box cover and topside of the box.

  36. For me, there are have been some very special moments in my life worth celebrating and I take the time to record them, by hand, in a journal. Writing down my feelings, thoughts, emotions, and the overall experience of what has happened.

    Life has its ups and downs. When life is up with the need to celebrate, this action of recording it on paper captures some of the moment more than anything else.

    And then, when life dips a bit and I’m looking for some support, I’m able to pull out those moments, read over them, and feel that rush again of remembering something wonderful.

  37. Treat yourself to something youve wanted for a long time, like a trip to a country you always wanted to see, or an experience or maybe something nice like a watch. If you are in a team that got the reward make a nice evening together and do something fun

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