The ‘Game of the Year’ - the Spiel des Jahres - awards were announced last month, along with the more complex Kennerspiel des Jahres, with the children’s game - Kinderspiel des Jahres having already been announced previously. These long running awards are judged by a jury of German critics and are considered to be some of the biggest and most prestigious awards of the year in board gaming.
Spiel des Jahres - ‘Game of the Year’
This award was first established in 1979 and is geared towards the more family orientated games. Some titles that have won in previous years are Codenames, Colt Express, Camel Up and Hanabi
Winner: Kingdomino 2-4 player, 15-30min
Bruno Cathala combines elements of traditional dominoes with a tile placement twist to build a 5x5 kingdom. Players construct their kingdom by matching their dominoes to the same terrain type already played. Points are scored by multiplying the size of each type of terrain group by the number or golden crowns it contains. There is also the added complexity in choosing tiles - taking a good tile now may mean going later in the next round. The Spiel des Jahres committee praised the simple elegance of the game saying “the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well”.
Nominated: Magic Maze 1-8 player, 3-15min
A real time cooperative game that has the hallmarks of a bad pun when a mage, a warrior, an elf and a dwarf walk into a shopping mall. The aim is for the players to acquire gear without alerting the very suspicious mall guards. Each player can control any hero in order to make that hero perform a very specific action, to which the other players do not have access. Not only do you have to cooperate with the other players, you are also restricted in doing this by not being able to communicate - visual or audio - with them, except for the allotted short periods of time when you can. You have three minutes to steal your specific item and escape the mall together to win the game.
Nominated: The Quest for El Dorado 2-4 players, 30-60min
Legendary game designer Riener Kniza has based this game on the fabled city of El Dorado. Expedition leaders assemble and equip their own teams in a race game with deck building elements first to be first to cross the golden border and win the legendary gold for themselves.
Some other games that were recommended for this category this year were: Fabled Fruit and KLASK
Kennerspiel des Jahres - ‘Connoisseur Game of the Year’
First awarded in 2011 it seeks to appeal to a more expanded audience and presents more of a challenge for those who are experienced and familiar with complex rule learning. Previously awarded to the games Isle of Skye, Broom Service and 7 Wonders
Winner: The EXIT Series : The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab & The Pharaoh's Tomb 1-6 players 45-90min
The award goes to the the three games in the EXIT series designed by Inka Brand and Markus Brand. They have managed to package the popular escape room experience into a box to appeal to any puzzle-loving fan. Trapped inside a cabin, lab or pyramid depending on which adventure you are on, players must use their team spirit, creativity and powers of deduction to crack codes, solve puzzles, collect objects to gain their freedom. The faster you go and fewer hints you need, the better your final score. This is slightly different from games won in previous years with the jury praising it as “must for all escape room fans”
Nominated: Raiders of the North Sea 2-4 players, 60-80min
Encapsulating the viking theme of raiding and pillaging but by focusing on the logistics of assembling your crew and collecting provisions before journeying to plunder the unsuspecting settlements. New Zealand designer Shem Phillips created a clever worker placement system of where only certain coloured Viking figures may occupy each action space. This game is fairly quick for a euro with players having to rely on their sense of logistical planning and timing of taking actions at home in the Viking village or out on the water plundering.
Nominated: Terraforming Mars 1-5 players, 90-120min
This diamond in the rough game created by Jacob Fryxelius seeks to terraform the Red Planet by raising the temperature, increasing oxygen and create oceans. Admittedly the components need an upgrade, but you soon forget that as you get caught up in this addictive engine builder game. Money is used to invest in projects to give you raw resources of steel, titanium, plants, heat and energy to use to increase your terraform rating (victory points). Ramping up production in these various resources will allow you to build more cities, create more green spaces and advance your scientific endeavours. The game will end once the planet has been terraformed.
Some other games recommended for this category were: Captain Sonar, Big Book of Madness, Great Western Trail & The Grizzled
Kinderspiel des Jahres - ‘Children’s Game of the Year’
First awarded in 2001, this award focuses on games that are enjoyable for children up to the age of 8 but still holds appeal for parents and older siblings. Previously awarded games have been: My first stone age and Spinderella
Winner: Ice Cool 2-4 player 20min
This dexterity game based on the fun theme of hungry penguins skipping class and wandering the halls of the school to find food. The penguins can be flicked in a straight line, make curves and even jump over walls in the “school” which consists of five boxes, joined together to make a large, square playing area. Players need to send their penguins through certain doors to collect fish which give them points, all while trying to avoid the hall monitor. The jury had this to say about the game “Everything works here: Brian Gomez combines an original game story, an impressive layout, lovingly detailed illustration and the demanding learning experience of the perfect dexterity game”.
Nominated: Mysterious Forest 2-4 player 10-25 min
Iello games is known for creating beautifully styled games and this game by Carlo A. Rossi is no exception. This cooperative, dice rolling, memory game is inspired by Daniel Lieske's graphic novel, The Wormworld Saga. Played over three phases, players have to memorise the location of equipment needed to cross the forest, then roll to get those pieces and then begin an expedition discarding the equipment as they are used. This timeline concept of shared memory and lucky dice rolls keeps the tension of the game play at a very high level.
Nominated: Captain Silver 2-4 Players 20min
This fun pirate themed game combines speed and a sense of good touch in order to be successful on the treasure hunt. Simultaneously players feel and grab the right object - treasure map, parrot, cutlass etc. - out of their pirate pouch. For each matching object they find, players either gain gold or advance their ship. If they pull a wrong object, they must face the dangers of the volcano. Full of positive chaos combined with forward planning and a variable game board will provides hours of fun (and treasure) for pirate loving kids and families.