For the past few years, our group of gamers has taken their best guess at trying to read the minds of the Spiel des Jahres jury members. The nominations for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced Monday, and the award winners will be revealed this summer.
As has become our habit, we will do this in two parts. This first survey is done prior to the actual release of the lists, when just about any game was open for consideration. Once the lists are out, we will then do a second round of voting, limited only to the actual nominees.The usual caveats still apply. It’s hard for us to know which late releases in 2022 make the cut for eligibility, or if the jury somehow warped the eligibility period because of the pandemic. Also, there are probably a few games that are big over there that we simply don’t know about as there is no English version. We did not really generate a list of games and have people pick from it; OG writers were just told to vote for five games.
This year, we used a similar system to what we’ve used the past five years. Each OG writer was invited to rank up to five games that they feel will win the SdJ and KdJ, with the most likely game receiving 5 points, the next likely 4 points, and so on. Totals are below.
If you’d like to see the official information on and criteria for the award, please check out the Jury’s website.
Times played, at least a dozen different “days” on copy purchased by self
Stichtag was one of the games I was most looking forward to from SPIEL 2021. Sadly, I couldn’t make it there in time, but the great people at Ravensburger said they’d ship me a copy. That copy got lost somewhere along the way (maybe it ran aground on an Evergreen ship), and to this day remains lost… I managed to order a copy from Amazon.de, and after some delay, that eventually made it here.
The game is in German only – and as of now, there has not been any mention of an English Language version – so I then had a bunch of translating to do. My goal was to get it ready for our local Trick-taking convention weekend, and I did just barely manage to hit that goal. Since then, we’ve played it off and on, and I finally feel like I have enough experience with it to write about the game. Admittedly, I have played less than 1/30th of all the games in the box, but frankly, there is no way that I (or really anyone) would play all 468 different games!
The backstory: “The Queen has sent out a call to the Guild of Merchant Explorers, asking brave adventurers to voyage to all corners of the kingdom of Tigome. While the kingdom is flourishing, its maps have not been updated in some time and its great cities have lost touch with one another. WIth your team of explorers, you will journey over rough seas, towering mountains, vast deserts and lush grasslands to establish trade routes between cities and discover new villages that have emerged. The player with the most coins at the end of the game wins.” (Yes, that last sentence doesn’t make sense in the lore of the story, but that’s what is written in the rules…)
In The Guild of Merchant Explorers, each player starts with one city on their personal map board. The game comes with 4 different maps, and there are already at least 2 more maps in the micro expansion that was released at the same time as the base game. Make sure that all players are using the same map! Continue reading →
Cartaventura: Vinland is a narrative card game in which players build an adventure using cards which offer them different choices during play. The game is solely composed of 70 square cards. There isn’t even a rulebook in the box! The rules, as you need them, are explained along the way. While the story is not completely free-form, there are multiple endings available in each deck of cards, and which ending you see depends on the path you choose to take as you reveal the story.
(NOTE – in the process of this review, you will see a few of the cards, but only those with introductory text or rules. I honestly don’t think seeing any of these pictures will ruin or change your experience of the game – but I do think they will help you understand how the game works. However, if you don’t want any spoilers, either stop reading here, or turn off images and reload this review page)
By the time the original Key to the Kingdom came out in 1990, I had already spent 3 years as a DM (that’s Dungeon Master for those who’ve never played and/or watched Stranger Things), played pretty every stand-alone board game made by Games Workshop or TSR (hot take: TSR’s Dungeon is an unbelievably crappy game), dabbled in bit in games like Melee/Wizard (which later became The Fantasy Trip) and Magic Realm (hot take: still too much fiddle to be enjoyable), and – oh yeah – I was busy getting married that summer. There was literally no chance that a game with a cover that featured excited children…
…was going to jump to the top of my wishlist. (My big purchase from that time period was the original edition of Space Hulk.) So, I vaguely remember seeing it at the time… and then I’ve seen copies in thrift stores over the years… but I’ve never played the original version designed by Paul Bennett.
Fast forward 32 years (yes, my wife & I are about to celebrate our thirty-second anniversary!) and the release of Restoration Games’ new edition of Key to the Kingdom, lovingly restored by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rossett.
Since I can’t compare the two (except to say I like the new cover better), what follows is actually a review of what’s in the box now – and the fun we’ve had with it.
The Story (Such As It Is)
You see, there’s a demon king – and someone has got to defeat him and claim his throne and his mountain of treasure and his Twitter followers and all that… and then move to Florida and retire. Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to be that hero.
In order to do that, you’ll take the resources you have plus a singular special power and dive into the kingdom seeking adventures, companions, and three pieces of the titular key. Once you have those, you can jump into one of the magical whirlpools and teleport to the evil tower to face the demon king’s minions and, if you’re successful, the demon king.
Look, Hollywood is littered with weaker fantasy trope plots (I’m looking at you, Legend & Krull – what the heck were y’all thinking?). So have board games – we just played Prophecy this last weekend (with both the Dragon Realm and the Water Realm) and it pretty much covers the same territory. As does the Games Workshop “classics” Talisman or The Warlock of Firetop Mountain… or the weird but wonderful Euro-ish Return of the Heroes.
So what sets Key to the Kingdom apart from the rest of the pack?
It doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Any game that includes a card modeled after Rick Astley certainly isn’t trying for the Weighty High Fantasy Quest trophy.)
It doesn’t make the game last longer than the director’s cut of The Return of the King. (With 2-3 players, we finished in about 30 minutes. We ran just over an hour with five players.)
It doesn’t subject you to the whims of mercurial dice and random card flips. (Well, it does – but the game is designed with tools to mitigate those things.)
My 17 year old son summed it up nicely: “It’s like a shorter Talisman with actual strategy.”
Every couple of years (or so) I blog through my top 50 or top 100 games over on my personal blog, akapastorguy. This time around, I decided to share that list with our ever-so-wonderful Opinionated Gamers readership… along with some random thoughts that I had about the list.
Method to the Madness
Here’s how I come up with the final list:
Download my BoardGameGeek collection. (There are 4227 games that I have played/owned/rated, so it’s a pretty substantial list.)
Clean the spreadsheet to remove expansions and any game rated below 6. (As of today, that’s 1722 games.)
Go through and clean off games that obviously won’t end up in my top 100. (Example: much as I love Wits & Wagers or Win, Place & Show, neither of them is going to be in my top 100 games… and that leaves me with about 500 games to work with.)
Randomize the list of games and begin comparing them in 1v1 playoffs. (The question I ask myself – which game would I choose to play, given the right number of players and the correct amount of time?)
The losers of the first round are faced off against each other… and the losers of the second round do the same.
Losers of the third round are removed from contention.
This process (which is long and a bit tedious) continues until I’m down to approximately 100 games, each of which have won multiple 1v1 playoffs to get here. Now, as a group is dumped, I order them to fit into the top 100.
Once I’m down to the top 25, I order them myself, leaving the 1v1 process behind.