Predicting the Spiel des Jahres

The announcement of the Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) and Kennerspiel des Jahres (KedJ) nominees will be released on Monday, May 21.  The OG writers have been playing a lot of the new games and trying to predict what will make the lists.  Here we’ll offer up our best guesses for which games the awards will honor in a couple days.

While there are no hard and fast rules about what games qualify for which category and how many games will be named in each – we’re going to stick to the pattern set last year, which is 3 nominees each for SdJ and KedJ, plus a combined list of 10 recommended games (a single list for both SdJ and KedJ) for those brave enough to venture into the territory of the recommended list in addition to the nominees and winner of each award.

A couple important dates to keep in mind:

  • Monday, May 21 – Nominees announced
  • Monday, July 9 – Winners announced

The type of game that the jury chooses to honor has been a moving target for years now.  It’s particularly unclear what sort of game the jury is looking for this year given that this is only the second year of the SdJ / KedJ split.  Our predictions are all over the map because no one is sure how the distinction between the two awards will shake out and what direction the jury will decide to go.

This year we’ve asked a special guest to help us out with our predictions.  Kathrin Nos, who previously was a member of the Spiel des Jahres jury, has agreed to share her thoughts and insights with us this year as well.  Though she is no longer on the jury, she still remains active in the gaming world as she is on staff with the German gaming magazine, Fairplay.  Many thanks to Kathrin for joining us in this project!

Overall Selections

Here is an overall summary of the OG picks for the SdJ / KedJ nominees and winners.  The number next to each game represents how many different people picked a given game to be nominated, while the asterisks represent how many different people picked that game to win it all.  You’ll see below that 15 different people made predictions, so when 10 or 12 pick a single game, that’s a rather high percentage of the total.

Spiel des Jahres (SdJ)

  • Kingdom Builder 10 ***
  • Vegas 5
  • Africana 4 ***
  • Indigo 4 **
  • Wurfel Bohnanza 4
  • Takenoko 3 *
  • Waka Waka 3 *
  • Pictomania 2
  • Casa Grande 1 *
  • Dobble 1 *
  • Dr. Shark 1 *
  • Eselsbrucke 1 *
  • Glory to Rome 1 *
  • Fistful of Penguins 1
  • Kalimambo 1
  • Santa Cruz 1
  • Sidibaba 1
  • Struggle for Catan 1
  • Turmbauer 1

Kennerspiel des Jahres (KedJ)

  • Hawaii 12 *******
  • Helvetia 6 *
  • Village 4 *
  • Glory to Rome 3
  • Kingdom Builder 3
  • Walnut Grove 3
  • Africana 2 *
  • Ora et Labora 2 *
  • Santa Cruz 2 *
  • Edo 2
  • Santiago de Cuba 1 *
  • Targi 1 *
  • Trajan 1 *
  • Last Will 1
  • Power Grid: The First Sparks 1
  • Takenoko 1
  • Upon a Salty Ocean 1

So there you have it.  The collective OG hive mind apparently thinks that Kingdom Builder will be your Spiel des Jahres winner and that Hawaii will be your Kennerspiel des Jahres winner.  If we end up being right about both I’ll be flabbergasted.  The top three nominees that we’re collectively picking for SdJ are Kingdom Builder, Vegas, and Africana.  Although Vegas was strange in that many folks thought it would be nominated, but no one thought it would win, so perhaps Indigo belongs in our top three instead since a couple folks think it will win it all.

As for the KedJ, Hawaii ended up being a runaway leader, with Helvetia and Village rounding out the top three.  Given the other KedJ picks, clearly some of us think these selections are too heavy, while others think they’re too light, as there’s a wide range of KedJ picks.  One wrinkle in all this is that our expert weighing in is Kathrin Nos, and as you’ll see below, she was one of the only people not to at least put Kingdom Builder on her SdJ nominee list and Hawaii on her KedJ nominee list.  Given her experience in these matters, it makes you wonder if we’re all completely off base.  Thankfully we just have to wait until Monday, when all will be revealed.  Read on for everyone’s individual picks and their reasoning too.

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Dale Yu

SdJ Nominees: Kingdom Builder, Santa Cruz, Vegas
SdJ Winner: Kingdom Builder

KedJ Nominees: Hawaii, Helvetia, Walnut Grove
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

Recommended: Waka Waka, Indigo, Africana, Rapa Nui, Ora et Labora, Trajan, Power Grid: The First Sparks, Village, Bohnanza Wurfelspiel, Kalimambo

For me, this year is a tough decision because I’m honestly not sure how complex of a game is being sought by the jury.  I have chosen to go with Kingdom Builder as my SdJ choice as I feel that it’s a nice accessible game that plays quickly and looks nice on the table.  Yes, I realize that it might be a bit meatier than recent winners – but I think it has a good chance.  Staying with the more complex games leads me to Santa Cruz.  But, the rulebook is in comic format, so clearly its being targeted at the younger crowd, right?!

There were many more complex games this year that interested me, and that may explain why my choices are skewed towards the heavier end of the spectrum here…  We’ll see soon enough whether or not I’m off my rocker!

Jonathan Franklin

Using the BGG weighting system, last year’s nominees were:
SdJ – Qwirkle and Forbidden Island were both 1.7, while Asara was 2.4.
KedJ – 7 Wonders (2.2), Strasbourg (2.7), and Lancaster (2.9).

If Asara and 7 Wonders had won, last year’s SdJ winner would have been ‘heavier’ than the KedJ winner.  Just for calibration, Dominion, which won the SdJ the year before the KedJ started was 2.4 on BGG.  The two heaviest games to win the SdJ were Tikal and Torres, both 2.9.  In addition, both of those have lighter and heavier rules sets.  For this year, Ora & Labora is 3.9, while Village and Helvetia are both 3.1.

My predictions:

SdJ Nominees: Kingdom Builder (2.0), Africana (2.1), and Casa Grande (2.1)
SdJ Winner: Casa Grande

KedJ Nominees: Santiago de Cuba (2.2), Mondo Sapiens (2.2), and Last Will (2.6)
KedJ Winner: Santiago de Cuba

Recommended: Vegas (1.0), Indigo (1.0)  King of Tokyo (1.4), Wurfel Bohnanza (1.4), Struggle for Catan (1.6), Rapa Nui (2.1), Targi (2.1), Santa Cruz (2.2), Walnut Grove (2.4), and Hawaii (2.9).

Kinderspiel des Jahres (KdJ) : Kalimambo, ?, ?
KdJ Winner: Kalimambo

Why not?
5 vor 12 (1.0) – Could easily be in, but too Finito-ish
Dr. Shark (1.3) – French and has guns – distributed in Germany?
Zooloretto Wuerfelspiel (1.4) – Yet more Schact – could easily be in
The City (1.5) – I love it, but perhaps it is too small to get noticed
Takenoko (2.0) – Adequate distribution in Germany?  If so, this is in the sweet spot.
Carre (2.0) – Dark horse for inclusion
Discworld (2.1) – Could easily be nominated for either one or recommended
Gullipiraten (2.2) – Sounds great, but not sure if jury will like a game about sewer rats
Castelli (2.3) – Could easily be in for KedJ
Pastiche (2.3) – Could do it in KedJ, but abstract placement might detract
Principato (2.3) – Enough replayability?  Eligible or was this last year?
Fortuna (2.4) – Too much fortuna?
Coney Island (2.5) – Could easily be a nominee – Schactian year.
First Sparks (2.7) – Potential for ‘inability to do anything’ situation too damaging?
Tournay (2.9) – ‘Just a card game’?
Aquileia (3.0) – Could sneak into KedJ, especially if no other Zoch nominees.
Village (3.1) – Too dark a theme?
Helvetia (3.1) – Too much looking at other people’s boards?  Disconcerting baby stickers?
Ora et Labora (3.9) – Perhaps a recommendation as the token heavy game.

Joe Huber

SdJ Nominees: Indigo, Kingdom Builder, Kalimambo
SdJ Winner: Indigo

KedJ Nominees:  Ruhm für Rom, Hawaii, Funkenschlag: Die Ersten Funken
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

SdJ: There isn’t a clear and obvious choice for the award this year – and, in fact, not a clear direction for the award.  Last year was the first year of the new award format, and it’s not clear if the jury is looking for a Qwirkle-complexity game, or if something more complex might sneak in.

For me, two of the likely possibilities are fairly clear.  Indigo has the right weight, a publisher with no recent awards, and works well enough to bear serious consideration.  It wasn’t very well reviewed in Spielbox, but neither was it poorly reviewed – more a mixed review, but with some very positive comments.  Nominee #1.

Another popular choice seems to be Kingdom Builder.  The question here is what level of complexity the game will be felt to offer; I think it’s likely to fall into the SdJ camp rather than the KedJ camp, but I wouldn’t be shocked to be incorrect.

None of Waka Waka, Vegas, Santa Cruz, or Kalimambo _doesn’t_ fit as the third choice, but none is clearly going to take the slot.  Vegas seems the easiest drop, on the assumption that Indigo is nominated, and the jury won’t often choose two nominees from the same publisher.  Santa Cruz isn’t far off, but I just don’t think the game will have enough appeal.  The same is true for Waka Waka, so I think I’ll have to go with:

SdJ Nominees – Indigo, Kingdom Builder, Kalimambo.  Winner: Indigo.

It’s easier to guess at the KedJ, in many ways.  Glory to Rome, now released in Germany, seems a reasonable choice.  Hawaii was well received, and Hans im Glück’s SdJ track record is wonderful, so I’m convinced it will make it.  Trajan was also well received – but like Ora et Labora, I think it will be seen as too heavy for the KedJ.  Power Grid: The First Sparks doesn’t have that difficulty, and the jury has always liked Friedemann, so I’ve got:

KedJ Nominees: Ruhm für Rom, Hawaii, Funkenschlag: Die Ersten Funken.  Winner: Hawaii.

Tom Rosen

SdJ Nominees – Dr. Shark, Takenoko, Vegas
SdJ Winner – Dr. Shark

KedJ Nominees – Africana, Kingdom Builder, Santa Cruz
KedJ Winner – Africana

This is always tough to predict, but I’ll go with the above guesses, which will probably jinx all of these games and make it so none of them can possibly win.  Takenoko feels too heavy for SdJ honestly, but I can’t find a third game that is better for that spot, and it does have a panda bear on the cover, which we already know the jury likes.  Sadly that last sentence was only partially in jest.  Kalimambo is light enough, but just doesn’t feel right for the award for some reason, although maybe that comment will make it a shoe in.  If Hurrican is a large enough publisher and has gotten the game into the German market sufficiently (a big if, I realize) then Dr. Shark seems like a solid candidate, we’ll see.

As for the KedJ, I’m torn between Santa Cruz and Hawaii for that nomination spot.  It seems like it can’t be both since they’re both Hans im Gluck, but between the two, it seems like a toss up, with one of them getting a nomination and the other going on the recommended list.  I ultimately decided to go with Santa Cruz because it’s lighter and given last year’s KedJ, I fear that Hawaii may be too complicated even for the KedJ.  I know many folks are picking Kingdom Builder for the SdJ list, but after 7 Wonders was KedJ material last year, I really think Kingdom Builder is more of a KedJ game.  It’ll be interesting to see where that one falls for sure.

Larry Levy

SdJ Nominees:  Kingdom Builder, Waka Waka, Würfel Bohnanza
SdJ Winner:  Waka Waka

KedJ Nominees:  Hawaii, Santa Cruz, Village
KedJ Winner:  Santa Cruz

Recommended:  Africana, Friday, Indigo, Kalimambo, Ora et Labora, Rapa Nui, Ruhm für Rom, Trajan, Vegas, Walnut Grove

Man, I really have no idea which games to pick this year!  Truly no front-runners and with only one data point, we’re still not sure how the Jury will be positioning the two awards.  So with little to go on, I’ve decided to employ an “ultra-light award winners” strategy.  After all, Qwirkle won last year and 7 Wonders took the KedJ, when many thought it would win the SdJ instead.  Waka Waka is not a distinguished game IMO, but it’s pleasant, easy to learn, nice to look at, and well suited for the families which seem to be the SdJ target audience.  So why not?  Kingdom Builder is quite good and probably fits the SdJ mold better than Dominion did, but it might be a bit too heavy.  And Würfel Bohnanza, which will proudly represent dice games in the Year of the Dice Game, is too inexpensive a game to win.

In the KedJ, Hawaii and Village are both somewhat rules heavy, but no more than Lancaster was last year.  However, you’ll notice that Lancaster was nominated, but didn’t win.  Santa Cruz is lighter and has a nice little twist in the different way the two rounds play.  It’s the game that fits my ultra-light strategy best, so I’m going with it.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

SdJ Nominees: Sidibaba*, Indigo, Dobble (spot.it)*
SdJ Winner: Dobble/Sidibaba*

KedJ Nominees: Takenoko, Hawaii, Kingdom Builder
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

* I was not sure Sidibaba and Spot.it could run for the SdJ.  Since what seems to be relevant is the German edition I’m not sure when they were published in Germany.  Spot.it Italian edition (Dobble) was 2012 and I think Asmodee edition was 2012. If these two games are both not allowed then I think Dr.Shark will end in the nomination list and Indigo would win the prize.

I think Ravensurger has been out of the winners circle for a long time and this could be the right year. Of course Indigo is a Knizia game, so who knows?

Hawaii is a 13+ game.  Some years ago I think it would be classified 8+ or 10+ to make the SdJ run but now more games are 13+ to make clear which is the award they are running for.

Concerning my opinion this year we don’t have a clear SDJ and KedJ winners.  A lot of good games were released but most of them are not relevant for this awards.  I think games like Mage Knight, Eclipse, and Dungeon Petz are more fitted for the International Gamers Award.

Jeff Allers

SdJ Nominees: Turmbauer, Kingdom Builder, Indigo
SdJ Winner: Indigo

KedJ Nominees: Helvetia, Hawaii, Edo
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

Recommended: Casa Grande, Pictomania, Vegas, Africana, Carre, Trajan, Rapa Nui, Kalimambo, Santa Cruz, The Village

The German gaming scene has “gone back to its roots,” so to speak, and while it’s true that every game builds on past models, most of the games from this year depend significantly on past designs for their inspiration.  Familiar genres such as press-your-luck and the gamer’s stand-by “optimization” dominate, and many game designers and publishers are reinventing and repackaging their earlier work–most notably, as dice games.

This makes the award extremely difficult to predict, which gives the Jury even more opportunity than normal to include at least one unexpected nominee.  The trick, in this prediction game, is to know which “dark horses” will make the list.

Matt Carlson

SdJ Nominees: Kingdom Builder, Takenoko, Waka Waka, Wurfel Bohnanza
SdJ Winner: Takenoko

KedJ Nominees: Hawaii, Helvetia, Ora et Labora, Walnut Grove
KedJ Winner: Helvetia

Recommended: Nearly all my “recent” recommended games are from this winter or 2010.  I’m expecting Power Grid: First Sparks to have a chance at appearing for the KedJ…

If I’m lucky, I might have played two or even three of the SdJ nominees in any given year.  As one who is very US-centric I (sort of) watch when games become available here but don’t really watch releases overseas so I typically have no idea which games are even up for eligibility.  Looking at a preview of games selected by the rest of the Opinionated Gamers, I’ve only played Ora et Labora and Glory to Rome.  So I’ll have to go entirely by gut feeling. This year I’d love to vote for Vanuatu, since I played the game and gave it to my friend who lives there.  Unfortunately, I suspect it might be a bit too tight/harsh to catch the jury’s eye.  I’ve played Ora et Labora and enjoy it enough to mention it, but don’t expect it to win outright.  I previewed Takenoko and like it quite a bit but have no clue whether it’s a true contender.  Kingdom Builder is on my list “to play,” while Waka Waka has a funny name.  Everything I read about Helvetia sounds like the sort of fun, safe game I’m expecting from a KedJ pick.  The same can be said for Walnut Grove and my pick of Hawaii is due to overwhelming peer pressure (it’s as good as any other game I haven’t played…)

Mary Prasad

SdJ Nominees: Kingdom Builder, Bohnanza Würfelspiel, Pictomania
SdJ Winner: Kingdom Builder

KedJ Nominees: Last Will, Hawaii, Ora et Labora
KedJ Winner: Ora et Labora

Recommended: Eclipse, Trajan, Helvetia, Mage Knight: Board Game, Risk Legacy, Lords of Waterdeep, A Few Acres of Snow, Mansions of Madness, Small World Underground, Airlines Europe

I haven’t played many of the new games, including Santa Cruz, Vegas, Edo, Walnut Grove, Rapa Nui, Waka Waka, or Indigo so I didn’t really consider them (probably a big mistake, but whatever).  There are a few in my list (mainly in Recommended) I didn’t play but heard enough about them to venture a guess about being included.  Likely games such as Mansions of Madness, Mage Knight, and Risk Legacy wouldn’t be considered by the jury but they are so popular that I listed them anyway (my own special nod, for what it’s worth!).  I didn’t list Africana because it is too repetitive for my taste but this likely is a bad call as it may fit right in with SdJ.  I wanted to include Village (due to its unique death mechanism) in Recommended as well, but I ran out of room (we were instructed to list up to 10).

Ora et Labora is probably too complicated to win even the KedJ (not sure where the judges will draw the line yet) but I really like it so I voted for it to win!

Kathrin Nos

SdJ Nominees: Eselsbrücke, Vegas, Waka Waka
SdJ Winner: Eselsbrücke

KedJ Nominees: Targi, Village, Welcome to Walnut Grove
KedJ Winner: Targi

Recommended: Africana, Frigiti, Hawaii, Kalimambo, Kingdom Builder, King of Tokyo, Pictomania, Rapa Nui, Santa Cruz, The City

Thank you for inviting me to contribute here!

After not having been on any list in the previous year, Eselsbrücke still is eligible – all games that were published in the previous year are.  Some rules were slightly changed to make the game less frustrating.  I really would be excited to see it on the list now – and would love to see it winning! My second favorite is Vegas.  Not a typical alea game.  But still in good alea tradition – remember the great Royal Turf!  Among the many new dice games, Vegas clearly is my number one!  Very easy rules – lots of emotions.  The art design of Waka Waka just makes you feel like being in Africa.  The feeling of the game is constructive.

For the Kennerspiel des Jahres, I wish to see Targi nominated.  It would also be quite a contrast to last year’s 7 Wonders.  I name it my favorite, as I really like the tricky mechanism to place the Targi meeples on the one hand, but still have the feeling to be in the desert and trade with salt, pepper, and dates on the other hand.  Village also would be a great choice, so I name it my second favorite.  It just is a pleasure explaining this game – you guide your gaming group through the village and can tell a story while doing so.  I couldn’t really decide which game to put in third place.  So I decided to vote for Welcome to Walnut Grove as a dark horse.  In my opinion, this game generally is a bit underestimated and would deserve more attention.

With my list of recommended games, I am trying to provide a collection of games with different target groups such as smaller and larger groups, card and board games, strategy and party games, etc.

Nathan Beeler

SdJ Nominees: Fistful of Penguins, Kingdom Builder, Glory to Rome
SdJ Winner: Glory to Rome

KedJ Nominees: Upon a Salty Ocean, Hawaii, Helvetia
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

Recommended: Nefarious, Mansions of Madness, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Dungeon Fighter, Welcome to Walnut Grove, The City, Pictomania, RoboDerby Express, The Blue Lion, Djam

Let this be said up front: I am the last person who should be doing this exercise.  When the SdJ panel picked Villa Paletti as the game of the year over Puerto Rico, I knew then that the award meant nothing to me (Villa Paletti wasn’t even a good dexterity game, in my opinion).  That was just the beginning of the end, actually, as year after year’s worth of awards skipped over deserving titles to give honors to games I didn’t usually even like (Zooloretto, Keltis, Thurn and Taxis).  They don’t all miss (Dominion), but they miss often and wide enough for me that I can make no claim to predicting what they will do (or caring much, really).  Having said all that, I can list the games I think are the best of a pretty weak year.

Glory to Rome is here because several mentioned above that it may have been released in Germany last year.  If that’s true, and if it’s eligible, it would easily be the game of the year for me.  No other seemingly eligible game gets my unreserved love, in fact.  Kingdom Builder gets touted as a strong nominee, and to me it’s fine, if unremarkable (see my OG review).  My other potential nominee is fellow OGer Jonathan Franklin’s Fistful of Penguins.  I like Penguins, though it honestly would feel too light to be game of the year for me, all things being equal.  That doesn’t seem to matter to the SdJ, and this year seems to lack amazing middle weight games I like more, so on the list it goes.  Of the rest of the games Hawaii is probably the new major game I look forward to playing the most.  It doesn’t feel revolutionary, like I’d like a game of the year to be, but it’s a good solid design.  Helvetia gets dinged because I really don’t like that the turn length is so unpredictable, but otherwise I think it’s great.  The Blue Lion and The City are fantastic little games that should get more love, though I haven’t played either enough to say they should be game of the year.

Erik Arneson

SdJ Nominees: Africana, Indigo, Wurfel Bohnanza
SdJ Winner: Africana

KedJ Nominees: Hawaii, Helvetia, Village
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

Recommended: Airlines Europe, The City, Fistful of Penguins, King of Tokyo, Kingdom Builder, Ora et Labora, Small World Underground, Vegas, Village, Waka Waka

Josh Miller

SdJ Nominees: Africana, Kingdom Builder, Pictomania
SdJ Winner: Kingdom Builder

KedJ Nominees: Edo, Hawaii, Trajan
KedJ Winner: Trajan

Let me begin by setting my expectations for the SdJ jury.  I expect them to select games that are visually attractive, easy to learn, play smoothly from the very first play, and will sell lots of copies (including expansions) and make lots of money.  Recent history shows that the jury will make the safe, conservative choice almost every time.  In the last ten years, the only SdJ selection that seems the least bit progressive or daring is Dominion in 2008.  But despite my cynicism about the current state of the award, I will try to take an optimistic approach to my predictions.

I think the jury has a golden opportunity this year to award an excellent game that would look very dashing wearing the red Pöppel.  Kingdom Builder has all of the qualities I listed above, along with some hidden depth that rewards repeated play.  I really think this is an almost perfect SdJ game.

My second nominee prediction is Pictomania.  I haven’t played it because the mass-market English edition isn’t yet available.  If the jury wants to recognize the excellent work being done by Czech Games Edition over the past several years, Pictomania looks like the most likely place to start.  Finally, I’ve predicted Africana for the third nominee.  I don’t really know why.  It just looks like the kind of moderately dull, inoffensive game the jury often chooses.

Now to the Kennerspiel, which does not mean “complex” game, but rather a “connoisseur’s” or “expert’s” game.  I think it’s an important distinction. I really don’t know what to expect here, since the award is only a year old.  The smart money is on Hawaii, but I’m going to go ahead and pick Trajan because it makes for a more interesting article.  It’s a risky prediction because I’m not sure whether the jury is willing to trust a first-time publisher with the award.  It may also be risky because of the length and the perceived heaviness of the game.  In terms of the amount of rules, I don’t really think Trajan is any more complex than last year’s winner 7 Wonders.  Yes, there are six different actions in Trajan, but each is reasonably simple and compact.  Also, you’re going to score a bunch of points no matter what you do, which is a quality the jury loves.

For the other nominees I’m predicting Hawaii and Edo.  Hawaii actually has a very similar modular structure to Trajan.  In both games, the players wander around playing different mini-games, as if they were visiting a carnival.  Edo is just a pick from my gut.  I haven’t played it and know very little about it. Two of the Kennerspiel nominees last year, Lancaster and Strasbourg, were Spring 2011 releases.  Maybe that’s why Edo feels right.

There were a number of other games I considered for the Kennerspiel list, but each one appears unlikely for a different reason. Ora et Labora is too demanding. Helvetia is too messy graphically. Village is too morbid. Last Will is too mathematical. Dungeon Fighter is too goofy. Glory to Rome is too befuddling. Flash Point: Fire Rescue probably doesn’t have enough market presence in Germany. Others that I won’t name just don’t seem good enough.

Jennifer Geske

SdJ Nominees: Africana, Kingdom Builder, Vegas
SdJ Winner: Africana

KedJ Nominees: Hawaii, Glory to Rome, Helvetia
KedJ Winner: Hawaii

Recommended: Waka Waka, Indigo, Takenoko, Village, Santa Cruz, Rapa Nui, First Sparks, Walnut Grove, Casa Grande, Bohnanza Würfelspiel

Africana and Kingdom Builder are two well-liked games from respected designers and publishers that haven’t won recently. As this is the year of the dice game, I figure I should have a dice game on the list, and Vegas fits the bill for production quality and its accessibility in Germany.

W. Eric Martin

SdJ Nominees: Africana, Kingdom Builder, Takenoko
SdJ Winner: Africana

KedJ Nominees: Glory to Rome, Hawaii, Village
KedJ Winner: Village

Recommended: Grimoria, Indigo, Kairo, Kalimambo, Ora et Labora, Rapa Nui, Santa Cruz, Trajan, Vegas, Würfel Bohnanza

I’ve played (relatively) few new titles since the middle of 2011, so I’m blending personal knowledge, crowd observation, and wild-eyed guesses in order to make my choices.

Josh has a decent list of qualifications for SdJ nominees – visually attractive, easy to learn, smooth play out of the box, and vast sales/expansion potential.  Africana and Kingdom Builder have all of this in spades.  (I’ve yet to play Takenoko, but Bauza won the first Kennerspiel with 7 Wonders, the components are gloriously appealing, and the game has widespread German distribution, so it seems like a solid third choice.)  One element he didn’t mention, but which seems important when viewing previous SdJ winners, is that the nominees tend to straddle the family/gamer line – that is, casual gamers can play them, have fun and do reasonably well while gamers will look deeper, discover more and play better.  Again, Africana and Kingdom Builder fit this qualification well. Why choose Africana over Kingdom Builder?  Partly due to its contrast with 2011 SdJ winner Qwirkle in that Africana has a realistic thematic setting, and partly due to the German love of travel.

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31 Responses to Predicting the Spiel des Jahres

  1. Dale Yu says:

    So we’ll have to see how our predictions match up with the soon-to-be-released list… Then, once the lists are known, we’ll pick again limiting ourselves to the actual choices!

  2. Tom Rosen says:

    I’m personally most interested to see where Kingdom Builder falls between SdJ and KedJ, assuming it gets nominated, because I think that will say a lot about the direction of the two awards going forward. Personally I think that it’s more likely to be KedJ, but obviously I’m outnumbered by those picking it for the SdJ side of things. But looking back at Qwirkle and Dixit being the last two SdJ winners, it just seems like Kingdom Builder doesn’t fit the direction things are going. And now with the split off of KedJ last year, and with 7 Wonders winning it, it seems even more likely that Kingdom Builder is a Kennerspiel kind of game. I hope it does end up getting nominated, just so we can see on which side of the line it falls… but Kathrin’s picks make me think that we may all be crazy with our Kingdom Builder and Hawaii focus. It could be a serious case of group think…

  3. jeffinberlin says:

    I did not realize that anything released in the previous year (AND this year up until now?) can be considered for SdJ, as long as it was not nominated the year before? That apparently means that Nuremberg releases get two shots at the award?

    • Dale Yu says:

      Not really. I think that games released at Nuremberg are generally only considered for that year. While they might still be technically eligible for the next year, I can’t think of a single example of a game being widely released at Nuremberg the year before getting an SdJ nomination.

  4. W. Eric Martin says:

    I failed to finish my comments in time, so here are thoughts on my Kennerspiel nominees: Glory to Rome, Hawaii, and Village. All three are excellent designs, and all fit the category of games for connoisseurs as they’re more involved that your average game, yet not off the charts in terms of complexity or opaqueness, although GtR might have one foot across that line. Still, I think GtR is an incredible design that goes beyond what you normally think is possible in a card game, and with Lookout Games having released an attractive version in German in 2011, I think it could get the nod.

    As for Hawaii and Village, both are straight-up Eurogame designs that present gamers with interesting-to-explore game systems in an inviting setting. They’re not too difficult to learn and play, making them ideal for those who have played the basics and want something more. I prefer Hawaii over Village as the money management and tight competition for goods among players makes the game tougher than Village, while also providing a wider range of set-up variability, which kicks your brain in new directions each game. Village gets my vote, however, as it has the homey thematic edge, just as Thurn & Taxis had the home-turf advantage over Blue Moon City in 2006. Yes, your villagers die and sure, that could be morbid for some, but that aspect of the game also encapsulates the broader cultural outlook in Europe, with people viewing themselves as part of history-in-the-making rather than above it, as seems to be more common in the U.S.

    Who knows? I could just be blowing smoke…

  5. Eric Brosius says:

    These days, I feel that for me to project winners for SdJ is like a blind man trying to project winners in a portrait-painting contest. There are some games mentioned above that I enjoy (Africana, Hawaii, Helvetia,…) but others that I can’t imagine ever playing again. And I can’t even tell what aspects of the games make them more or less favored. In the past, I used to be able, at least, to understand what it was about popular games I didn’t like that made them popular.

  6. Flava says:

    I think EDO has a big chance of being on the KedJ List. It probably came out a bit late for some of you to put it maybe in your predictions but I’m almost sure the jury got it in time for consideration. So I just wanna share my predictions

    SdJ Nominees: Waka Waka, Santa Cruz, Vegas
    SdJ Winner: Waka Waka

    KedJ Nominees: Edo, Hawaii, Village
    KedJ Winner: Village

    Recommended: Grimoria, Indigo, Kalimambo, Helvetia, Africana, Kingdom Builder, Trajan…

  7. gamingleet says:

    I didn’t even contribute this year because I have no idea where to start. With nothing productive to add, I abstained. But, that doesn’t mean I’m without *some* opinion!

    While I’d love to see Hawaii win, I’d be very surprised if it does. After several games I find it quite compelling, but it takes a long time to set up and explain the first time, and the play takes time to fully develop. It is an excellent game, but I’ll be surprised (and delighted) if this is really what the KedJ turns out to be.

    Likewise, I expect Kingdom Builder to be recommended at KedJ, but that is all. I think it falls a bit in an unfortunately middle ground relative to the new awards and so won’t win either.

    Finally, given the economic shifts over the past few years I wouldn’t be shocked to see a game win for SdJ that was traditionally “too inexpensive” to be that category of game. It could be seen by the Jury as a chance to show that board games remain relevant even to the family with a tighter budget. A good signal to the public, but perhaps not to the publishers. Still, with the proliferation of dice games this year, it may not be a bad thing to select and recognize the best of them.

  8. Eric Brosius says:

    Does it make any difference that Indigo is not getting many fans on BGG (not one single rating of ‘9’ or ’10’, and a typical rating of ‘6’)? I know this hasn’t mattered in the past (Villa Paletti is a good example,) but that was many years ago. (And Indigo’s average rating is well below that of Villa Paletti.)

  9. Garry Lloyd says:

    It’s been difficult predicting this year’s nominees because, like everyone else, I’m uncertain which award particular games are likely to be more eligible for. Anyway, here’s my uneducated suggestions which are likely to be way off the mark:

    SdJ nominees – Africana, Santiago de Cuba, King of Tokyo
    Winner – Africana

    KedJ nominees – Trajan, Discworld: Ankh Morpork, Kingdom Builder
    Winner – Discworld: Ankh Morpork

    Recommended – Rapa Nui, Aquileia, Hawaii, Last Will, Walnut Grove, Airlines: Europe, Kalimambo, Ora et Labora, Vegas and Pictomania

  10. Henrik Lantz says:

    Allright, the nominations are out. It seems we should all listen to Kathrin Nos who did a most excellent job of guessing the nominations.

    • Joe Huber says:

      No surprise there. I was certainly tempted, upon seeing her choices, to change my picks – but what fun would that be?

    • W. Eric Martin says:

      Who would have guessed that being a former SdJ jury member would have helped her channel the jury’s selections so well? Inconceivable!

  11. Tom Rosen says:

    So the SdJ nominees are:
    Eselsbrucke, Kingdom Builder, and Vegas

    And the KedJ nominees are:
    K2, Targi, and Village

    So our collective top two SdJ picks were in fact nominated, but Eselbrucke came out of nowhere for everyone but Kathrin to snag a nomination. On the KedJ side, we collectively did pick Village, but K2 was the only game of the six that not a single person guessed. I’d attribute this in large part to the fact that it was originally released in 2010, with presumably a later German release in 2011. If K2 was a real 2011 release then I think it would’ve gotten a few picks here, but hard to say. It’s tough to know from this side of the pond which 2010 games are still in consideration for the 2012 awards.

    Well, now it’s time to try and pick the winners from this narrowed pool of contenders. I have to admit it’s hard not to go with Kathrin’s picks of Eselsbrucke and Targi, but I’m also very tempted by K2, despite my personal feelings about the game.

    • W. Eric Martin says:

      Yes, guessing at this point is admittedly much tougher when, in my case, I’ve not played Eselsbrücke, Vegas, Targi or K2.

      As for K2 being eligible, the Qwirkle win in 2011 should have waved a flag as to German release dates being what’s important, given that Qwirkle was released in late 2006 in the U.S. Ideally the release date info now included on each game version on BoardGameGeek will help such detective work, for whoever wants to engage in such deep digging.

  12. huzonfirst says:

    By the way, here are the Jury’s Recommended games. Unlike last year, these are divided into SdJ and KedJ recommendations. The SdJ recommended games are:
    Drecksau
    Indigo
    Kalimambo
    Kulami
    Miss Lupun…und das Geheimnis der Zahlen
    Pictomania
    Rapa Nui
    Santa Cruz

    And the KedJ recommended games are:
    Friday
    Hawaii
    Ora et Labora

    Finally, here are the nominated games for the Kinderspiel des Jahres (best children’s game):
    Die kleinen Drachenritter
    Schnappt Hubi!
    Spinnengift und Krötenschleim

  13. huzonfirst says:

    To me, the big story in the nominations is the fact that the Jury nominated a game (Eselsbrücke) that was originally released in Germany prior to the usual 12 month period (i.e., before July of 2011). Kathrin is right that the game was eligible because it wasn’t nominated last year, but I can’t remember the last time something like this happened. It used to be fairly common during the nominations of the 80’s and early 90’s (games often got nominated in multiple years), but I think it’s been a long time since it last occurred. Maybe someone can check me on this and figure out the last time this happened. At any rate, pretty extraordinary and big props to our Guest Author for her predictions.

    • W. Eric Martin says:

      Larry, you’re off on the deadline for SdJ consideration, but that’s no surprise given that no nomination period is listed on the SdJ website.

      A year or two ago, a publisher mentioned to me that a game had to be available in some manner by the end of March in order for it to be considered for SdJ – which would make the nomination period run from April to the next March. That said, I heard through the grapevine that the deadline was later this year, with games released in April being eligible – and the second edition of Eselsbrücke was released on April 25, 2012, according to the Schmidt Spiele website. (The first edition was published in February 2011.)

      • huzonfirst says:

        That makes sense, Eric; since the nominations are announced in May, you’d have to have a deadline of March or April. I guess I was thinking of the IGA awards, which have a gaming fiscal year of July-June.

        Either way, Eselsbrücke definitely was eligible for last year’s SdJ nominations–according to the Geek, the first edition was released in February of 2011. So we do have a very unusual case of an older game getting nominated. What I’m not sure about is how far in the past a game that wasn’t picked in the previous year can go. Was the cut-off point for this year’s awards January 1, 2011, April of 2010, or some other date?

        • Dale Yu says:

          Larry, it’s still pretty simple. It doesn’t matter when the game was originally released. The game that is nominated is the 2nd edition with the new rules – which was released during the appropriate time period. Of course, it makes it hard for us (i.e. non-Germans) to figure out what has had a new release – but that’s life!

          It’s unclear whether or not a game can be nominated twice, but we don’t have to worry about that here because Eselsbrucke hadn’t been named last year.

          • huzonfirst says:

            OK, I see now. Of course, it’s a BIT more complicated than that, because according to Kathrin, the 2nd edition couldn’t have been nominated if the 1st edition had been put on a list last year. So what constitutes a “new” game? For example, both Showmanager and the very similar Atlantic Star got SdJ nominations (4 years apart, but still).

            • W. Eric Martin says:

              Probably nothing more complicated than what’s used in the IGA – if enough judges vote for something, then it’s in!

            • Dale Yu says:

              Showmanager and Atlantic Star are completely different! :) Well, different publishers at least. But, yes – it’s a mincing distinction, and certainly not one that is crystal clear. But, if the rules were easy to understand, what would we have to talk/argue about!

              • W. Eric Martin says:

                Not even different publishers, Dale.

              • Dale Yu says:

                Different deck compositions is what I meant to say… and a totally new and novel board where you slide the cards annoyingly in rotational movement instead of a simple left-right path…. yeah, that’s the ticket.

  14. Kathrin Nos says:

    By the way, is there an edition of Eselsbrücke in the English speaking countries?

    On the SdJ homepage, jury chairman Tom Felber comments on the lists. He explains that the re-worked rules of Eselsbrücke were the reason why the jury considered it now. He also pointed out that publishers generally should better take their time instead of correcting rules, design, and material in second editions.

    For Eselsbrücke, I read a couple of reviews last year in which the problems with the first edition rules were pointed out. My own experiences confirmed that the punishment for forgetting parts of a story was frustrating for many gamers – however, I personally had wonderful games with great stories that we are still talking about. With that background, my prediction was an emotional guess, as from my heart I wished to see Eselsbrücke nominated – I am happy to see this come true!

    For the final round of predictions, I will consider whether I keep my guess of Eselsbrücke as SdJ. There may be two different choices: My personal favorite and my guess of what the jury might choose.

  15. Kathrin Nos says:

    It seems there is quite some confusion on the jury criteria. Let me try to briefly summarize (for more information, see http://www.spiel-des-jahres.com/cms/front_content.php?idcat=154#31 – link is referring to the English FAQ):

    For 2012, all games that were published between January 1, 2011, until beginning of April, 2012, are eligible. Further requirements are: The game is generally available in German speaking countries, the material is available (at least) in German, and the game has no limited edition. Extensions and unmodified reprints are not eligible.

  16. If the deadline is the beginning of April, that means the 2nd edition rules of Eselsbrücke weren’t released within the judging period. Weird!?

  17. Kathrin Nos says:

    In Nuremberg, I talked to Thorsten Gimmler from Schmidt Spiele, and he already told me about the second edition. Also see Stefan Dorra’s homepage – the news about the second edition dates from November 2011: http://dorra-spiele.de/aktuelles.html

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