2012 Spiel des Jahres – Hey, we got it right! But what does it all mean?

OK – I’ll admit to being a bit surprised that our group poll managed to correctly pick the 2012 Spiel des Jahres winner out of the nominees!  Congratulations again to Donald X. Vaccarino and Queen Games for Kingdom Builder!


We also should pat ourselves on the back for correctly selecting the Kennerspiel this year, Village by Inka and Markus Brand and Eggertspiele.

Now that the awards have been given away, now we can take a step back and look at the results and try to figure out what it all means.

Past Winners of Spiel des Jahres:

  • 2008 – Keltis
  • 2009 – Dominion
  • 2010 – Dixit
  • 2011 – Qwirkle
  • 2012 – Kingdom Builder

Past Winners of Kennerspiel des Jahres:

  • 2011 – 7 Wonders
  • 2012 – Village

Looking at these recent results, there are a number of questions which come to mind.

  1. What does the Spiel des Jahres award mean to me (as a “serious” gamer)?
  2. What is the significance of the Kennerspiel?
  3. Do the awards still interest me?

Here are my answers to the questions – I’ll be interested to see what others think about it. (Note to the reader – as I wanted to post this on the day of the award, there was not time to have the other OG writers add their thoughts in the body of the post)

1. The meaning of the SdJ is still unchanged for me – it is still the “Game of the Year” in Germany as awarded by a jury of German journalists.  I’ve certainly not been a big fan of all of the award winners, but I can generally see the (German) mass-market appeal of the recent winners.  Having been involved with Dominion, I can definitely attest to the fact that the award is a BIG DEAL over in Germany, and it is certainly not something that the public ignores, especially at Christmas-time.   The award of the “Spiel des Jahres” certainly seems to have become its own brand, and its influence should not be ignord.  Even if I don’t agree with the SdJ award in a particular year, there are other awards that I can look at – for instance, the DSP is an award voted on by other gamers.  As such, I don’t get all hot and bothered if I don’t agree with the SdJ award in a particular year.

2. There may not be enough history behind this award to tell yet.  I’ll admit that I was confused last year because I felt that Asara was at least as complicated, if not more complicated, than 7 Wonders.  This year, the three games all seemed more complex than the SdJ nominees.  Yet, I was surprised to hear (repeatedly) that some games didn’t make the list because they were TOO complicated?!  I was hoping that this award would turn out to be like the SdJ for the hardcore gamer, but it seems to be staying towards the more complex range of the previous Spiel des Jahres winners.  I’m certainly more likely to gravitate towards the KedJ nominees, but I don’t think that I am yet compelled to automatically play/own them.

3. Of course! I’ll still be quite interested in the award.  For me, it’s like many of the award shows that happen around here.  Even if I’m not overly interested, I’ll still watch the Grammys or Oscars just to see who the winners are.  Admittedly, there isn’t really a red carpet to see your favorite stars on, but let’s face it, do I really want to see Donald is a thigh-high slit dress showing off his leg a la Angelina Jolie?  Probably not!  :)

Well, congratulations to all the winners!  Now it’s time to get back to playing games – and starting to plan for Essen!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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3 Responses to 2012 Spiel des Jahres – Hey, we got it right! But what does it all mean?

  1. huzonfirst says:

    Well, I’m definitely surprised, but pleased as well. Based on what I’ve seen, Kingdom Builder and Village are the two nominees from each category that I’m most interested in playing. In fact, KB to me is the kind of game that the Jury SHOULD be picking each year (but don’t always do so). And if we get a game of the complexity and quality of Village as the KedJ each year, I think more serious gamers will be very happy.

    The reason I’m surprised is that I thought the Jury would go lighter, the way they went last year. So I have to return to the conclusion that I come to most years following the announcement of the awards (but invariably forget 12 months later): the picks are based on the personal feelings of a small number of individuals, with unstated and probably inconsistent objectives. In other words, it’s damn difficult to handicap this award (which is not a criticism, just a fact)! That doesn’t stop us from doing so each year, but it does mean anyone reading our blatherings should probably take them all with a grain of salt. (And I realize that the OGers as a group got the picks right this year, but I strongly suspect that had more to do with familiarity with the games than anything else.)

    I do feel a little bad for Alea, which just doesn’t seem to be able to get this right. Almost all of their designs are way too heavy for the SdJ, but when they release an appropriate title like Vegas, it seems they go TOO light! Hopefully, Ravensburger doesn’t have a “must win SdJ” clause in Stefan Brueck’s contract (and hopefully, an SdJ nomination will be enough to boost Vegas’ sales and allow the brand to continue with their marvelous Gamer’s games).

    So congratulations to the designers, developers, and publishers of the winning games! Just to put Donald X.’s achievement into focus, here is the list of designers who have won more than 1 SdJ: Kramer (5), Teuber (4), Moon, Seyfarth, and Kiesling (2 each). That’s it. That is a gold medal group no matter how you look at it, so kudos to Mr. Vaccarino for joining such an exclusive club!

  2. gschloesser says:

    While the Spiel des Jahre jury has taken a decidedly “light, family game” approach over the past decade or so, I am still interested in their selections as the award does help bring these games to a wider public audience. I may not always agree with their selections — indeed, over the past decade, I find myself disagreeing more than agreeing — but I still feel the awards carry significant weight and impact, particularly within Germany.

    This year is one of the years when I cannot quibble much with their selections. Village is one of my favorite games of 2011 / 2012, and Kingdom Builder has become quite popular as an extended filler. It is an excellent choice for family gaming.

  3. jeffinberlin says:

    Peer Sylvester wrote in his blog that the jury’s decision gives us all the message that “regular” Eurogames are still on the SdJ radar–something we might have thought they’d forgotten after the last two picks. If Eselsbruecke had won, Peer argues, it would have been signaling publishers that they are mostly looking for party games, for example.

    I think that this is one of the reasons it is so difficult to predict the nominees and winner every year: they are intentionally trying to keep from being predictable. Given the influence their selections have on what publishers look for, it’s good news for all of us in the hobby–even those who think the award winners too light for their tastes. Publishers cannot simply focus on a certain type of game, and there will continue to be a variety of games to choose from.

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