[Editor’s note – my apologies to the readers and writers… this post was meant to go live on Monday, the day prior to the SdJ lists being announced, but somehow I mis-dated the post and didn’t notice until this morning…. It is somewhat less timely now that the real lists are out, but I still think it’s an interesting read! DPY]
OK, so it’s that time of year again where rampant speculation about the Spiel des Jahres list takes over my imagination. The real list is set to be announced on Tuesday, May 21 – but in advance of that, I thought that I’d try to take a guess at which games will make the list. Some of the other OG writers may also chime in between now and Tuesday…
For my short list, I will limit myself to 5 games. I’m hoping to get 3 of the games right… There is usually one game each year that makes the list that I didn’t even know existed – mostly because I’m never quite sure what is available in the German mass market or I haven’t had a chance to play it myself.
Short Version (in alphabetical order): Augustus, Escape, La Boca, Rondo, QIN
Augustus – described by many as Roman Bingo. Players have objective cards with symbols on them. Chits are drawn from a bag and you mark off symbols. When all the symbols are marked off, you score the card. Simple to teach, lots of fun. It’s produced by Hurrican, which is a Swiss label – and I don’t know if this will affect its candidacy
Escape – I think this has a lot of appeal as a genre-changer, similar to Dominion. I don’t know if there has been a real-time game which has been nominated before. It’s new, it’s quick. Production quality is great. Queen won last year though, and there hasn’t been a repeat publisher win since 1982 – Ravensburger for Sagaland and Scotland Yard.
La Boca – A neat puzzle game that allows everyone to play with all other players in the game in rotating partnerships. Has both a basic and advanced set of cards for replay value.
Rondo – A mathy puzzle game from Herr Knizia. I know this hasn’t gotten a lot of press over here, but I picked up a copy at Essen last year, and I think it fits the bill for SdJ. You collect tiles of 5 different colors. Eventually, you place them on the board on matching colored spaces and score points as printed on those spaces. That’s all there is to it. It’s simple, and I think that it’s great for families.
QIN – described by many as Chinese Dominoes. Domino-style pieces are played to the board – there are only 3 different domino ends (red, yellow, blue). Some simple area majority scoring rules. Honestly, I would think that this might be “too simple”, but given the recent trend of Dixit and Qwirkle, I’m not sure there can be a game that is “too simple” for the current SdJ jury.
Hedging Area (it wouldn’t surprise me to see these games on the list, but I can’t put them on mine as I haven’t tried them)
Wunderland – I haven’t been able to try this nor even see it. I’ve heard good things about it from the native Germans
Just in Time – A puzzle-y game from Ravensburger
And now, my Kennerspiel list
This is a much harder list for me to create because I really don’t have a good feel at all for the complexity level that this award represents yet. It was billed as an award for more complex games, yet the initial winner, 7 Wonders, did not strike me as overly complex. But, that’s not gonna stop me from guessing at the list.
Brugge – have only played it twice, and it’s definitely too much for SdJ
Bora Bora – because when is 1 Feld enough for a list?
Suburbia – ok, but I’m biased here as I’m the developer. That notwithstanding, I still think it would be right for the award. Oh, and Lookout seems to know a thing or two about these complex games.
Palaces of Carrara – I wanted to put this on the SdJ list as I think it’s simple enough for the main award, but looking back at the other games, this one is clearly more complex that most of those on my SdJ list
Terra Mystica – There is a cult following around this one. Somewhat limited distribution as Feuerland is a new company, but small print runs haven’t stopped Lookout from making the list on a regular basis.
W. Eric Martin: In a <a href=”http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/16238”>Jan. 18, 2013 post</a> on BGG News, with little more information than a vague description, I called out La Boca as “Spiel des Jahres 2013 nominee and eventual winner”. Having now played the game seven times with both gamers and mainstream players, I’m sticking with that choice.
As for the other two SdJ nominees, I’m going with Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Hanabi, giving me three titles that are cooperative or involve team play. It might seem silly, but that’s my choice and I’m sticking to it, with only the German version of Forbidden Desert – yet another cooperative design! – poking its head above water as an alternative.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I have not time to write a full article about my choices so I use Dale comment session to make my prediction. For the 3 nomination for the SDJ I think Escape: The Curse of the Temple, La Boca and Augustus will be the best. I’m not so sure Augustus (Italian designer and Swiss publishers) could make the list but I’m sure it will deserve.
For the Kennerspiel list Bora Bora and T’zolkin I think get both good possibility. I have not a sure candidate for the third: Terra Mystica or Mage Wars looks both promising but perhaps too complicate. Seasons and Legends of Andor are better choices with Legends of Andor some more possibility. It is a game that could get also a nomination in the SDJ. Who knows ?
This year I’ll be also in trouble for my IGA general list but there are some really good 2-players game for the 2-players session.
Joe Huber: After an awful year guessing at the Spiel des Jahres last year (getting just one of the six SdJ/KedJ nominees), I have to give another go at it this year.
I’ll assume that we continue to have three Spiel des Jahres and three Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees. I’ll also assume that there is a natural bias _against_ rewarding the same designer or publisher in consecutive years – just as there is against awarding the same player the Most Valuable Player award two years in a row in sports. If the last year’s winner is the clear choice, it will still win; but if it’s close, the one who didn’t win the previous year will have the edge.
There are many games eligible for the Spiel des Jahres, but far fewer that really fit the award well. I’m sure I’m not aware of some of them; until Dale mentioned it, I’d completely missed Rondo, but it’s a perfectly reasonable candidate. A two player game really needs to stand out, and I’m not sure is Ignis does (or has even made it out yet), but it’s got the look of a SdJ candidate. Escape is certainly a possibility, though I’m not convinced. Nada is a fascinating looking game, but it’s a fast reaction dice game and I think Escape fills that segment better. The Palaces of Carrara is on the borderline between the SdJ and the KedJ, but I think will miss out on both.
As for the actual nominees, I hate to simply follow along, but I think Eric Martin’s been right all along – La Boca has the look of a Spiel des Jahres winner, and therefore seems very likely to be nominated. Hanabi was published in Germany for the first time during the year, and is a special game – one that really stands out. I doubt a card game will _win_ the SdJ, but I believe Hanabi will be nominated. Finally, I’ll take a flier on Riff Raff as the third nominee – it’s a dexterity game that stands out, and standing out has always been a key element of the award. Among La Boca, Hanabi, and Riff Raff, I see La Boca as the clear winner.
One of the key questions with the Kennerspiel des Jahres is just what the range of games is. Looking across the six nominees to date, the lightest of them is likely 7 Wonders, which many felt more in line with the SdJ than the KedJ. And none of them has been very heavy; the heaviest, using BGG weights, is Village. This makes it an open question as to how heavy or light the award might lean. Given the SdJ list I’ve created, it’s easy to imagine The Palaces of Carrara could make the list. One can never ignore an alea release, and Bora Bora is certainly a possibility.
But the three games I see getting the nod are Terra Mystica, Brügge, and Legends of Andor. Terra Mystica is much heavier than Village, and I suspect is too heavy to win – but the jury has always looked to reward stand-out games, and I definitely see Terra Mystica as a stand out. Brügge and The Palaces of Carrara are, in my opinion, competing for a single nomination. I think Brügge will prove more to the jury’s taste, but I can certainly picture it going the other way. My natural inclination is to suggest Legends of Andor, which seems to have a very positive reception in Germany, as the KedJ winner – but I don’t expect the same publisher (Kosmos) to sweep (though I wouldn’t rule it out). So I’ll go with Brügge as the winner.
(Aside – of the six games I’ve suggested as nominees, I’ve only played La Boca, Hanabi, and Brügge.)
Larry: This year, I will not spend time trying to peer into the psyches of the SdJ Jury. Instead, I’ll just make some reasonable guesses. The first game in each of the lists is my early pick to win the award.
Spiel des Jahre
La Boca – I’d love to be contrary and pick against the front-runner, but this really does seem to fit the mold. And after choosing a slightly involved game last year in Kingdom Builder, you’d think the Jury would be more prone to go with a very light game this year. (Okay, I lied–that was absolutely an attempt to get into the heads of the Jury!)
Augustus – If La Boca wasn’t sitting there, this could easily be the favorite to win it all. It’s very easy to learn, yet there’s some decision making and the game is strangely addictive. Asmodee is handling the distribution in Germany, so that should make it eligible for a nomination.
The Little Prince – Both the gameplay and the illustrations are charming in this Bauza/Cathala design. However, there’s a mean streak to the design which might scare off the Jury.
Il Vecchio – Picking the KedJ is even harder than guessing at the SdJ, because we still don’t have a feel for what level of complexity the Jury is looking for here. This Dorn design is a nice, dynamic middleweight, so I’m taking a flyer on it even though I haven’t heard much buzz connecting it to any awards.
Brügge – I figured one of the Feld desigs would get a nomination. Bora Bora is too complex, so that left this design and Rialto. Brügge is getting the better early reception from gamers and Hans im Glück is a better bet to get tabbed than Pegasus, so I’m going with Brügge.
The Palaces of Carrara – I have no idea if this has any real chance. But the Jury may still find Kramer irresistable and the fact that a simpler game is included in the box could certainly help. Normally, I’d be afraid to nominate two games from the same publisher, but Schmidt got two SdJ nominations two years ago, so why not HiG this year?
Addendum: After looking at some of the other predictions, I think Legends of Andor has a very good chance of getting a KedJ nomination (and could well wind up the winner).
Jeff Allers: the curse of a game designer and playtester is that I just don’t have as much time to play all the new games coming out, except those I’ve designed or playtested. However, I do live in Berlin, where the Spiel des Jahres is awarded, and I always have my ears open and my eyes on German online forums, so this will be my somewhat educated guess. Of all the games I believe will be nominated, I have only played one of them!
Spiel des Jahres:
La Boca – the Brands seem to be dominating the German family game market the same way Feld has done so with gamer’s games (and Markus and Inca even delved into Feld’s territory with the award-winning Village last year). They seem destined for the award…unless their award-winning game-designing children beat them to it.
Augustus – when my friend Bernd Eisenstein, who would normally run screaming from this type of game in favor of heavier fare, echoes Larry’s sentiment that it is “strangely addictive,” then that’s a sign that this belongs on this list. It could even pull the upset and win the award, if popular opinion at a recent German gaming gathering was any indication.
Wunderland – my sentimental favorite, due to my early involvement in the project and the fact that its the only game on this list I’ve had the chance to play. It is a very accessible travelling game wrapped around an extremely interactive movement mechanic that keeps everyone involved every turn. This is a great gateway game along the lines of Elfenland and Ticket to Ride. The main question is, will it be seen by the Jury as more than a “advertising product” for Hamburg’s amazing Minitiaturwunderland model railroad layout?
Rondo – since Dale “cheated” and listed 5 nominees, I’ll mention this one as my pick for the third slot, should I be wrong about one of the others. Theme does not seem to be a high priority to the Jury, and I could see nothing to keep them from including two pure abstracts among the nominees.
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
Legends of Andor – the concept of this game is innovative, and I believe the Jury will reward that with a KSdJ win. It has also been receiving quite a bit of play and praise on this side of the ocean.
Rialto – from all accounts, this is the most accessible Feld design from this year, and therefore has the best shot, in my opinion, of making it into the nominees. Besides, I feel a bit of nostalgia for the theme, since when I first got into the hobby, games set in Venice were all the rage.
Brügge – this Feld design has also been well-received and has a shot at the award if the Jury desires a step up in complexity from Rialto. Or perhaps they’ll just select both, as I’ve done.
If the Jury were to represent more popular opinion among German gamers, however, I’d go with Terra Mystica and Tzolk’in, both of which have been huge indie hits here, but are probably too complex for either of these awards. Look for both of them to duke it out for the Deutsche Spielpreis, however, which is decided by an online poll.
Jennifer Geske: Since my choices are similar to others’, I will just list them and only write about the ones that haven’t been mentioned yet.
Spiel des Jahres:
La Boca (winner)
Tokaido (nominee) – Bauza has been quite prolific, and his games have the innovative game-changer feel. While I love Hanabi and really like Little Prince, I think Tokaido has the best chance among the Bauza titles because it’s been available longer.
Little Prince (alternate) – I think this game is better suited as a SdJ nominee but it’s only been available in Germany in the last month or so. I don’t know if that is enough time to generate the exposure it needs among the voters.
Forbidden Desert (alternate) – It’s co-op and family-friendly, but it has the same issue as Little Prince in that it has only been released a couple of weeks ago. I voted for Forbidden Island before so I will try it again.
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
I ruled out Bora Bora, Terra Mystica, Suburbia and Tzolkin for being too complex.
The Palaces of Carrara (winner)
Legends of Andor (nominee)
Copy Cat (alternate) – It’s a good game that isn’t too heavy and pays homage to a number of top games. The theme is probably its downfall since people will either love or hate it.
Ginkgopolis (alternate) – Game play is innovative and not too long, but it’s from a small publisher so it probably diminishes its chances.
Ben McJunkin: I am terrible at predicting mainstream awards like the Spiel des Jahres. My idiosyncratic preference for lengthy, immersive, and (frankly) downright brutal games means that even the games nominated for the heavier version of the jury’s award — the newly minted Kennerspiel des Jahres — tend to fall too far on the side of the light, playful, and puzzle-like family games for me. For that reason, it is hard to have any real sense of what is meritorious. (For those wondering, my personal SdJ list would include Terra Mystica, Archipelago, CO2, and Robinson Crusoe, all of which I think are too complex to bear mention in this article.)
With that caveat out of the way, here are my predictions:
Spiel des Jahres:
Escape: The Curse of the Temple (winner). This title received a lot of buzz coming out of Essen, and my few plays of it proved it to be frantic, silly fun. While I personally don’t see much replay value there (because why have frantic, silly fun when you can have anguish-filled brain-melty fun?), I agree with Dale that the game deserves consideration for the real-time elements alone.
Other Nominees: La Boca, Rondo
Honorable Mention: Tokaido, Hanabi
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar (winner). My initial instinct is that Tzolk’in will prove to be too heavy for the KdJ jury. The deciding factor may be whether last year’s list of nominees represented a high-water mark for the award (in terms of weight) or the beginning of a trend towards heavier games. If the jury is willing to trend this heavy, I have a hard time seeing Tzolk’in losing out to less-innovative and less-integrated designs like Stefan Feld’s Bora Bora.
Other Nominees: Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small, Seasons
Honorable Mention: Il Vecchio, Spellbound
Matt Carlson: Well, as is typically the case few of the most likely candidates have made it into the local playing group. We are a “cult of the new” sort of folks, but we don’t pick games up until they at LEAST make a decent splash on most local (US) retail channels.
SdJ: I’ve played Qin on my iPad and find the game interesting, but dry. It could do well if the judges don’t mind the somewhat dry theme. Escape sounds interesting as well, but I’ve not played it. The Little Prince also sounds nifty from what I’ve read, but yet another “Not played yet”.
KdJ: If I were making the award, I’d probably go with Tzolk’in. I love the gears, and there is a very interesting game there, too! I initially worried about the balance of victory point strategies (crystal skulls seemed too powerful) but I’ve since decided it isn’t overwhelming. Having many independent, viable victory point paths is nice. I’ve played Seasons some, and think it’s pretty good but my gut feeling is that it isn’t quite the type of game the judges (whoever they are) would go for. I’d probably feel strongly about some of the other KdJ games mentioned above but not having played any of them, I’ll have to leave things with the above two.