OG Roundtable: Discussion of the SdJ and KedJ Nominees

The announcement of the nominated and recommended games for the Spiel des Jahres was made this Tuesday, and I’m sad to say that we (as a group) did not do such a great job at predicting the games!  Of course, I perhaps did not ask the right question – as I asked the OG writers to tell me which game they thought would WIN the award, not which game will be nominated for the award.

To recap – our top 5 predictions for the SdJ prior to the announcement were:

  • 1. La Boca (60, 9)

  • 2. Augustus (18, 1)

  • 3. Escape (17, 3)

  • 4. Little Prince (12, 2)

  • 5. Rondo (6, 0)

The real list is: Augustus, Hanabi, and Qwixx

At least we got Augustus on the nominee list, and 3 of the other 4 were at least recommended… We clearly think more of the Little Prince than the jury does though!

Our Kennerspiel predictions were:

  • 1. T’zolkin (38, 6)

  • 2. Legends of Andor (23, 3)

  • 3. Bruges (16, 1)

  • 4. Palaces of Carrara (14, 2)

  • 5. Rialto (12, 1)

The real list is: Bruges, Legends of Andor, and Palaces of Carrara

We were a little bit better here, with all 3 nominees making our short list, though our top choice was only recommended.

It’s fairly obvious that there will never really be a list of games for SdJ that will make everyone happy… and there is generally a debate each year right after the lists are named about who deserves to win, who got snubbed, why the award isn’t relevant to us, etc.  And, being opinionated, I’m sure that we have some comments on the lists!

We will still have a poll set up closer to the announcement of the award (July 8) to see if we can at least choose correctly when narrowed down to the three finalists.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers for SdJ:

Dale – Overall, I don’t have much of a beef with either list.  I think that the 3 games chosen for each award are all worthy of winning the award.  I have definitely enjoyed Augustus and Qwixx.  I’m lukewarm on Hanabi, and I would find this a bit too complicated for what the jury has been going for based on the past few years.  Also, I don’t know if a small-format game has ever won.  Given that there are some financial reasons for choosing the winner (my inference here…), I would think that the larger box (Augustus) should have a slight advantage just based on box size / MSRP.

I am truly surprised that La Boca did not make the nominated list as I felt it had all the components of what an SdJ game should have – elegant rules, big box, nice pieces, challenges for both adults and kids, etc… but then again, I’m not a jury member ;)

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue – I’m really really happy about Augustus’ nomination. First of all it is from an Italian designer and a friend. I think Paolo Mori is one of our best designers and it was great to see him concurring for the SdJ. Also nice to see Libertalia recommended, a game I really like. My biggest surprise, in the SdJ short list, is the absence of La Boca, a title I was quite sure would be the perfect candidate. Hanabi is a collaborative game and I think too challenging for the typical family and I have to admit I never played Qwixx. If I have to predict a winner now I think Augustus is the title with the most possibility of winning.

Greg Schloesser – Considering the SdJ penchant for choosing lighter family games, I feel this year’s selection list is excellent.  Qwixx has become a personal favorite, and I’ve played it over 3 dozen times in less than two months.  Hanabi is also intriguing and quite different.  Augustus is light fun, albeit a bit overproduced.  Since it is the only “big box” game in the list of finalists, I feel it will win the award.

Tom Rosen – My money is on Hanabi to win it all this year.  It’s an interesting nominee and not one I expected, in part because it’s a 2010 game and also because it’s a small card game.  But it’s very straightforward in terms of the rules and has a nice aesthetic, both of which should help tremendously.  While it may not be readily expandable, I think spin-offs should definitely be feasible with a Hanabi: Dice Game and a Hanabi: Board Game surely coming if it wins the SdJ.  Augustus seems to be the leading favorite, but I think Hurrican may still be too small to ramp up production fast enough, whereas Abacus could surely crank out 500,000 copies of Hanabi.  It’s not a game I ever would have thought could win back in the Niagara and Zooloretto days, but since Dixit took the prize, I think it’s wide open and Hanabi has the best shot.

Jonathan Franklin – All the nominees and recommendations other than Libertalia play in under 45 minutes.  I am intrigued by the correlation between the SdJ list and the BGG weight ratings.

1.0    Hand aufs Herz

1.1    Qwixx

1.3    Riff-Raff, Yay!,

1.4    Escape: The Curse of the Temple,

1.5    Rondo

1.6    Augustus, La Boca

1.7    Divinaire

1.8    Hanabi

2.2    Libertalia

3.0    Mixtour

Some of these had very few weight ratings, so take with a grain of salt.

1.3    Dixit

1.7    Qwirkle

2.1    Kingdom Builder

So go make a very good and attractive 30 minute 1.7 weight game to the best odds at the SdJ.

Joe – My inclination is to write off Qwixx; it’s a fine game, but I think that if a small-box game is going to win, it’s going to be the more innovative Hanabi.  Still, I can’t help but think Augustus is the more likely winner.

Nathan – People still pay attention to the SdJ?  I thought the jury choosing Villa Paletti over Puerto Rico proved conclusively at the time that this is an award that gamers can safely ignore (unless they are a German family who otherwise pays no attention to new games).  Wake me up for the Essen wave, please.

Larry – I agree that La Boca not even getting a nomination is a major surprise, but as I’ve often said, expect the unexpected with the Jury.  However, I did think prior to the announcement that Augustus had an excellent chance and now it has to be considered the front runner.  I do feel that Hanabi is an intriguing alternative, maybe this year’s Kingdom Builder to Augustus’ Vegas.  Its size and questions about how to come up with expansions will surely work against it; in its favor is that it’s easily the best game of the three.  I expect the contrast between these two games will be the major source of speculation on the award in the weeks to come. Qwixx is a pretty good game, but I don’t see what it brings to the table that one of the other two nominees doesn’t do better.  But there I go, ass-suming again.

Jeff – I wrote earlier that Augustus could pull the upset over everyone’s favorite, La Boca, and that appears to be its destiny now. I’ll have to try out Qwixx, as I had not even heard about it until now. Hanabi is truly an innovative game and my personal favorite of the three for that reason. The Jury is always claiming in interviews that they choose their award-winners based on the gameplay and not, as is often speculated, on box size, publisher, etc. If the Jury were out to prove that point, choosing Hanabi would be a great way to do it, and the game and designer certainly deserve it.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers for Kennerspiel:

Dale – I like all 3 games here, though I’ll give the early advantage to Hans im Gluck!  ;)  I have spoken with Moritz in the past month, and I definitely like the company’s move back into the more meaty games.  Both of their major releases make the list this year for complex game, and having played the prototype for their Essen 2013 release (Russian Railroads), this one will continue the trend towards the heavy side.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue – I’m astonished by the exclusion of T’zlokin … probably it was really too complex for the black pawn race. Legends of Andor was a sure candidate (it also could have been an interesting candidate for the SdJ) and, again, another collaborative game in the short list. I was surprised also by the exclusion of Bora Bora.  Really happy for Kramer and Kiesling and Hans Im Gluck but it was a horse I’m not betting on. Bruges was another surprise for me.  I think Legends of Andor will win in the end against these two good, but not explosive/innovative, games.  Again the Jury demonstrates to be clever with a real short list of KedJ recommendations including Terra Mystica and T’zolkin … as told before probably two titles too complex for this award, but it would have been embarrassing if such games passed under their radar. T’zolkin and Terra Mystica will be racing for IGA.

Tom Rosen – For the Kennerspiel I’m picking Legends of Andor to take the prize.  There is one factor and one factor alone that is driving this pick – the artwork.  The board of Andor just looks too nice not to pick it and the jury loves pretty games.  Brugge is fine, Palaces is fine, but Andor is the game you want to look at.  Forget about the game play of the three nominees.  Also it would be a nice story if Michael Menzel won for designing after all those years of illustrating.  Lastly, Andor is easily the most expandable game of the nominees and that doesn’t hurt of course.

Joe – The KedJ choice is, to my mind, the more interesting one; I can easily see any of the three nominees being selected.  I tend to agree that Legends of Andor seems to have the best chance, though having selected Brügge initially I’ll stick with that as my prediction – even if the reason I didn’t choose Andor (expecting La Boca to win the SdJ, and believing the SdJ and KedJ will generally come from different publishers) no longer applies.

Larry – I agree with Joe:  any of these three games could win.  I’m leaning towards Andor because it seems to have the most buzz and the other two are a little more gamey without having anything about them that stands out.  But this really seems like a three horse race.

Jeff – I’ll stay with my original choice, Legends of Andor. It certainly stands out from the more traditional ”Euro” Hans im Glück titles.  The question for the Jury will be whether they will go for something different, or choose a similar style of game to last year’s cube-pushing Village. I always go with “something different,” but that could just be me.

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 OG Roundtable: Discussion of the SdJ and KedJ Nominees

  1. Ryan B. says:

    I think it is cool at the Spiel des Jahres focuses on family games. But it has become plain that we need some sort of English equivalent that awards for the inherent differences between the markets. Sometimes, in the case of Ticket to Ride for example, there is a more universal appeal. But Escape: The Curse of the Temple was the clear winner in 2012 for me. This is a game that can also hold shelf appeal at your local Target while building buzz because it is an incredible easy, fun game to play. In the American marketplace in particular, I could see this being an easy winner over Augustus.

    Ryan B.

  2. huzonfirst says:

    Ryan, both the Golden Geeks and The Dice Tower awards have categories for Best Family Game. Given that these two are as close as we currently have to an English Game of the Year award, that’s probably a pretty good way of addressing what you’re asking for. The Family Game awards have honored games like King of Tokyo, Pandemic, and Zooloretto over the years, so I’d say it’s doing a pretty good job of recognizing the more accessible games that have been released.

  3. DLE says:

    I’m amazed that anyone would state that Hanabi is too complicated or its gameplay too challenging. Seriously? I can’t think of a game of its depth and fun that could be more simple.

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