The Opinionated Gamers predict the 2015 Spiel des Jahres

Opinionated Gamers Predict the 2015 Spiel des Jahres (Roundtable)

Now that the short list has been revealed for the 2015 Spiel des Jahres, it’s time for us to discuss the three finalists and predict who we think will win from this list.   The award will be given away on Monday July 6 in Berlin.  Our format for this prediction is simple.  Each OG writer who wanted to participate was allowed to give a single vote for who they thought would win the prize!

Our prediction for the 2015 Spiel des Jahres is…:

Colt Express!

colt express

Here is the breakdown of our voting:

  • Colt Express: Mark Jackson, Michael W., Joe H., Larry, Chris W, Liga, Matt C.
  • Machi Koro: Dale Y, Alan H, Greg S, Fraser.
  • The Game: Jonathan F

Our thoughts on the 2015 award (roundtable style)::


Dale Y:  I feel pretty good about this list of games, and I can actually see reasons for each of the three to be victorious come July.  In our initial prediction piece, Colt Express was picked to win, with the other nominees being Machi Koro and Kakao.  So – we were pretty good at guessing what the jury wanted.  Well, except the fact that The Game didn’t garner a single stinking vote.  (And given my personal track record with predicting the winner, that seems to assure that the Game will actually take home the wooden pawn…)

So my initial thoughts on the three games here

  1. Colt Express.  PRO: Man, that 3-D train is an eye-catcher, and it definitely attracts people to the game.   The game is a lot of fun, and is enjoyed by family members of most ages.  CON: Well, it’s a bit random/chaotic, and that can lead to some hurt feelings.  It’s also not from a traditional German publisher, and while I know that the jury has said that officially this doesn’t matter… I still think that plays a role.
  2. Machi Koro: PRO: Japan and the far East have a lot of good ideas, and this may open up a lot of new ground to discover great games.  Kosmos has chosen a very accessible, easy to teach game, and the rolling dice and collecting stuff is very reminiscent of Siedler.  CON: the jury seems to actually recommend playing with one of the included variants, which is a bit weird.  Also, the setup can take a bit of time and learning the rules is a bit more involved than some recent winners.
  3. The Game: PRO: quick engaging game, and belongs to a genre (cooperative games) that really seems to be picking up support from both gamers and jury members over the past few years.  The game is eminently portable and can be played within 3 minutes of opening the box.  CON: First, it’s a lot like Hanabi, and maybe it’s too soon to have a similar game.  Also, it’s in a small box with a low MSRP.  Again, does this matter?  Supposedly not, and Hanabi is certainly an argument against it not mattering…


For me, it came down to Machi Koro and Colt Express.  To be frank, I don’t really like The Game.  I am not the biggest fan of cooperative games.  Additionally, the vague rules (As far as what you are allowed to say or not say) troubles me.  Now, of course, this also bothered me about Hanabi (i.e. what sort of conventions are allowed), but that didn’t trouble the jury apparently.  However, the temporal proximity to Hanabi is why I just don’t think The Game is going to win.   Now, between the other two candidates, I find both games quite good.  I think that increasing exposure to an entire hemisphere of new games will be the benefit of Machi Koro winning, and I think that this will be the reason the jury chooses it.  As some of the other OGers will surely corroborate – it seems like a good majority of the truly “unique” games of the past few years have come from the Far East, and I would love to see many of these games make it to the mainstream market.  Thus, my vote goes to Machi Koro.


Mark Jackson: Which variant for Machi Koro, Dale?


I haven’t played The Game – but I couldn’t be less interested. Hanabi left me cold, so positive comparisons to it don’t exactly get my heart pumping.


I’d be OK with Machi Koro or Colt Express winning – but I’d prefer Colt Express. I think the 3-D train is not only eye-catching but also does a great job of letting players “star” in a Western action movie. Much like Robo Rally, the chaos is part of the fun – and getting shot isn’t nearly as crippling as you would imagine. And unlike the aforementioned robot game, Colt Express lasts about 30 – 40 minutes… perfect for the weight of the game.


Dale Y: From the official SdJ page: “Besonders empfehlenswert ist die Variante „Komme, was wolle“.


Says Google Translate about the German rules pdf:

Variant “Come what may”

Anyone who has played the game a few times, this variant can try, in which not all companies are on display. Especially in the two-player game, this game, a charming Variety.

  • At the beginning of the game all the 84 corporate cards are thoroughly shuffled and placed as a draw pile.
  • Then, uncovered by this stack individually cards and thus the open display formed.
  • If a company revealed that already in the delivery is, this card is sent to the instructions booklet card already.
  • There are long drawn cards to 10 different companies ausliegen.
  • during the play If a card from the display built and thereafter are made only 9 different companies, be so long and drawn cards designed from the deck, until 10 different companies are again.
  • Should the deck be used up, the display will no longer cumulative.


I think that this was also in the translation of the Japanese copy that I acquired many moons ago, but I don’t have it handy to check.


Michael W: I haven’t played Colt Express yet, but it’s certainly eye-catching and the times I’ve watched everyone was clearly having a good time.


Machi Koro fell completely flat for me, though it may have been more the timing/environment than the game itself, but I haven’t cared enough to give it a second chance. And I agree with Dale that the suggestion of having to use the variant does not bode well.


I did try a homebrew copy of The Game and was not impressed. It seemed like the offspring of Hanabi and 6 Nimmt without having the best character of either parent. I absolutely love Hanabi, and the limited framework of control in The Game was more annoying than enjoyable in comparison. For almost exactly the same amount of time, we can play a round of Hanabi and have a real game instead of just an exercise of choosing numbers and playing cards.


Greg S:  My vote is for Machi Koro, as I find the game fun and reasonably original.  Plus, it is about time a game from Japan is recognized.  The expansion packs give a wider variety of options, but even the base game is enjoyable.


I played Colt Express once and, truth be told, was not very fond of it.  I can see that this is the type of game that appeals to the Spiel des Jahres jury, but I found it far too chaotic.

Larry:  It can be hard to get in the minds of the SdJ Jury, but I’ll do my best.  Colt Express seems to have the edge here–a larger game, with plenty of toy value, which seems suited for families.  Stacked up against that, a dice game (Machi Koro) and a cooperative card game (The Game) seem less appealing.


I haven’t played Colt Express, so I can’t speak directly to its merits.  Machi Koro didn’t impress me at all, but I tend to look for different things from dice games than many gamers.  The “excitement” of having your numbers rolled is rarely a feature for me; I’m looking for interesting strategy and probability management, both of which are pretty straightforward in Machi Koro.  So it’s hard for me to judge if the game has enough positive qualities to deserve an SdJ award.  I actually thought The Game was pretty good and I’m not really a fan of cooperatives.  Jointly determining how the group will play their cards without getting into specifics was reasonably engaging.  I don’t see Dale’s objections about the “vagueness” of what players can say as being a factor; just don’t let players mention specific values of cards and the game plays fine.  So it’s a nice little game, but SdJ-worthy?  I just don’t see it.  There probably just isn’t enough there, either in gameplay or components.


Joe Huber: I agree with the thought that The Game won’t win; while it’s a different game from Hanabi, I don’t think the jury will award another cooperative game so soon after, unless it’s obviously head and shoulders above the competition.


So that leaves Colt Express and Machi Koro.  As I picked Colt Express before the nominations came out, I’ll stick with my choice.  But my heart is really with Machi Koro; I really enjoy the game far more than I enjoyed my single play of Colt Express.  Though – I only play with the original rules, and without expansions, which seems to be the opposite of most gamers.


Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I played Colt Express a lot and Machi Koro too. I’m not played The Game yet. Colt Express for me is the perfect SDJ winner: easy to learn, funny to play with a lot of players interaction, nice components and not too much long to play. Colt Express longevity is assured by the fact that the real engine of the game are the players and the interactions.


Machi Koro is much more repetitive.


Alan How: Colt Express is amusing, clever and fun, but I think it’s just a bit too hard to explain to families and gamers who like lighter fare. Machi Koro is easy to get into and keeps everybody involved but it is not too difficult to keep track of what is going on. It has goals that are easier to define and I think the interactive aspect of the game means that there is little downtime.  If Hanabi had not won before I would have said that The Game was a near cert, as it is so easy to play and you quickly build up ideas about how to help each other.  It’s also easy to go too far (cheating?) which might spoil its chances, but more so because of Hanabi.  And I’m with Greg in expressing a desire to see a Japanese game win something big.


Chris W.:  My bet is on Colt Express, but my heart is with Machi Koro.  The jury seems to put a premium on originality, and Colt Express is a refreshing entry in the programming genre.  The game hits all of the right SdJ notes: family-friendly and approachable gameplay, high-quality presentation, and clearly-written rules.  That said, Colt Express fell flat with me: I find it a bit too chaotic.


It would be fitting for Machi Koro to win this year, the 20th Anniversary of Catan.  Machi Koro’s central mechanic – dice based engine building – is in many ways Catan’s central mechanic distilled to its core.  Like Colt Express, Machi Koro hits all of the right notes: it is easy-to-learn, well produced, and engaging.  Unfortunately, I don’t know that it is as original as Colt Express, even if I do think Machi Koro is more streamlined and has better gameplay.


I said a recommendation was likely for The Game, but I was still a bit surprised by the nomination.  I’m a big fan, but The Game has — at best — an outside shot of winning the SdJ.  The comparisons to Hanabi are fair, but in my opinion it is missing some of the charm of Hanabi.  Gameplay is engaging, even addicting, but I question the family friendliness of the art and the originality of the mechanics.  Plus, as others have said, picking another card-based cooperative game just two years after Hanabi seems unlikely.


Matt C.: Colt Express is the only one I’ve played but I’ve gotten a look at the others.  While it’s not entirely my cup of tea, the components and the fun theme make it a game I can pull out with the lighterweight gaming crowd (eye catching components are always nice to pull hesitant gamers into the game.).


Fraser: I haven’t played Colt Express as yet so cannot offer any comment other than Melissa’s thought that they may not go for a “toy look” two years in a row.


I have played The Game a few times and it a fun activity, but I don’t feel that it is much of a game personally.  That said we know a German gaming family who play it a lot, so it may do better than we think!


Machi Koro would be my pick, it has been a hit in our family since we first played it.  The German edition box volume is about ¼ of the English language edition which is probably a plus too.  At home we always play with the expansion and a maximum of four players.



Well, that’s what we think…. Thoughts from the readers?

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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5 Responses to The Opinionated Gamers predict the 2015 Spiel des Jahres

  1. bggdeacondavid says:

    I have not yet played The Game (I plan to homebrew a set out of a 6 nimmt! deck to give a try before the awards are announced, though), so I will speak to the two that I have played.

    Colt Express (1 play) – I was the only person at the table who was not enchanted by Colt Express. This was due to the lack of control I felt in my play. Since a player really has no control over the cards that they will be picking their actions from (they get a random set of six cards, from their deck which will dictate which actions they might be able to perform), it is quite possible to get a hand full of actions that do not actually allow your outlaw to do anything useful. In my first set of cards, I had no moves. Ditto for my second set. By the third round, I had added some bullets to my deck, which further diluted my odds of pulling useful cards. I finally got move cards, but nothing else (apart from the useless bullets). In short, I found the game to be totally unenjoyable while the others were having a great time (but they were actually drawing cards that let them do things. I intend to give the game another try to see if my bad luck in early draws completely colored my experience, but I really thing that the game is way too chaotic for my tastes. I honestly felt that I could have just blindly flipped cards out of my deck and done just as well. Perhaps better. Unless a second play goes better, Colt Express is solidly in the “not for me” camp.

    Machi Koro (20 plays, 1 with expansions, 1 using the SdJ jury’s recommended variant rule) – I’m with Joe on Machi Koro. I really enjoy the game and I enjoy it with the original rules. The expansion cards are interesting and, as soon as I can figure out a way to play with them that works and doesn’t use the “draw until you have ten piles” rule, I plan on using them. I think the dice add enough randomness to the game without having to add in the chaos of really nice cards possibly only being available to one player or a set of cards that just doesn’t work being available (only high number cards at the start of play, cards that have a synergy not coming out at the same time (or one of them never coming out), etc.). The base game is a nice, easy to teach game with a bit of strategy available and some interesting decisions to make. The dice vary things enough to make sure that folks can not pursue the same strategy every time. A year and a half after my first play of it, Machi Koro is still solidly in my “I love it” pile.

    Assuming that The Game is not so incredibly outstanding to offset the recent win of Hanabi, if I were on the jury I would be voting for Machi Koro. Of course, I thought (and still believe) that Splendor was the clear choice last year, so that should seal the win for Colt Express.

    • bggdeacondavid says:

      Okay, I have had a chance to play The Game now. I’m mystified as to what the jury were thinking when they picked it as a finalist. My preference for Machi Koro remains unchanged. But, based on what I am hearing from my friends who have also played both Machi Koro and Colt Express, I know that I am in the minority. I suspect the jury will agree and we will see Colt Express win the award tomorrow.

  2. reixou says:

    Having played all 3 games , I agree it comes down to Colt Express and Machi Koro. I see no way The Game could win, really.

    I am not fond of either games but Machi Koro is more accessible for sure and well it would be a strong message to the Japanese creators.
    Note that both games where also the favorites for “Jeu de l’année” in Cannes, France this year and that Colt Express won.
    My bet is on Colt Express.

    For the Kenner, I have not played Broom Service but anyway I think that Orleans is a big underdog. It comes to Broom Service or Elysium and the 1st is probable the favourite here.

  3. reixou says:

    2/2 for me :-p

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