The Opinionated Gamers Prognosticate the Spiel des Jahres Lists
Each year since 2011, the OG writers have tried to sit in the seats of the SdJ jury and choose which games we think that will be on the lists. The actual unveiling of the lists will happen this coming Monday in Germany – so now seems like a good time for us to talk about our guesses. As our habit, we will do this in two parts. This first survey is done prior to the actual release of the lists, and just about any game was open for consideration. Once the lists are out, we will then do a second round of voting – this time limited to only the games on the list.
We managed to correctly predict Colt Express as the winner of the Spiel des Jahres, and our second place game – Machi Koro – was one of the two nominated games. However, we did fall a bit short with the other nominated game – The Game – which we didn’t even mention. Our next three games were three of the six recommended games (Kakao, Loony Quest and Patchwork), but then we completely missed the other three recommended games (Abraca-wha?, Ugo!, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf).
We were not as good with the Kennerspiel guessing as no one even voted for Broom Service, the eventual winner. We did list both of the nominated games (Elysium and Orleans) within our top 6. The top two vote getters in our survey (Deus and Marco Polo) were on the recommended list.
You can see the official lists: http://www.spiel-des-jahres.com/de/preistraegerarchiv
The methodology changes each year – usually I make it up on the day that I send out the survey to the other OG writers. This year, the question asked to the writers was: In rank order, tell me the five games you think will most likely be named Spiel des Jahres (and Kennerspiel). The most likely game on each writers list was assigned 5 points, 2nd most likely got 4 points… 5th most likely got 1 point. These points were then tabulated to determine our choices. All of the voting was left anonymous – though any interested OG writers will have a chance to write about their individual votes below.
For the Spiel des Jahres competition, we had 17 writers participate in the prognostication. When all the dust settled, we clearly have four favorites and then a bunch of runners-up.
Our predicted winner for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres is:
This game was a runaway favorite in our survey – with 11 of the 17 writers voting it as their first choice! We have been enamored with this game since it came out… https://opinionatedgamers.com/2015/08/20/dale-yu-review-of-codenames/
The full list is (and our reviews of them):
- 74 Codenames
- 53 Karuba
- 35 Mysterium
- 32 Animals on Board
- 13 Flick ‘em Up
- 11 Qwinto
- 10 Lanterns
- 8 Team Play
- 7 Adventure Land
- 6 Tumult Royale
- 5 Medieval Academy
- 1 Dr Eureka
For Kennerspiel, there were 15 participants. Again, we had a pretty clear set of favorites in this group. Our predicted winner is Pandemic Legacy – which received 7 of the 15 first place votes. Not quite a majority, but definitively our top choice.
We had three games that seemed to separate themselves from the rest. Here is the full list:
- 53 Pandemic Legacy
- 37 Quadropolis
- 34 T.I.M.E Stories
- 22 Isle of Skye
- 16 Porta Nigra
- 11 Steam Time
- 11 7 Wonders: Duel
- 10 Grand Austria Hotel
- 9 Council of Four
- 6 Mombasa
- 5 Discoveries
- 4 Dynasties
- 1 Legends
Thoughts from the writers
Dale Yu –
For SdJ, I went with Animals on Board, and I’m the only writer who thinks this is going to win it big. Guessing the SdJ is always a hard task for me because what feels like the constantly shifting criteria for the winning game. The jury has chosen lighter/simpler games for the past few years, and I feel like that is going to continue. Thus, I limited my choices to that end of the spectrum.
Though I love Codenames, and if I were voting for the award myself – it would clearly get my vote – I just haven’t seen the same love for it from my German friends as I have seen here locally. Not sure whether there are translation/language issues, or maybe that style of game just doesn’t go over well in Germany – but given the lack of interest that I’ve seen in it from the Germans that I know, I went with other games. The other game which finished low in our poll that I voted for was Qwinto. Sure, it’s in a small box, but the small format does not appear to be a hindrance like it has been in the past. To continue the train of small box games like Hanabi and The Game, I felt like I needed to include what I felt is the best of the small format box games.
As I mentioned at the top, we are usually not great at predicting the Kennerspiel – and I think it’s because we want it to be awarded to games that are more complex than those that actually win. My choice is Quadropolis, a well designed Eurogame. I love both T.I.M.E Stories and Pandemic Legacy, but I’m sticking with the more traditional format for my pick. It would not surprise me if T.I.M.E Stories or Pandemic Legacy were given special awards (though I think that these Sonderprise were eliminated after 2010 when the Kennerspiel was created). My outsider pick is Legends, the new game from Ravensburger. It’s the last choice on my list. I actually hemmed and hawed because it was going to be my last pick on my SdJ list, but then I couldn’t make up my mind on how complex it was. After a moment, I realized that it must therefore be Kennerspiel material given the recent winners and their complexity.
Chris Wray —
For SdJ, my top five votes went to (in order): Codenames, Karuba, Mysterium, Animals on Board, and Medieval Academy. Dale is correct in saying that the SdJ in recent years has trended towards lighter games, and I’ll add that the jury puts a high premium on originality. All of my picks featured novel gameplay. I’m personally pulling for Codenames (which I love) or Mysterium (which I also love), but I’d be happy if any of these won.
Codenames seems, at least to me, to be a juggernaut: it is family-friendly, original, and highly addictive. It doesn’t have the eye-popping production value of some recent winners, but the jury doesn’t always make that the highest priority, as 2013’s win for Hanabi shows. Karuba also meets the family-friendly and originality criteria, but it also has a great production value, so I could see it winning. Mysterium has proven incredibly popular over the past year, and its win of the As d’Or (an award that sometimes lines up with the Sdj) shows it has a decent shot. Nonetheless, I fear the Asmodee rules (which do complicate the game) might make it too complex for the jury’s preference. Animals on Board also has a chance if it is eligible: I didn’t see it appear in German game stores until mid-April, which is near the cutoff. Medieval Academy’s buzz has recently died down, but it is a great family-style drafting game.
I always like to make a long shot guess, meaning a game that isn’t getting a lot of buzz but could make it to the recommendation or nomination phase. Last year, by some miracle, I guessed The Game, which ended up getting a nomination. This year I’m going with Kerala, which looks both fun (I haven’t played it) and well-produced.
I’m terrible at predicting the Kennerspiel, but my top five were: Pandemic Legacy, T.I.M.E Stories, Council of Four, Isle of Sky, and Quadropolis. Pandemic Legacy changed the hobby for the better, and so did T.I.M.E Stories, so I’m cheering for them, but if the jury goes with a more traditional Eurogame then I think Council of Four, Isle of Sky, or Quadropolis have a decent shot. But who knows: the jury’s picks for KdJ have been all over the map, or at least it seems that way to me.
Joe Huber –
I’ve never quite understood the Opinionated Gamer approach to this problem. I’m happy to predict what game will win each award – but not so much what has the best chance, or what else might win.
My guess for the 2016 SdJ winner is Codenames, in line with the voting. I think that – like about one game every five years or so – Codenames is such a clear and obvious choice that it has to win, even if Animals on Board (for instance) might seem a more natural fit. Just as winning the award gives a significant benefit to the winner, choosing a big hit _that fits the award_ such as Codenames benefits the prestige of the award. While I am sure that doesn’t play into the voting, in my opinion it makes it likely that an obvious choice will always win unless paired up against another obvious choice. My prediction for the other nominees are Karuba and (with less conviction) Animals on Board.
While Dale is correct that no one correctly guessed the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner before the nominations last year, one of us did predict the winner from among the nominees. It finally dawned on me last year just what the jury is looking for in a Kennerspiel des Jahres winner – and I don’t think it’s an Orleans. Or a T.I.M.E Stories. And definitely not a Grand Austria Hotel. So this year, armed with my realization, my incorrect guess at the Kennerspiel des Jahres is – Isle of Skye. My predictions for the other nominees – something, I should note, I’m historically awful at – are Pandemic Legacy and Mombasa.
While you can never be sure with the SdJ jury–after all, it’s just a small group of people, who might take a strong like or dislike to a particular game–I have to think that Codenames is a strong favorite for the award. I love the way the game plays, but what really convinced me of its suitability is how well it adopts itself to so many circumstances. It’s a hit with families, serious gamers, kids, casual gamers, and mixed groups. It’s a fun, serious game with 4 and a rollicking party-style game with 6, 8, or more. People can drop out and late arrivals can join in. It’s a perfect game for playing multiple times in a row. In short, it’s the game for any occasion and I think that makes it an ideal SdJ winner. My second and third choices are Animals on Board and Karuba, both of which fit the SdJ mold reasonably well, but I don’t think either has much of a chance against the Chvatil design. The one thing that could work against Codenames is the possibility that it might not play as well in German as it does in English (the English language, because of its bastard and variable origins, has words with more multiple and slippery meanings than most other tongues). We’ll see.
I don’t have nearly the same conviction about the Kennerspiel. I went with Steam Time and I’m the only person to pick it to win (and only 2 other folks even put it in their top 5). It seems like it fits the heavier middleweight range that the Kennerspiel most frequently awards, but who knows. Isle of Skye is my runner-up pick. I have absolutely no idea how well Pandemic Legacy has been received in Germany or whether the jury is in a mood to cite something as audacious as a legacy game (remember, it took them forever to give an award to a cooperative game). Given this uncertainty, I put it far down my list, unlike most of my fellow OGers. I really don’t think there’s an obvious Kennerspiel choice this year, so once again, we’ll see.
Mark Jackson: I think Karuba is the obvious choice… it rewards a different publisher (HABA) and a “classic” designer (Rudiger Dorn) – and it’s a great little game with nice production values, family-friendly play and length, and some nice twists on the “Take It Easy” family of games.
I love me some Codenames… but I don’t think it’s going to win.
So, we’ll have to see how the lists turn out on Monday – and then our intrepid group of writers will run another survey to see how we do once we know the finalists for the two awards!