The Opinionated Gamers Prognosticate the Spiel des Jahres Lists

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.

Last year, the group did moderately well.   

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:

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:

Codenames (CGE)


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…

The full list is (and our reviews of them):

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.

Pandemic Legacy Blue

We had three games that seemed to separate themselves from the rest.  Here is the full list:

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.


Larry –


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!

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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14 Responses to The Opinionated Gamers Prognosticate the Spiel des Jahres Lists

  1. jeffinberlin says:

    I agree that Codenames is definitely the game for “all occasions,” and that should be what the SdJ is all about. The one concern is how the game presents itself visually–not bad, for a word game, but a table full of cards with words on them isn’t as much of an attention-grabber as some of the more recent winners. I think that word games scare off a lot of people–I’m not a huge fan of them–and it’s too bad, because they would be missing a brilliant, original game design.

    As for it’s popularity in Germany, it recently won the audience choice award for best game at a huge annual Spring gathering (and, surprisingly, another word game, Krazy Wördz, was also in the top 3–go figure). So perhaps this is the “year of the word game” for the SdJ. If not, then the public may rectify that with a Deutsche Spielpreis win.

    • Im very sure Krazy Wördz would be at the recommendation list. I dont think it has much chances for a nomination though.

      • jeffinberlin says:

        Crazy Wördz looks like a lot of fun. Kind of like taking Frigiti (making up words from random letters, except you have to make up a word that describes something specific from a card you drew. ) and combining it with the Dixit guessing/scoring system (which word goes with which definition).

        • Its opposite-Frigit: Instead of thinking of a definition of a madeup-word, you make the word for the definition.
          I think it works better this way – With Frigiti often the funniest definition would win, even if it didnt fit the word at all. As a friend put it: For a Frigiti-Tournament you would just have to think up funny definitions the night before… (Although Crazy Wörds works better as a game, Frigiti might be funnier in the right round).

    • I love Codenames, but I don’t think it’s really a good family game for reasons I stated below.

    • billlasek says:

      I agree that the cards with words on them can be an issue- to be honest though I love the mechanic I have held my wallet closed for just that reason- however CGE brilliantly is making a 2nd version this time with pictures
      If they released this first I think they would have won hands down- I know Im buying it the day it’s released

  2. reixou says:

    SdJ :
    I would go with Codenames (such a huge favorite) + Mysterium. 3rd choice I don’t know : Animals on boards, Qwinto , some say Team Play ?

    KdJ :
    I am pretty sure 7W Duell will be there, Pandemic Legacy also. Time Stories is a favorite of mine but it has rules problems and I did not think about Steam Time. Let’s say I pick Isle of Skye as 3rd nominee and I agree that Pand Leg is the favorite.

  3. My prediction for SdJ is IMHOTEP from KOSMOS, designed by Phil Walker-Harding. I got a chance to play it at The Gathering in April, and really enjoyed it. It’s super easy to learn and play, while offering some nice interaction and groaning moments (those moments when you’ve pushed your luck just a little too far and another player is able to scoop up an advantage). To me, it hearkens back to an older era of German style games, and I dig it.

    Personally, I love CODE NAMES, but I think it can be a little intimidating for some, and certainly doesn’t work well for kids, in my experience.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Brett, I had heard good things about Imhotep, but my trip at the Gathering ended just as Ken Hill showed up with the only copy of it that I saw…. It does appear that Thames&Kosmos will be releasing that title domestically over the summer, so I hope to get a chance to play it soon

    • Dan Blum says:

      I thought Imhotep was fine but not SdJ-worthy.

      • Nominated. I still think it’s a better family game than Codenames. Codenames is too reliant on broad shared experience and familiarity with disparate concepts to be played really well by youngsters. Kids CAN play it, but they’re rarely going to be good at it.

        • Dan Blum says:

          All the kids I’ve played it with have enjoyed it. I can’t see any of the casual gamers I know enjoying Imhotep much.

        • huzonfirst says:

          Great call on Imhotep, Brett, It was the jury’s Out of Left Field choice for this year and you were the only person I know of to nail it.

          As for Codenames, I still think it’s the strong favorite to win the award. In response to your concerns, I think it automatically scales itself to whatever group is playing it. So a group of kids will base their clues on the things kids know about and a family unit will do the same. It may not result in super clever clues, but that isn’t necessary for the players to enjoy the game. I’ve just seen so many disparate groups love the game, each of them playing it in different ways. I’m hugely impressed by how pliable it is and even though I think it’s a terrific game, that flexibility is the main reason I’m picking it to win.

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