The Opinionated Gamers discuss the Spiel des Jahres award nominees / recommendations

OK – so each year, we predict the award nominees, and some years we look pretty good… and some years (like this one), we look like a bunch of hacks.  The reason?  Well, none can really be given other than we’re not on the jury!  There are thousands of games released each year, and many of them are good enough to be considered award winners!  


We’re going to start our own little voting process up again to choose who we think will win amongst the 3 nominees for each award.  But, for today, some thoughts on the awards from our writers.


Dale Y: I am a little surprised by Magic Maze.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the game.  I think I had the only copy at the Gathering of Friends in April, and I was showing it to everyone.  It was so liked that my buddies from BGG essentially took it from me in a sort of Eminent Domain case so that they could get it up on Gamenight and bring it to BGG.Spring!   I just didn’t think that a small publisher from Belgium would have made the list.  This does somewhat go against previous precedent of sticking to the big domestic companies.  Now that I have seen the list of finalists, I can make good arguments for each of the three winning.

As far as Kennerspiel goes, one of my picks is on the finalist list, and I think the innovation of the EXIT games and the newness of the whole puzzle room genre will carry the day.  As I mentioned in our prediction piece, I was a little surprised that not a single one of us mentioned Terraforming Mars, and what do you know, here it is on the list.  I didn’t choose it because I didn’t enjoy my two plays of it, but there has been lots of buzz about it all year.  I know nothing about Robber of the North Sea – time to do some research!


Eric E: So many of these games are in my blind spot this year it really makes it hard for me to say much. One of my favorite games from last year was Terraforming Mars but I just thought it would be too heavy or not the right choice for the award. Now that it is nominated I am excited for its chances.


Joe Huber: OK, I have to say – I love the choices this year.  It was an exceptionally difficult year to guess what games would be selected – there were no obvious choices – and so while I might be disappointed that Fablesaft didn’t get a nomination, perhaps that will just help Friedemann’s next brilliance get one.  (Oh, sure – I will predict, right now, that one of Friedemann’s games will be nominated for the SdJ in 2018.)


I made a late change to Kingdomino over Dream Home as one of my nomination choices, but all that did was prevent a shutout.  I’ve not played El Dorado, but I can certainly see the case for either Kingdomino or Magic Maze, and I’ll be certain to give El Dorado a shot when I have the chance.


I’m still a bit in shock that Terraforming Mars was selected as a KedJ nominee.  EXIT and Räuber der Nordsee seem like entirely reasonable selections; actually, so does Terraforming Mars, just a more surprising one.  I still expect the jury to go with something simpler than Terraforming Mars for the award, but we’ll see.  Congratulations to all of the designers and publishers to see their games nominated and recommended!


Larry:  Well, as usual, the jury has given us plenty of surprises!  Kingdomino had been touted as a favorite for the award practically from the day of its release, so no shock there.  I wasn’t sure if Magic Maze had nearly enough coverage to earn consideration (there are fewer than 400 ratings for it on the Geek, as opposed to well over 2000 for Kingdomino), so I’m a little surprised to see it here.  Pegasus is the German distributor, so the size of the publisher shouldn’t be an issue.  The real shocker to me is El Dorado.  When the details for it were first announced, Knizia fans were excited at the prospect of his most interesting sounding game in years.  But it hadn’t made much of a splash yet and I don’t think anyone was thinking about it in terms of the awards.  And if they had, I’m sure they would have thought of it for the Kennerspiel more than for the SdJ.  I’m happy for Reiner and hopefully this recognition will lead him to work on more innovative and involved games in the future.


I’m saddened (and a little surprised) that Century: Spice Road got shut out.  Many pundits will probably opine that it’s a ‘tweener game (too complex for the SdJ, too simple for the KdJ), but I have to wonder if it just didn’t impress the jury.  I can’t believe that it’s more complicated than El Dorado; mechanically, it’s really very simple.  So maybe they just didn’t care for it.  Pity–I think it would have been a fine selection.


An early prediction?  Well Kingdomino is the only nominee I’ve played (and I was decidedly meh on it), so I can’t base my guess on personal experience.  So I’ll go with the early favorite, Kingdomino.  Maybe I’ll change my mind once I’ve had the chance to play the other two games.


The Kennerspiel nominations turned out to be as unpredictable as ever.  The Exit games seem to be well regarded and look like an early favorite.  (As an aside, I wonder if the jury has ever nominated a series of games before.  Probably, but it’s the first instance I’m aware of.)  I’ve heard of Raiders of the North Sea, mostly because it was one of the large number of Viking-themed games that came out recently, but I know nothing else about it.  It’s a Kickstarter game that actually was released in December of 2015; the German edition is published by Schwerkraft-Verlag, a new name to me, so I wonder if that will affect its chances.  Then there’s Terraforming Mars, which might be this year’s “game we like, so we’ll nominate it, even though it’s too complex to actually win”.  It’s kind of weird that the OGers as a group didn’t mention the game at all, despite suggesting such heavyweights as Lorenzo, GWT, Oracle of Delphi, and even The Colonists, for God’s sake.  Maybe it’s because it came out of Sweden and not Germany; who knows?  Anyway, it seems that it’s very popular in Germany.  And the German publisher is…Schwerkraft-Verlag!  Hmm, maybe I need to pay attention to those guys!


Terraforming is the game I’ll be rooting for (I think it’s very good), but I suspect it’ll be yet another heavier game that gets passed over.  One thing in its favor, though:  the jury gives it a complexity rating of “sophisticated”.  That’s the same as for Raiders and the recommended Captain Sonar, for example, and it doesn’t really match my impression of the game.  By comparison, GWT (which also got a recommendation) is listed as “very challenging”.  I agree that GWT is more complicated than TM, but the latter is still a heavyweight in my eyes.  So maybe the jury feels that Terraforming is more accessible than the other heavy games I listed (perhaps because of the Beginner Corporation rules) and it might have a shot.  We’ll see.  For now, I’ll go with the Exit games; the Brands already have a KdJ win (for Village), so the jury seems to respect them and the games appear to have the proper weight and popularity.


Mark Jackson: I’m like Eric E. – these are all pretty much in my blind spot (though I’m happy to see Ice Cool get a nomination for Kinderspiel). My only other thought: please, please, please don’t choose the “flavor of the month” escape room game.


Fraser: I have only heard of two, played one, I was surprised to see a game about Arctic Convoys during WWII got a nod, but then I investigated and found out that I was wrong.  To quote Monty Python “Bloody Vikings!”  The only one I have played is Terraforming Mars and I have really enjoyed that.  The PAXAus copy has been in constant use for months around the traps.

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 The Opinionated Gamers discuss the Spiel des Jahres award nominees / recommendations

  1. Chris Wray says:

    I don’t think we did that bad on the SdJ, but we were way off on the KdJ. But that award has a short history and seems to be all over the map in terms of nominations.

    I’ll add that we weren’t the only ones that struggled. I host an annual contest on BGG to guess the nominees. We had several dozen entries, and not a single person guessed El Dorado for SdJ, nor did a single person guess Exit or Raiders of the North Sea for KdJ. The best two entries in that contest (by me and another person) only correctly guessed 3/6 of the SdJ/KdJ nominees.

  2. Richard A. says:

    I got Kingdomino after playing it with my two kids at a board game fair where I live; we played a oversized version of it, which was fun! I still play occasionally with my kids, it’s a solid choice.

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