For the past few years, our group of gamers has taken their best guess at trying to read the minds of the Spiel des Jahres jury members. The nominations for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced Monday, and the award winners will be revealed this summer.
As has become our habit, we will do this in two parts. This first survey is done prior to the actual release of the lists, when just about any game was open for consideration. Once the lists are out, we will then do a second round of voting, limited only to the actual nominees.
The usual caveats still apply. It’s hard for us to know which late releases in 2019 make the cut for eligibility. Also, as we only have two or three active OG writers in Germany, there are probably a few games that are big over there that we simply don’t know about as there is no English version. We did not really generate a list of games and have people pick from it; OG writers were just told to vote for five games.
This year, we used a similar system to what we’ve used the past two years. Each OG writer was invited to rank up to five games that they feel will win the SdJ and KdJ, with the most likely game receiving 5 points, the next likely 4 points, and so on. Totals are below.
If you’d like to see the official information on and criteria for the award, please check out the Jury’s website.
Our Track Record
We have a decent track record predicting the Spiel des Jahres nominees. Before 2015 we made individual predictions, but since then, we do it as a group. We’ve had 7 of the last 12 SdJ nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, and 8 of the last 12 SdJ nominees have made our list of guesses.
We do less well when the games are only available on the German market: the four games we missed (The Game in 2015, Imhotep in 2016, El Dorado in 2017, and Luxor in 2018) all only had late-release German versions at the time.
Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called all four past SdJ winners.
We’ve had far less success with the Kennerspiel des Jahres. We’ve only had 4 of the past 12 nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, though 8 of the last 12 KdJ nominees have made our list of guesses.
Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called the winners twice, with the Exit Series in 2017 and Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg in 2018.
SPIEL DES JAHRES 2019 Predictions
Our list of guesses this year was shorter than our list in the past few years, in part because only 14 of us voted.
Our choice for the Spiel des Jahres is Just One!
Just One – 44
Reef – 22
Planet – 20
Dizzle – 12
Werewords – 12
Silver & Gold – 12
The River – 11
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra – 9
Blue Lagoon – 7
Wingspan / Flügelschlag – 5
Code-X – 5
Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado – 4
L.A.M.A. – 1
Walls of York – 1
KENNERSPIEL DES JAHRES 2019 Predictions
Our list of guesses this year was shorter than our list in the past few years, in large part because only 9 people voted.
Our choice for the Kennerspiel des Jahres is Carpe Diem!
Carpe Diem – 23
Gizmos – 16
Liftoff – 14
Crown of Emara – 11
Gingerbread House – 11
Hadara – 5
Coimbra – 4
Wingspan – 4
NEOM – 3
Fuji – 1
Chris Wray: Some years the choices are obvious, such as Codenames in 2016 or Azul in 2018. This year the choice is considerably less obvious.
I gave my top pick to Just One, but I have my doubts: the production flaw (the cards can be translucent) might hold it back. Also, will the jury pick a word game so soon after Codenames?
Beyond that, it seems likely to me that a roll & write gets recognized, as they’re the hot item this year. Dizzle and Silver & Gold would both fit that description, so I voted for them.
Planet has the “toy factor” that the jury seems to occasionally go for, plus it has decently novel gameplay, so I gave it a vote. But it isn’t highly replayable like a lot of the other games on the list, and it can be an AP-inducing mess.
This group isn’t giving enough creedence to Werewords, another one of my top picks. It is about time for a social deduction game to win the award, and the jury has said nice things about Werewords.
Brandon Kempf: Oh Chris, I think we gave more than enough credence to Werewords. I think I settled on my top pick being Dizzle. Arguably last year, the best Roll-and-Write game around was passed up by the juggernaut that was Quacksalber, I think maybe the jury rights a bit of a wrong, in my opinion here, and awards another Schmidt Spiele Roll-and-Write. Dizzle is easy to teach and it rewards repeated plays and even offers different options of playing. Otherwise, my votes went to Just One, it won’t surprise me one bit if it wins, Silver & Gold, Planet & the wonderful little card game that could, L.A.M.A.
Kennerspiel wise, I have no clue. I think Hadara may be the most Kenner-worthy title out there right now, given the weight class of games that have been recently awarded the award, but was it out in time for the jury to notice it and include it? I don’t know. It may fall prey to timing. Otherwise, Carpe Diem is a solid pick, although it has production issues of its own, and is getting a second printing with some rules tweaks and better color choices. Gingerbread House may be a good one, giving Phil Walker-Harding a solid shot at two nominations this year. Crown of Emara is a solid title in this area as well, and the same designer as Hadara, Benjamin Schwer. Maybe the game we are overlooking is a game that I really did not enjoy, but it seems to be getting good press among the jury, Wingspan. Personally, I’d hate to see it nominated as I don’t think it really does much that is original, or interesting for that matter, but who knows.
Overall I think that this is a good year for the award to make a statement, or to pick something and truly try to lift it. There is nothing in this field of games that really stands out to me as a must pick, maybe they surprise us and give us something we haven’t seen or even thought of yet.
Joe Huber: I really enjoy guessing at the Spiel des Jahres; it’s fun trying to think like the jury, and it’s actually possible to make reasonable guesses. (If anyone wants to see my personal history of predictions, I posted them (and update them) on BGG.) I still don’t get the Opinionated Gamers way of doing so – I will predict winners, and will predict nominees, but don’t much care for trying to sort out which games have the five best chances of winning (which does _not_ overlap with the games that will be nominated, I’d note) – so as always, I just listed my top pick for both awards.
While I understand the notion that there isn’t an obvious selection for the SdJ in 2019, as I worked through my choice, I realized that I think there is one – Flügelschlag, the German edition of Wingspan. (Since it’s a German award, I always try to use the German title.) I’m not convinced that game is absolutely certain to win – it’s no Codenames, and it’s possible it will be considered more appropriate for the Kennerspiel – but I do think it stands out among this year’s choices. For Kennerspiel, I’m – actually in with the majority this time, choosing Carpe Diem. I must admit – the fact that it’s getting a second printing to address the biggest issue folks have with the game strikes me as a _positive_ towards consideration for the award; I don’t think I would have selected it otherwise, as I do believe the jury would have had similar issues.
Larry: I didn’t vote for either award this year, mostly because I’ve played so few of games that seem like reasonable candidates. For example, only one of the titles that got votes for SdJ. Another reason for not voting is that most of my impressions of the leading games are negative ones. So I have some doubts about giving the award to a party-style game like Just One, which, even though it’s quite popular, is only mildly innovative. Planet was gathering momentum at one point, but it got fairly so-so ratings when it was reviewed on Spielbox, which is considered a pretty strong predictor of the SdJ. So coming up with even a few games to vote for, much less five, seemed very difficult.
It’s much the same for the KdJ hopefuls. I really like Coimbra, but I think it’s too heavy to be seriously considered for the award. Maybe it sneaks in as the “the jury likes it, so they give it a nomination, but it has no chance in hell of winning” choice, but that’s about it. The other game that received votes that I’ve played, Carpe Diem, actually checks a lot of the boxes for a KdJ winner. My problem with it is its terrible production values. Will the promise of a second printing with potential improvements be enough to assuage the jury? It could happen, but I have my doubts.
However, there are two games, neither of which are considered front-runners, that I do think have an excellent chance of getting nominated, mostly because of their history. For the SdJ, how about Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra? Many gamers prefer the newer version, which plays quite differently than last year’s winner, Azul, and it’s only a little more complex. The jury obviously loved Kiesling’s concept last year, so why not bet on a “sufficiently different” follow-up? The jury has certainly gone back-to-back before. Anyway, I’m not saying it will win, but given what happened last year, it seems like it has a very good chance to grab a nomination.
Similarly, how about Die Tavernon im Tiefen Thal for the KdJ award? Many folks have commented on its parallels to last year’s KdJ winner, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, mostly because of its weight and its deck-building aspects, but it seems as if the two games will play pretty differently. The jury clearly likes Warsch’s style, the early ratings are good, and based on the rules, it sounds interesting and a perfect fit, weight-wise, for the award. It came out in Germany in March and that seems plenty early enough to be considered. So why not?
And while I’m making totally uninformed suggestions, Brandon thinks that Hadara fits the KdJ mold. After having read the rules, I agree with him. His concern is that it may have come out too late. According to the Geek, the German version came out on March 29. That may be pushing things, but we’ve certainly seen some late entries get the nod in the past, so I say let’s add Hadara to our list.
The one thing that I am sure about when it comes to the SdJ/KdJ awards is that the jury will spring at least one surprise that no one predicted. As always, it will be interesting to see which games get nominated, which will set the stage for changing the lives of a lucky designer and publisher!