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 were announced back in May, and we made our predictions shortly beforehand. The winners will be announced on Monday, and you can usually watch the ceremony over on BGG or other places.
As has become our habit, we’ve done our predictions in two parts. This is the second of those parts, where once the lists are out, we do a second round of voting, limited only to the actual nominees. (In the first round, we tried to guess the nominees.)
This year, we used a similar system to what we’ve used the past three years. Each OG writer was invited to rank all three games in each category, with their top pick (what they see as most likely) getting 3 points, second pick getting 2, and final pick getting 1. Vote totals are shown 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
In making predictions of the nominees this year, we did pretty well. For the former, Just One was our top vote getter, and Werewords and L.A.M.A. both made our short list. For KedJ, Carpe Diem was our top vote getter, and Wingspan made our short list. We missed out on Detective.
Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called all four past SdJ winners.
Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called the winner of the KedJ twice, which was the Exit Series in 2017 and Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg last year.
SPIEL DES JAHRES 2019 Predictions
Our choice for the Spiel des Jahres is Just One!
Just One – 30 Votes
L.A.M.A. – 23 Votes
Werewords – 22 Votes
The voting among our group was unusually close this year, so Monday morning should be anybody’s game (pun intended).
Our choice this year for the Kennerspiel (KedJ) is Wingspan!
Wingspan – 17 Votes
Carpe Diem – 16 Votes
Detective – 6 Votes
However, we had one voter who only voted for first place, and thus Carpe Diem would have either tied or prevailed had he voted his second and third votes. So we see it as a close call between those two games.
THOUGHTS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
Chris Wray: This group has a great track record of predicting wins, so I dissent with great reluctance, but I think Werewords is the obvious choice if they’re going for the best overall game. It is innovative, well-produced, addicting, and has an appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike. Plus, it is high time for the jury to recognize a social deduction game.
I enjoy both Just One and L.A.M.A., but both have less-than-stellar production quality, and neither is particularly innovative. I have 93 combined logged plays of Werewords and Werewords Deluxe, but only 15 plays Just One and 10 of L.A.M.A., so I clearly prefer Werewords, and I predict the jury will too. Afterall, they play these games dozens and dozens of times before they meet.
For the KedJ, I’m more with the group: I suspect it will be Carpe Diem or Wingspan. I prefer Carpe Diem, as I found Wingspan unexceptional and Detective downright frustrating.
Dale Yu: This is the first year in a long while that I’m honestly neutral about all six of the games on the short list. That’s not to say to the eventual winner won’t be worthy of the title; it’s just that none of these games resonates with me. And, as much as I love Ted Alspach, I still can’t jump on the social deduction activity bandwagon. That being said, I voted for Werewords as I think that the merger between games and technology is unfortunately moving forward, and this is a good example of an app integrating with a boardgame. I’m personally kind of a curmudgeon about this – I’d prefer boardgames to not involve screens/phones/technology. Part of the reason that I play games is to get away from all that stuff! And, yes, I know that Just One also has an app, but it’s really just a fancy timer. It doesn’t seem as “necessary” as the app in Werewords. As far as Kennerspiel goes, my personal votes went for Crown of Emara and Lift Off! Both of which I think will stay in my permanent game collection. I ended up not even voting in our internal poll here for KedJ because I was underwhelmed by all three choices and really couldn’t figure out if I was merely whelmed by one of them more than the other two. Best of luck to all of the companies involved, and while I really don’t have a horse in the race, I’ll still be watching with anticipation to see who wins!
Joe Huber: I’m the one Chris referred to who only offered one choice; while I’m happy to predict what _will_ win, I have less interest in giving odds. I see the KedJ as an obvious choice – to me, Wingspan has engendered the type of reaction that jury doesn’t ignore. To be honest, I enjoy Carpe Diem more – but when thinking about the problem before the nominees were announced, I was certain Wingspan would win either the SdJ or KedJ. While I incorrectly guessed the SdJ – I’m still of that belief.
The SdJ question – is a much harder one. I can come up with good reasons that each of the three won’t win, and good reasons that each of the three will win. So I don’t have a lot of confidence in my choice of L.A.M.A. – but it’s still my pick. The accessibility and player count range both strike me as significant advantages, and sufficient to outweigh the small box size and lower level of innovation. Sometimes, it’s easy to guess the SdJ before the nominees are even announced. Often, it’s easy to pick out the winner, given the nominees. But on rare occasions like this – my prediction is really just a guess. Fortunately, there are reasons I could celebrate any of the games winning either award, so being wrong won’t really be any disappointment.
Brandon Kempf: This really is kind of an interesting year for the SdJ. New leadership has brought forward three nominees that I don’t know would be nominated in any other year in the past, Just One maybe being the outlier here. Start with, I really enjoy all three games listed, but none of the choices are the next Azul, or the next Ticket to Ride. Of the three I have played Werewords more than the others, just like Chris, but unlike Chris I prefer the other two titles. I think that Just One is hampered a bit by the production quality, the cards can be seen through for crying out loud, but it’s probably the best game of the bunch. I think L.A.M.A. is a really clever twist on something that is ultimately really familiar. So the question becomes, which title does the jury fit into their SdJ collection. My money is on Just One, but my heart is all about that L.A.M.A..
As for the KdJ Award, I’m not sure. I don’t think that Wingspan is ultimately a good game, but I also know that Carpe Diem had some horrific graphic design decisions. But I think that Wingspan kind of encapsulates what the jury wanted the KdJ to be from the word go. It’s a step above the SdJ as far as complexity of play goes, but yet, the production and feel for it are very inviting for newer gamers looking to jump into the fray and step up in complexity. As far as Detective goes, I haven’t played it, I make it a point to not touch Portal Games’ titles until the 2nd or 3rd edition is out and the FAQs have fixed everything in the rules that was missed. I can’t imagine that a Jury that actively called out rule errors in books last year is going to reward Portal with an award, but I could be wrong, maybe they are leaning towards the “innovative” this year over the quality. To note, my pick for the KdJ originally didn’t make the short list, much like two other titles in my top five, Hadara, Gingerbread House & Crown of Emara.
Jeff Lingwall: I would go with either L.A.M.A. or Werewords over Just One. With my gamer-ish family, the right sort of target for these kind of games, Just One was fine but didn’t break any terribly new ground. If I was going to play a Spiel-recognized party game, I would go with Dixit over Just One most times. Werewords would move a great social deduction game into the spotlight, and L.A.M.A. (which I haven’t played because my copy is probably somewhere over the Atlantic), appears to be hitting that family-level sweet spot. So … anything but Just One for the win. I predict, like others, Wingspan for the KdJ. It wasn’t my favorite, but seems a good fit for the award.
Tery Noseworthy: I voted for Just One. I am with Dale on Werewords; it just doesn’t do anything for me, and I generally don’t like when I need an app to play a game. I do appreciate that it’s innovative and interesting to many. I don’t think Just One is all that innovative, but it is easy to teach to all levels, and enjoyable to play. I don’t play a lot of party games, but I am happy to play this one. I have not yet played L.A.M.A but am hoping to fix that soon.
I also voted for Carpe Diem. Despite the graphic issues I really enjoy the game and it has held up well over multiple playings. Wingspan fell flat for me and I don’t quite understand the enthusiasm for it, but it may very well have generated enough buzz all around that it ends up with the nomination.
Larry: I haven’t played any of the SdJ nominees. But given that they’re all really light games, I picked Just One, since it seemed to have the strongest pre-nomination buzz. To be honest, I can see any of the three winning (and wouldn’t a second SdJ for the 60+ Knizia be something). For the Kennerspiel, I went with Wingspan. I love Feld, I love Alea, and I love my old buddy Stefan Brueck, but the difference in production values between the two games is just too stark. I think Carpe Diem is the better game and mechanically and weightwise, it’s a perfect KdJ title. But ooh, those graphics! Who knows, though, maybe the promise of a second edition will sway the Jury’s opinion.