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 2020 make the cut for eligibility. Also, 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 three 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 8 of the last 15 SdJ nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, and 11 of the last 15 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 five past SdJ winners.
We’ve had far less success with the Kennerspiel des Jahres. We’ve only had 5 of the past 15 nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, though 10 of the last 15 KdJ nominees have made our list of guesses.
Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called the winners three times, with the Exit Series in 2017, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg in 2018, and Wingspan in 2019.
SPIEL DES JAHRES 2020 PREDICTIONS
17 of us voted this year, and 15 different games received votes. Our choice for the Spiel des Jahres is The Crew! In fact, The Crew was our runaway favorite.
The Crew – 81
Wavelength – 21
Azul: Summer Pavilion – 15
Pictures – 13
Point Salad – 11
Mandala – 10
My City – 10
Tiny Towns – 10
No Return – 8
Ecos: First Continent – 6
Hadara – 6
Pharaon – 5
Nova Luna – 5
Spicy – 5
Tajuto – 3
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 14 people voted.
Our choice for the Kennerspiel des Jahres is Res Arcana!
Res Arcana – 35
Tiny Towns – 20
Paladins of the West Kingdom – 18
Tajuto – 18
Expedition to Newdale – 15
Hadara – 14
Man muss auch gönnen können – 13
Obscurio – 12
Taverns of Tiefenthal – 9
Nova Luna – 6
Mandala – 5
Masters of the Renaissance – 3
Five games — Hadara, Mandala, Nova Luna, Tiny Towns, and Tajuto — made both lists of games.
THOUGHTS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
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. In fact, we, as a group, had trouble populating the initial lists. The fact that The Crew is a runaway leader in our predictions bodes well for its chances. I suspect My City and Spicy would have been higher on this list, but they haven’t been widely available in English-speaking countries yet. (I could see My City also being a KedJ nominee: it does get a bit more complicated in later games of the 24-game campaign.)
I’ve got a pretty good track record of calling the SdJ, but a terrible one of calling the KedJ. This year, my SdJ votes went to The Crew, My City, Spicy, Pictures, and Wavelength, in that order. My KedJ votes went to Gönnen Können, Tajuto, Obscurio, Res Arcana, and Paladins, in that order. Paladins is probably the most bold guess: it is arguably a bit heavy for the award, but they do sometimes nominate heavier games (like Terraforming Mars).
For some of the games above, I’m pretty skeptical of their chances. I don’t think Point Salad has a German version. Mandala is a 2-player game, and though they’ve received nominations, a 2-player has never won the SdJ. I think Hadara was likely eligible last year (and thus not a likely contender this year). And Azul: Summer Pavilion (though an excellent design) seems unlikely since the jury seems skeptical of sequel games (although they have, on occasion, recognized them).
We’ll see how it turns out!
Joe Huber: As with Chris, I have a very poor record in guessing at the KedJ before the nominations are announced. But I can’t, for the life of me, imagine Res Arcana winning. I’d be thrilled for Tom if it did – and I can picture it being nominated, even – but it strikes me as too complex to win the award. My pick, albeit without any real conviction, is Tajuto.
For the SdJ, however – well, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the pick _was_ obvious. Nothing really against Die Crew, but – in a year where it doesn’t seem obvious, going with the popular choice is a bit boring.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: One of the game more challenged me this year is Tiny Town: a perfect game that is a bit too much complex for the last years’ SDJ standard and probably too simple for the KeDJ ones. Paladins of the West Kingdoms, probably the last one in the trilogy, is a great KeDJ choice and I think that The Crew could meet the jury’s tastes but I don’t have a strong candidate for KedJ and SDJ too.
Brandon Kempf: Yeah, I was at a loss this year on what and where to nominate games. Even though we all agree that Die Crew is a strong contender, I am not 100% sold on it being one of those runaway winners like Azul was a couple years ago. Chris mentioned above that the SdJ has never been won by a two player only game, but it has also never been won by a trick taking game, either. So I think I ultimately picked Mandala over Die Crew, but it wouldn’t surprise me either way. I also threw votes towards Pictures and Spicy.
As for the Kennerspiel? Who knows, I originally had Mandala here because I thought that the jury would possibly nominate it in the heavier category since it is two player only and thus, not really — at least in the generic sense, a family game — although two people families are most definitely a thing. Ultimately, my pick for Kennerspiel is going to be Tiny Towns. I quite enjoyed it and I know that I have read some really positive thoughts on it from the German press. I also threw votes at Gönnen Können, Taverns of Tiefenthal, Nova Luna & Hadara. But ultimately, I won’t be surprised if none of these get noticed or nominated. I can’t see Gönnen Können winning if the Warsch roll and writes didn’t win, just doesn’t feel right and that comes from someone who really enjoys Gönnen Können.
Larry: I usually struggle coming up with SdJ/KdJ picks, since I’m not really the audience for these designs. But this year, it’s harder than ever, as everyone is noting. For the SdJ, I see no reason not to go with the presumed favorite, Die Crew. The weight is right, it’s innovative, it’s very popular, and, unusually enough for an SdJ hopeful, I really like it. The real difficulty is coming up with any competition. Wavelength? Well, the jury obviously likes Warsch (they nominated three of his games two years ago) and they picked a party game (Just One) last year, so it isn’t out of the question. But is Wavelength a strong enough title to make it back-to-back party games? Seems unlikely. Nothing else struck me as a likely contender. As for the Kennerspiel, it’s not so much that I have a strong feeling for the game I picked (Res Arcana) as it’s a case that none of the other contenders make much sense. Tiny Towns or Tajuto? Both seem too light. (But wouldn’t it be something if the SdJ and KdJ go to The City and Tajuto, and Knizia, who was shut out of the SdJ’s for so many years, winds up sweeping the awards?) There’s no way in hell that Paladins of the West Kingdoms wins, as it’s far too heavy–yes, it might get nominated, just as Terraforming Mars and Heaven & Ale were in recent years, but Paladins is much meatier than any title that has actually won the KdJ. Expedition to Newdale is just a board game version of Oh My Goods; that doesn’t sound too inspiring. Hadara was eligible the year before and didn’t get a sniff. Meanwhile, Res Arcana seems to be the right weight (similar to Dominion, I’d say, and that game would have won the Kennerspiel, and not the SdJ, if the latter award had existed when it came out). It’s short, punchy, very well designed, and (quite importantly, I think) it’s drop-dead gorgeous. I haven’t heard too much buzz for it, but it seems like the logical choice. The jury is more than capable of springing a surprise on us (they’ve done so numerous times in the past), but it would sure be great if they give Tom Lehmann, who’s accomplished just about everything else in gaming, a major award.