Yesterday, Pictures won the SdJ, and The Crew won the KedJ. Congratulations to the winners! Here are reactions from the Opinionated Gamers.
Chris Wray: It was fun to see The Crew — a trick taking game! — win the KedJ. The SdJ has long recognized trick taking games in various forms, but this is the first time one has won a major award. The Crew topped the Fairplay list at Essen and has been on a hot streak ever since. The game is highly innovative — cooperative trick taking games are still rare — and with 50 games in the campaign, this relatively inexpensive game ($15-20) offers a lot of value.
I was disappointed to see Pictures win. I had been cheering for My City. Pictures continues the jury’s streak of picking exceptionally lightweight games. I don’t see the game as especially innovative — I think it is very Dixit-like — but clearly the jury disagreed. As I wrote in Gamers Alliance this month, I traded Pictures away after a few plays. I certainly enjoyed the game, and I’m glad I bought it to try out, but it lacks the spark that makes other image association games so special.
I always like it when the jury finds the intersection of what gamers like and what non-gamer families will like, games like Azul, Codenames, Dixit, Just One. Pictures is not at such an intersection, because I think gamers will be okay with it but tire of it quickly. But I do think German families (and families elsewhere) will enjoy the game, so in that regard, this is possibly a successful pick.
Mark Jackson: I agree with Chris… The Crew is an excellent win for KedJ. It’s a very creative twist on trick-taking games that is challenging, fascinating & (important caveat below) frustrating.
Caveat: folks who have a lot of experience with the standard American trick-taking games (Spades, Hearts, etc.) may or may not have an easy time shifting their gameplay to the choices needed for The Crew… and that takes the play experience from delightfully frustrating to grating for them. Thankfully, the game is inexpensive enough that you can afford to pick up a copy and try it out with your family without breaking open your piggy bank.
I also agree with Chris’s disappointment with Pictures winning SdJ. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Pictures… but I don’t think it’s going to have “legs”. It will be the perfect game for the beach house/lake cabin shelf that comes out once or twice a year when family is together – but I don’t see it as something that I would play 5+ times in 365 days.
Larry: Some general observations from someone who has only played two of the nominated games.
- I was happy to see The Crew win the KedJ. It’s both innovative and easy to teach, at least for those familiar with trick-taking games, and can serve as a low stress introduction to trick takers for those who aren’t. Because of the communication rules, it easily handles the issue of the alpha player in cooperative games (and those communication restrictions actually work very well here, as opposed to the vague way they’re usually dealt with in co-ops). Best of all, it’s fun to play. Cartographers did not work for me, for a variety of reasons, but I’m still happily working my way through the campaign in The Crew.
- What a great win for Pictures publisher PD-Verlag! Prior to this, this small book/game publisher was best known for releasing most of Mac Gerdts’ games. Pictures, in fact, was PD-Verlag’s only non-expansion title from 2019! It’ll be interesting to see what changes this brings to the company.
- Even though it isn’t unusual for the jury to reward less experienced designers (after all, Wingspan, last year’s KedJ winner, was Elizabeth Hargrave’s first published game), this has got to be the least experienced group of designers since the Kennerspiel was added back in 2011. Pictures is the Stohrs’ second published game (Schraube Locker, a little known 2014 dice game, was the first). And The Crew is only Thomas Sing’s fourth published game, with 2016’s Kribbeln being the only one that has made any kind of impact. So these are three people whose lives were amazingly impacted by today’s selections.
- This is the third time in the last four years that a female designer was among the winners (Stohr, Hargrave last year, and Inka Brand in 2017). A very nice trend indeed!
Simon Weinberg: I’m really pleased that my two favourites both won. I was never in any doubt that Die Crew would win, it is interesting, clever and original.
As regards Pictures I don’t think it’s a controversial choice at all. I have only played the game with family and friends who are familiar with games like Ticket to Ride and similar gateway games, and they loved it. I personally found it very absorbing and the kind of game that becomes a memorable experience. It’s not that I would want to play it every day; but to me it indeed feels a little like Dixit but much much better – because I am in control of the visual clues I am giving and am able to intuit how others build their own images to direct you towards certain cards. It’s more about thinking how other people think, and I would say it’s very much more about the game experience than the winning which is the sign of a good family game in my opinion.
I am just “chuffed” for the publisher who has continued to put out high quality games for years and who took a real risk here. Who would have thought of putting real stones and sticks in a game! Let alone shoelaces. It’s very original and very cleverly done.
Brandon Kempf: While I don’t really think that the jury has really awarded the Game of the Year to the best family game this time around in Pictures. I do understand why they did. One thing that is really noticeable was the nominations, Nova Luna, is a fantastic game, but much more suited for a KdJ nomination, at least in my head. The same kind of goes for My City, which starts out really simple and slowly adds more to the pot so to speak. So of the three titles, Pictures, was the clear family weight game in my opinion. Do I think that it’s a Game of the Year? No, I don’t, it’s a fine derivative game. But kudos to the winners. I don’t have an issue at all with the Kennerspiel winner, I thought that Cartographers was ultimately the better game, but I’m good with either of the two winning, and King’s Dilemma was an odd choice from the word go.
I haven’t looked at BoardGameGeek today, I’m sure that the reactions are all over the place, and even if we don’t agree with the winners, we can agree that it gets people talking about board games. Board Games that a lot of folks would never have played or talked about if they had not received an award.
Fraser: Amazing, I have played twice as many of the nominated games as Larry has, including all the winners! Other than that, what Mark said.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I think that the difficulty of the last months to set up usual game’s group has influenced the jury supporting lighter games. I don’t like the direction that the SDJ is moving to, in the last two years, celebrating light party-games. I’m not sure that promoting games like Pictures or Just One (a good game that I really like and I’m used to play) can really increase the interest in the board-games. I’m sure a game like My City will be a better choice.
Concerning the KeDJ I think The Crew is a reality good game: I’m surprised to find it in the KeDJ and not in the SDJ list. Probably it will be a better SDJ winner than a KeDJ winner