The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2021 Edition

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 2021 make the cut for eligibility, or if the jury somehow warped the eligibility period because of the pandemic.  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 four 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 18 SdJ nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, and 14 of the last 18 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 five of the past six SdJ winners.

We’ve had far less success with the Kennerspiel des Jahres.  We’ve only had 5 of the past 18 nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, though 10 of the last 18 KdJ nominees have made our list of guesses.  But we’ve done better than it seems if you consider our nominations in both categories: last year, for instance, we had The Crew as our top pick for the SdJ but it got a KdJ nomination (and win).  

Once the nominations were announced, we’ve correctly called the winners the past four times, with the Exit Series in 2017, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg in 2018, Wingspan in 2019, and The Crew last year.  

SPIEL DES JAHRES 2020 PREDICTIONS

13 of us voted this year, and 14 different games received votes.  Our choice for the Spiel des Jahres is MicroMacro: Crime City!  

MicroMacro: Crime City – 35

The Adventures of Robin Hood – 21

Calico – 20

My Farm Shop – 13

Cloud City – 11

Monster Expedition – 9

Lost Ruins of Arnak – 9

Paleo – 9

Iwari – 5

Nidavellir – 4

Mariposas – 3

Jubako – 2

Detective Club – 1

Hashi – 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 Paleo!

Paleo – 32

Lost Ruins of Arnak – 21

Paris – 10

CloudAge – 8

Beyond the Sun – 7

The Adventures of Robin Hood – 7

Cubitos – 6

Under Falling Skies – 5

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 – 4

Castles of Tuscany – 4

Switch & Signal – 3

Calico – 2

Maglev Metro – 1

Nidavellir – 1

Five games — Paleo, Arnak, Robin Hood, Calico, and Nidavellir — made both lists of games.

THOUGHTS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS

Chris Wray:  The line between the SdJ and KdJ gets thinner and thinner every year, and every year that is reflected in our guesses.  In a couple of instances I think my fellow writers are out to lunch — Arnak is wayyyyyyy too complex for the SdJ, for example — but overall I think we have a couple of good lists.

I personally do not want to see MicroMacro: Crime City win.  I have enjoyed (and owned) it, but I do not consider it a game, but rather a dressed up version of Where’s Waldo with a theme that is, to put it mildly, not appropriate for all audiences.  I don’t see it as original.  But then again, Pictures won last year, so maybe originality isn’t as prized among the SdJ jury as it once was.  

I cast my top SdJ vote for My Farm Shop, which is who I’m cheering for, and my second vote for MicroMacro: Crime City.  I cast my top KdJ vote for Lost Ruins of Arnak, although it was a tossup for me between that and Paleo, both of which are excellent.  

We’ll see how it turns out!

Brandon Kempf: Honestly, kind of a blah year for awards. There really isn’t much that has stood out. Whether that is the pandemic hindering us from playing a lot of games, or just a downward trend, I don’t know, but I honestly haven’t been this disinterested in Awards in quite awhile. 

I’m with Chris on Micro Macro, although I did give it my first place vote as I want to be right, more than I want to make a point. I think Micro Macro is a cute idea, but it’s not really all that fun searching around on a giant map for tiny clues and then following them. It’s more tedium than it is a game to me. I would rather see something like Nidavellir or even Calico being the choice, but I think that Calico is more of a KdJ style game and Nidavellir may not be flashy enough, although I think it’s wonderfully overproduced and one of, if not the, best blind bidding games around. 

KdJ is odd this year as I think the best game, Lost Ruins of Arnak, kind of falls out of the normal KdJ depth, it’s a bit more game than they usually award I think. Which is why I went with Paleo, which is a fun, clever cooperative game that will be deserving, should it win. 

Mario Pawlowski: Tough prediction this year. Not too many games that really stood out (if any..). For SdJ I’m a little bit torn. On one hand I guess Micro Macro has the best chances to win as it is ‘something new’ at least in the gaming sector and the target crowd fits perfectly. On the other hand if the Jury wants something that is more of a game than Micro Macro I think Robin Hood has a decent shot. It’s pretty innovative and concerning the difficulty it’s absolutely right for the SdJ target audience.

At least for me the KdJ is much easier. I’ll put my money on Paleo. Not too difficult, but definitely belongs in the KdJ group. In addition it’s pretty innovative for a co-op game. Most of the other titles seem just to be ‘more of the same usual stuff’ to me. Maybe Arnak would get a shot, but it was hardly available from November until now here in Germany. 

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6 Responses to The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2021 Edition

  1. Kosteri x says:

    Since when is Arnak too complex? Aren’t you underestimating SdJ?

  2. huzonfirst says:

    The SdJ has trended towards very light games over the past few years. Here are the last 7 award winners:

    Camel Up
    Colt Express
    Codenames
    Kingdomino
    Azul
    Just One
    Pictures

    I think (and most of my OG mates seem to agree) that Arnak is way too complex for the SdJ. I actually feel it might even be too heavy for the Kennerspiel. My KdJ prediction is for Robin Hood, which is pretty light, but I’m thinking that lightning may strike twice for Michael Menzel and MicroMacro seems like the solid pick for the SdJ. We’ll see. But no, based on recent history, I don’t think we’re underestimating the SdJ at all.

  3. Chris Schreiber says:

    For me, it’s an award for families with children. Therefore, I just watch my sister’s family because SdJ has been obvious to them each year since maybe Hanabi. Oh wait, they would have picked The Game over Colt Express. Okay, they’re 8-1 since Hanabi.

    They loved MicroMacro. My sister saw everyone dive over the table and turned to me and said, “This is gonna win.” It was a big hit—partly because the younger members of the family were better than the adults due to their much keener eyesight. I think fully competitive or even advantaging younger players is a big deal for success with families (e.g. Gulo Gulo advantaging little fingers).

    Star Wars: UNLOCK was also a memorable success, but I don’t know if the jury will consider it. The only other game that was as big a success as MicroMacro was an older game that we were late to get to the table (Strike). In all honesty, I’m hoping for some German games I’ve never heard of getting nominated, but I’d be very happy if Micromacro wins. I think it also has fantastic long-term market potential because it’s so easy to expand.

    As always—and especially this year—I’m behind on playing KdJ titles, but will immediately get whatever wins. I trust the jury so much. My only regret is that my sister’s younger children (now 11) have outgrown the Kinderspiel.

    Thanks so much for your Spiel coverage. I appreciate and value it every year.

  4. norkle says:

    Interesting read as insights as always, even though I feel SdJ has kind of snuck up this year. All the same, the SdJ will be all the more important this year in Germany after Spiel Digital 2020, and no Nuremberg Toy Fair this year. The demand over 2020-2021 seems to have been from families – will this further hone the jury’s focus on light and quick with broad appeal?

    As with any list, an observer is tempted to ask, what that game? My personal query is why Calico was so popular in the SdJ list, but not the Kenner. And Haba’s The Key seems to be notably absent.

    For the Kenner, while an unlikely winner, I wonder if Under Falling Skies will have a chance for nomination as a stand-out solo? Similarly, will this years Kenner winner need to have solo play included, as Arnak does?

  5. Jacob Lee says:

    I’m really happy with the games that came out this past year, but I’m surprised to have not even noticed MicroMacro. If it is, as one of you said, a variation of Where’s Waldo? I think I’ll pass and root for many of the others.

  6. Martin Griffiths says:

    Two out of three correct in both categories – nice work!

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