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 2022 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 five 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 10 of the last 21 SdJ nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, and 16 of the last 21 SdJ nominees have made our list of guesses.
We do less well when the games are only available on the German market: four of the five 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 six of the past seven SdJ winners.
We’ve had far less success with the Kennerspiel des Jahres. We’ve only had 7 of the past 21 nominees in the top three slots of our pre-nomination prediction lists, though 12 of the last 21 KdJ nominees have made our list of guesses. But we’ve done better than it seems if you consider our nominations in both categories: two years ago, 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 five times, with the Exit Series in 2017, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg in 2018, Wingspan in 2019, The Crew in 2020, and Paleo in 2021.
SPIEL DES JAHRES 2022 PREDICTIONS
17 of us voted this year, and 13 different games received votes. Our choice for the Spiel des Jahres is Cascadia!
Cascadia – 52
So Clover – 33
Savannah Park – 32
Project L – 23
7 Wonders Architects – 22
Scout – 17
Trek 12 – 9
Top Ten – 8
The Crew: Mission Deep Sea – 7
Gutenberg – 6
Canvas – 6
Explorers – 4
Meadow – 4
KENNERSPIEL DES JAHRES 2022 PREDICTIONS
We had 13 voters this year, with 15 games receiving votes.
Our choice for the Kennerspiel des Jahres is Mille Fiori!
Mille Fiore – 33
Dune Imperium – 31
Living Forest – 24
Meadow – 19
Adventures of Robin Hood – 13
Cascadia – 13
Witchstone – 12
Ark Nova – 9
7 Wonders Architects – 8
The Search for Planet X – 7
Im Schatten der Pagoda – 5
Red Cathedral – 5
Furnace – 3
Gutenberg – 2
Die Tiere vom Ahorntal – 2
THOUGHTS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
Chris Wray: The line between the SdJ and KdJ gets thinner and thinner every year, as I complain every year, and that is likely why so many of our choices make both lists.
Some of our choices above are implausible: for instance, Robin Hood was nominated last year, so I doubt it is eligible this year. But overall, I think we have good lists.
I’m a bit of an outlier in the group this year, which is unusual for me. I gave my top spot to Trek 12 for SdJ, but it barely registered for that award among our group. (Candidly, I could see it falling into either category in terms of weight, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it got a KdJ nomination.) I gave my top spot to Living Forest for KdJ, but it is only third on our list.
What do I want to see win? My favorites from the lists are (in alphabetical order) Dune Imperium, Living Forest, Project L, Scout, and Trek 12.
Joe Huber: Unlike Chris, I don’t see the line getting thinner; I perhaps see the _perception_ of the line being thinner, but the jury has actually been quite clear about what they’re looking for in my opinion. It may have gotten the most votes here, but I believe there is no chance that Cascadia will win – or be nominated for – the Spiel des Jahres. Kennerspiel, sure – it’s not an unreasonable pick for that award. But since the jury split the award, the SdJ tends to go to games reminiscent of the lighter SdJ award winners of the past (Villa Paletti, Qwirkle), and the KedJ tends to go to games reminiscent of the heavier SdJ award winners of the past (Die Siedler von Catan, Thurn & Taxis). For whatever it’s worth, my guess for the SdJ this year is Top Ten.
I also can’t see Mille Fiori winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres, but at least that is where it will receive consideration. The problem here is one of – blandness, to be honest. It’s not a bad game at all – I rather enjoyed my one play – but it’s got nothing new or innovative to draw an award. My guess for this award is Living Forest, but to be honest (1) I’m terrible at guessing the KedJ pre-nomination, and (2) I don’t have any particular conviction in my prediction. Meadow or Cascadia wouldn’t shock me. And I don’t think Ark Nova has a chance of winning the award, but I do think there is a chance it might be nominated.
Chris Wray (Redux): I’m with Joe on the blandness of Mille Fiori.
Talia: I was surprised to see Cascadia and 7 Wonders: Architects on our collective SdJ list because both of those definitely seem too heavy or complicated for the current SdJ. My money is on So Clover for the SdJ and on Cascadia for the KdJ (although I could see the KdJ going to 7 Wonders: Architects, Living Forest, or perhaps even Dune: Imperium). I assume Ark Nova will get some sort of special nod or recognition, but definitely not the award itself. I don’t know enough of the SdJ contenders to really know for sure, and I wouldn’t be surprised with an off-the-wall nominee or winner (like Pictures in 2020). Of the games I’m familiar with, So Clover definitely seems like the right level, approachability, and novelty for the SdJ. The aesthetics and quasi-novelty of both So Clover and Cascadia are part of what’s driving my picks here.
Dale: I think bland is sometimes what they are looking for. Easy on the eyes, easy to learn, doesn’t offend anyone. At the current moment, I’m personally projecting So Clover and Mille Fiori (and man, I feel like Mille Fiori is a slam dunk for KSdJ). I also do not think that the lines are blurred. I just think that we as gamers want to project our own wants on the criteria for the awards. I also have one dark horse prediction for KSdJ nomination – that is Stichtag from Ravensburger. There was no EN version and it required a lot of self translation to be able to play my copy… and while it wasn’t particularly for me, it might also be something that appeals to the jury. It’s a clever idea, from well known and well respected designers and from a big publishing house. As it didn’t get much play amongst the non-German speakers (the majority of our group), it got no love from our poll. But… I would not be surprised at all to see it on the Kennerspiel short list. And as far as the awards go in general, recent history shows both to be way “lighter” than what I would pick, and I have moved my expectations accordingly. And to be clear, I don’t have any issue with the recent award winners – the jury sets their own reasons for the games they award, and as long as the winners suit them, everything is good.
Larry: I voted for Cascadia as my SdJ favorite because it seems like an ideal SdJ contender. It has a very attractive theme, it’s nice to look at, and it plays very smoothly. I understand the concerns that it might be a touch too heavy for the award, but man, this is a pretty straightforward game. I mean, I could teach it in 10 minutes, tops. I certainly don’t think it’s any heavier than Azul is and that won the award a mere four years ago. Given that I think this fits the award’s goals so well and that I feel it’s probably too light for the KdJ, I’ll say that the jury will go with a title that’s slightly heavier than the recent winners. I’ll probably be proven dead wrong, but that’s my guess.
My other two picks for the SdJ nominees are So Clover and Top Ten. I’m picking them because both games got very high ratings in Spielbox magazine and that publication has a reasonably good record of tracking the jury’s preferences (two members of the jury write for Spielbox). That may not be a lot to go on, but in the absence of much other data, it’s the best I’ve got. I thought about Scout, but I’m not sure it has a German publisher, so it may not be eligible.
For the Kennerspiel, I went with The Red Cathedral, Furnace, and Dune: Imperium. I was the only person to pick the first two games, but that may be because both of them originally came out earlier than 2021. However, I believe the German versions of both games came out last year, so to the best of my knowledge, both are eligible. I don’t have a terribly strong feeling about either one, but they do seem to have the right weight for the award and and both got good ratings from Spielbox. My third pick is Dune: Imperium. That’s a considerably more popular game, but it’s probably a bit too heavy to win the KdJ. However, I can still see it getting a nomination (just like Lost Ruins of Arnak, which is probably of comparable weight to Dune and got nominated last year). Ark Nova is way too heavy to even get nominated, IMO, but I think it’s almost certain to make the recommended list.
So my two picks for the awards are Cascadia and The Red Cathedral. I apologize to both games ahead of time for dooming their chances!
Mark Jackson: I found Cascadia attractive but not particularly interesting… I think Savannah Park is the better choice for SdJ, but I could possibly be convinced that So Clover (suggested by Dale) could take it. I don’t think there’s any possibility that Trek 12 can win – while it’s a clever game, it’s too think-y for SdJ.
On the KdJ side, I also voted for Mille Fiore. I agree with Joe that it’s nothing new… but it is solidly put together and very enjoyable. If I got to choose, I love Dune: Imperium, but I don’t think it or Ark Nova stand a chance of winning. (They could both be recognized, however.)