The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2020 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.  

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My most-played game this month – Zoom Bingo

Well, here we are, well into the second month of quarantine. When this first started, it was very hard to imagine that we would still be here, two months later, with no real end in site. I am definitely an introvert and often look forward to my alone time, but we’ve surpassed even my high quota for time alone and time at home. I did fairly well for the first few weeks, but started to feel the weight of it all right about the time that the Gathering of Friends was cancelled; it’s the event that I most look forward to every year, and it’s the first time in 21 years that I wasn’t there, so it was hard to accept and wrap my mind around. However, I have found that gaming has been the key to keeping myself somewhat sane during all of this. Having a game scheduled, whether that’s in person with my husband or online with friends, helps add a much appreciated dose of normalcy and fun. Still, the days seems to be all blending together and I find myself having to be reminded multiple times per day of what day it is.


Snowdonia on Yucata.De

Prior to the pandemic , I was not much of a fan of online boardgaming. Sure, I play a few turn-based games on boiteajeux to keep in touch with a few friends who live around the country and around the word, but it’s more of an occasional, a few minutes here, a few minutes there kind of thing. I never understood the desire to trade physical pieces for a mouse and a screen. I am at a computer all day for work, even when I am not working from home, and love that board games (usually) take me away from an electronic device. I was resistant at the start, but was invited by a friend to join their weekly game group, which had moved online. I wasn’t super excited by the idea at first, but decided to give it a try and I am glad I did. Online boardgaming is never going to replace in-person gaming for me, but it has been far more social and fun than I expected, especially with a discord voice channel to facilitate discussion, socializing and trash-talking.

This was not my first on-line game, nor my first beer while playing an online boardgame. However, it was the first game where I thought about what I should pair, since I knew what I was playing in advance.

I had somehow never heard of Snowdonia before. My friend Josh suggested we play, so I went and looked it up. I thought maybe it was just not memorable and would recognize the game once I saw it, but nope. I have never seen or heard of this game before. I don’t know why, since it turns out to be really fun.

You can read our full review here, from way back in 2013. It’s a historical game in which you are recreating the construction of the Snowdon Mountain Railway in Wales. It’s rugged terrain and the weather is unpredictable, and you have to take all of that into account while trying to build the best railway you can. You generally get two actions per turn; these actions are used to clear rubble, lay track, buy trains, build stations and generally improve the railway. It’s a very tight game that rewards efficiency; you don’t have enough actions to do everything that you want to do, and in my two plays the game ended well before I wanted to. I really enjoyed both of my plays of this game so far, and look forward to giving this one a play with an actual copy one of these days.

While the game and the company was good, the beer was not on the same level. Berkshire Brewing Company’s pale ale looked great when it was poured, but the taste did not live up to the color. Any hop flavor was overwhelmed by an odd sweet flavor that was overwhelming. It paired perfectly to the theme of the game, but it’s not a beer I need to seek out again.

I want to send a shout out to the Suburban Outcast Gamers for welcoming me into their game group over the past few weeks; they are just far enough away to make physical attendance difficult on a weeknight under normal circumstances, but it has been great to hang out with them during this, both the people I already knew and the new friends I have made.


I remember when this first came out in 2015, mostly because I remember thinking “what a terrible name for a game!”. I avoided playing it for a while; the name really turned me off, and I didn’t yet know Alexander Pfister, whose name on a game box now would make it an automatic “must try”. One of my friends, who had been touting what a great game it was, brought it to the table.

I stand by my original statement that it’s a terrible name for a game, but I was wrong to judge it solely on that; it turns out to be a great game. We don’t seem to have ever written a review for it on this site, so here’s a quick overview, although if you’ve played Expedition to Newdale, you’ll recognize the basics here.

This is an engine builder. Players are artisans in medieval Europe, producing goods for the realm of Longsdale. Your goal is to produce the best, highest-quality goods that will get you the most reward. You do this by building cards from your hand; the cards let you produce goods. Cards have relationships with others cards, so you ideally want to build a symbiotic chain of cards that allow you to streamline production and turn your lower-level goods into high quality products.

It’s very easy to learn, but there are a lot of nuances and different strategies that make the game far more interesting and strategic than it first appears.There are also two expansions that add a story/campaign element. We have just started Longsdale in Revolt, although that is not represented here. That adds goals in addition to the usual engine-building, as well as some flavor text to make it feel more thematic.

I paired it with a Night Shift Oh My Quad, a quadruple IPA. I had never had or even heard of a quadruple IPA, but when I saw the name I immediately thought of this pairing and had to pick it up. It was quite tasty, but I think a quad might be a bit too much. It has a good, hoppy, citrus flavor, but it was overwhelmed a bit by the alcohol. It was still delicious, but I prefer it when the actual beer flavor comes through.


Dexterity games are having their moment with me, and I am not quite sure why. I am terrible at them, and I usually get bored a few minutes in. Lately, however, two have caught my attention – Men at Work and this one, Catch the Moon. I can’t quite put my finger on why, although both have more to them than just piling pieces on top of each other, and for some reason, despite my competitive spirit, I mind less when the pieces fall. These are also great games to lure in the non-gaming members of our family and friends, who get nervous when they see cards and a board, but don’t hesitate to try something like this.

I reviewed Catch the Moon here about a month ago; it’s a great little game that works well with a small or large number of players You roll the die and place the ladder on the structure in accordance with that roll. If you fail in anyway the moon cries and you get a teardrop; the person with the most teardrops at the end of the game loses.

Photo courtesy of the Maine Beer Company website, since I neglected to take a good picture.

Pairing a beer with a dexterity game creates a meta-game- where exactly do you put your beer so that the pieces don’t fall into it or knock it over? We have a small side table which gets put into service as extra space when we play a large game, and it serves us well here. It does mean I forgot to take a good picture of this delicious beer, though. It’s a rich, roasty stout that manages to incorporate the coffee flavor as an element of the beer, without overwhelming the delicious stout base. I also appreciate that it is not an imperial stout; the lower ABV (5.6) is a better pairing with games in general.

And now to find a beer that will pair with Maracaibo; suggestions are definitely welcome on that front. Cheers!

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Spicy (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Győri Zoltán Gábor
  • Publisher: HeidelBÄR Games
  • Players: 2 – 6
  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Time: 15-20 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 10

Spicy is a bluffing card game for 2-6 players that feels a little bit like Liar’s Dice with cards.  Released earlier this year, the theme in Spicy is that three big cats, tired of fighting to be top cat, invented a hot spice eating contest.  

Spicy plays quickly, in 15-20 minutes.  It comes with 6 “Spice It Up” cards that offer different ways to play the game, ensuring replayability.  All of the cards have a beautiful foil back, and for a game that consists entirely of cards, I was impressed by the production value.  

My family and I have been enjoying this, playing it about a dozen times in recent weeks.  Spicy is light and innovative enough that I could see it being a SdJ contender this year.

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Dale Yu: Preview of Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs

  • Designer: Kelly North Adams
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes

When I first heard about this game, I had high expectations for it…

Before I get into the rest of the preview, I feel like I should start by saying that THIS IS NOT A TRICK TAKING GAME. Don’t get your hopes up, like I did – you’ll be disappointed. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll be disappointed in the game, it seems like it has a lot going for it. But it is not a “trick-taking card type” game. Unless you take this to mean that it has rectangular cardboard objects with similar backs and differing fronts which are identified by different combinations of colors and ranks. Sure it has cards, the same sort which are used it trick taking games. But they are not used to take tricks. If you are hoping for the “advertised” TT, it will surely fall short of those expectations.

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10 Great Deduction Games (Article by Chris Wray)

Deduction games have long been a part of the hobby, and a prominent one at that.  Classic deduction games include Clue (1949), Scotland Yard (1983), Code 777 (1985), and countless others.  Many of us at The Opinionated Gamers absolutely love deduction games.  The few times I’ve been around a lot of the group — be it at Gulf Games or The Gathering of Friends — a lot of play has centered on clever little puzzles with deduction sheets.

Today’s article is part of our “10 Great” series that features 10 great games in a given subcategory.  I pick a mechanic, theme, publisher, etc.  In this case, I picked a type of game.  We here at the Opinionated Gamers then all vote behind the scenes to create a list of 10 great games that meet the criteria.  We’re aiming for an article a month, and I’d love your suggestions about future lists. 

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Brandon Kempf – Surviving the Purge 22

Over the next few months, instead of going with my Three Games articles, I am going to take a look at my collection and try to discuss why certain titles survived the great purge of 2019. During this process I may take a look at some games that didn’t survive, but only as a measuring stick for what did survive. Since I am silly, like a lot of gamers, I use Ikea Kallax shelves to display the games that we own. This makes it pretty easy to break things down cube by cube, so that’s what we’re going to do, twenty-four cubes, plus a top shelf for games that don’t fit in the cubes, over the course of a few months. I hope you enjoy!

If you are a BoardGameGeek user, you can also follow along on the Geeklist I created.

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My City (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Times Played: 28 (Full 24 Game Campaign, 4 “Eternal” Games)

My City is a legacy game designed by Reiner Knizia.  Released this spring, the game is about placing buildings in a city through generations, watching the community grow from its earliest days through industrialization.  The buildings you construct are represented by polyominoes, those tetris-like shapes we’re all familiar with, so the game has a bit of a puzzle feel.  

The campaign is 24 games, split into 8 chapters of 3 games each.  Depending on your in-game decisions, you’ll be adding new features (generally via stickers) to your city that alters the course of future games.  On the reverse of your board is an “eternal” game that can be replayed anytime. 

My City, designed for 2-4 players, has been receiving significant critical praise for the family-friendly and easy-to-learn gameplay.  My family played through the campaign recently, and we fell in love with My City.

The game is currently released in Germany, and an English-language version is expected this summer.  

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Dale Yu: First Look at The Liberation of Rietburg (A Game in the World of Andor)



The Liberation of Rietburg

  • Designer: Gerhard Hecht
  • Publisher: KOSMOS
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 30-40 minute
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Thames&Kosmos

My online group just finished hacking and judiciously slashing our way through The Last Hope (done over a weekly Google Hangout / Zoom conference), and that fun experience had me wanting more.  I’ll admit that I haven’t been keeping up as close with the new release news as normal with everything going on with the coronavirus.  I was pleasantly surprised to read a blurb about this game from the publisher: “In this stand-alone game set in the fantasy world of Andor, Rietburg Castle has been taken over by evil creatures. Without delay, you — the Heroes of Andor — take on the task of rescuing old King Brandur’s fortress and protecting its remaining inhabitants. But time is of the essence as the dragon Tarok has already set out to destroy the stronghold once and for all. The prophecy foretells that you can only prevent its destruction if you are able to accomplish the four tasks. But which tasks are those? Must you appease the Fire Spirit or kindle the Hadrian Fire? Should you free prisoners from the creatures’ dungeons or submit to the will of the old Skral witch? You are going to have to play to find out”

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Dale Yu: Preview of Dominion Menagerie


Dominion Menagerie

  • Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: ~10 games with cards from the new set, with review copy provided by RGG

Dominion is one of my all time favorite games. Though, I’m biased as I was one of the developers of the base game and worked with the designer and publisher thru Dominion: Prosperity.  Since then, I have had no involvement in the series, but I still remain a great fan of the system and the game. (I have no stake in Dominion Menagerie at all, I’m just a fan boy like everyone else now!)


This newest set is the twelfth expansion to the original game, and there are a number of exciting and interesting ideas injected into the Dominion world with these cards.  This is a “full” expansion – it comes in a full size box and includes 400 cards.  I would like to talk about the three larger themes found in this box.  I will leave the descriptions/previews of the new cards to Donald – as he has already provided a number of preview articles on BGG, and there’s no reason to re-invent the wheel here…

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Dale Yu: Preview of Santa Monica



Santa Monica

  • Designer: Josh Wood
  • Publisher: AEG
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: ~45 minutes

I have visited the Santa Monica pier on a few occasions; from what I remember, there is a ferris wheel, an arcade, a super neat aquarium, lots of street performers, and everyone stops and takes a picture at the iconic Route 66 sign.   It was a pleasant enough way to spend a day enjoying the Californian sunshine.  I honestly don’t remember much else other than the pier, but I’ve been told the rest of the city is beautiful as well.   In this tableau building game, players work to create their own section of the Santa Monica beach trying to score the most points.

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