Spiel des Jahres has rolled around again – my thoughts on the nominees.

The time has rolled around again for the German award for Game of the Year, or “Spiel des Jahres” – a highly regarded award in the industry. I wrote a little about last year’s nominees here, and more of an introduction to the concept / influence of the award, as well. This year I’ve played almost all of the nominees, just missing one in the Kennerspiel category (more advanced). I tried all of them at the Gathering of Friends game convention, so I’ll link to my recaps of them for more of my thoughts.

Main award – Spiel des Jahres

Camel Up When I tried this at the Gathering of Friends back in April, I had fun with it (you can read more of a review here). This is most definitely a family friendly game – the concepts aren’t hard to grasp, and there’s enough randomness with dice and card playing to ensure nobody can sweep to victory with strategy. Unlike something like Libertalia, for instance, I felt like the randomness was still able to be mitigated and you could look at possible outcomes to make educated guesses to make choices. I still feel like this is a little light and the replay value is low enough, that it might not inch past the other nominees.

Splendor: The only game I tried multiple times at GOF (read my review) – I got this to the table again on the weekend and was happy to discover it was still enjoyable after the first handful of plays. This really hits all the sweet spots as far as a perfest SdJ winner (except the theme is fairly thin), and I’d say this will be the front runner to win: it’s simple, variable enough that you can replay it without getting sick of it (similar to 7 wonders, although not asymmetrical), and quick to learn and play. Even I can teach it! But i haven’t won it yet.. and there’s where I think it has a nice appeal for hobby gamers and not just families – you come back for the challenge. The only downfall is the low player interaction.. where the next nominee strides ahead.

Concept: It’s so great to see Concept nominated! (And again, more of my thoughts in this recap).What I love most about this game is how it has injected life and excitement into a party guessing game. I can’t really name another party game with charades/guessing aspects I’d choose to play other than Time’s Up. Well, except now Concept’s come along – the genius fun of trying to explain things/phrases/ideas by combining images will draw me in time and again.  It’s family friendly, and with a reasonably broad appeal outside that market.. but not without its troubles for accessibility due to its wholly visual nature (however that is good for language neutrality..). I look forward to getting a copy of this game – I’m not sure that it’ll win the category, but I hope the exposure it gets at least from the nomination will have an affect.

Advanced award – Kennerspiel des Jahres

Istanbul: This surprised me – after my play at GOF, I wouldn’t have picked it for either category of SdJ, maybe somewhere in between. It’s definitely on the lighter side of strategy. I really enjoyed the unique movement of pieces and how it affected strategy. There was definitely some challenge in working to get resources and onward to gain rewards, so for that it falls into the Kennerspiel camp for sure. I have yet to play this again, so I hesitate to judge, but I don’t know if this will be the top pick (although it would be nice to see it win, for what it’s worth).

ConcordiaNow this is Kennerspiel material. This was the last game that hit the table for me at GOF, and I was fairly over-gamed and exhausted by that point. But I still saw the draw in Concordia. A delicate balance of deck building and hand management, plus ensuring you have the resources and placement around the board to amass a decent amount of points – plus thinking about the bonuses your deck will give you at game’s end – my brain swims! But it was terrific, and a fresh take on strategy for me. I would be surprised if this wasn’t the category’s winner.

Rococo: The only of the nominees in these two categories I haven’t played! Which is daft, considering we now own the game (Adam won it at GOF taking part in the Rococo tournament). It seems very weighty and lengthy, and a little fiddly – not something I would expect from a game with a theme such as it has – working towards putting on a world-class ball during the reign of Louis XV.

I can’t wait to see who wins! It’s awesome having tried almost all of the nominees this time around.

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4 responses to “Spiel des Jahres has rolled around again – my thoughts on the nominees.”

  1. nakedmeeple says :

    I’m not sure I’m entirely qualified to comment on the selection of games, having only played Splendor. Of the Spiel des Jahres nominees, I suspect Splendor will win. Concept seems a little abstract, less of a game and more of an experience or activity. Camel (C)up seems interesting, but more involved.

    Istanbul is definitely on my radar for purchase when AEG releases it in North America some time in the next month. Concordia looks interesting as well, but I’ve heard it’s very dry. Rococo seems a bit too heavy (more moving parts) than the other two… so I’m going with Istanbul for the Kennerspiel.

    I have no knowledge or experience with any of the Kinderspiel titles (surprise surprise!) so I can’t even make an educated guess.

    • nicolehoye says :

      Yes, I never know what’s going on with the Kinderspiel 🙂 Concept is definitely an activity, but there’s a lot of ‘party games’ that fall into that grouping – I suspect it’s not gamey enough in comparison to the other two, as innovative as it might be. I think Splendor is a better game than Camel Up, so I’ll be disappointed if the latter wins.

      I think you’ll really enjoy Istanbul! Concordia was very ‘brown’, as I like to call it, but still interesting.

  2. Daryl Andrews (@darylmandrews) says :

    I have played all the games nominated at the Gathering of Friends too. Actually maybe all of them with you or Adam. LOL.
    Personally I like the SdJ in this order: 1) Camel (C)up, 2) Concept, 3) Splendor
    I like the KSdJ nominations in this order: 1) Rococo, 2) Istanbul, 3) Concordia
    However, I predict Splendor wins SdJ & Istanbul wins the KSdJ
    This is not to say I would be sad about any of these games winning. I like all the nominations. Which I can’t say of years past. I just find Splendor is falling victim to more of a rinse, wash, repeat feeling for me. Concept is too much of a party game and not strategy enough for me to be a winner. Istanbul is a better first time experience so thats why I predict it wins. However, I worry about the replay ability of the game. Concordia, while very good, just takes too long for my taste. Also, with only scoring at the end of the game, not sure I like trying to remember/figure out who is winning. Afraid it has a runaway leader problem.

    • nicolehoye says :

      Yeah, the complexity of Rococo and the length of Concordia definitely take them out of the running in my eyes. I need to try Concordia again to see if the game play is worth the time. It’s tough to know who might come out ahead in Concordia because of the card scoring, that was a big “Oh, right” at the end of the game for me.

      With Concept, I could see it winning for the same reasons Dixit did. But honestly I think Splendor has the broader appeal in its accessibility and simplicity.

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