Lacxox.

Knizia. Spiel des Jahres. Some other thoughts, but only rarely. I'm not that much of a big thinker, you know - but I love games.

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A Few Hours Left before the Winner of Spiel des Jahres is Announced... (updated with results)

Laszlo Molnar
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Let's make it clear in the beginning of the post: I have no clue which game will win this year's Spiel des Jahres award - and unlike in 2017 (Kingdomino, Magic Maze, Quest for El Dorado) or 2009 (Dominion, Fauna, Finca, FITS, Pandemic) when I thought each nominated game would have been great winners, here it's because I... am less amazed.

So, there are three nominated games. I have played two of them. The third one, Werewords looks nice, only feels to be a slightly complex concept for a party game. I don't know. Maybe it's great.

The second one is Just One. It's a party game in the spirit of two Spiel des Jahres party game winners, Dixit (everyone tries to make a suggestion for your word; you try to choose something not very obvious but also not very obscure) and Codenames (a coop word game where you provide word clues with a taboo word). It has some great features like being a party game that anyone can join or leave practically at any time (it is something great at parties!) and it's certainly well-developed and great to lure new players to the hobby; however it's just far from the special greatness of Dixit or Codenames.

And then there is LAMA. You might know I'm a Knizia fan. I do enjoy LAMA. I just don't get the hype and the love it gets. Or maybe I just don't understand why so many other Knizias did not get this popularity before. Yes, I can see non-gamers and kids can play this game and it offers some interesting counter-intuitive tactics for gamers. Yes, I can see how different the game can get with different player counts. However after a dozen plays I still haven't had any really exciting, really memorable plays of it and I still haven't seen real enthusiasm from other players I've played with (I mean, of course it's interesting that it plays different with different player counts but most players will experience the game only once with one specific play count - and will maybe say meh). This is a game that can be an amazing design for what it is but that does not always equal great experience with everyone it seems.


So, do I think the jury was wrong to choose these games? Not really. They are enjoyable (let's say I can imagine Werewords is enjoyable as well). They clearly fit the SdJ criteria. I'm not even sure I can name any games from the past (April to April) year that could be better. I just... think it wasn't a great year for Spiel des Jahres-worthy games. I'm not saying there were no good or even great games released - I just did not see anything that would have been a great candidate for Spiel des Jahres (simple, clear, family-friendly but tricky, interesting and addictive for non-gamers etc.).

So which game do I think will win tomorrow? I have no idea, even if I might be rooting for Just One, just a little bit. Or maybe Werewords - its win would be the only reason why a Hungarian publisher would think it would be worth publishing it in a Hungarian edition.


(Oh, and as for Kennerspiel - I have only played Carpe Diem and found it was a typical autopilot-Feldian well-developed-but-uninteresting JASE with terribly bland graphic design. So maybe it was a bad year for slightly more complex games as well.)


update: Indeed Just One won the award. Kennerspiel went to Wingspan. Congrats to the winners!
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Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:53 pm
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From Noch mal! through That's Pretty Clever to Dizzle - The Klein & Fein Treatment

Laszlo Molnar
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The 'Klein & fein' line by Schmidt Spiele means something like 'small & fine' which does not suggest anything dice related - it seems when the line was introduced the concept was rather different. It is especially visible if you look at the first 4 games of the family from 2017 - Evolution: The Beginning was published under this label, besides three dice games. Of these three, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede's Mistkäfer and Rüdiger Koltze's Raffzahn only had multiplayer modes (and were so different that it was just me who added them to the Klein & Fein family on BGG finally) and only Inka &Markus Brand's Noch mal! was a roll & write game with solo mode included.

Then something happened - Noch mal! proved to be true to its name (Once more!) and its addictive nature made it rather popular (right now there are 6 expansion pads available) while the next game in the line, Wolfgang Warsch's Ganz Schön Clever / That's Pretty Clever - published in 2018 - was one of the three nominated games for Kennerspiel des Jahres. Since then, a sequel (Doppelt so Clever / Twice as Clever), another Warsch pen and pencil roll and write game (Brikks) and now a Ralf zur Linde game (Dizzle) was published of the same kind. (on a side note, I have no idea why Schmidt's Knapp daneben!, a 2018 game that really seems to fit this line, was not published under this label. As I said the - never explained - concept of the line remains somewhat mysterious.)

From gallery of lacxox


***


I like dice rollers (mainly with the Euro approach, making my decisions after rolling and not before), also even as an Eurogamer I love rolling the dice but while I enjoyed many dice games every year, I joined the recent wave of roll and write dice games rather late. Not that I always avoided them. In 2012 I played Zooloretto Würfelspiel (and still play it sometimes - the extra blocks make it even better), Inka & Markus Brand's Saint Malo (which was interesting but still felt like something was missing so I sold it in the end) and Qwixx (which I enjoyed but treated somewhat unfairly because it was an obvious Keltis rip-off). As a result, I also kind of avoided similar-looking games that were, based on their names, trying to capitalize on the success of Qwixx - Qwinto (2015), Qwingo (2015), Qwantum (2018). Later, when Rolling Japan became very popular I ordered a copy... and was once again strongly underwhelmed even though it felt like a game right up my alley (right now the game has a - compared to the initial hype - surprisingly low 6.27 rating, so maybe it wasn't just me). At the same time I did give a few tries to the dice games included in Reiner Knizia's early books so not even Criss Cross (2017) did make me enthusiastic.

So I wasn't actively looking forward to trying new roll and writes.

Although I did not see it first, things started to change last year.

***


The game I learned was Ganz Schön Clever (That's Pretty Clever). Just to show the strength of Spiel des Jahres, I quite possibly would have never given it a try, were it not nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres last year. (Well, I also tried Qwixx for the same reason before.)

From gallery of lacxox


To say I was amazed is understating it. The game is great (as probably most of you who read this already know) - it does feature a fun little interaction but the main interesting part happens on your board: it feels almost like an abstract engine-builder without a real engine to be built. The best part is certainly how for certain achievements - Xes - you get bonus Xes on other parts of the 'board' which might lead to further Xes and this doesn't only offer space for creativity and risk-taking (should I place my free X here for this, or save that for later?) but the chain reactions themselves make the game, give you instant success feel whatever the end result will be. So, in short, the nomination was well-deserved not only because it feels fresh but it is enjoyable to play for everyone. (and unless you play only solo and on an app instead of rolling the real dice and writing Xes, the replayability is also fine.)

From gallery of lacxox


***


Since I was also amazed by the other two nominated Warsch games (The Mind for being revolutionary and eye-opening and Quacks for providing a fresh push your luck take on deck builders), I started to look forward for the designer's further output. And I was more than happy to find Doppelt so Clever (Twice As Clever) in a Hungarian FLGS this March.

The sequel is really good. is more or less what I expected: a bit more complexity, maybe a slightly bit less fun (as it's harder to get chain reactions), maybe a bit more punishing if you have bad rolls, but also with more options you have more possibilities and probably more ways to win; I'd guess it's less 'solvable' than the original (which I don't really think is, especially playing multiplayer - you needed good rolls for specific strategies to work, so if you did not have those you might have lost pursuing that strategy over everything else), even if scoring maximum (156 pts!) with yellow seems to be key.

From gallery of lacxox


So this is really like Ganz Schön Clever with completely different use of the dice (see e.g. Ra vs Priests of Ra, Azul vs Sintra etc.). I'd guess the game got its "doppelt" (double) title somewhat because with each color you get a... double-edged sword? Some twists and painful Knizian decisions that I quite like. Like, with grey you may cross not only the number - in any color - in the grey area but also all the numbers that are lower on other dice and go to the tray, so the more efficient your use of the grey die is, the more dice you put on the tray. Or with yellow you can go for the bonuses - OR, and probably sooner or later you want this, in case you want to go for foxes (probably you should) and the huge yellow scores, you may cross previously used (circled) numbers to go for points. With blue (+white) it's just writing the numbers in a descending order (lower or equal); soon you find out it's not worth waiting for blue 11 or 12 for starters... With green you score the difference of multiplied numbers (the more greens you use the higher the multipliers get). And with pink you simply write your numbers and those will be your score, BUT you get the bonuses only if you wrote appropriately high numbers. Also, the third (new) extra action (besides reroll and +1) where you might re-use a die from the tray for your next rolls is very useful - but at the same time it also means you will often give better possibilities to your opponents to choose from.

It's definitely interesting: even though paths feel less clear, after one play it feels the game is slightly more opaque therefore possibly slightly less fun in the beginning, it's also more challenging and more of a brain-burner: maybe those who (wrongly) thought Ganz Schön Clever should have been nominated for Spiel des Jahres instead of Kennerspiel would have been more pleased to see this one on the KdJ list.

From gallery of lacxox


***


I lost my father a few weeks ago, following an emotially and physically equally extremely exhausting period in my life. I was in an urge to find something that 'switches off' my brain; it was just full of memories and repeatedly replaying every minute of my last few hospital visits.

I usually spend 30 to 60 minutes in silence in my son's room after I put him to bed. He is old enough to go to sleep alone but he prefers having my company there (partly because we moved to a new house a few months ago). Usually I'm reading while he's trying to fall asleep above me in his bunk bed, but in these weeks I just could not focus on what I was reading. However, solo plays of roll and move games proved to be excellent to switch off everything else - they are not completely mindless so I need to use my brain but I could still play them casually without a real brain burn. And rolling the dice is fun.

So I tried further roll and write games of this Schmidt Spiele Klein & Fein series, bought the ones I did not own yet, and I delved deep.

***


So in a retail shop saw Inka & Markus Brand's roll and write Noch mal!, then I did what I rarely do - I checked the ratings on BGG (it was surprisingly good, above 7, I expected lower - and put it in my basket, also the copies of expansion blocks II and III. I started to play that evening. It's a game where you have colored areas on your 'boards', roll color & number dice, choose a combination and, starting from the middle column or next to already written Xes, you put exactly the defined number of Xes to adjoining spaces of the given color. You score mainly for filling columns (more if you are the first to finish a given column) and writing an X on each spaces of a color (once again more if you are the first to do it).

From gallery of lacxox


First impression was somewhat disappointing ('Another typical game by the Brands - it works but it's never that exciting', I thought) but I got addicted soon. I like the relaxed nature of the game, also that it's simple and spatial. Also played it 2- and 3-player and I found out I also quite like it multiplayer. The multiplayer rules don't make it very interactive, even though there is a bit of racing, those are there more to ensure everyone draws their Xes to different spaces; of course when you have several good options it is fun to check which dice would be best for your opponents and take those.

When I went to a FLGS for Brikks (see below) two days later, I also found the Noch mal! Zusatzblockset (block sets IV to VI) there so the game really got a huge variety Finally I downloaded the app thinking I would play the base game and the II and III blocks solo only there. But I found out 'learning a board' might give me too much advantage so I ended up repeatedly playing the only layout I don't own - expansion block I. The game is a nice example of games that don't feel great but their strength lies in their replayability and how addictive they are.

From gallery of lacxox


***


As I liked my Noch mal! experiences I looked around in FLGS websites and found Brikks, this relatively lower-rated Warsch game from the past year (I mean it's rated lower than his trio of 'des Jahres' nominees). Okay, it's no Mind, no Quacks and no Pretty Clever but it's still fine.

From gallery of lacxox


This is a roll and move adaptation of Tetris with limits different than those in Reiner Knizia's FITS - there you could not slide pieces under other ones but you could rotate pieces freely; here you can slide the pieces but rotating costs action points - that you can win (Cleverish style) if you place certain tile types on certain spaces or if you fill multiple rows with a single piece. Also, even if for quite many action points, you can freely choose another piece while you also have bombs (in FITS you were allowed to skip pieces). Here it all goes for points in a few ways - while it's not point saladey the game still has some slight resemblance to the Clever games.

As for the multiplayer play, playing multiplayer once again makes the game slightly easier as the active player always has the possibility of one reroll (once again very little interaction, more in a Noch mal! style, but what you do on your pads is a bit more interesting). I think I can agree the game is not great (not as great as those other Warsch games) but I enjoyed it quite.

From gallery of lacxox


***


Looking for some information I even found the new board for That's Pretty Clever in the forums - it was only published in the app version of the game. Too bad, I would buy it in a 'Zusatzblock' from the publisher but it is not available for sale so I printed my own version. It's not bad, it's mostly a variant for the original game with different layout for bonuses (getting chain reactions might be even easier now), taking some small clues from Doppelt so Clever (like bonuses for reaching the last space of the extra action area or multiplying by a negative number). It's fine for variety.

From gallery of lacxox


***


Finally I bought Ralf zur Linde's 2019 roll and write Dizzle that was published in the same series as the ones below.

From gallery of lacxox


First I didn't enjoy it as much as the others - it mimics the feeling I had with Noch mal!, the roll and write it is closest to in mechanism (having a strong spatial aspect, moving from a few starting spaces and placing your dice - and Xes - next to already placed ones). It felt too random, too fiddly for what it is, and not very original. As for the fiddliness, it's there - unlike in the other games where you choose dice and cross the spaces, here you place your dice on spaces first, then you cross these spaces in the end of each round. Also the rules are fiddlier - there are many kind of special spaces that score you (different gemstones with different values), score you minus points (crap - but you can still avoid scoring minus for them), have an effect on others (bombs - not in solo game: there these just score 2 points), let you reach special places (keys and locks), fly to other areas (rockets) and even spaces that you race to reach (flags, scoring fewer points if you reach them later); also scoring for filling certain rows or columns, also rules for jumps and possible rerolls; also dummy dice rolled playing instead of players in solo mode.

But in the end of the day I started to enjoy the game quite, even solo. I still find it hard to plan when playing solo but my scores started to increase. And it definitely got more interesting with the levels (there are 4 levels included and no two 'boards' have all the special spaces).

From gallery of lacxox


***


I already had a Kingdom Builder feeling with Noch mal! where you have to find out what to go for, how to try to have areas of any color near you as the game has a more or less similar tactical base: in Kingdom Builder you draw a card and need to place 3 settlements (houses) on spaces of the given type (color) next to already placed ones; in Noch mal! the dice are rolled and even if you have slight choices, you need to place the given amount (1 to 5) of Xes on spaces of the given color next to already crossed ones.

In Dizzle this feel is stronger. You still need to place your dice next to already placed ones, but you also have the possibility to start it over elsewhere mid-turn, in case there are no free spaces left next to your current dice, which gives quite an interesting possibility to fill in gaps and place your dice even to three different areas of the board in the same turn. Also, the 4 different levels and the special spaces bring back the Kingdom Builder variety quite a bit.

In the end I found it wouldn't be that hard to make a Kingdom Builder dice game - not that I hope it would really get done

***


So, most of my plays were solo. But I played each game multiplayer as well. If you prefer strong player interaction, these games are not for you. In most of these you are focusing on your own 'boards' and look at others' boards only if you need to make a choice between two options that are equally good (or equally bad) for you - in this case you try to make things slightly harder for your opponents. Otherwise I found multiplayer play is often slightly easier than solo play - in the Clever series you always get the lowest rolls as a passive player when playing solo; in Brikks you don't have the reroll of the active player; when playing Noch Mal! multiplayer you choose from 6 dice as the active player and in Dizzle... Well, maybe not there, but even there solo play means you can't guess which dice your opponents are going to take from the pool before it's your turn again because this decision is made randomly by dice.

It seems to me, both in Noch mal! and the Clever series multiplayer rules are mainly there to ensure players won't copy each other, while in Brikks it is ensured by a different starting piece (just like in FITS); and in Dizzle everyone chooses from a common pool of dice instead of using the same dice. If I need to rank these games from most 'interactive' to least, it might look like this:

Dizzle>>Noch mal! (because of the race to fill columns)>Ganz Schön Clever=Twice as Clever>Brikks.


No, player interaction is not an important feature of these games (maybe save for Dizzle) in terms of decisions - it is more important that they prove rules for having the fun of roll and move games together.

***


So no, most of these games aren't exceptional, especially for gamers, but provided a good diversion, worked as a cure and helped me turn my thoughts away from darker thoughts and feelings, also in coping with grief. Thank you, Schmidt Spiele (&designers!)

From gallery of lacxox


***


Of course, as a result, I want to try further roll-and-write games now. Games like Qwinto, Corinth, Space Worm, Second chance and so on...

...Well, thinking of it, maybe I will take a break before them.
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Sun May 5, 2019 9:31 pm
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My Knizia top 10s. Actually, 8 of them.

Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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So, now everyone is doing Knizia top 10 lists for whatever reason. I wanted to do mine but then I found out I just can't choose only 10 from the hundreds played. So here you are, my top 10s...

Top 10 Knizias
Hard to choose ten, but let's say these are my all time favorites.
d10-1Samurai
d10-2Tigris & Euphrates
d10-3Yellow & Yangtze - need to play it more to know if it goes up or down from here
d10-4Taj Mahal
d10-5Modern Art - haven't played it for ages so I can't be sure
d10-6Ra
d10-7Royal Visit - reaching #6 after bad initial reactions
d10-8Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele - by far my favorite of the family
d10-9Through the Desert
d10-1d10-0Ingenious/Axio


Top 10 Knizias published in the 2010s
d10-1Yellow & Yangtze
d10-2The Quest for El Dorado
d10-3Keltis: Das Orakel - because Neue Wege is 2009
d10-4Qin
d10-5Orongo
d10-6Prosperity
d10-7The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug/The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
d10-8RevoltaaA - one of the very underrated fun little card games.
d10-9Yangtze - a modern Knizia that went largely unnoticed
d10-1d10-0Blue Lagoon

Honorable mention: Amun-Re: The Card Game


My top 10 most played Knizias
d10-1Kangaroo - I have 3 kids. It's my only game with 100+ plays.
d10-2Royal Visit
d10-3Battle Line/Schotten Totten
d10-4Ingenious - would be #1 if I recorded online plays and vs AI
d10-5Circus Flohcati - with the kids
d10-6Dreaming Dragon - with the kids
d10-7Samurai - would be #1 if I also recorded online plays (~200) but no plays vs AI
d10-8Piranhas - with the kids
d10-9Keltis
d10-1d10-0Qin


Top 10 tile-laying Knizias
d10-1Samurai
d10-2Tigris & Euphrates
d10-3Yellow & Yangtze
d10-4Through the Desert
d10-5Ingenious/Axio
d10-6Stephenson's Rocket
d10-7Carcassonne: The Castle
d10-8Qin
d10-9Orongo
d10-1d10-0Take it Higher!

[i]Honorable mentions: Blue Lagoon, BITS, Jäger und Sammler, Indigo, Genesis, Sudoku: Duell der Meister



Top 10 Knizia card games
Focusing mainly on cardgame play (many Knizias have cards even though I wouldn't call them card games; on the other hand there are a few games that feel like card games even if there are a few other components included as well - you can find these here).
d10-1Times Square
d10-2Blue Moon Legends
d10-3Schotten Totten/Battle Line
d10-4Lost Cities
d10-5Ivanhoe
d10-6RevoltaaA
d10-7Circus Flohcati
d10-8Medici: The Card Game
d10-9Lost Cities: Rivals
d10-1d10-0Karate Tomate - surprisingly fun and for 3 to 10 (!) players

Honorable mentions: Razzia!, Keltis: Das Kartenspiel, Tabula Rasa, Scarab Lords, Katzenjammer Blues, Voodoo Prince, Masters Gallery.


Top 10 Knizia auction games
d10-1Taj Mahal
d10-2Modern Art
d10-3Ra
d10-4Amun-Re
d10-5Beowulf: The Legend
d10-6Orongo
d10-7Tower of Babel
d10-8Medici
d10-9Das Letzte Paradies
d10-1d10-0Yangtze

Honorable mentions: Strozzi, Lost Cities: Rivals, Karate Tomate, Medici vs Strozzi, Ivanhoe, Katzenjammer Blues


Top 10 Knizia dice games
d10-1Ra: The Dice Game
d10-2Pickomino (esp. with expansion)
d10-3Heckmeck Barbecue
d10-4Excape
d10-5Los Banditos
d10-6Sushizock im Gockelwok
d10-7Keltis: Das Würfelspiel
d10-8Reiner Knizia's Decathlon
d10-9Age of War (would prefer the Risk Express theme)
d10-1d10-0Mmm... Brains!

Honorable mention: Katego for being so fun despite being so minimal


Top 10 Knizia games for kids
It's hard to define kids' games - Here I mean games that could get (some have actually gotten) a Kinderspiel des Jahres nomination - mostly, games for 3- to 6-year-olds, maybe 7 or 8 if their look aims at children. Also, it matters a lot more what my kids like / liked here than what I like in games. I was having fun with them, after all.
d10-1Whoowasit? - Kinderspiel des Jahres-winning 'board+electronics' game. Its sequel Wer war's? Löst das Rätsel von Schräghausen! is quite similar and almost as good as this one.
d10-2Lord of the Rings - well, the age suggestion is strange here: this almost pure luck roll-and-move, spin-and-fight game has an age: 6 recommendation but my kids enjoyed it between 3 and 6 the most.
d10-3Captain Black - board and electronics combined with a spectacular ship, Great for kids.
d10-4Circus Flohcati
d10-5Drachenhort
d10-6Mmm! - can be quite challenging even for grown-ups
d10-7Ribbit
d10-8Der kleine Sprechdachs
d10-9Einfach Genial Junior - a fine introduction to the Ingenious/Axio system.
d10-1d10-0Kangaroo - well, not that fun for adults but I can't not list our #1 most played game here.

Homorable mentions: Dreaming Dragon, Bibi Blocksberg und das Geheimnis der blauen Eulen! (roll and move with some fun ideas), Bucket Brigade
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Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:46 pm
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Reiner Knizia's 2018

Laszlo Molnar
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I've done this quite a few times in the past, so I'll do it again now that I have played most of the big-box games listed below. Let's see how Knizia's 2018 was!


As usual there were quite a few games released that might not be that interesting for the BGG crowd (well, I'm lying, I'm sure many of you are parents like me or like party games; what's sure is I haven't played these yet and these don't have that many ratings either). So I will only list these here, including very simple kids' and mass-market family games like Cool Catch, Crobéte, Go Go Eskimo, Lovely Home, Photo Safari, Thomas & Friends - Full Steam Ahead!, Uncle Beary's Bedtime; light card games like the Pit/Wheedle rework Manga Kai; party games like Brainwaves: The Astute Goose or Clickbait.

Of course there were quite a few rereleases as well, of which a few might be worth a mention: Dragon Master got its European Pegasus release 14 years after its Korean version was released while a German, admittedly not very thematic and largely forgotten Lord of the Rings game, Der Herr der Ringe - Die Zwei Türme got a rethemed edition in Japan (Seimi in the Super Crazy World).

Also some of his very popular older games got new special editions with their expansions or spin-offs included. This is how Lost Cities, now renamed Lost Cities - Duel, includes the 6th expedition. His Kinderspiel des Jahres winner electronics+board game Whoowasit? got an anniversary edition that includes the card game (a simplified rework of King Arthur: The Card Game which was released just about the same time as his first electronics+board game, King Arthur, can you follow? ). And the new Pickomino edition Heckmeck Deluxe is a bit annoying new release as it doesn't only include all the figures and tiles of the Heckmeck Extrawurm edition but also a wooden apple with its own rules (can we get it at least from the BGG store, please?).

We're not in the territory of new games yet, but new material: some expansions spiced up popular games. The Quest for El Dorado got its promised (first) edition in Heroes & Hexes (suspiciously similar title to Friends & Foes which it takes many design clues from) which adds further variety and further considerations and variants to the game, creating a richer and more strategic experience. And Stephenson's Rocket did not only get a beautiful new edition from Grail Games but also two long-in-development expansion maps for variety (no new rules).

From gallery of lacxox


Grail Games also published the most exciting new game for long-time Knizia fans - also his highest rated game in quite a time: Yellow and Yangtze. The 'sister game' of his (right now, sadly) only BGG top 100 game is an intriguing update. Whether it's better/worse or just different is something time might tell but since Tigris & Euphrates got a huge part of its ratings from users who have played it several times (probably not currently, more like in the beginning of the 2000s or even pre-BGG time) it does not make sense to compare those results with first impressions ratings right now. What's sure it's a unique game that, while keeps many basic ideas of Tigris (2 actions, tile laying, leaders, inner and external conflicts, scoring), is a different and strong game on its own. Most obvious differences are the change from a square to a hex grid, an additional color and special powers to each color (instead of the not completely, but false 'you need reds to win' claim you may say 'you need reds and blacks to win... but greens and blues help too... and you need to get that yellow pagoda!') and the whole external conflict resolution (neutral players contributing, only red soldiers fighting, losing soldiers even on the winning side...). Some might prefer this, some might prefer that, but it's definitely different, cleverly responding to some known criticisms of the original, and different is something very good.

From gallery of lacxox


Meanwhile, Lost Cities did not only get a new edition (just like the board game) but also not one but two new variants in new boxes (so the official number of games in the Lost Cities/Keltis family has grown to 10 or 12 even). Lost Cities: To Go is the adaptation of Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel to the scoring and the 'only ascending' rule of LC. Even though the game works fine, I find it somewhat inferior to both - it loses the elegance of both, also it gets stuck a bit somewhere in the middle ("No hand management... Okay, maybe a hand of two cards..."), not as light as Keltis MBS but also not as couple-friendly as Lost Cities. If anything, it might feel slightly more agressive than any of the other Keltis/Lost Cities titles. On the other hand Lost Cities: Rivals successfully integrates a closed economy Ra-style auction element to the game system. It's surprisingly good fun (the second new Knizia game with a higher than 7 rating here) even if I do miss the (understandably missing) 'minus points' risk factor of starting expeditions.

From gallery of lacxox


The third really well-received Knizia published last year is Blue Lagoon which shows he's really tinkering with his classic tile-laying game ideas now (look out for his possibly biggest game in 2019). This is a strong game and even though actions couldn't be simpler (place one of your markers) it belongs to his more complex ones as players have to juggle 6-7 different - mainly scoring - aims at the same time (somewhat resembling the Ra family this way). As players try to connect areas and collect stuff from certain spots while racing and blocking each other, comparisons to Through the Desert are inevitable. His 2009/2010 game Zombiegeddon/Jäger und Sammler (published in two slightly different (but completely differently themed and looking) versions) is not that well-known in the US (probably because of the ugly look and niche theme) so comparisons are rarely made but as my review said back in the time, it was already strongly based on Through the Desert ideas - while it also added some new ideas that are present in Blue Lagoon as well. Namely, the two-phase game where in the first phase you try to reach and prepare some starting spaces for the second phase is present just like the different kinds of set collection. But Blue Lagoon does not stop here, it also adds some very old Knizia ideas, ones that are all present in his recent rework/release King's Road - majority scoring in 8 different areas combined with scoring for linked areas. The game works fine and is quite a great brain-burner, though the lack of a single new idea does bother me somewhat and I do prefer the more focused design of Through the Desert.

From gallery of lacxox


Kartel (from the same publisher and in the same series as a new re-release of Kariba) is a fun little game based on the old idea of Bunte Runde. The mechanism idea was already reused in Uwe Rosenberg's Patchwork but as Kartel is a somewhat push your luckish game where you shouldn't be sure what you take is good for you, the tile selection is randomised somewhat by a 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4 die that tells you the number of max. moves you can take (instead of a fixed 3 like in Bunte Runde and Patchwork). Now you collect bandits and bribes in different colors, but bribes score only if the boss of the given color is not captured by the end of the game; bandits score if the boss is captured but they score negative if he is not. The game ends after 5 of the 7 bosses are captured so you try to organise things in a way that the (only) bosses that are best for you are captured. And I think it provides an interesting group dynamic - it's good to collect bandits of a color that others would also like to put in jail... This is a nice filler with a functional theme.

From gallery of lacxox


Forbidden City is a (somewhat, but not really) Carcassonne-like tile laying game (which gets better once you find out you should not play it with Carcassonne logic) that also seems more novel in the US than it actually is. It is a fine-tuned update of Mise: Kolonizace published in Central Europe a bit earlier, with all the small changes improving the game, not only the starting tile size or the possibility to score for 2nd place in an area but also the look, which might be less than perfect but is still way better than the ugly colors and small tiles of the original. I doubt it would ever become a BGG gamer favorite but it's a fine game with an interesting twist.

From gallery of lacxox


Sakura might be the only non-kids' board game I have not tried - even though it looks tempting it seems to belong to his family I did not enjoy that much as the rest (like Dragon Parade), also even when I did enjoy games with some of these basic ideas (like RevoltAaa) it was hard to find enthusiastic players for a game that looks too luck-dependent unless you give them enough thought and can (and are willing to) count on others' decisions. Oh, and I almost forgot there's another game I haven't tried: thematic (yes) push your luck hand management game Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection that, as far as I know, was only released as a KS project; hopefully I can acquire a copy somewhere later.

Karate Tomate looks like a game for general toystores (I have actually found my copy in a Müller retail store) but is way trickier than that. You'll find a detailed presentation of the game in the comments, but indeed the ridiculous theme is misleading - it has a kind of mixed Taj Mahal/Beowulf-style dollar auction for points and/or extra cards and, uhm, knifes - as thanks to a High Societyish endgame condition the player with the fewest knifes is out of the game in the end. Card drawing is reminiscent of Blue Moon City to lower luck factor. Add that a player can decide to announce the end of the game when a certain condition (at least 12 points) is met (like in, say, Circus Flohcati), also that auctions don't always last as long as you want them to and what you get a simple but exciting little card game full of interesting decisions but with a race feel... It needs further exploration but right now it seems it's really underrated on the 'geek.

From gallery of lacxox


And as an extra, there was Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen which is a special game that will probably never be rated high on BGG while it is really good in the special category it creates for itself. Reiner Knizia has already published more than a dozen solitaire puzzle games (with 50+ puzzles included in the game boxes) of which many of the most recent ones belong to the Brains family published by Pegasus. Each of them are practically tile-laying games (especially three of them; the exception is tile-laying more like in a Through the Desert sense) on 50 different puzzle boards. And two of them are mainly connection games done with a few Carcassonne-like tiles and roads. In Burgen & Drachen the puzzle-solving is made multiplayer in an interesting, 3-level way: your aim is connecting your hero with all the castles placed on the board, but as soon as you won a level (having solved the puzzle faster than others) you get an extra task: unlike others, you have to defeat one of the two dragons (connecting to them) as well next time, and if you manage to do that you still have to really solve a puzzle by defeating both dragons (which, I believe, has only one solution with the tiles given, unlike previous levels) to win. It makes a nice simultaneous puzzle-solving experience with time pressure but often different aims. Unless you master the set it will probably also mean that everyone gets their first point before a player would get their second point and only when everyone has defeated one dragon do players turn to the real puzzle-solving, trying to defeat both dragons and find the one perfect solution but never mind, the game is still fun for those who like puzzle-solving (like, fans of the series) and still has a feel of shared experience.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
From gallery of lacxox

image in a spoiler box as it shows one of the solutions



Overall I think it was a great year for Knizia fans with many good and great new titles published. But does the 'Reinerssance' continue in 2019? We'll see but I am waiting for this year's crop. Working on the ideas of his most popular tile-laying games continues, not only with the special geometry of Axio Rota (a new member of the Ingenious/Axio family) but also with Babylonia which, based on the cover image (taken right from the screens of the same publisher's edition of Tigris & Euphrates) and the very little information we have, seems to be a mix of his once so-called 'tile-laying trilogy' which consists of Tigris & Euphrates, Samurai and Through the Desert. zombie Also just like in case of most successful Ravensburger-Knizia cooperations (see e.g. FITS/BITS or Whoowasit?), a spin-off to Quest for El Dorado arrives (after the expansion), titled The Quest for El Dorado: The Golden Temples, in which, as it was expected ever since the development of a spin-off was announced, your characters explore the City of Gold. What makes it even more exciting is the possibility to mix the two games. There will be another puzzle-like tile laying game (Chartae), an interesting-looking jump back on the roll and write genre (Space Worm, based on the old Snake videogame), also some titles for the general toystores like mau mau!! Das Brettspiel (can you imagine a board game version of UNO?) and LAMA which is said to be rather fun even if it's really light. Also a game called Stations (one has to wonder if it has anything to do with the 2016 Polish Knizia game Kolej na Kolej). And, of course, we can expect further games from one of the most prolific game designers out there (maybe a second expansion to Quest for El Dorado? An actual released version of Invasion of the Garden Gnomes? Maybe a new linear adventure? Or maybe something new from Grail Games if they succeed overcoming the problems they faced in the end of last year?). Time will tell, but I sure want to be there.
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:10 pm
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A Few Last Looks at 2017, Including Polls! Knizia! Awards!

Laszlo Molnar
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So, let's start with something personal - my Published in 2017: Best and Worst games I've played and what remains to be tried. Opinions & suggestions are welcome! list is up at last. Thinking of it, if you click the link you won't read the rest of this blog post now (or if you read the blog post you won't return to this link) so do either open it in a new tab or... just click the link in the end of this blog post.
As a result of some personal (family etc.) issues the list was posted even later than ever. It can't go on like this forever so I just don't know what I can do in the future. Right now I'm hoping I can do it faster next year, but if I can't then possibly I won't do it at all. Finding enough time, energy (having 3 kids), occasion to play at least 50 new games released in a year has never been so hard before, even though there are more and more games published every year. So in the end I just didn't focus on the games I really wanted to play - I just said I want to try anything published in 2017 that anyone has...
Also, as expensive games, kickstarter and legacy games are getting more and more popular (while I can try less and less of these right now) I'm starting to feel these lists start to get more and more out of touch with general opinion...

***


One of the extra reasons why I could not go to gaming clubs enough to learn new games was taking part in the Hungarian Board Game Awards jury. This is an award for board games published in Hungarian with largely Spiel des Jahres-like aims (awarding light family gateways that can make the hobby more popular in Hungary, a country where the hobby is a lot younger than e.g. in Germany).
I did the same two years ago and then we had the problem of not too many good games (fitting the award AND really good) published. This time it was the contrary, having many popular and award-winning or nominated games published in Hungarian in 2017. We made a shortlist of 20ish games of which a few proved to be not good enough and a few others had translation problems (Which is a real problem if players can't play the game (at all or correctly) reading the rulebooks, but still we had a large number of games that were practically all quite good for the award (and could have even won two years ago). 4 games got the nomination and there was one winner - a surprise winner as it was practically the most unknown one, certainly not the one anyone would have guessed beforehand: Avenue, a surprisingly good roll-and-write game without dice (to even out luck, you have an even distribution of 6 different kinds of cards instead of rolling the die). A Hungarian game (Sakura) got a special award for being... a good Hungarian game and the Codenames family got another special award for being as great as it is (somewhat compensating for the scandalous decision of Codenames not being even nominated last year - this year Codenames: Pictures was on the shortlist but a Hungarian edition of Codenames: Duet was also already published in the beginning of 2018).
The results were surprising because... Well, there were so many great games fitting the award in the list! Many of these were loved by some jury members while others had (understandable) objections. But still, I'm curious. Given how unknown Avenue is, I ask you even without knowing the Hungarian market (just for fun) : which game should have won the award (if not Avenue)? Which games should have been nominated?

Poll
Even I would have chosen better games for the 'Hungarian SdJ'
Which game should have won instead of the largely unknown one?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Between Two Cities
12.8% 6
Cottage Garden
10.6% 5
Kingdomino
76.6% 36
Voters 47
Which games should have been nominated instead of the ones above? Please select max. 3.
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Century - Spice Road
21.2% 11
Dream Home
15.4% 8
Forbidden Desert
26.9% 14
Forbidden Island
19.2% 10
Magic Maze
23.1% 12
Mmm!
3.8% 2
Sheriff of Nottingham
9.6% 5
Sushi Go!
44.2% 23
Timebomb (2016)
3.8% 2
I think the selection above is just perfect.
19.2% 10
Voters 52
This poll is now closed.   55 answers
Poll created by lacxox
Closes: Sun Sep 30, 2018 6:00 am


***


Oh, and another thing I didn't have time for: a Knizia retrospective. I did it in the previous years so I won't skip it now.

Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game: Voodoo Prince
Board Game: Schollen Rollen
Board Game: Gold Armada
Board Game: Criss Cross


Obviously the most interesting stuff is Quest for El Dorado. Ever since FITS in 2009 (when there were still 5 nominations), this is the first time a game by Dr. Reiner Knizia gets a Spiel des Jahres nomination (one of the three) and deservedly so. Somehow it feels like after a few years that really wasn't that interesting for hardcore gamers, Knizia finds a new way to connect to gamers. The Quest for El Dorado is his first deck building game, developed in a very Knizian way. It is a success so much that a spin-off and an expansion is already on its way.

Another completely new design is his Voodoo Prince card game, a really interesting design and a spin on classic trick-taking card games. The idea that when you quit (taking a given number of tricks) you score as many points as the number of tricks your opponents have already taken, but being last means you just score as many points as the number of tricks you have taken is just great. I suggest giving it a try if you like trick-taking games at all.

Board Game: Through the Desert
Board Game: Axio
Board Game: Ingenious Extreme
Board Game: King's Road
Board Game: Amun-Re: The Card Game


Then, besides some kids' games and very German (e.g. language-dependent) games, there are the usual batch of light dice games. Schollen Rollen seems to be like a very usual fare for him with the exception that press your luck comes from the possibility of doubling, quarupling or even octupling the points (fish) you can collect. Gold Armada probably belongs to his other family of dice games where you try to match a certain set of symbols on the game boards, but with the idea that scoring coings make collecting further coins harder (but more rewarding). And Criss Cross is a roll and write game... that combines his Sono/Dragon Master idea with his Take it Easy!-like approach (everyone places the same symbols on their own board).

Finally, reimagining old favorites in new form is back. Through the Desert didn't simply get a new look - it also got a new board with new rules (river). Axio and Ingenious Extreme both play with the Ingenious idea, changing the shapes (from hexes to squares and octogonals) with different results - the latter becomes more luck-dependent (but feels extreme indeed) while the former one introduces a new element, pyramids which make it a really interesting game. King's Road is another rework of Imperium from Neue Spiele im Alten Rom, in a form that is probably better than either predecessors - it's not just a pleasure to look at but it might be the first time it really feels like a good standalone game. And Amun-Re: The Card Game is not only a successful adaptation and simplified version of the 15-year-old classic, but it also has some new ideas - mainly by incorporating elements of Ra to the game (just like Ra was incorporated in the idea of Amon-Ra thousands of years ago).

All in all, I think it was a good year for Knizia fans and 2018 is shaping to be fine as well with original designs like Blue Lagoon or Kartel, a fine-tuned rework of a quite unknown game (Forbidden City) a sequel (Yellow & Yangtze), two new versions of Lost Cities, new maps for Stephenson's Rocket, an expansion for El Dorado and so on...

***


Okay, now it's time for our sponsor once again. Head over to this geeklist, comment and add items. Thank you! Published in 2017: Best and Worst games I've played and what remains to be tried. Opinions & suggestions are welcome!
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Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:52 am
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Short speculations and opinion on Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres, having played 5 of the 6 games

Laszlo Molnar
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I have played all but one of the six Spiel des Jahres- and Kennerspiel des Jahres-nominated games this year. As usual, the jury did a good job; when the nominations were announced I only knew 3 of the 6 but I really hoped each one of those would be nominated. So which games are going to win on next Monday?


Spiel des Jahres

The Mind

Pro:
It's a novel, never-before-seen experience. It's an idea that should not be working but it does work. It works great, can be an eye-opener, and it is really extremely satisfying to be successful in each round.

Con: It works great... in most of the cases. It also seems some loathe the experience. Also, it's a small-box card game with easily replaceable elements (many play it using 6 nimmt! cards). But that didn't stop Liar's Dice or Hanabi win, so maybe that's not that big of a problem. Also I just don't know about long-term replayability: while the experience is great and novel, does it remain great if you keep playing with the same people (e.g. your family) after a year as well? Time will tell.


Azul

Pro:
It's beautiful, not only beautiful, but it's even a great feeling to touch those stones or hear them knock each other. It's clever, it's interactive. It also gives you some rewards at the end of each round and you do create something nice during the gameplay (it's an ultimately important feature of about half of the SdJ winners).

Con: It's still not that novel. Also it can turn a bit cutthroat with some players losing lots of points in some cases, which can be too much for families.


Luxor

Pro:
It's got some theme while the other two really feel like abstracts. Families like theme. Also even though it's not a roll and move, the 'play a card and move' gameplay still might feel more comfortable for families than the other two.

Con: It's just... very good, not great as the others. It's even fiddly compared to those, and might be very-very slightly rules heavy for the award.

Board Game: The Mind
Board Game: Azul
Board Game: Luxor


Right now I'd say there is a 60% chance The Mind wins and 40% chance for Azul (so, significant chances for both) but wouldn't really think Luxor has any chance even if it's a good family game and I won't be sad (but will be surprised) if it wins.




Kennerspiel des Jahres

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

This is the game I haven't played yet. Which is a pity, as looking at it (colorful board and pieces), reading reviews (interesting and fun, family friendly) it seems to be the best fit for the award (probably winning?). However it's hard to tell without playing. Still I will list pros and cons for the other two games.


Heaven & Ale


Pro:
I love this game. It's clever, tense, somewhat brain-burning, also it's complex but not with baroque complexity, more like a well-built, beautiful complex structure where everything is important. I know the theme feels somewhat pasted on but it looks good and does give me the feeling of the theme. Also upon replays, when players become more and more familiar with the rules and tactics it becomes even better, and in the end it feels to have an oldschool Euro quality to it even with the "newschool" complexity. Also even though the scoring sounds rather convoluted in the beginning, it does make sense and is rather interesting.

Con: It's heavier than most KdJ winners. Is it too heavy for the award? I just don't know - usually the 'too heavy but great' games get a recommendation, not a nomination. still I think that's why it won't win (although I'd love to see this one win). (Also, if The Mind wins and not this one, then a newcomer takes both awards home? That would be outrageous. ). Also the difference of activating and triggering monks seems to have caused some confusion amongst many gamers - which is strange, considering how clearly it is always referred to at the right places in the rulebook - but even if on every second image of Tigris & Euphrates I can see the 'treasures in the corner' rule is forgotten, I won't say it's not written clearly in the rulebook.


Ganz Schön Clever

Pro:
Wow. Who thought a roll and write dice game can be so good? I mean, yes, there way Roll Through the Ages, which was also fine (and nominated for the award) but for a themeless dice roller, there is a surprising amount of consideration and combination included here. In the end it just gets extremely addictive even if you play solo. Also it's fun in its gamery way, also exciting... and maybe even novel in some ideas.

Con: I'm not sure I can name any. It has no theme, okay, that's one.

Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Board Game: Heaven & Ale
Board Game: That's Pretty Clever


Soo... Not having played each of the three I leave this one open, although if reviews are to be believed, possibly Quacksalber should win... But I really don't know. We'll see it on Monday!
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Fri Jul 20, 2018 3:49 pm
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Retrospective: 2016 and Knizia

Laszlo Molnar
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When I wrote my yearly look-back list (not that hidden advertisement: it's here - Published in 2016: Best and Worst games I've played and what remains to be tried. Opinions&suggestions are welcome!) I found out once again I forgot to write my yearly look back at Knizia's work.

(Previously:
2011 – Reiner Knizia’s weakest year for board games since… when exactly?
2012 – Reiner Knizia and his variations on mass market-friendly tile laying
2013 - Reiner Knizia's Eventful Year
2014 Retrospective #3 - The Last One, Including a Few Rereleases and Bingo, a.k.a. Knizia's 2014
A Late, Last Look Back to... 2015 (??In August??!!). And Knizia.)


Of course nowadays it's getting harder the more mainstream and kid-friendly his designs become. Last year might have been the first year when there was nothing interesting for gamers at all, and I wrote
Quote:
Knizias of 2015 largely lacked innovation but still could work fine with family and kids (but not with gamers, ultimately).
What about this year? We'll have a look at it.

Board Game: Khan of Khans
There were a bunch of rethemed reprints (sometimes slightly reworked, often by the publisher) of older Knizias to newer, 'hotter' themes like the sci-fi themed Planet Rush (a Tower of Babel update), POW! (no changes in the rules or the tile distribution, so I'm still not sure why this superhero-themed version of Sushi Bar got a new entry in the database; I've submitted merge requests ages ago), Fruit Spy (at least it was merged after some time - this fruit/garden retheme is the same game as the pirate-themed Dead Man's Treasure). Also Khan of Khans (only available in a PnP version in 2016) reimplements Kajko i Kokosz: Przygody Wojów from the previous year, and I'm still not sure if there is anything really different (besides theme) between the dungeon-themed Tajemnicze podziemia and Cucina Curiosa from the previous year (both Take it Easy!-like multiplayer solitaire labyrinth games based on one of the first Knizia phone app games).

Board Game: Mise: Kolonizace
If we're at strange-sounding Polish titles, there were three more medium-box Knizias besides the labyrinth one published with a "Dr. Reiner Knizia" logo in Poland. Of these, Mise: Kolonizace is a tile-laying game that is not that special, still not bad - except from the artwork, theme and component quality which unfortunately bring it down. There were two more kid-friendly games also released there, Zające na łące being a very typical kid-friendly Knizia race game where players control two hares and they get points not only for them but also the carrots these collect on their way - no new idea here; even if it's card-driven it's actually very similar even to another dice game published in 2016, Pędzące Ślimaki, what's more, even Hurjan hauska autokilpa, 2016 is very similar). And Kolej na Kolej is a dice game where you create trains with locomotives, boxcars and passenger cars with your rolls; I'm actually curious for this one but have not had the energy to try to google translate the rules of my copy yet.

Of course there were quite a few other Knizia kids' games out there (I even own one, Star Wars: Allianz der Rebellen which is a fine - simpler, but still tricky - twist on his It's Mine!/SWAT! idea), but for a large part of the year it seemed like nothing has changed and Knizia is stuck in the world of mainstream and unoriginal kids' games. On the other hand it should be noted that Knizia slowly starts using the power of Kickstarter, as Planet Rush, Khan of Khans and (the surprisingly well-received) Medici: The Card Game (edit: postponed to 2017) each were crowdfounded games. If this is the way he can publish interesting games in the future, just do it!

Board Game: Wiener Walzer
Still, the saving grace arrived in the autumn, when out of nowhere, two big(gish) box original Knizias were published by Piatnik. Quite surprisingly, I must say, as after Neue Spiele im Alten Rom in 1994, Piatnik used to be the original publisher of only the least innovative, most mainstream Knizias for decades. But these new games, while still mostly featuring mechanism elements already used by Knizia in his three-decade-long designer history, are different: they are novel mixes of his ideas (even with some small new ideas added). One of them is Wiener Walzer. And although the main mechanism is a variant on his quarter-century-old "surrounding scoring items for majority" tile-laying mechanism, it seems to have been developed on the theme and not vice versa.
Theme is a ball in Wien, in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy where players represent different nations or families, everyone trying to dance with someone valuable from the opposite sex. So when a person tile is surrounded, it dances with the highest-numbered tile of the opposite sex next to it; player(s) involved score their sum total and these tiles get turned face down. This tile-laying mechanism is combined with a tile-collection mechanism (you get the food, champagne or cigar token that was on the space where you put your tile) with the features scored in sets in the end (but just like in Ilium, there can be more items of a type on one token). So whenever you place a tile you try to find the best position for dancing AND also to collect the largest number of full sets. And with the variant included it's even spiced up with some randomness and additional tactical possibilities in the form of finely themed action cards that you draw and execute when you place tiles with the value of 0 (there are two of these in each player's deck).

From gallery of lacxox


Board Game: Yangtze
The other one is Yangtze. It feels like a game somewhere along the lines of Merchants of Amsterdam (even with a hint of Ra). While it does not have the Dutch auction, it does have a nowadays often-used mechanism that I'm not sure I have ever seen in any Knizias: a price track for cards (here: ware tokens) that is always refilled from the side so wares keep getting cheaper and cheaper until they are bought (hey, it's still a bit like Dutch auction, isn't it?). On your turn you can sell sets of wares, buy a token from this row, and then draw a replacement. The token you draw might be a ware token (53 tokens are like this in the bag); or a province token (20 of them) which is auctioned off, to be scored in various ways in the end of the game; or an emperor (of the 12) that is like an event card (Merchants of Amsterdam style), giving you different benefits or you need to pay taxes. Also you have one-time use action cards at hand. The game ends when the last emperor is drawn, and there are different scoring options for the different tokens collected (somewhat Ra style).

From gallery of lacxox


The game is full of tension as the money you have is rather limited, so you often need to sell sets on a not-so-good price to be prepared for auctions. Also (is it an influence by the common Wallace/Knizia playtester?) you have three cards that give you kind of 'credits' (well, you don't need to pay these back but if you still have these in hand at the game end, they score you 30 points=money) which, at some points of the game, you may feel like you want to use, especially as one emperor lets you buy one of these back (and there is even another emperor that lets you repeat an already played emperor's action)... and so on, it's a well-developed and interesting game.



These two games gave back hope that Knizia is still ready to give interesting games to gamers as well, not only the best-selling markets.

So what is coming? Knizia 2017 is probably more interesting for gamers than the previous years, partly because his golden period is getting 20 years old and as a side effect of re-published old classics, he's once again tinkering with them. So after Medici: The Card Game (which I can already say I like) Amun Re: The Card Game arrives (I wonder what it can be like - after all, Amun Re is not that strongly map-based), also the Through the Desert reprint arrives with some rule variants and a double-sided map. Ingenious gets renamed and a new game - AXIO - arrives in the family. And of course we already have The Quest for El Dorado, the game where Knizia uses deck-building for the first time (and possibly not the last time) resulting in a well-deserved Spiel des Jahres nomination (which has not happened since 2009, even if he had a few recommended games both for SdJ - 3 - and Kinderspiel des Jahres - 2 recommended, 1 nominated - since). Also, maybe Invasion of the Garden Gnomes will be published at last, after spending many years unreleased. And I guess some autumn tiles will be announced only later...
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Wed Aug 2, 2017 12:58 pm
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And the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres goes to... (updated with SdJ winners)

Laszlo Molnar
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Kennerspiel des Jahres (Game of the year for more experienced players) goes to:

Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb

EXIT: The Game that was maybe the most 'trending' one of the nominees, one of a few escape room to board game adaptations that have appeared on markets last year; according to the jury it might be the best one (I mean, more) of them. Replayability is zero (rather strange, given it is an important issue for the jury), but the experience is unique and the jury tends to award innovative games. Congrats to Inka and Markus Brandt, winners and nominees multiple times in different Spiel des Jahres categories!

The other two nominees were:
Terraforming Mars is the clear gamer favorite of last year, a game in the BGG all time top 10, a strongly card-driven construction/terraforming game with lots of possibilities.
Raiders of the North Sea is a kickstarted worker placement game that feels fresh as despite being a quite simple worker placement, still feels strongly thematic.




Spiel des Jahres (Game of the year) goes to:
Kingdomino By Bruno Cathala (on the left) that uses a known mechanism (dominoes), it's colorful and beginner-friendly; from the beginning many claimed it seemed to be the most probable winner. Its follow-up Queendomino is already on the way. Congrats to Bruno Cathala whose better games just get neglected by the jury (for Kennerspiel) - while this game might be my least favorite of the three I do like it and it's really just what the award is about: a beginner-friendly gateway game. (Also it's the only one I knew would be at least recommended by the jury right after my first play, way before the nominations were out.)
Board Game: Kingdomino


The other two nominees were:
Magic Maze by newcomer designer Kasper Lapp is like advanced Escape: The Curse of the Temple. It is definitely the most fun game of the bunch. Also it's cooperative - until now, no game but Hanabi won 'the' Spiel des Jahres award (some other coops won special awards, Kenner- or Kinderspiel though). Also it is the one that uses a mechanism for movement that might be called the most innovative idea in the bunch. Its expansion is also already on the way.

The Quest for El Dorado by Reiner Knizia is the least beginner-friendly, still not that complex, also probably the most rewarding and long-lasting game (deck-building on a map) of the three. Also colorful and exciting from beginning to end. Good to see Knizia back in form (in regards tö more gamer-friendly games).

My related blog post is here.
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Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:56 am
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So which game is going to win the Spiel des Jahres? Thoughts after playing all the nominees

Laszlo Molnar
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Okay, so in the beginning of this week it took me by surprise to learn the Spiel des Jahres nominees were announced. As I have played each of the three nominees by now (altogether 20 times, even though that includes only one play of Magic Maze) I try to look at which game has the best chance to win.


Kingdomino

Building landscape player tableaus using domino rules, player order tinkering and scoring it with multiplier scoring by Bruno Cathala.
Board Game: Kingdomino


Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 This is the easiest, lightest, simplest game of the bunch (yet it still offers quite a good content in such a small package).
d10-2 It uses a mechanism (dominoes) known by non-gamers which always helps beginners learning games.
d10-3 I think this is the most attractive-looking one with lots of fine details in the artwork (there is a lot to discover for kids and geeks alike).
d10-4 While the designer's name should not be a factor, it might still have an effect on the decision: despite many great and popular games, Bruno Cathala has never won a Spiel des Jahres before (except from a special award for a co-design more than a decade ago).

Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 Nothing extremely special or novel.
d10-2 While it can be replayed as soon as the game ends, it feels like it lacks the depth to be replayed really lots of times, for years to come. You might argue with this; yes, I think I'll play it more than 30 times while I own it, but that's because it's an easy filler that can be played with 15 seconds set-up time, also I can play it with my kids, and not because I really want to play it so often (yes, this is my first dime of the bunch).
d10-3 It has the smallest box of the three which is probably not an important factor (especially since Hanabi won) but still might matter a bit.
d10-4 And an even weaker con is that I don't feel like this one really needs (or could have) interesting expansions.


Wettlauf nach El Dorado

Dominion-like deck building serves a racing game on different terrain types by Reiner Knizia. See my review here.
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado


Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 Depth and content: Of the three, this game feels the least 'shallow', it might be the most rewarding and as W. Eric Martin notes in his love letter to the game, it feels the most likely that I'm going to play it several times in the years to come, not only in the months after I buy it. Call it a 'classic' feel.
d10-2 Even though this is the most complex game of the bunch, it can be learned gradually - for example the short and simple board suggested for first play can be won without strong deck-building (and especially discarding) and you can learn things (not rules - more like tactics and nuances) by going through the pre-set boards. In this way it provides a more family-friendly introduction to deck-building than Dominion (the game that was one of the main reasons why Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres were split in the next year).
d10-3 It also has an attractive look (none of the component problems of the previous - also very good - Knizia-Ravensburger game, Orongo) and this is the only real "big box game" (box size of Colt Express, Camel Up, Kingdom Builder, Qwirkle, Dominion, Keltis, Zooloretto, Niagara, Ticket To Ride, Villa Palletti, Catan... ) in the bunch.
d10-4 Reiner Knizia's name might help slightly as well - since his win for Keltis a decade ago, he's shifted focus to easy family games, kids' and solitaire games, so one might think it could give some incentive to the old master to make more games like this again...
d10-5 A really good replayability: by the time you play the 7 maps included in the rulebook you can learn how the possiblity to combine the maps as you like (as heavy/simple, as short/long etc.), also to play with or without cave tiles, provides a great replayability to the game.
d10-6 It has the most informative rulebook with a clear layout. Yes, it is important in case of Spiel des Jahres.
d10-7 I think this game could get the most interesting expansions.

Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 No real novel mechanism (although you might call the market a great design idea) - racing on hexa-boards was awarded two decades ago (Mississippi Queen), deck-building won the award a decade ago (Dominion).
d10-2 This is the most complex, most thinky game that needs the most planning, so in this aspect this is the least beginner-friendly one.
d10-3 Also it's the longest one (still not very long).
d10-4 Beginners will surely find the game below a lot more fun.


Magic Maze

Advanced Escape: The Curse of the Temple without dice but with each player being able to move the pawns in one direction only. Cooperation is crucial!
External image


Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 Just like El Dorado, Magic Maze also can be learned gradually with scenarios adding more and more ruels, but this game isn't even really complex.
d10-2 In other words it is light and can be replayed fast (also, can be replayed many times because of the many scenarios).
d10-3 It's also cooperative which means winning can be fun for everyone. (Interestingly, cooperative games won many special awards, also Kenner- and Kinderspiel, but Spiel des Jahres only once - Hanabi).
d10-4 Of the three games this one has the most novel and most unusual mechanism.
d10-5 It is also the most fun to play until it lasts.
d10-6 Expansions can be added easily (just take clues from Escape).


Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 Probably I shouldn't say it after one play only, but while replayability is good, long-time replayability might not be as good here (I'm not sure you want to play it many times after winning all the scenarios, many of which really don't even seem to be that different). It might or might not be a problem; as the SdJ jury usually replays the games many times, they will know.
d10-2 The look is okay, but the other two games are more eye-pleasing, more attractive.
d10-3 If you don't know Escape, this game offers no familiar mechanism ideas for you (which might be a problem for beginners) while if you know Escape, it already won't feel so novel (I still love that direction-tinkering idea!).
d10-4 Unknown (beginner) designer: there have been first-timer Spiel des Jahres-winners before so it's not unprecedented, still might be a factor somehow.
d10-5 Slightly fiddly/messy rulebook: it is usable, but the other two are better-structured, more clear. Also the rules and the set-up are quite different with any player numbers.



So...?

Well, looking at the points above by the numbers it might appear like I suggest El Dorado should win but the factors of the decision have different importance. (Maybe some aren't important at all.) What's more, light, easy-to-learn rules, also innovation, are among the most important ones - and El Dorado might be the weakest entry in these aspects. So, as a result of this,

HAVE NO IDEA WHICH GAME IS GOING TO WIN.

A lot will depend on what the actual jury finds the most important this year. It hasn't happened since 2009 (when Fauna, FITS, Finca, Pandemic and Dominion were nominated) that I had no idea. I think it all depends on personal (?) preferences this year. And I don't find that to be a problem - what's more, it means I think for the first time since 2009 all the nominees are good choices for the award, not only for the nomination. So whichever wins, I'll be happy and satisfied with the results.
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Fri May 26, 2017 9:38 am
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Spiel des Jahres (also Kenner- and Kinderspiel des Jahres) nominees announced

Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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Damn. I didn't know the list of Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees was coming so fast. So I could not make my predictions, even though (I know it's easy to say now) I would have guessed two right.


Spiel des Jahres

Board Game: Kingdomino
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game: Magic Maze


I would have definitely voted for Kingdomino being a nominee. It's got the Spiel des Jahres miracle quality - rule explanation takes 3 minutes (if you're dealing with beginners) and you can already play; it's based on some known mechanism but is still new, it's colorful and family-friendly.

I also guessed The Quest for El Dorado (from Reiner Knizia who hadn't been nominated since (2009's FITS) would make it; I just wasn't sure about the category. The game might be slightly too complex for the simple SdJ award and a bit too simple for the Kennerspiel (which might stop it from winning; I'm still rooting for this one now). (See my review here.)

And as usual, I don't know anything about the third nominee (there is always one like this), but I hope I can try Magic Maze before the winners are announced.

As for the recommendations list, I only know Fabled Fruit which is fun and simple while still special with this kind-of-but-not-really legacy concept; a good choice.


Kennerspiel des Jahres

Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab
Board Game: Raiders of the North Sea
Board Game: Terraforming Mars


As last year's novelty was a good number of escape room board games I guessed one of them could get nominated but I haven't played any of them so could not guess which one. It is EXIT: Das Spiel (which seems to be a collection of a few). Also right now it seems unlikely that any of these would win but who knows...

Raiders of the North Sea, a part of a Viking-themed trilogy originally published via Kickstarter shows how Kickstarter is getting stronger, and while until now I didn't feel like I really want to try this trilogy, I think it has changed my mind now.

And of course there is Terraforming Mars, the current hot game, already ranked 8th at BGG so it should not come as a surprise; I hope I can try it this week or the next one...


On the recommended list there is of course Great Western Trail, but what surprises me is The Grizzled which is a fine little game but is, I think, easier to explain than Wettlauf nach El Dorado. (And checking the - not that trustworthy - BGGweight ratings it seems The Grizzled is 1.9 while Wettlauf nach El Dorado is 2.17...). Is it only because of the war theme? I'd guess so.


Kinderspiel des Jahres

Board Game: Captain Silver
Board Game: The Mysterious Forest
Board Game: ICECOOL


While I haven't played any of these (Captain Silver, The Mysterious Forest, Ice Cool), it comes as a little surprise that each of the three nominees are recommended for age 6+ so none of them are for the really little ones. It can be a result of gamers choosing the Kinderspiel des Jahres but I hope it's only because this year these games were the best, most innovative, most fun ones for kids.

Congrats to the nominees, I'm looking forward to learning some of them - and see who wins!
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Mon May 22, 2017 10:41 am
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