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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
20 Jul 2018
- [+] Dice rolls
02 Aug 2017
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.
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 wroteQuote: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.
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).
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!
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).
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).
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...
- [+] Dice rolls
17 Jul 2017
Kennerspiel des Jahres (Game of the year for more experienced players) goes to:
Series: 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.)
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.
- [+] Dice rolls
26 May 2017
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.
Building landscape player tableaus using domino rules, player order tinkering and scoring it with multiplier scoring by Bruno Cathala.
Spiel des Jahres pro:
This is the easiest, lightest, simplest game of the bunch (yet it still offers quite a good content in such a small package).
It uses a mechanism (dominoes) known by non-gamers which always helps beginners learning games.
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).
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:
Nothing extremely special or novel.
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).
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.
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.
Spiel des Jahres pro:
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.
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).
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.
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...
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.
It has the most informative rulebook with a clear layout. Yes, it is important in case of Spiel des Jahres.
I think this game could get the most interesting expansions.
Spiel des Jahres con:
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).
This is the most complex, most thinky game that needs the most planning, so in this aspect this is the least beginner-friendly one.
Also it's the longest one (still not very long).
Beginners will surely find the game below a lot more fun.
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!
Spiel des Jahres pro:
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.
In other words it is light and can be replayed fast (also, can be replayed many times because of the many scenarios).
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).
Of the three games this one has the most novel and most unusual mechanism.
It is also the most fun to play until it lasts.
Expansions can be added easily (just take clues from Escape).
Spiel des Jahres con:
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.
The look is okay, but the other two games are more eye-pleasing, more attractive.
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!).
Unknown (beginner) designer: there have been first-timer Spiel des Jahres-winners before so it's not unprecedented, still might be a factor somehow.
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.
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.
- [+] Dice rolls
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
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
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
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!
- [+] Dice rolls
16 Oct 2016
When I was a kid I loved to be creative. I loved to draw and loved to write, and I think I was not bad in either - but was not great either. My notebooks were full of drawings and even to this day if we talk too much during a meeting, my hand starts drawing stuff on paper. Most of the time I draw something non-figurative and even when it is figurative it does not make much sense. (see this example, drawn during a boring meeting last year) :
I also loved to write - I wrote a novel, short stories and short things in different genres, most of them before I turned 20. Later I had blogs, wrote reviews and worked as a columnist for a movie magazine. Later I even edited a (since then, long-dead) board game magazine; I guess I should have updated my badge five years ago.
But what I found most exciting was the mix of the two. I created comics (a few dozen pages long) based on my favorite animated tv show or favorite comic book hero, and even wrote a short (extremely dumb) Star Wars sequel, heavily illustrated, all of these before age 14. In the next year I wrote a whole Fight your Fantasy book and created a few illustrations to it.
And I tried to make comic strips. Not because I had anything (especially anything interesting or funny) to say - I just felt the need to know I can do it. As a teenager I wanted to reassure myself I can do anything. Whenever I saw or read something I liked, I wanted to know how it's made and do it myself as well. So I have a book full of comic strips. I remember I made plans about all the characters featured - whole pages full of the characters' expressions, profile and so on. I have found this sketchbook not too long ago and... Well, they are terrible Lots of forced jokes, none of them made me laugh (but suffer). No wonder I largely stopped doing these as soon as I didn't have enough free time on my hands.
Still, when I was editing the board game magazine someone had the idea we should add funny drawings so I gave it a go... then stopped quickly. I'm my stongest critic and after one or two tries I found 'funny' can't be forced and that I am no Brian Barling (not even Ted Alspach whose comics I rarely enjoyed). While I love seeing, reading these, it needs a special talent - I do enjoy it when it is done right but I'm not necessarily able to do it myself. Seriously, the best I could come up with was this, for a Chateau Roquefort article (yes, I can see the typo there) :
So after all this, years later, winning a comic caption contest for a drawing by Inkygirl (Debbie Ohi) felt like a big win for me. It felt like a big win even if I did not have to make the drawing. Also as my native language is not English I felt it's even harder to find the best words and best rythm of words and pacing for a funny caption. I'm not sure I succeeded (ever since I posted the caption I want to write it differently) but it got the most s which just feels so great that I had to share it. So, here it is:
(find the original topic here.)
- [+] Dice rolls
These are the last days before Fall and I haven't even looked back to 2015 yet. Days are busy when you have three very active kids. But now or never, I do it fast.
Looking at this graph it is visible that my # of plays started to grow when (in 2012) Miska started to play with me a lot, then it got a big jumop in 2014 when my second kid (Borcsa) also joined us often. 2015 was an exhausting year for me so I had a bit less time and energy for gaming than before.***
Once again I failed with my 10x10 challenge, even though I tried to make it more varied and less limiting. The main problem is that as board gaming is a social thing, I should force my will on others if I wanted these lists to succeed.
But I just don't want to force anyone which does not mean I won't play these games later. For example I almost didn't play any GIPF games in 2015 (even if it was an aim) then I played quite a few two months later. I didn't play PitchCar at all because of the little hurricane at home but did play it five times on a day in the beginning of the year... and so on.***
My opinion about the games published in 2015 was published a month ago as a list:
Published in 2015: Best and Worst games I've played and what remains to be tried. Opinions&suggestions are welcome!***
I used to write about Knizia's previous year as well. I do it short here. Reiner Knizia seems to have moved on to very simple family games and general toystore items completely. It does not mean I did not play his new games - I have already recorded 52 plays of 9 different new Knizia games published in 2015.
As for new big box games not for kids, the designs worth mentioning were published by small foreign publishers like Amphipolis (probably a design requested by the Greek Touristic Office) and Polynesia (by Russian publisher Zvezda). The former is a very simple, but still rather thematic Ra-like game (without auctions), actually surprisingly popular with my family. The latter is a kind of trading game which uses a mechanism for trading that I haven't met in any Knizia designs since 1990 when it was used by a simpler dice game included in the book New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards. Stingy, a small-box, small-scale Knizia also feels to be something based on an old design which I have never met - I think the math behind it is more interesting than the game itself (and there were other small-market Knizias like Office!, Motto, Pan tu nie stał! Demoludy...)
Two good expansions saw the light to popular Knizias, but both were relatively old designs - Heckmeck Extrawurm (a cute Pickomino expansion) was in development hell for years and Carcassonne: The Castle - Falcon was also waiting to be published since 2012 or so before it was uploaded to be a PnP (therefore, unfortunately not that usable) expansion. And, of course, there were the new, fancy editions (Tigris & Euphrates, Samurai) just to show new gamers the golden ages and new releases (Res Publica: 2230AD, RevoltaaA, Icarus) changing almost nothing to the original game.
Anything that's somewhat interesting was done for children, or more like families gaming with children, and even there, the most innovative idea was not a new mechanism but a technical solution to a problem Knizia has found a few more or less working solutions before, when he designed games with some electronic, talking component before - how to know where players' pieces are located? For this, Die Insel used a large electronic board, you had to push buttons on a box to say where you are in Whoowasit?, the new edition of King Arthur used a phone app to track movement, but here, in Captain Black you place the talking device - an impressive 'living dead' captain figure on the space where you are where it recognizes the location by some clever use of a binary code communicated through concentric circles. The board of Captain Black is also huge and impressive and while mechanism-wise there is nothing novel here, this is a good cooperative activity for kids.
Ravensburger released a few other family- and general toystore-friendly titles as well, like Drachenhort, which is like a game halfway between Winner's Circle and Abandon ship with an interesting idea on how to move your pieces (count only free spaces) and another interesting solution (not really a mechanism, but still a bit used like one) for showing if the adventurer pieces are active or not (after they are moved, they are placed in the dark and you can only move pieces that are in the light; however some interesting exceptions turn this non-mechanism solution into an important part of the mechanism).
Also, besides a Filly Butterfly-themed kids' game, two other Disney games were published, and by Disney game I mean Star Wars here. One of them was released only by 2016 so I won't talk about it here but the other one, Star Wars: Galaxy Rebellion is, in my eyes, a dice game somewhere hafway between Code Cracker and The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey. (Yes, I think it's underrated even though it's definitely not a game for gamers.) But there was another dice game worth mentioning. Mmm!, which combines the idea of the very low-rated Sudoku Würfelspiel and once again some aspects of THe Hobbit: Unexpected Journey, won the Austrian Game of the Year award and was nominated for Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children's game of the year). Published by Pegasus, the game's age recommendation seems to have been decided by gamers as it can be okay for a 5-year-old gamer kid, but the complexity of the decision tree makes it a lot more an age: 8+ game like comparable Knizias (Pickomino, Star Wars Galaxy Rebellion, Vegas, Sudoku: Das Würfelspiel).
So... Knizias of 2015 largely lacked innovation but still could work fine with family and kids (but not with gamers, ultimately).***
So, what about this year? I already own a new Knizia and played it a few times, but things aren't really going to change for him. But what about me? It seems things don't change much - I still buy too many new games (see the list of my purchases this year: Do I even play the games I buy this year? Lacxox's Bought and played in 2016)
I just decided I don't do real challenges this year even though I set a few simple aims.
I wanted to learn my 50th game published in 2015 in order to be able to write my usual yearly list. I did, see above. Now I want to learn 50 games published in 2016 until next summer.
I want to have 10 dimes this year. I'm not pursuing this aim but would be happy to have it completed by the end of the year. So far so good, I'm at 5 dimes and could reach 10 dimes by 9 plays if I wanted to.
In the beginning of the year my H-index was 25, I want to reach 30. I think it's quite probable that I can succeed. To help in this, I started my H-index geeklist. Lacxox's Quarters and H-index geeklist
These three aims show how I think about board games - I'm a cultist of the new as much as one who likes to play the same games multiple times: I'd love to play all my games at least ten times while I want to play many games a lot more than that.
I have also become (again) one of the members of jury of the Hungarian Board Game Awards which gives me some extra board gaming energy even though the 2014-2015 crop (the games published in Hungarian we can select from) is way weaker than the 2016 crop.***
I think I should finish this now, so I do.
Happy gaming for 2016!
I mean... for the time remaining.
- [+] Dice rolls
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King won the award that goes to games more complex, more 'gamery' than simple gateways but still not very (rules-)heavy gamers' games.
It has a Kingdom Builder-like replayability, a Carcassonne-like tile laying (can you see what I did here? I referred to two popular previous SdJ-winners) and a designer duo that just won the Kennerspiel last year for Broom Service, so it has been a great win for the duo (Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan), something that happened only once before, with Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling (Tikal & Torres in 1999 and 2000).
Other nominees were: T.I.M.E Stories (which is said to be great fun but has a lot more limited replayability than the winner) and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.
I must say I expected Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 to win the Kennerspiel des Jahres award (I'm not saying that would surely have been the best choice though!). The jury just loves this Pandemic experience: Pandemic got nominated for Spiel des Jahres back in its time; then Forbidden Island, a very family-friendly variant with a treasure hunting/Atlantis theme also got its nomination and now it happened once again. Pandemic is already a strong game and Legacy made it a great experience by telling an exciting story using the original.
Previously I thought PL had no chance to even get nominated, because of the limited replayability (the game 'lasts' only ~18 plays) but then I thought Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective also won SdJ decades ago. When something is so great then it has to be awarded. When it got the nominations it became clear it would win. It seems I was wrong though.
Spiel des Jahres:
Codenames won the award which was really a no-brainer, just like when Dixit won years ago. It happens rarely when this kind of communications/party game adds some interesting twist and needs interesting tactical considerations, and as a result it becomes a phenomenon that is loved by gamers and non-gamers alike. This one was the only game I was sure would be nominated, and when it was nominated I was sure it would win. It did indeed, so it seems here I was right. Congrats to Vlaada Chvátil for his deserved win!
Other nominees: Karuba is a fine game by KdJ winner Rüdiger Dorn but it's really not that special if you take the lots of Take it Easy!-like games (probably not that known to many) out there (even Reiner Knizia designed quite a few, no wonder people are suspicious Dorn and Knizia are the same. ). And Imhotep is the usual "rather good strategic Euro" in the list; these rarely win but the best family-friendly strategy Euro of the year always gets a mention (as a nominee) by the jury. The game's designer Phil Walker-Harding got only a recommendation last year (for Cacao) so maybe next year he's going to win...
Congrats to the winners!
- [+] Dice rolls
Spiel des Jahres 2016 Nominees Announced - my short opinion and full list of nominees and recommended games
23 May 2016
Just a few hours after I posted my guesses (I just thought I should not name them 'predictions' anymore ), the German jury has published the list of nominated and recommended games for the award that still has the most influence on our board gaming hobby.
Spiel des Jahres:
The only game I thought was sure to get nominated, Codenames indeed got its nomination. Good luck for the award!
Karuba was the game I put on the shortlist; I thought it should be recommended but not nominated. Still, a good game.
Imhotep is the usual title for me - the one of the three nominees I haven't even heard about before (edit: I was lying; looking at the images it seems to be a nice family eurogame that I have been following for a while now.)
One of the games I guessed would be good for a third nomination, Animals on Board, got a recommendation. Also I wanted to add Spyfall yesterday but then I saw it was a 2014 release so I did not - it seems it became eligible only last year. Also there are some less known titles, Qwinto which builds on the success of Qwixx, Krazy Wordz: Erwachsenen Edition (another creative communications game) and Die fiesen 7, which looks as crazy as Spyfall.
After all, nice list, but given the current weight rating of Imhotep I just can't help wondering what made Imhotep a SdJ nominee while Isle of Skye is a KdJ nominee. Maybe Imhotep has a simple family ruleset as well? I'll see - I definitely want to give it a try. Still, I vote for Codenames as the winner.
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King was the game where I wasn't sure about the category. My guess has proven to be wrong as even though it's not more complex or heavier than Kingdom Builder, it was nominated in this category. I should add that probably it was Kingdom Builder that was in the wrong category, not IoS.
Many signs showed Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 should be nominated (I listed a few of these) so I started my guesses with this title but I also thought it would not get the nomination, only a recommendation.
I also thought T.I.M.E Stories would not get the nomination but it seems the jury responds to new trends quicker than I thought.
Recommendations include 7 Wonders Duel (correctly guessed and I'm happy it was included as it's different enough from the KdJ-winning big brother), Mombasa (correctly guessed - it's too heavy for the award but it's a well-made, well-developed one for Eurogamers who love complexity) and Blood Rage (surprise only because of the theme). Here I can't vote for the winner as I just have no idea what the jury finds most important; each of the three games might grab the win (that is going to surprise those who rooted for the others for different reasons).
After all, the list is rather progressive for the jury; while I just start to think nowadays they don't like Days of Wonder for some strange reason, it is always interesting to see how they break their own rules when it comes to nominees. Long-time replayability has always been a factor and now two of the three nominated games clearly don't have it; also, Blood Rage has a theme that could not have gotten nominated a few years ago. But well, I think gamers can't complain much about this year's nominees at least, and the award remains as important as ever.
Kinderspiel des Jahres:
Congrats to My First Stone Age (the one I mentioned; it's a really good 'adaptation') and Mmm! (the one I did not mention as it won Austrian Game of the Year award a year ago and was published March 2015 (!), but it's really good nonetheless, Knizia scores another nom) and Leo (of which I don't know much...) for the nominations.
I have not played any of the recommended games but they all look fun and cute - Castle Flutterstone, Sleepy Castle, Die geheimnisvolle Drachenhöhle, Jungle Party, Harry Hopper, Mein Schatz and Time's Up! Kids.
Suddenly and surprisingly, it seems Knizia might have a chance to win an award this year. Of course Stone Age was also a SdJ nominee and the kids' game 'version' is great too, but in my experience Mmm! is more of a peaceful (but tense) (and cooperative) experience for kids than Stone Age Junior (where they can get angry for taking stuff away from each other). Here I vote for Mmm!, although Leo (Colovini)'s Leo might be even better (haven't played).
- [+] Dice rolls
22 May 2016
Uh, once again I found out it's the night before the Spiel des Jahres nominations are going to be announced... So, I try to be fast and short.
Spiel des Jahres:
Codenames is a sure nominee (and here I strongly hope I'm not wrong). I'd even say it's quite probably the winner of the category, and the last time I said this about a communications game that was Dixit so I might be right... or not. However wonderful the game is, it does have a bit of the Hanabi problem: while it's a great light game for gamers, not all non-gamers do love it (while the sand timer is included in the box, there can still be too long stretches of the spy masters thinking and others not doing anything, and a lot depends on their creativity). Wait, Hanabi still did win the award... I think this is a sure nominee.
I take a risky bet with Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King. Nowadays gamers think Spiel des Jahres means VERY, VERY SIMPLE. But here I just can't see anything that would make Isle of Skye more complex than Kingdom Builder, a comparable design that had just about the same amount of variety in scoring or a bit more, and even its base mechanism was not easier to learn than that of Isle of Skye. Isle of Skye also has a familiar look that makes it resemble Carcassonne, a SdJ game that sold millions of copies, but of course you can't count on this as players who already know Carcassonne might already be 'Kenner'. Whatever, I think the designer duo behind last year's Kennerspiel des Jahres-winning Broom Service might prove to be favored by the jury and I guess Isle of Skye will be nominated, even if I can't be 100% sure about the category.
And here comes the third nominee... Well, each year there is at least one nomine I have no idea about; maybe it was published in Germany only in March 2016, or maybe it's an old game that got its first German publication in last year. Of those I have not played yet but know about I should mention two: Completto, which is a fast, simple and reportedly addictive numbers game which are good qualities for an SdJ nomination; and Animals on Board, which I have learned about only a few weeks ago but seems to be tricky, family-friendly and it is only the second game of the designer duo of Finca, another SdJ-nominated design.
And then there are a few that I think could (should?) be recommended but not nominated. Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba is a fine Take it Easy!-like game with some fun racing element and theme - it's one I'm going to buy eventually, but I think it deserves only a recommendation. Mysterium might be favored by many, but I think rules- and components-wise it's slightly fiddlier than what the award should be about, even though it can be a great game with a great company, so I vote for recommendation. And New York 1901 is a good-looking and fine tile laying game with simple gameplay but more than meets the eye and in the end it even has a bit of a Ticket to Ride-ish feel as well... It's just not enough for a nomination I guess.
Other titles that might be recommended but I would not bet on them are Flick 'em up! (long setup, long game for what it is) and Barony (which I really liked but might be considered too abstract or too old-fashioned... Probably both)
Kennerspiel des Jahres:
or the award that is, contrary some beliefs, not about gamers' games but games that are not for complete noobs.
In the past year gamers went gaga about Pandemic Legacy and Time Stories, two great 'experience' games with low replayability which seem to revolutionize board gaming but I just can't be sure if the jury would award games like these. Yes Legends of Andor did win a KdJ award with only 5 scenarios, but (even if not all would replay them) they were replayable whenever you liked. Replayability was always important for the jury, and maybe this might change, but I wouldn't think it happens this year. T.I.M.E. Stories definitely won't be nominated and if I must take a bet I would say Pandemic Legacy won't be nominated either (but might get a recommendation - well, the designer already had two games with these mechanism basics nominated for Spiel des Jahres, one being Pandemic itself, the other one being Forbidden Island).
I take a risk and vote for Days of Wonder's Quadropolis even though (or, because) last year the jury didn't even recommend the game most forecasters were expecting to win, Days of Wonder's 2014 gamer hit Five Tribes. Quadropolis is more abstract (er, maybe it's better to say it's got a less exciting theme) but is tricky and feels more 'clear' for German eyes.
So then... What's left? A number of titles with so-so chances. I don't know much about Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche yet, but it's a Matthias Cramer (Lancaster, KdJ nomination) design from publisher Hans im Glück, a publisher that could see practically each of its gamer's games recommended or nominated over the Kennerspiel years, so I vote for it and maybe it gets only a recommendation...
But I really have no idea which game should get the third recommendation (look for new and unknown titles here). I would maybe give it to Grand Austria Hotel (hey, if Rococo could get a nomination, it's another game of the same style, but a bit more clear and fun) but reviewers seem to be slightly divided over this one. Another game of its type is Shakespeare (with interesting similarities - maybe both were inspired by the success of Rococo?).
Mombasa could get a recommendation but I'd say it's too heavy for the award itself.
And then there are a few titles that might or might not even be recommended, based on the jury's current mood and members. For example Porta Nigra is another nice Kramer-Kiesling design from frequent winner/nominee Pegasus Spiele, but it's still the fifth Kramer-Kiesling design with somewhat similar bases (and the first two of these, Asara and Palaces of Carrara were actually nominated). Then there is Die Legenden von Andor: Chada & Thorn which is marketed as a 2-player adaptation but is a rather different (reportedly, good) game. And there is also 7 Wonders Duel, another 2-player adaptation that works fine and is different from the original in many aspects - but based on the past few years, times are different from 2004 when Carcassonne: The Castle (a different and 2-player variant of a previous winner) could get a (deserved) recommendation.
Kinderspiel des Jahres:
... Well, I do play kids' games a lot but still can't try 95% of the good kids' games out there so I won't make predictions. I can only talk about the ones I played or at least the rulebooks of, and I would not be surprised to find Stone Age Junior, Captain Black, Happy Party or even Maze Racers on the list of nominated or recommended games.
And tomorrow once again I'll see how wrong I was
in-game images by Rebecca Barlow, Milena Guberinic, Brian Ivanson, Peter Dringautzki and Jakub Niedźwiedź.
- [+] Dice rolls