The German Spiel des Jahres (which translates into Game of the Year) is to board games what the Oscars are to movies. This Monday, the jury announced this year’s nominations. For each of the three categories (Game of the year, Children’s game of the year, and the relatively new Adepts’ game of the year), three games have been nominated and a list of additional recommendations in each category has been published.
Regarding the Game of the year, I am proud to say that GeekDad’s readers knew it, or at least some of it, first: One of the three nominated games, namely Codenames had receveived a rave review by fellow GeekDad Dave Banks as early as last August. Then there is Karuba, a treasure hunt, published by Haba (English rules are available.) Haba is well known for children’s games packaged in signature yellow boxes, and now seems to be branching out into family games. Very successfully, one must say: only three family games published, so far, and already one nomination! I am particularly looking forward to trying out Karuba with my kids: I know from many games of Tikal, how much they enjoy hunting for treasure (and, conversely, how much they hate being beaten to a cache of treasure – many a tear has been shed while playing Tikal.) Finally, with Imhotep, Kosmos has published a game of construction located in old Egypt. Jointly, the players erect obelisks, pyramids, tombs, and pyramids. They ferry stone blocks to the sites where each monument is built. Placing a stone brings points – depending on the type of monument immediately, at the end of a round, the end of the game, etc. (English rules are available).
The Children’s game of the year this year is completely ruled by three of the grandmasters of game design: Marco Teubner, Reiner Knizia, and Leo Colovini. With My First Stone Age, Marco Teubner has created a children’s version of the successful Stone Age game. Reiner Knizia and Leo Colovini have created co-ooperative games. In Reiner Knizia’s Mmm, the players are mice who have to work together in a raid of the pantry, ferreting out cheese, fish and what not before the cat returns (English rules are available). Leo Colovini’s Leo muss zum Friseur (“Leo goes to the barber”) is a kind of Groundhog Day story turned into a co-operative board game: the players have five days to get the lion Leo to the barber. Each “day” starts at eight o’clock in the morning, and there are various obstacles on the way, which the players must learn to overcome one by one. If they do not manage on Monday, well, they have learned something for their next try on Tuesday, and so on. (English rules are available.)
About one of the three nominations for Adepts’ game of the year, GeekDad’s readers know at the latest since January, when fellow GeekDad Anthony Katz told us that Pandemic Legacy, Season I was his favourite game of the past 12 months; it seems that several of the German judges share his opinion! Bot Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E. stories, another nominee, play more like campaigns in a role-playing game than conventional board games. T.I.M.E stories are just what the title promises: The players have to travel in time and complete a task, slowly uncovering more and more information about their destination. If they do not succeed in one go, in best time travel tradition, they can try again, using the knowledge they have acquired during their first try: also the nominations for the Adepts’ game of the year make a bow to Groundhog Day, it seems (English rules for T.I.M.E stories are available.) While I will probably have to wait a few more years in order to play either Pandemic Legacy or T.I.M.E stories with my kids, I am very much looking forward to trying out Isle of Skye with my older son. Players are chieftains and want to become king by building their kingdom such that it scores the most points. The twist that Isle of Skye brings to this well-worn genre is a price-fixing process: each player puts a price on certain resources that are then auctioned off. Other players can buy the resources, so the prices should not be too cheap. But if no other player buys a resource, the player who fixed the price must buy the resource himself … so the prices should not be too expensive, either.
The complete list of nominations and further recommendations for the three Spiel des Jahres categories in 2016 are available from the Spiel des Jahres website (in German). The winners will be announced on June 20th (Children’s game of the year) and 18th of July (Game of the year and Adepts’ game of the year). But you don’t really have to wait: experience of many years (the prize got started in 1979) shows that almost all games nominated or recommended are worth playing!