Spiel des Jahres

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“Really?  That game won?”

A recent article from Clever Move discusses the nature of the international Spiel des Jahres award and its importance to the international gaming hobby.  Due to the fact that many serious board gamers question the recipients of this award from year to year, Tom Felber, jury foreman for the SdJ jury, explained how the organization works at BGG Con 2014:

…The Spiel des Jahres is NOT for the board game geek. Not for the hobbyist or hard core player…Spiel des Jahres is for the general public. Games that EVERYONE can play.

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The Spiel des Jahres focuses on bringing the best games to the forefront that will encourage more people in the general public to participate in hobby games by highlighting lighter games that can be easily digested and played quickly, such as the 2014 winner, Camel Up.

Imagine sitting someone in front of Twilight Imperium when their previous game experience began with Monopoly and ended with Scrabble. They may or may not make it through the entire game, but, either way, they wouldn’t come back for more. Board games, they’d conclude, are not for them.

The article also presents, in a nutshell, the process for selecting the SdJ winner:

  1. There are 13 SdJ jurors.
  2. Each juror nominates 20 games.
  3. Each juror later narrows their list of nominees to 15 games.
  4. Jury meets in April, creates a list of 50-60 games.
  5. Jurors may veto games for any reason, one of the most common being poorly-written rules.
  6. They chop the list down to approximately 25 games.

The games selected for this prestigious award may not appeal to hardcore gamers at first sight, but that is not necessarily the focus of the award.  “The chosen games might be bland, edgeless, and simple — but that’s a good thing once you understand why.”

You can read the full article HERE.

Image Courtesy of "From Inspiration to Publication"

Image Courtesy of “From Inspiration to Publication”

Sen-Foong Lim of Inspiration to Publication posted a great article, “What Makes a Game Worthy of the SdJ Award?”  Referring to the Spiel des Jahres Award, Lim notes that he was able to recently meet with Tom Felber, jury chairmen of the SdJ at a “Q and A.”

Lim reports  that “the biggest take home point for me was something that I regularly espouse – rules are an essential part of any game system.  Without them, you just have bits on a board.

Also, if you missed the interview with Felber earlier this year, check it out, it’s interesting.


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Spiel des Jahres 2014

Last week’s Dice Tower Awards went so well that it’s not surprising that other organizations have jumped on the bandwagon of naming a game of the year. No hard feelings though, I’ve heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

But seriously, the Spiel des Jahres (German for Game of the Year) is probably the most important award of gaming. Without this award, the gateway greats that introduced most of us into this hobby (like Ticket to Ride, The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Dominion) may not have reached the level of popularity that they currently have. And now, joining that list of classics as this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner is Steffen Bogen’s Camel Up. This game about betting on racing camels beat the other well-received nominees’ Marc Andre’s Splendor and Concept by Gaëtan Beaujannot and Alain Rivollet.

The other big award that was given out was the Kennerspiel des Jahres, which is given to the best strategy game. Rüdiger Dorn’s Istanbul, a game about trading rupees with the help of your assistants in the Turkish city formerly known as Constantinople, won this award over Mac Gerdts’ Concordia, and Rococo by Matthias Cramer, Louis Malt and Stefan Malz.

If you’re interested in any of these games, the increase in publicity from these awards often causes them to become more widely available. For example, Z-Man Games has announced that they will be releasing Camel Up in North America before the end of the year.

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The Kickstarter Gold Rush

The theme of the old west is deceptively popular. On one hand, western themed games don’t seem to rake in nearly as much funding in Kickstarter projects as the zombie genre. Zombicide consistently makes well over a million dollars per campaign, and other recent games within the genre also are impressively well-received. For examples, check out the Kickstarters for games like Zombie 15’, Escape: Zombie City, and even smaller games like We Are Dead.

On the other hand, the article with the highest view count last week (other than the Spiel des Jahres announcement) was about the new western themed game on Kickstarter Wanted: The Outlaws. At the time of writing, the small game has been a modest success. Last week, Tom Vasel reviewed Spurs: A Tale in the Old West, which was another successful Kickstarter game. In an interview with Sean Brown, the president of Mr. B Games, he seemed surprised by how well the Spurs was selling. So, although these games may not receive the funding and press that more popular and bloated genres do, it’s worth noting that a lot of gamers are still interested in finding the next Bang!
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What’s New with the Dice Tower?

1. Sometimes we have to admit things about ourselves that other people may not like. Case-in-point: Tom Vasel loves destruction. Last year when Board Game Breakfast first took off, Tom’s initial opening sequences in videos were innocent enough. He would do something simple, like pour milk in a bowl of dice or Ticket to Ride trains. As time went by, those cheap thrills weren’t exciting enough. He began to boil Memoir ’44 army men over the stove and smear jam over Marvel Dice Masters cards. Some people have not taken it so well.

In last week’s Board Game Breakfast, Tom defended his “misuse” of components. While Tom has talked about his component drops in previous videos, his most recent explanation does an excellent job of describing why he cooks his components, as well as his views on the value of games. You may not agree with what he says, but it is an interesting argument. Also, he’s probably never going to stop. So at the very least, if Tom ever invites you over to play a board game in the morning, you know that you probably shouldn’t let him make you breakfast.

2. Tom Vasel hosted a special Q&A segment this week, and a lot of the questions he answered focused on the big events that would be coming up within the next few weeks. Perhaps the most exciting event to look forward to is Gen Con, which will be taking place from August 14 to 17. You can look forward to a lot of previews of new games and interviews with designers, similar to the content that the Dice Tower offered during Origins Gaming Convention last month. In the more immediate future, the long-awaited Top 100 lists from frequent Top 10 and Miami Dice co-host Sam Healey and Zee Garcia will begin to be recorded this week.

Speaking of Top 10 list, a few hints were given about what to expect within the next few games. The Top 10 Fantasy Games was already recorded in front of a live audience during the Dice Tower Con. Other upcoming Top 10 include the top Queen Games and the Top 10 Milton Bradley games. Also Tom’s lips are still sealed about a Musical Episode that he’s been hinting at for a long time. Forget turning components into sandwiches, if you’re looking for game-related spectacle, you should keep a look out for that episode.




alhambra bix box

If you haven’t played Dirk Henn’s (Metro, Shogun, Wallenstein) Spiel des Jahres winning classic from 2003, Alhambra, then now may be the best time to pick it up. Queen Games has begun a Kickstarter for “everything Alhambra” which includes the Alhambra Big Box (the base game and the original five expansions), the brand new Falconers expansion, the Alhambra Big Box Special Edition, and two new mini expansions (or “Queenies”). The Alhambra Big Box Special Edition is a compilation of four spinoffs of Alhambra, specifically Granada, Alhambra: The Dice Game, The Gardens of Alhambra, and Alhambra: The Dice Game.

In Alhambra, you play as a master builder trying to make your mark within the Kingdom of Granada by building the most impressive palace, or “Alhambra”. The problem is that the finest stonemasons and horticulturalists don’t all come from the same cities. You’re going to pay them in their native currencies, meaning that you’ll have to have to juggle with the game’s four different currencies in order to be able to buy the most impressive components for your Alhambra.


The 6th expansion, The Falconers, adds four new modules to the game including the Portals, the Building Sites, the Exchange Certificates, and the Falconers. These modules add the abilities to make change for currencies, reserve tiles from the market place, build bigger walls, and more. You don’t need to order the Big Boxes to receive the expansion, you can buy it independently through Kickstarter or reserve it through other retailers.

The Big Boxes and the Falconers expansion are expected to be available this December.

tom felber

An interview with Tom Felber, jury chairmen of the Spiel des Jahres was posted over on the Toy and Game Innovation Conference website.

The Spiel des Jahres was created in 1978 to promote quality games.  Nomination and award criteria are based on game idea (originality, playability, play value), rules design (structure, clarity, understandability), game materials (features, workmanship), and layout and presentation (box, game board, rules).

Here’s just a small excerpt:


The nominees change from year to year in all directions. There is no pattern. It always depends on what is available on the market in the specific year. There are strong years and weak years. Games, which even didn’t get a nomination in one year, would have been easily elected as “Spiel des Jahres“ if they were published in an other year. Of course, the election of “Hanabi“ was a big milestone because of the size of the box. This wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago. That’s the most obvious change, that small games can be elected nowadays.


CAMEL UP, ISTANBUL & ROKOKO nominated by the Spiel des Jahres

Pegasus Spiele Online recently posted a press release where they announced that Camel Up has been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, Rokoko and Istanbul have been nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, and Love Letter and Guildhall have been given recommendations:

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Friedberg / Berlin, May 19th 2014: Early this morning the nine-member jury “Spiel des Jahres” nominated this year’s Spiel des Jahres (game of the year) and the Kennerspiel des Jahres (expert game of the year) and released a list of recommendations for both categories. One of the games nominated for the Spiel des Jahres is CAMEL UP (eggertspiele) by Steffen Bogen. ROKOKO (eggertspiele) by the designer trio Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz and Stefan Malz is nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres. Also nominated in this category is ISTANBUL by Rüdiger Dorn. The card games LOVE LETTER by Seiji Kanai and GUILDHALL by Hope S. Wang received recommendations from the jury.


With the nominations and recommendations Pegasus Spiele’s success story concerning the “Spiel des Jahres” continues: After the nominations of PANDEMIE (Matt Leacock, 2009), IM WANDEL DER ZEITEN: DAS WÜRFELSPIEL – BRONZEZEIT (Matt Leacock, 2010) and STRASBOURG (Stefan Feld, 2011) and the award “Kennerspiel des Jahres 2012” for VILLAGE by Inka and Markus Brand, this year for the first time three games of Pegasus Spiele are nominated at once.

“We put a lot of work in our games and we are very pleased that this work is reflected in the numerous nominations in recent years” says Karsten Esser, one of the two CEOs of Pegasus Spiele. Andreas Finkernagel, the other CEO of Pegasus Spiele, adds enthusiastically: “We are thrilled to be nominated with three games this year and with two more games on the recommendations list. This is already an incredible success for us. Many thanks to our editorial partners eggertspiele and our editorial team for their outstanding work!”

The Spiel des Jahres is the biggest and most important games award worldwide, granted annually since 1979. Its goal is to provide guidance particularly for family gamers in the ever growing gaming market. Since 2001 the Kinderspiel des Jahres (children’s game of the year) is also awarded regularly. With the Kennerspiel des Jahres a third award, aimed at more experienced players, joined the “Spiel des Jahres”-awards in 2011.

You can read the remainder of the article here.



kingdom builder big box

Enjoy the big box Kickstarter edition of the 2012 Spiel des Jahres winner Kingdom Builder by Donald X. Vaccarino. In Kingdom Builder players create their own kingdoms by skillfully placing their settlements on the game board map, aiming to earn the most gold at the end of the game. The big box edition includes the Nomads and Crossroads expansions, as well as the Capitol and Caves promos.

kingdom builder big box inside

The Kickstarter project runs through March 8, and has already raised nearly $100,000, well exceeding its funding goal. An $85 pledge gets you the big box, though there are higher pledge levels for packages with other Queen games.