What the Heck is The Game?

May 22, 2015 - 12:24pm
spiel des jahres multi There's no higher award in the board gaming industry than Germany's Spiel des Jahres. Each year, an enigmatic "jury" of German board game scholars, reviewers, and educators select their top games in three somewhat nebulous categories:
  • Kennerspiel des Jahres or what we might call "gamer games". These are the heavier titles that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to casual gamers.
  • Kinderspiel des Jahres are your basic family and kids games. Light rules and friendly themes.
  • Spiel des Jahres is the big one. These fall in the middle of the complexity spectrum, usually consisting of accessible, mainstream-friendly casual games.
Earlier this week, this year's nominees for the three award categories were announced. Our very own Rob Searing covered the story in his May 18 article. There weren't many surprises on the list (other than the usual lot of Germany-only titles that haven't been distributed in the United States), but there was one odd duck: The Game. So, what the heck is The Game? the game The full title of the The Game the game is "The Game…so lange du kannst!" which roughly translates to "The Game…play as long as you can!" It's a cooperative hand-management card game published by Nürnberger Spielkarten Verlag (NSV) and designed by Steffen Benndorf, best known for Qwixx. Despite the oddly spooky artwork, it's a simple theme-less affair in which players try to empty their hands of numbered cards by laying them in one of four discard piles, two in ascending numerical order and two descending (as noted by some out-of-place tribal arrows). As long as the card you're discarding is greater than or less than the previous card, following that pile's rules, the move is legal.
the game cards Image From BGG

The goal is to discard all 98 cards cooperatively, which means ascertaining which player should go first and playing strategically to ensure the gaps between ascending and descending card values are as tight as possible. The trick is that players can never reveal exactly what values are on their cards, but all other table talk is permitted. As the draw deck begins to deplete, the choices become much more difficult. There are a few other minor rules and exceptions that are explained in the rulebook, but that's The Game in a nutshell. Even with the bizarrely non-descript name and the ill-fitting art, The Game sounds like a lot of fun. It reminds me of Hanabi, Red 7, and many classic card games as well. I'll be shocked if it beats out Machi Koro for the Spiel des Jahres, but if and when The Game gets local distribution, I'll be interested in checking it out.