I've played (relatively) few new titles since the middle of 2011, so I'm blending personal knowledge, crowd observation, and wild-eyed guesses in order to make my choices.
Josh [Miller, whose picks preceded mine in the list,] has a decent list of qualifications for SdJ nominees – visually attractive, easy to learn, smooth play out of the box, and vast sales/expansion potential. Africana
and Kingdom Builder
have all of this in spades. (I’ve yet to play Takenoko
, but Antoine Bauza
won the first Kennerspiel with 7 Wonders
, the components are gloriously appealing, and the game has widespread German distribution, so it seems like a solid third choice.) One element he didn’t mention, but which seems important when viewing previous SdJ winners, is that the nominees tend to straddle the family/gamer line – that is, casual gamers can play them, have fun and do reasonably well while gamers will look deeper, discover more and play better. Again, Africana
and Kingdom Builder
fit this qualification well. Why choose Africana
over Kingdom Builder
? Partly due to its contrast with 2011 SdJ winner Qwirkle
in that Africana
has a realistic thematic setting, and partly due to the German love of travel.
All three of my Kennerspiel nominees – Glory to Rome
, and Village
– are excellent designs, and all fit the Kennerspiel category of games for connoisseurs as they're more involved that your average game, yet not off the charts in terms of complexity or opaqueness, although GtR
might have one foot across that line. Still, I think GtR
is an incredible design that goes beyond what you normally think is possible in a card game, and with Lookout Games
having released an attractive version in German in 2011, I think it could get the nod.
As for Hawaii
, both are straight-up Eurogame designs that present gamers with interesting-to-explore game systems in an inviting setting. They're not too difficult to learn and play, making them ideal for those who have played the basics and want something more. I prefer Hawaii
as the money management and tight competition for goods among players makes the game tougher than Village
, while also providing a wider range of set-up variability, which kicks your brain in new directions each game. Village
gets my vote, however, as it has the homey thematic edge, just as Thurn & Taxis
had the home-turf advantage over Blue Moon City
in 2006. Yes, your villagers die and sure, that could be morbid for some, but that aspect of the game also encapsulates the broader cultural outlook in Europe, with people viewing themselves as part of history-in-the-making rather than above it, as seems to be more common in the U.S.
Who knows? I could just be blowing smoke...