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Spiel des Jahres Nominations for 2016: Codenames, Imhotep and Karuba

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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In Germany, the Spiel des Jahres and Kinderspiel des Jahres juries have announced their nominations for the largest awards in gaming in terms of publicity and generated sales, and as usual the Spiel des Jahres nominations are a combination of the expected and "Really? That one?" The nominees for Spiel des Jahres, Germany's "game of the year" award, are

Codenames, by Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition (overview video with the designer on BGG)
Imhotep, by Phil Walker-Harding and KOSMOS (overview video)
Karuba, by Rüdiger Dorn and HABA (overview video)

Codenames was on every list of SdJ nominations that I saw, and given the way that this game has taken the hobby by storm — especially how players have created their own variations for the design using Dixit cards, Cards Against Humanity cards, other game boxes, and so forth — I have a hard time imagining how it won't win. Just yesterday during a game session, a single fellow and a couple told me how they had each introduced Codenames to new people within the past week, with those converts wanting to play again and again and again. The gameplay is as easy or as involved as the players make it; the design invites creativity from the players; and people can join (or drop out) of the game as needed, making it something that goes on the table while you're waiting for guests, only to absorb those guests into the game when they arrive. That said, who knows what will happen as "surefire" winners have failed to take home the red poppel in previous years...

The SdJ jury has also issued a recommended list of five titles, with those titles being:

Agent Undercover (a.k.a. Spyfall)
Animals on Board
Die fiesen 7

Board Game: Codenames
Board Game: Imhotep
Board Game: Karuba

Nominations for the Kennerspiel des Jahres — the enthusiast's game of the year — have likewise been announced by the SdJ jury:

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, by Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister and Lookout Games
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, by Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau and Z-Man Games
T.I.M.E Stories, by Manuel Rozoy and Space Cowboys

Pandemic Legacy has to be the odds-on favorite to win given how the game has dominated the mindspace of those who play it. The game is a story created by you and your fellow players, a world that you both travel through and affect with your actions, leaving you in the end with an incredibly personal experience that feels more like an event than a game. I've been a huge fan of T.I.M.E Stories since 2012 when I first played the prototype, and that game took years to come together — both in terms of assembling scenarios and figuring out how to package the experience into something that players could do easily at home — only to find itself overshadowed by Pandemic Legacy once it finally hit the market.

The recommended list for the KedJ is a bit shorter, but it contains probably the three most expected titles by the BGG audience:

7 Wonders: Duel
Blood Rage

Board Game: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories

Finally, the separate Kinderspiel des Jahres jury has its own list of nominations for the children's game of the year, and those are:

Leo muss zum Friseur (Leo Goes to the Barber), by Leo Colovini and ABACUSSPIELE
Mmm!, by Reiner Knizia and Pegasus Spiele
Stone Age Junior, by Marco Teubner and Hans im Glück

Hans im Glück with a Kinderspiel nom and HABA with the SdJ nom — things have flipped on their head in Germany! I've played both Leo and Mmm! a fair amount, so it's time to get to work on overview videos for those games. Mmm! already won the Spiel der Spiele in Austria in 2015, and I thought that its absence from the Kinderspiel nominations in 2015 was surprising given how well the game introduces kids to the concept of pressing their luck in games (not that they have any aversion to pressing their luck in real life, mind you), but perhaps it absence was merely a fluke of the calendar, with it being released too late for consideration.

The recommendation list for KidJ consists of the following:

Burg Flatterstein (a.k.a. Flutterstone Castle)
Burg Schlummerschatz (a.k.a. Sleepy Castle)
Die geheimnisvolle Drachenhöhle (a.k.a. The Mysterious Dragon Cave)
Harry Hopper
Mein Schatz
Sag's mir! Junior (a.k.a. Time's Up! Kids)

Board Game: Leo
Board Game: Mmm!
Board Game: My First Stone Age

The Kinderspiel des Jahres winner will be announced on June 20, 2016, while the SdJ and KedJ winners will be revealed on July 18, 2016. Should you be at BGG.CON Spring on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-30, 2016), four members of the SdJ jury will be on hand with all of the nominees so that you can try them out. How this will work for Pandemic Legacy will be interesting to discover!
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