Knizia. Spiel des Jahres. Some other thoughts, but only rarely. I'm not that much of a big thinker, you know - but I love games.
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So which game is going to win the Spiel des Jahres? Thoughts after playing all the nominees

Laszlo Molnar
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Samurai, Tigris, Yellow, Babylonia. Through the Desert, Ingenious, Stephensons Rocket also rock!
Knizia tile laying rules! Samurai is #1, closely followed by the three games with two rivers
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Okay, so in the beginning of this week it took me by surprise to learn the Spiel des Jahres nominees were announced. As I have played each of the three nominees by now (altogether 20 times, even though that includes only one play of Magic Maze) I try to look at which game has the best chance to win.


Building landscape player tableaus using domino rules, player order tinkering and scoring it with multiplier scoring by Bruno Cathala.
Board Game: Kingdomino

Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 This is the easiest, lightest, simplest game of the bunch (yet it still offers quite a good content in such a small package).
d10-2 It uses a mechanism (dominoes) known by non-gamers which always helps beginners learning games.
d10-3 I think this is the most attractive-looking one with lots of fine details in the artwork (there is a lot to discover for kids and geeks alike).
d10-4 While the designer's name should not be a factor, it might still have an effect on the decision: despite many great and popular games, Bruno Cathala has never won a Spiel des Jahres before (except from a special award for a co-design more than a decade ago).

Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 Nothing extremely special or novel.
d10-2 While it can be replayed as soon as the game ends, it feels like it lacks the depth to be replayed really lots of times, for years to come. You might argue with this; yes, I think I'll play it more than 30 times while I own it, but that's because it's an easy filler that can be played with 15 seconds set-up time, also I can play it with my kids, and not because I really want to play it so often (yes, this is my first dime of the bunch).
d10-3 It has the smallest box of the three which is probably not an important factor (especially since Hanabi won) but still might matter a bit.
d10-4 And an even weaker con is that I don't feel like this one really needs (or could have) interesting expansions.

Wettlauf nach El Dorado

Dominion-like deck building serves a racing game on different terrain types by Reiner Knizia. See my review here.
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado

Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 Depth and content: Of the three, this game feels the least 'shallow', it might be the most rewarding and as W. Eric Martin notes in his love letter to the game, it feels the most likely that I'm going to play it several times in the years to come, not only in the months after I buy it. Call it a 'classic' feel.
d10-2 Even though this is the most complex game of the bunch, it can be learned gradually - for example the short and simple board suggested for first play can be won without strong deck-building (and especially discarding) and you can learn things (not rules - more like tactics and nuances) by going through the pre-set boards. In this way it provides a more family-friendly introduction to deck-building than Dominion (the game that was one of the main reasons why Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres were split in the next year).
d10-3 It also has an attractive look (none of the component problems of the previous - also very good - Knizia-Ravensburger game, Orongo) and this is the only real "big box game" (box size of Colt Express, Camel Up, Kingdom Builder, Qwirkle, Dominion, Keltis, Zooloretto, Niagara, Ticket To Ride, Villa Palletti, Catan... ) in the bunch.
d10-4 Reiner Knizia's name might help slightly as well - since his win for Keltis a decade ago, he's shifted focus to easy family games, kids' and solitaire games, so one might think it could give some incentive to the old master to make more games like this again...
d10-5 A really good replayability: by the time you play the 7 maps included in the rulebook you can learn how the possiblity to combine the maps as you like (as heavy/simple, as short/long etc.), also to play with or without cave tiles, provides a great replayability to the game.
d10-6 It has the most informative rulebook with a clear layout. Yes, it is important in case of Spiel des Jahres.
d10-7 I think this game could get the most interesting expansions.

Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 No real novel mechanism (although you might call the market a great design idea) - racing on hexa-boards was awarded two decades ago (Mississippi Queen), deck-building won the award a decade ago (Dominion).
d10-2 This is the most complex, most thinky game that needs the most planning, so in this aspect this is the least beginner-friendly one.
d10-3 Also it's the longest one (still not very long).
d10-4 Beginners will surely find the game below a lot more fun.

Magic Maze

Advanced Escape: The Curse of the Temple without dice but with each player being able to move the pawns in one direction only. Cooperation is crucial!
External image

Spiel des Jahres pro:
d10-1 Just like El Dorado, Magic Maze also can be learned gradually with scenarios adding more and more ruels, but this game isn't even really complex.
d10-2 In other words it is light and can be replayed fast (also, can be replayed many times because of the many scenarios).
d10-3 It's also cooperative which means winning can be fun for everyone. (Interestingly, cooperative games won many special awards, also Kenner- and Kinderspiel, but Spiel des Jahres only once - Hanabi).
d10-4 Of the three games this one has the most novel and most unusual mechanism.
d10-5 It is also the most fun to play until it lasts.
d10-6 Expansions can be added easily (just take clues from Escape).

Spiel des Jahres con:
d10-1 Probably I shouldn't say it after one play only, but while replayability is good, long-time replayability might not be as good here (I'm not sure you want to play it many times after winning all the scenarios, many of which really don't even seem to be that different). It might or might not be a problem; as the SdJ jury usually replays the games many times, they will know.
d10-2 The look is okay, but the other two games are more eye-pleasing, more attractive.
d10-3 If you don't know Escape, this game offers no familiar mechanism ideas for you (which might be a problem for beginners) while if you know Escape, it already won't feel so novel (I still love that direction-tinkering idea!).
d10-4 Unknown (beginner) designer: there have been first-timer Spiel des Jahres-winners before so it's not unprecedented, still might be a factor somehow.
d10-5 Slightly fiddly/messy rulebook: it is usable, but the other two are better-structured, more clear. Also the rules and the set-up are quite different with any player numbers.


Well, looking at the points above by the numbers it might appear like I suggest El Dorado should win but the factors of the decision have different importance. (Maybe some aren't important at all.) What's more, light, easy-to-learn rules, also innovation, are among the most important ones - and El Dorado might be the weakest entry in these aspects. So, as a result of this,


A lot will depend on what the actual jury finds the most important this year. It hasn't happened since 2009 (when Fauna, FITS, Finca, Pandemic and Dominion were nominated) that I had no idea. I think it all depends on personal (?) preferences this year. And I don't find that to be a problem - what's more, it means I think for the first time since 2009 all the nominees are good choices for the award, not only for the nomination. So whichever wins, I'll be happy and satisfied with the results.
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