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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A Few Hours Left before the Winner of Spiel des Jahres is Announced... (updated with results)

Laszlo Molnar
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Let's make it clear in the beginning of the post: I have no clue which game will win this year's Spiel des Jahres award - and unlike in 2017 (Kingdomino, Magic Maze, Quest for El Dorado) or 2009 (Dominion, Fauna, Finca, FITS, Pandemic) when I thought each nominated game would have been great winners, here it's because I... am less amazed.

So, there are three nominated games. I have played two of them. The third one, Werewords looks nice, only feels to be a slightly complex concept for a party game. I don't know. Maybe it's great.

The second one is Just One. It's a party game in the spirit of two Spiel des Jahres party game winners, Dixit (everyone tries to make a suggestion for your word; you try to choose something not very obvious but also not very obscure) and Codenames (a coop word game where you provide word clues with a taboo word). It has some great features like being a party game that anyone can join or leave practically at any time (it is something great at parties!) and it's certainly well-developed and great to lure new players to the hobby; however it's just far from the special greatness of Dixit or Codenames.

And then there is LAMA. You might know I'm a Knizia fan. I do enjoy LAMA. I just don't get the hype and the love it gets. Or maybe I just don't understand why so many other Knizias did not get this popularity before. Yes, I can see non-gamers and kids can play this game and it offers some interesting counter-intuitive tactics for gamers. Yes, I can see how different the game can get with different player counts. However after a dozen plays I still haven't had any really exciting, really memorable plays of it and I still haven't seen real enthusiasm from other players I've played with (I mean, of course it's interesting that it plays different with different player counts but most players will experience the game only once with one specific play count - and will maybe say meh). This is a game that can be an amazing design for what it is but that does not always equal great experience with everyone it seems.

So, do I think the jury was wrong to choose these games? Not really. They are enjoyable (let's say I can imagine Werewords is enjoyable as well). They clearly fit the SdJ criteria. I'm not even sure I can name any games from the past (April to April) year that could be better. I just... think it wasn't a great year for Spiel des Jahres-worthy games. I'm not saying there were no good or even great games released - I just did not see anything that would have been a great candidate for Spiel des Jahres (simple, clear, family-friendly but tricky, interesting and addictive for non-gamers etc.).

So which game do I think will win tomorrow? I have no idea, even if I might be rooting for Just One, just a little bit. Or maybe Werewords - its win would be the only reason why a Hungarian publisher would think it would be worth publishing it in a Hungarian edition.

(Oh, and as for Kennerspiel - I have only played Carpe Diem and found it was a typical autopilot-Feldian well-developed-but-uninteresting JASE with terribly bland graphic design. So maybe it was a bad year for slightly more complex games as well.)

update: Indeed Just One won the award. Kennerspiel went to Wingspan. Congrats to the winners!
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