30 years of Spiel des Jahres - a brief and personal history of the award
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I was born 1974 and so I was basicly raised with the Game of the year. Time to give a short summary
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1. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1072]
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Nearly everyone will be surprised to hear that the first winner was announced in 1978 - not 1979. It was called "Hase und Igel" (The Hare and Tortoise). The jury declared the winner but afterwards, realized that they needed some more preplanning and a proper announcement - back then there were no press conferences, no nominees, nothing. It was more like a spontaneous event. But they did one thing right: they used the now-famous red "Poeppel" (the logo)to mark the winner. The next year, they planned an official announcement and created a list of nominees- everything we now know as "standard".
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2. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1072]
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So 1979 was the first "real" winner of the game of the year:
Hase und Igel from David Parlett.

Nominees:
Acquire
Alaska
Blockade (Germany version of Sly)
Chess challenger Voice (a chess computer with voice output, so blind people could play with it)
Merlin (Parker)
Senso (German version of Simon)
Shogun (the magnetic game from Ravensburger)
Touche
Twixt

Sonderpreis "Beautiful game" Seti

My parents bought the first game of the year because of the award - any many did, so the award was a success. Kudos to Ravensburger who really supported the award, even if the game they put all their PR into, Shogun, did not win (even Tv adds!)

Apart from the now quite old looking electronic games (Merlin, Simon) it ws a strong field.
The beautiful game looks pretty pedestrian from todays standard, but back then the Buetehorn-series was known for their good quality (wodden) components.
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3. Board Game: Rummikub [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:1551]
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1980: Winner: Rummikubb.
Nominees:
Dampfross (Buetehorn)
Epaminondas
Focus
Formel 1 (from Wolfgang Kramer -later known as Top Race )
Galaxis (Ravensburger)
Heisse Spur (Stop Thief!)

Beautiful Game: Spiel (Edition Perlhuhn)
Sonderpreis "Solitary game": Rubiks Cube

The jury was still looking a bit for their style: Again two electronic games. And two nominees that would win in later years. - a phenomenon common in the early 80s, either because a lack of good games or because the small publishers like "Edition Perlhuhn" just couldnt sell to the people. No internet, you know... :-)
Formel 1 gave Kramer his first nomination. The beautiful game was the dice-Pyramid, came for a wooping 80$ and didnt have any rules included in the first edition ("make your own rules")
The symbol of the 80s, the Rubiks cube took home the only Solitary Game award ever.
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4. Board Game: Focus [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2693]
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1981 Winner: Focus
Nominees:
Cant stop
Havannah
Ombagi
Quibbix
Raeuber und Gendarm
Sagaland
Wendo
Beatiful Game: Ra (Intelli)


When I later (Early 90s) wanted to complete my collection of SdJs I was surprised to learn, that I already own the 1981-game: Focus was the only winner ever that did not display the logo on the box (The later Kosmos edition did). Parker obviously did not care about it.
1981 was the year of the abstracts: Focus (together with Bluff and Rummikubb one of only 3 abstract winners), Ra, Ombagi, Quibbix, Wendo ( a kind of chess-for-beginners), Havannah and Cant Stop. Only 2 Games had a theme and Raeuber and Gendarms theme was very thin.

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5. Board Game: Enchanted Forest [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:5160]
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1982 Winner: Sagaland

Nominees:
Baubylon
Can't Stop
Fang mich
Geister
Havannah
Kensington
Millionenspiel
Vokabo

Beautiful Game:Skript

It was considered a good year, even if only collectors will recall most of the names. It was also the year were we started buying the game of the year regulary. Sagaland is more or less a kids game, but I was a kid and we played it a lot. Its still sold and successfull, so I guess we werent alone (I like the original artwork more BTW).
Again: Skripts graphics would barely pass as "average" today. But the jury liked the different Font types.
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6. Board Game: Scotland Yard [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1059]
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1983 Winner: Scotland Yard
Nominees:
Baerenspiel
Der schwarze Prinz
Fuzzi, Heinz und Schlendrian
Riombo
"Beautiful Game": Wir fuettern die kleinen Nilpferde

1982 might be considered a good year by the standards of the 80s, this definitly was the worst year in SdJ-History. Scotland Yard was luckily a huge success and defintly a good game. The rest? Baerenspiel was a cooperative game for small kids - my smaller siblings (6 and 3) liked it... Fuzzi, Heinz... and the Nilpferd-Game were also kid games. Riombo was a Blind-Bidding-game and is now forgotten. Der Schwarze Prinz quickly drove to obscurity and is now a collectors item - I dont know anybody who owns a copy.
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7. Board Game: Dampfross [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:3111]
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1984 Winner: Dampfross (refined version of Railroad rivals)

Nominees:
Claim
Domingo
Feuerwehr
Metropolis
Netzwerk
Uisge (also won "Beautiful Game")

A solid winner and one of the few games my older brother liked. I remember how we praised the ingeniety of drawing lines on a map! How advanced! Haha!

Feuerwehr was in stock in my junior school and I found it decent as a kid. In my secondary school they had Metropolys and I regulary played it. Uisge is still a good abstract and was in stock of Abacus until 8 years ago or so.


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8. Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:66] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
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1984 Winner: Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet

Auswahlliste:
Abilene
Campus
Cash & Carry
Heimlich & Co (Edition Perlhuhn)
Jago
Kuhhandel
Mr. Zero
Pin
"Beautiful game": Drei Magier

The winner was too advanced for us kids so I played it about a decade later for the first time. It was a very ununsual game on a list with very unusual games: Mr. Zero is still one of a kind (look it up in the geek, its absolutly worth it!) Pin uses a rubber band and Pins. Cash & Carry was the last in a series of original dice games by Joerg Nuernberger, who seems to be vanished. The Beatiful game was really a piece of art and would even today praised for its artwork. Its the namesake of the publisher "Drei Magier Spiele". Gamewise its not so good and can hang itself.


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9. Board Game: Heimlich & Co. [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1538]
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1986 Winner: Heimlich & Co

Nominees:
Code 777
Das ver-rueckte Labyrinth
Greyhounds
Malawi
Top (KD Spiele)
Top Secret (Jumbo)
Winkeladvokat

Beautiful game: Mueller & Sohn

What a year! In our family we played a hundred games of Heimlich & Co and probably twice as much Verruecktes Labyrinth (Amazing Labyrinths), which -in our opinion - should have won.
Greyhounds is also a good game by Tada! Berd Brunnhofer of recent St. Petersburg and Stone Age fame.

Mueller & Sohn is a simple Roll-and-Move-Game with one of the most beautiful boards of all times. Back than Frankh-Kosmos started their "Perlhuhn"-Line with leather-boards and stones and alike as materials. Realy "luxury" games if you will.

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10. Board Game: Auf Achse [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:2467]
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1987: Auf Achse

Nominees:
Der Fliegende Teppich
Die 1. Million (aka Monad)
Kreml
Maritim
Restaurant
Sauerbaum
Shark
Beautiful Game: Tatort Nachtexpress

Another title for Kramer! And another games my parents didnt buy, because they disliked the theme. But a lot did buy this game - enough to spring a successor: Auf Achse - Das Kartenspiel (which didnt have anything in common with the game). Back than that was quite a thing. Only Dampfross has spawned some "Expansion". "Branding" was invented 10 years down the road, I suppose...


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11. Board Game: Barbarossa [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
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1988 Winner: Barbarossa

Nominees:
Bausack
Forum Romanum
Hol's der Geier
Janus
Loa
Mississippi (Mattel)
Scalino
Schoko & Co
Targui

"Beautiful Game" Inkognito
"kooperative Game":Sauerbaum

And the first winner by Klaus Teuber - A complete long shot back then. And we liked the idea of a clay puzzle (not too many party games apart from pictonary back than aparently in Germany...). We didnt like the rules and disposed of most of the rules (Cluzzle seems to have been invented by the same momentum...)

Sauerbaum was another of the Herder-Spiele (with Feuerwehr, Baerenspiel among others), which had a line of cooperative games for kids. They were a realy child of the 80s. The publisher ceased to exist in the mid-90s.
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12. Board Game: Café International [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:2069]
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1989 Winner: Cafe International

Nominees:
Abalone
Der Ausreisser
Ein solches Ding
Flieg, Dumbo flieg
Hexentanz (aka Magic Dance)
Maestro
Mitternachtsparty
Pole Position
Regatta

"Beautiful Game":Henne Berta

"Childrens Game":Gute Freunde

Aparently the jury thought that they should award games for children separate than for familys and spawned a "special award" which would survive until the spawn of the "Kinderspiel" award 2001.
Henne Berta is also a very simple childrens game, but the components a truly stunning.

I wasnt active in the scene yet, but I later learned that there was a huge discussion going on between "Maestro" and "Cafe International". Both games use the same basic mechanism and both are from the same author (Which is not Knizia but Rudi Hoffmann). Some considered Maestro the better game but figured Hans im Glueck might be to small to win the award...

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13. Board Game: Hoity Toity [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1196]
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1990 Winner: Adel Verpflichtet

Nominees:
Das Geheimnis der Pyramide
Dino
Die heisse Schlacht am kalten Buffet
Favoriten
Heuchel & Meuchel
Lancelot
New Orleans Big Band
Tabaijana
"Beautiful Game":Lifestyle
"Childrens Game": Das Geisterschloss

In the beginning of the 90s we werent happy with the awarded games. I dont know why, we didnt like any winners until Manhattan. Most games on the list didnt do it for us either, although I consider "New Orleans Big Band" as a very clever and unique game. Tabijana is considered as one (if not the) best of the Herder-cooperative games
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14. Board Game: Wacky Wacky West [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2234]
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1991 Winner: Drunter & Drueber

Nominees:
20 Questions
Bauernschlau
Casablanca
Formika
Im Reich des weissen Baeren
Invers
Irrgendwie (Solitary game)

"Beautiful Game": Das Labyrinth der Meister

"Children Game":Corsaro

The game that launched a thousand ships... Or the Hans im Glueck Verlag. This was their breakthrough success for a company that was the 2F-Verlag of their times (or eggertspiele before Antike).
Notably also Corsaro (by Kramer, another cooperative Herder game) and the advanced version of amazing labyrinth as the beautiful game. And Irrgendwie really is very good puzzle-game.
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15. Board Game: Um Reifenbreite [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1124]
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1992 Winner: Um Reifenbreite

Nominees:
Die verbotene Stadt
Donnerwetter
Entenrallye
Gold Connection
Palermo
Quo Vadis
Razzia (by Stefan Dorra - his first success)
Schraumeln
Tabu

"Childrens Game":Schweinsgalopp

One of the worst sellers of the awarded games, Um Reifenbreite was alongside 2000s Torres that did not make the top ten list of most sold boardgames that year. Gamers blame the theme (sport games never sell), the artwork and the rules, which tried a three-step-system. Step 1 was a very light version, step 2 introduced more rules, and step 3 is the full game. Good idea, but the first step game was utterly crap and whoever played that must be really interested to try out the later versions.

Notably of the nominees is Taboo -one of the very few games without an author that recieved a nomination in the 90s) and Stefan Dorras first succes, Razzia (later "Hickhack im Gackelwack", IIRC).
No beautiful game this year

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16. Board Game: Bluff [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:7283]
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1993 Winner: Bluff

Nominees:
Modern Art
Pusher (Theta)
Quarto!
Rheingold
Spiel der Tuerme
Tutanchamun
Zatre

"Beautiful Game":Kula Kula

"Childrens Game": Ringel Rangel

What a year! Rudi Hoffmanns great "Spiel der Tuerme", the very original "Pusher", the classic "Quarto" and of course Knizias first nomination Modern Art. And they pick Bluff! OK, I just dont like the game, but I really think "Zatre" or "Modern Art" should have made the cut. But who cares.
The right choice for the beautiful game though. It is still the game I show guests as an example of great artwork in a game.
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17. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:992]
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1994 Winner: Manhattan

Nominees:
6 nimmt! (aka Category 5)
Billabong
Die Osterinsel
Kohle, Kies & Knete (aka Im the Boss!)
Take it easy
Was sticht?

"Beautiful Game": Doctor Faust

"Childrens Game": Looping Louie

Yes, Looping Louie got an award! Who fuigured? ;-)
A good list of games and (in my opinion) a worthy winner. Andreas Seyfarths first success before diving into obscurity for about 10 years...
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18. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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1995 Winner: Die Siedler von Catan

Nominees :
Buzzle (aka Runes)
Condottiere
Die Maulwurf-Company
Galopp Royal
Kaleidos
La-Trel
Linie 1
Medici
"Beautiful Games":Tri-BA-Lance ( a dexterity game)

"Childrens game":Karambolage

"jigsaw Puzzle": Krimi-Puzzle

Settler of Catan. The big success. Should I say more? Teuber at the height of his career, with having a nother title nominated (Galopp royal). And another special price for a jigsaw puzzle. I dont think we will see that award again.

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19. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:53]
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1996 Winner: El Grande

Nominees:
Ab die Post!
Campanile
Mue & mehr
Reibach & Co
Sisimizi
Speed (aka Blink)
Top Race
Wat'n dat!?
Word-Whiz
"Beautiful Game": Venice Connection
"Children Game":Vier zu mir! ASS
"Dexterity Game":Carabande (aka Pitch Car)

After Settlers came Kramer bounced back with the title and a nomination for Top Race (which -thanks for paying attancion- was nominated 1980 as Formel 1). El Grande has the highest "Weight" in BGG of all nominated games. It was a big success, but that was probably because of Settler. When you see people playing that in television pieces about the award everybody always said "Good game. But man, thats very...very...difficult!"
Carabande snatched the special price that many said should have given again a couple of years later to Villa Palletti.
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20. Board Game: Mississippi Queen [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1586]
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1997 Winner: Mississippi Queen

Auswahlliste:
Bohnanza
Comeback
Die Siedler von Catan - Das Kartenspiel
Dimenticato
Expedition (Queen - aka Terra X)
Loewenherz (aka Domaine)
Manitou
Showmanager
Visionary
"Beautiful Game":Aztec
"Childrens Game":Leinen los!
"Dexterity Game":Husarengolf

Everybody thought Teuber was robbed for his next title, when Loewenherz didnt win. I suppose after Settler and El Grande (which was considered difficult) it was time for something lighter and a dark horse won. Mississippi Queen never was a lasting success, even though the expansion was turning this into a decent game. BTW: Goldsieber hat 3 games on the list (including MQ) which was the fruits of good the work of -yes! Klaus Teuber who was responsible for the company for a short time.
3 extra awards, but it was the last time the "beautiful game" was announced. The standards in the components were so high now, making the award superflous.

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21. Board Game: Elfenland [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:793]
Peer Sylvester
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Berlin
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1998 Winner: Elfenland

Nominees:
Basari
Caesar & Cleopatra
Canyon
David & Goliath
Die Macher
Durch die Wueste
Euphrat & Tigris
Gipf
Minister
Tonga Bonga
Tycoon (aka El Capitan)

"Childrens Game":Zicke Zacke Huehnerkacke (aka Chicken Chachacha)

A solid winner in field of classics: Euphrat & Tigires and the heaviest game to recieve a nomination ever, Die Macher.
Since most geeks will now recognize these games I will go short on commentary.
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22. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
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1999: Winner Tikal

Nominated:
Giganten
Union Pacific

"Recommended":
Chinatown
El Caballero
Kahuna
Kontor
Mamma Mia!
Money
Ta Yue Kosmos
Verraeter

Childres Game: Kayanak

The jury felt the need for a change and introduced a new voting system. First the list will be announced. A couple of weeks later three out of this would be nominated and then the winner will be announced out of these three. Aparently this should make things more interesting.

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23. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:401]
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2000 Winner: Torres:

Nominated:
Carolus Magnus
Ohne Furcht und Adel (aka Citadels)

Recommended:
Kardinal & Koenig (aka Web of Power)
Kardinal
La Citta
Metro
Port Royal
Tadsch Mahal
Vinci
Zertz
Zoff im Zoo

"Childrens Game": Arbos

Surprise everywhere: Another "Tikal-Like" game won instead of the favorite, Citadel. Rumours said the award should help the struggling FX Schmid logo. Well, it didnt help: Torres was the worst sell of all SdJs and the FX Schmid ceased to exist.
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24. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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2001 Winner: Carcassonne

Nominated:
Das Amulett
Zapp Zerapp

Recommended:
Babel
Capitol
Cartagena
Die Haendler von Genua
Drachendelta
Ebbe und Flut
Hexenrennen
Land unter
Royal Turf
San Marco

"Literature in a game" Der Herr der Ringe (aka Lord of the rings)
"History in a game" Troia

This year Childrens Games got their own logo, jury and award. I dont know much about them - Im not (yet) a father, and Im not a children anymore. So I stick to the original award.
2 extra prices for unique games and the most succesful winner since Settlers - 2001 was an extraordinary year after the Torres-desaster (I love Torres, but it was a flop as the game of the year)
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25. Board Game: Villa Paletti [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1391]
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2002 Winner: Villa Palletti

Nominated:
Puerto Rico
Trans America

Recommended:
Alles im Eimer (aka Bucket King... I think)
Atlantic Star
Blokus
Der Herr der Ringe - Das Kartenspiel
Dschunke
Dvonn
Don & Co
Kupferkessel Co.
Magellan
San Gimignano

The big surprise. I heard rumours: Aparently half of the jury wanted to give the award to Puerto Rico, the other half to Transamerica. So they settled for Villa Palletti instead :-)
Well, whatwever the reasons were, The award did for Zoch what it did 10 years prior to Hans im Glueck: Making a big publisher out of a small two-man-show.
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