Spiel des Jahres 2010

spiel_des_jahresThe winner of this year’s Spiel des Jahres, Germany’s “Game of the Year”, will be announced on June 28. There are five nominees and I admit I was a little surprised at the list this year. I’ve already played three of the nominees and I own two of them. As usual, there is a list of recommended games, but I will talk about those later in the month.

Here are the nominees for SdJ this year along with my random opinions.

A la Carte, designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel. This is a light game that as far as I can tell is over a decade old. How does that happen? I can understand when a game is published in German for the first time that it can then be considered even if it was previously published in other languages, but this game received the Deutscher Spiele Preis in 1990. I don’t understand the SdJ judges at all. Why would I? When it comes down to it, I haven’t played it. It looks like wacky fun, and I would love to give it a try, but it doesn’t seem like a game that should be the SdJ.

Dixit, designed by Jean-Louis Roubira. I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this game before, but I own it and love it. It’s one of my favorite party games ever. Players receive a collection of cards with very interesting images and then proceed to try and score points by coming up with words or phrases that will get some but not all to choose that particular image above the images that the other players will secretly by adding into the potential choices. That’s a crappy description, but game play is really fun and with the right people, this game is outstanding. If they are going to choose a party game, then I think they should choose this one. In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and choose this one as the winner. There. Done.

Fresko, designed by Marco Ruskowski and Marcel Süßelbeck. I had the chance to play this one a couple of days ago at KublaCon and I really like it. This is exactly the kind of game I expect to be a finalist for the SdJ. It’s beautifully produced, like most Queen games, and it has a wonderful balance of decisions that mesh perfectly with the theme. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and it includes not only a great base game, but also a couple of expansions. I like this a lot and I will be buying it very soon I think. This is the obvious choice for a winner, but I think that’s just what they want me to think, so I’m going with Dixit.

Portrayal, designed by William P. Jacobson and Amanda A. Kohout. This is being published as Identik, so I imagine that this was one of those games that was not available in German before now. This is another party game where players draw pictures and score points according to how many specific elements of the task were included in the drawing. I’ve wanted to play this for a while now, but I don’t know if anyone owns a copy locally. This looks fun, but there’s no way it’s better than Dixit, so it won’t win. What’s with the party games? Are the problems in the global economy creating a need for silly family games? Who wants to worry about collecting stones or building zoos if we can’t pay the rent? Is that it?

Roll Through the Ages, designed by Matt Leacock. I reviewed this some time ago. You can read that review here: Roll Through the Ages. I still love this game. I’ve played this game dozens of times, and I still bring it out every month or so. It’s a wonderful dice game about building up your civilization. It doesn’t have a lot of interaction between players, but it has enough that you don’t feel like you are playing group solitaire. It’s being published in Germany as Im Wandel der Zeiten – Das Würfelspiel, which sounds somehow better than the English title. I really like this game. Mark Jackson and I once played this while driving. That’s how much we like it! (He rolled the dice and I knew the game well enough to not have to look at the score card, so I did not risk our lives in any way.) I would be fine if this won the SdJ, but I feel like it just doesn’t fit the profile. Screw it. I am sticking with Dixit.

That’s what I think about the nominees for this year’s Spiel des Jahres. I’ll talk about this year’s list of recommended games sometime this month.

Have fun playing games. Play a game with your family. We are going to play Matt Leacock’s Forbidden Island tonight. I hope we make it to the helicopter in time!

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