Spiel des Jahres: aka (Board) Game of the Year Award

by Bret

It’s summertime!! This means a lot of things. For one, it means school is out and I can write more articles here BUT it also means it’s time for the most prestigious annual Board and Card Game Award! Hooray!

I’m not a Board Game Geek like you, why should I care? Good question! It’s obviously not even an American award, how could it possibly even matter, right? Well, as I’ve attempted to make known here, the Germans make some top notch games that appeal to all age groups, skill levels, and level of interest. Plus, Germany is a bit more serious about this industry than here across the pond. (this means that their shelves have a lot more than Monopoly, Risk, a few party games and the latest movie slapped onto  a Scene-It) They don’t usually include all the cool Ameritrash games we make over here but it’s ok. We can take and enjoy what we get from them. There’s also a Kinderspiel des Jahres (Game of the Year for Kids), but I’ve only played one of those (and it’s awesome!)

The biggest reason why the casual Kulturblog browser might be interested in the Spiel des Jahres nominees is that ALL winners are geared towards interest and enjoyment of the wider populous and not specifically towards the gaming community. Here I’d like to look at some winners of the past (a complete list is here) to help familiarize you with a few you might consider trying as well as in anticipation of the soon to be crowned winner of 2010 on June 28th.

Settlers of Catan (1995)

Easily the most well known of the winners here in the States.  Players build roads, settlements and cities to try and become dominant over Catan’s resources, which are acquired through the roll of a die (as well as trading) and score the necessary 10 victory points to win. Personally, I don’t care much for it at all. However, because of its widespread appeal and easy to learn mechanics, I’m in favor of its continued popularity as a means of introducing euro style gaming and the wider board gaming fun that is available to more non-gamers. A gateway game, if you will!

Ticket to Ride (2004)

Probably the next most popular title, Ticket to Ride is extraordinarily simple and easy to learn, yet can have intense strategic decisions every turn. Collect sets of colored train cards to be used in claiming rail routes across the United States, acquiring victory points for doing so while at the same time attempting to fulfill specific multiple route “tickets” for further victory points. Another premiere gateway game that children and adults can learn quickly and enjoy together over and over again. I like this one ok and will play it with non-gamers, again mostly for its popularity and use to introduce friends to the fun of board games. Trains seem to have a mysterious fascination attached to them too that captures many people’s attention for some reason. (You’d be surprised how many train games there are)

Tikal (1999)

One of the more complex winners, Tikal is an exploration game. Each turn your workers uncover more jungle and the treasures and layers of temple that lie therein. Workers do a variety of actions using “action points” of which only so many are allotted each turn. Points are scored by holding onto treasures and temples during scoring phases. More points are scores depending on majority control of temples, temple height and treasure combination. Although prone to analysis paralysis (of which I am often afflicted with, though have made great progress over the years) and having never yet won this game, I very much enjoy every facet of it. You want to truly challenge your friends and/or family, here is a great way to do so.

Dominion (2009)

Last year’s winner is a bit different than most other winners. It is much like popular collectible card games (CCGs) such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon. Players work through their personal deck of cards, attempting to build them so that certain cards come out on certain turns in certain ways to be most effective towards scoring victory in the end. The difference is everyone starts with an identical, small deck. They build their deck from cards that can be “purchased” from an available market in the middle of the playing area. 10 of 25 available cards are used in any given game as available in the market, which creates immense variety in play from one game to the next. The great thing about Dominion is a game can take 15-20 minutes to play yet have all the strategy and tactical decisions of much longer games. Plus, ya know. It makes you feel like you’re really the lord of a dominion and use all sort of tricks and trades to increase your realm! M’lord!

Others that I can highly recommend either by my own playing experience or that of others include Carcassonne, Liar’s Dice, Alhambra, Scotland Yard, El Grande, Elfenland, Zooloretto, Thurn and Taxis and Niagara

Like I said above, all Spiel des Jahres winners are fairly easy to learn and are great to play with just about anyone, gamer or non-gamer alike. So instead of paying $8-$15 a person to go watch a summer blockbuster for all of 2 hours, go spend $25-$40 on a game you can play over and over again with friends and family for years to come!

As always, all photos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com

8 thoughts on “Spiel des Jahres: aka (Board) Game of the Year Award

  1. Elfenland is fun in concept, but we’ve found that getting behind just one step early on will lose the game for you. I’m betting that kids would have a pretty good time with it.

    I heard some friends talking about Dominion, but they described it as being more like Puerto Rico. If it’s more like PR than Magic TG, then it may make it onto my wish list.

    Tikal sounds fun enough. We tend to stop playing the really complicated games (Ugh, Tigris and Euphrates!) Still, have to try it first, right?

    Locally (Orem, UT) there’s a store that sells games, but also rents them out. Board Game Revolution:

  2. When I made my first visit to a new home teaching family two months ago, the husband came over and gave me a hug when I mentioned the website “Board Game Geek.” He wants the Alchemy extension of Dominion for his birthday this year.

    Thanks for your recommendations. We are always on the lookout for new games. Unfortunately, one of the House Rules for the family we play with most often is “CS Eric loses.”

  3. We tried Blokus for the first time the other day, and it’s really fun. Is it unusual to end in a three-way tie? Because that happened to us the second time we played.

  4. FHL,

    Say hello to Andrew when you’re at BGR. He used to run the game night at the Murray Store before it closed down. Tikal isn’t nearly as complicated nor as harsh as Tigris & Euphrates.

    CS Eric,

    I know the feeling. My old roommates playing philosophy was “If Bret loses, I win.” Fortunately, a lot of these games do a great job of impeding such strategies:)

    BTD Greg,

    Ya know, I have yet to play Blokus. I’ve been hoping to pick up a copy at the thrift store one of these days. However a three way tie is highly unusual in most any game, I’d say. (usually there’s one or two tie breaker rules, anyway)

  5. Hallo Leute!

    Ich hoffe sehr mir kann hier jemand weiterhelfen! Ich bin echt am Arsch mit meinem Latein. Mein Freund 23 Jahre geht fast jeden Tag in die Spielhalle.
    Wir haben uns schon 1000 Mal darüber gesprochen und haben ständig Streit deswegen. Auch gestern wieder, er zu mir ich geh mal eben eine Stunde zocken. Dann waren es 6 Stunden. Er sagt zu mir er sei nicht süchtig und er würde nur dahin gehen um Spaß zu haben und sich zu entspannen! Ich weiß leider nicht wieviel Geld er dort ausgibt. Aber das ist doch zu oft, oder ???

    Vor zwei Wochen haben wir uns total gestritten, und er entschuldigte sich nachher und fragte mich wie er das wieder gut machen könnte ich sagte, bleibe 2 Wochen von den Spielautomaten fern . Nach einer Woche hat er wieder Spielautomaten gespielt. Erst sagt er zu mir ich will dich nicht verlieren wegen den Automaten Zockereien und am nächsten Tag sagt er zu mir, sperre mich doch gleich in einem Käfig, ich darf ja gar nix oder er sagt zu mir ich mache was cih will . Er sagt ich bin verrückt und ich würde übertreiben, was das angeht. Wir reden immer und immer wieder über das gleiche thema. Und es ändert sich einfach nicht. Ich weiß echt nicht was ich tunsoll, er entschuldigt sich immer wieder und am nächsten Tag spiel er wieder an diesen scheiß Spielautomaten. Unsere Beziehung geht langsam echt zu Grunde.

    Meine Frage, was kann ich tun? Sind meine Sorgen berechtigt oder sehe ich alles zu eng und übertreibe? Soll ich ihn einfach mal lassen machen oder die Beziehung beenden???
    Wäre sehr dankbar für einige Antworten!

    Liebe Grüße und vielen Dank

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