The Spiel Des Jahres awards are given out each summer to the best board games released in Germany during the previous year. The judges are an esteemed group of board game critics from Germany and other nearby countries.
It might seem odd to some that people stateside would pay so much attention to an award that is given out in the EU, but it makes complete sense. The modern board game movement was largely inspired by the work done in Germany and throughout Europe. So it only makes sense that the most prestigious awards would be handed out there.
There are three awards given out each year: The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), the Kinderspiel Des Jahres (Children’s Game of the year), and the Kennerspiel Des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the year).
Board games eligible for the aware are judged based on:
- game concept (originality, playability, game value)
- rule structure (composition, clearness, comprehensibility)
- layout (box, board, rules),
- design (functionality, workmanship)
Spiel Des Jahres – Kingdomino
I had a feeling that Kingdomino was something special the first time I saw it in a picture on Instagram. I bought it immediately and everything was confirmed once I finished my first game. Further, when you look at the criteria upon which the games are judged, this was the clear winner before the judges even opened the box.
Kingdomino combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. The goal is to sort their kingdom to that they have large contiguous biomes (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. The gameplay is quick and the game ages down very nicely. Our 8 year old can play this game without any real problem.
Kinderspiel Des Jahres – Ice Cool
Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish to earn points. This is made more complicated by the fact that each player takes a turn as the hall monitor and is trying to catch the other players.
I normally don’t like flicking games, but Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and our kids love it. The game board is super interesting because it is designed to allow for some really interesting trick shots like flicking your penguin pawn so that you have a decent spin going and having it travel in an arc through multiple doors. You can even try to send your penguin OVER walls if you like.
This is a very cool game that deserves the attention it is getting.
Kennerspiel Des Jahres – Exit
Escape rooms and puzzle room events are growing in popularity all over the world. It only made sense that one or a handful of companies would try to release some sort of home version. Exit is just that.
Obviously, Exit doesn’t prevent you from leaving your home. What it does do is very good job of motivate you to to keep pushing to solve its deep and intricate puzzles when you could just walk away.
Puzzles and the like are very different from most board games because they actually fight back. They are designed to prevent you from finishing them. They want to keep you out. That is what makes Exit so appealing, and likely why it won this award, it did a good job of pushing back just enough to keep things interesting while encouraging you to move forward and complete the challenges.
There you have it folks! The Spiel Des Jahres winners for 2017! What do you think? Did the right games win? Sounds off in the comments.