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Spiel Des Jahres

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.

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The nominees for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres — Germany’s “game of the year” award – have been announced, and they are:

Kingdomino, by Bruno Cathala and Pegasus Spiele, with Blue Orange Games being the publisher of origin

We talked about Kingdomino on episode 84 of our podcast. This is an amazing board game that can be taught quickly to players of almost all ages and skill levels. It really leans on players past knowledge of dominoes (which almost everyone has) and layers on a few different mechanics. We could definitely see this one taking the crown!

Magic Maze, by Kasper Lapp and Pegasus Spiele (originally Sit Down!)

Magic Maze is a simultaneous play cooperative game where the players take control of a group of downtrodden would-be adventurers as they look a giant mall looking for arms, armor, and supplies. The real kicker is that players can’t communicate with each other outside of specific situations.


El Dorado, by Reiner Knizia and Ravensburger

This is a racing game where players control famous explorers as they venture through the wilderness of South America in search of treasure.  Players assemble and equip their own team using mechanics lifted from the deck-building genre and race to see who can get the loot first!


The games nominated for the Kinderspiel des Jahres, Germany’s game of the year for children, are:

Captain Silver, by Wolfgang Dirscherl, Manfred Reindl, and Queen Games

Captain Silver is a children’s game where players reach into a bag and try to feel around for the shapes to help complete a path to shore and earn victory points. This is a pretty cute game with all of the crazy pirate tropes. We’re definitely looking to trying this one out.

Ice Cool, by Brian Gomez and AMIGO Spiele(originally Brain Games)

Ice Cool is a penguin themed dexterity flicking game that encourages whacky trick shots. The idea is to travel through doorways in a frozen high school collecting fish that are hanging there. Trick shots are encouraged because if you can pass through multiple doorways it can give you an edge over other players. We have the game and have played it a bunch. My only complaint is that I don’t know how hard im flicking and I keep hurting my finger on the solidly build penguins.

The Mysterious Forest, by Carlo A. Rossi and IELLO

This is a cooperative memory game set in the fantasy world of the Wormworld Saga. This is popular series of graphic novels by Daniel Lieske. In the game players help Jonas cross the Mysterious Forest and ultimately face the Queen of the Draconia. The game consists of three phases. First is the scouting phase where they look at the eight forest cards to determine what equipment they will need. The second phase involves rolling dice to determine what equipment they get. The third involved trying to remember where the equipment needed to go based on the players’ memories of the eight forest cards from phase one.

The games nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award aimed at enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with modern games — are:


EXIT: Das Spiel, a series of three escape room games from Inka Brand, Markus Brand, and KOSMOS

This nomination is interesting because it is actually a series of three different “games.” In fact, I don’t even know if I can call them games. The Exit series is a series of self-contained “escape rooms” in a single box. They each contain all the clues and puzzles you would need for the escape room experience without any of the inconvenienced of driving to a location and being locked in a room.

Raiders of the North Sea, by Shem Phillips and Schwerkraft-Verlag (originally Phillips’ own Garphill Games)

Viking games have become so common that they are almost cliché at this point, but Raiders of the North Sea elegantly combines enough different mechanics that it is easily one of the best in the genre. The goal of the game is to impress your war chief. In order to do so you have to select a good crew, have them supply a good boat, and pick the richest raiding target. There are lots of moving parts in this game, but they all fit nicely


Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius and Schwerkraft-Verlag (originally from FryxGames and Stronghold Games)

Terraforming Mars is a game where player race to control territory on Mars. They do this by terraforming hexes on the board and then taking the resources they gain by doing so to build further improvements. This is, essentially, an engine building game where the actions you take will build on each other round after round.  It is definitely worth looking into.

Good luck to all the nominees! We’ll report back in late June when the winners are announced!


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