Spiel des Jahres 2016: Thoughts on the nominees

SdJSo the nominees for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres have been announced and its pleasing to see the most obvious candidates in the mix. Because while its nice to see some surprises and games you’ve not heard of on the lists, the judges do tend to pick a solid winner most years.

Two games have totally dominated the 2015 ‘best of’ game lists and both Codenames and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 turned up on the Spiel des Jahres (family game) and Kennerspiel des Jahres (gateway/more advanced game) lists respectively; while T.I.M.E. Stories, which has also had loads of buzz recently, also has a shot at the Kennerspiel award.

Joining Codenames on the SdJ nominee list (most likely just making up the numbers) were Imhotep and Karuba; while Isle of Skye was the third Kennerspiel nominee.

CodenamesYou can read my full review of Codenames here on the site, while I spoke about my one play of Karuba (a light, fun tile placement game) on my LoBstercon X post. I’m yet to try Imhotep, but hopefully I’ll get to give it a go at UK Games Expo this weekend so will update the post with a link once I do. But I’d be amazed if Codenames didn’t take it.

UPDATE: Having now played Imhotep, i’m going to stick with my Codenames prediction – and hope the judges hold their nerve. Imhotep ticks the SdJ boxes and is VERY German: abstract, pretty, cleverly designed and a little interactive, but quite soulless. It’s fine, but lacks innovation or character.

I’d be equally amazed if Pandemic Legacy didn’t win the Kennerspiel award. The reaction to it has been phenomenal, seeing it rise to number one on the Board Game Geek rankings in no time.

T.I.M.E. Stories is probably a little too left-field to win a German award, being a one-and-done three-hour deduction experience that you need to buy extra modules to breathe new life into. Isle of Skye seems a slightly too pedestrian Carcassonne-style tile layer to be lavished with such an impressive prize.

Unfortunately I know less about the SdJ ‘recommended’ titles (Spyfall, Animals on Board, Die Fiesen 7, Krazy Wordz and Qwinto) as only Spyfall has made much of a splash outside of Germany – and is totally not my kind of game (a bluffing and deduction style party game). EDIT: I have now reviewed Animals on Board.

MombasaI have played the three Kennerspiel des Jahres ‘recommended’ titles.

Mombasa is a fantastic medium-weight area control euro game (see link for full review); Blood Rage (one play at the recent LoBstercon) is a surprisingly fun thematic/euro hybrid mixing up banzai Viking combat with card drafting; while 7 Wonders Dual was a mediocre two-player card game for me – but most other people seem pretty smitten by it.

The only games that are also in the Board Game Geek Top 100 that were released in 2015 and not listed are Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilisation at number four (both too heavy and a re-release); Marco Polo (a Kennerspiel ‘recommended’ last year) and Food Chain Magnate (too heavy), so I don’t think you’ll find many complaints – but of course if you think something should’ve made the grade then give it a mention below.

I don’t cover the Kinderspiel (children’s) Award, but for the record the award nominees were Leo Goes to the Barber, Stone Age Junior and Mmm! The mind boggles…

Also, check out my recent post on my Top 10 previous SdJ winners.

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