Ah, Spiel des Jahres, the board gaming world’s Olympics. If you’ve ever wondered what board game awards there are, or what is the significance of the German Spiel des Jahres in particular, have a quick look at one of our previous blog posts. Despite 2020 being a bumpy ride, things are still happening in the hobby world, and this year has seen a few interesting and innovative titles. Let’s have a look at this year’s winners and nominees, shall we?
Pictures, a deduction party game for 3 to 5 players, became the game of the year, snatching the title of Spiel des Jahres. This is a quick-playing visual associations game with very simple rules, in which players will try and depict various photographs from the set of cards with very unusual items – from sticks and stones to shoelaces. Pick a set of materials and try your best to interpret your assigned picture (only you know which one). Your goal is to make everyone guess yours correctly!
Accessible, simple yet fun, and well-received by the gaming crowd, Pictures is sure to become a new top title among party games as well as family games. The game brings about creativity with the simplest of tools. The jury’s verdict reads: “The materials in ‘Pictures’ at first seem to have been randomly thrown together, in reality however they have been chosen cleverly. Each set provides the player with a different challenge and so there is a huge incentive for experimentation. The results are often astounding, so the guessing rounds often seem like a visit to an art gallery: featuring great ‘Aha’ moments and amusing attempts to justify your misunderstood creative genius.”
Nominated for the game of the year along with Pictures were My City by Reiner Knizia, a legacy game focused around city building, and Nova Luna by Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel, an abstract tile-laying game.
My City is a building strategy for 2 to 4 players, with a legacy element to it. If you are unfamiliar with legacy games, what it means is that the game takes off wherever you left it last time you’ve played it, in an ongoing gaming experience. My City takes about 20-40 minutes to play per game session, and it consists of 24 episodes, at the end of which a winner will emerge. In the game, each player will be in control of their own city, beginning in its early preindustrial stage and developing it as the game progresses, adding more and more elements to their personal game boards and cards to their deck. Each choice will matter, as it will echo through the entirety of 24 episodes, and every game will carry a very personalised player experience. If you are not too keen for the legacy-style play, or you’ve completed it, My City offers an alternate set-up for repeatable play.
On the other hand, we have Nova Luna. In this strategy game, players draft tiles into their grid, and on each tile there will be a small goal the players will try to accomplish. The tiles are colour-coded, and each goal consists of bringing the various tiles together. Once you’ve reached a goal, you deposit a token on the corresponding tile, and once you’ve ran out of token – you win! The moon dial contains the tiles available for drafting, as well as dictates which player goes first. Once the tiles on the dial are depleted the players may refill. The game goes on and the players search for synergies to build around their tile grid. Choose the right tiles, maximise your points and expand your grid before you run out of tokens! Easy to play, fast to learn, with decent replayability and depth of tactics, this is a great new title for those in the market for an abstract strategy.
Let’s have a look at the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which expands the prestigious Spiel des Jahres to focus on “connoisseur” games – the heavier complexity games that are usually aimed at a more experienced gamer audience. This year’s winner is The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a co-operative trick-taking game for 2 to 5 players. In this sci-fi themed card game, players will embark on a journey through space, consisting of 50 missions, each more difficult than the other. As in any trick-taking game, cards of various suits are played and the highest card wins the trick. However, The Crew mixes things up with additional thematic rules and the missions themselves, adding more and more challenges as the game progresses. In the end, the players win only if all team members have successfully completed their tasks.
Fast-playing and very well-received, there’s no wonder this game emerged as a winner! The jury statement reads: “The Crew is a co-operative trick-taking game and that alone makes it something a bit special. But the appeal doesn’t stop with this unique selling point. Hardly any other game before it has encapsulated the special charm of trick-taking games so well. Players gradually come to appreciate the subtleties of the genre and are challenged in an original way. The Crew is simultaneously missionary and mentor.”
The other two nominees were Cartographers by Jordy Adan, a fantasy territory-building game, and The King's Dilemma by Hjalmar Hach, Lorenzo Silva and Carlo Burelli, an interactive negotiations game.
The kingdom is expanding further north into new territories, and as the Queen’s cartographer it is your job to map them out and claim them for her Majesty. Through royal edicts, the matriarch will reveal which territories are prized above others, and to increase your reputation you must meet her demands. Cartographers is a paper-and-pencil game where your goal is to score maximum points while filling out your map grid, Tetris-style. In Cartographers, players will compete to earn the most reputation over the course of 4 seasons. They will do so by carrying out the Queen’s edicts and filling out the map on their sheet before each season is over. Become the most reputable cartographer by winter’s end and win the game!
The King's Dilemma is a highly interactive, Game of Thrones -esque negotiations game, with a legacy elements and ever-evolving storylines. This game is truly only as good as the group you’re experiencing it with, but when it’s good – it’s great! Political intrigues, heated debates, bribery, voting… solve complex ethical dilemmas, vote of nuanced and sensitive issues, fight for the benefit of the state of pursue your own selfish goals. The game offers an expansive narrative full of plot twists that will lead you through generations of courtly intrigues as you take control of a noble house. Embark on a journey of political machinations and fantasy storytelling!
- Gumnut Team