Spiel des Jahres 2019 nominations mark 40th anniversary of prestigious ‘Game of the Year’ prize


21 May 2019
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just-one-59142.png Just One
Wingspan and Detective join Stefan Feld’s Carpe Diem in running for ‘Expert Game of the Year’

The nominations for 2019’s Spiel des Jahres – the esteemed German ‘Game of the Year’ award that turns 40 this year – are in.

In the running for the main Spiel des Jahres prize are three games: Just One, LAMA and Werewords.

Just One is Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter’s co-op party game where players must help a teammate guess hidden words by writing down clues – with the twist that any matching hints will cancel each other out, forcing the team to come up with helpful but original suggestions.

LAMA, meanwhile, sees the return to the Spiel des Jahres frontrunners of prolific designer Reiner Knizia, who has been shortlisted for the award more than a dozen times for games including Amun-Re, Tigris & Euphrates and Modern Art, and won the Game of the Year prize in 2008 for Keltis. Knizia’s llama-themed card game involves discarding as many cards as possible to score avoid scoring points.

Finally, Ted Alspach’s Werewords rounds out the nominations despite courting controversy ahead of its release after being accused of ‘copying’ its question-based social deduction design from Japanese publisher Oink’s Insider – something that Alspach vehemently denied.

Recommended for the award were Imhotep: The Duel, Belratti, Dizzle, surprisingly award-friendly poop game Who Did It?, Century: Spice Road creator Emerson Matsuuchi’s Reef and the collection of mystery card games known as the Sherlock series.

With the Spiel des Jahres shortlist consisting of particularly small and lightweight titles, arguably more interesting this year are the nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres – the separate ‘Expert Game of the Year’ accolade given out to games perceived as being more complex than the Spiel des Jahres’ family-friendly fare.

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The Kennerspiel shortlist sees Elizabeth Hargrave’s widely acclaimed bird game Wingspan, Ignacy Trzewiczek’s app-enhanced mystery Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game and Stefan Feld’s more traditional Roman city-building Carpe Diem fight it out for the top spot.

Recommended for the Kennerspiel des Jahres were Architects of the West Kingdom – the follow-up to Shem Phillips’ North Sea trilogy – semi-co-op Eurogame Lowlands, the science-celebrating Newton and Paper Tales.

Finally, the independent Kinderspiel des Jahres jury revealed the three games up for the ‘Children’s Game of the Year’ award, which marks its own 30-year anniversary in 2019. 

Fairy-tale memory card game Fabulantica, barrel-bowling dexterity game Tal der Wikinger (Valley of the Vikings) and the charming animal-stacking race game Go Gecko Go! made the shortlist, leading a list of Recommended titles that includes Bauernhof Bande, Monster Match, Monster-Bande, Octopus, Voll Verwackelt and kids’ versions of family-friendly hits Concept and Magic Maze.

Commenting on 2019’s shortlist, the chair of the Spiel des Jahres jury, Harald Schrapers, pointed out the absence of a “’big’ and thematic board game at a medium entry level”, saying that “there was nothing outstanding” released over the past year that would satisfy that medium weight of complexity between the family-friendly Spiel des Jahres and the more rules-heavy Kennerspiel.

Considering the Spiel des Jahres’ 40-year history, Schrapers suggested that both the quantity and quality of tabletop games has greatly increased since the Spiel des Jahres was won in 1979 by Hare & Tortoise. 

“Of the games that the ten jurors have played intensively over the last 12 months, probably more than one hundred would have been a candidate for the leaderboard in the 1980s,” Schrapers wrote.

This year’s winners of the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced on July 22nd. The Kinderspiel des Jahres recipient will be named on June 24th.

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