In the board game business, Germany’s Spiel des Jahres awards are a huge deal. As the biggest prize in the tabletop industry, winning one of these awards is guaranteed to boost your sales, as well as earn major bragging rights, even though there is no actual prize money involved.
Consisting of accomplished board game critics from around the world, the jury weighs up the quality, experience and overall impression of hundreds of new games, whittling them down until only three winners remain. After announcing their shortlist in May, the Spiel des Jahres jury have declared the winners of their three categories: Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year), Kennerspiel des Jahres (Complex Game of the Year) and the main Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year).
2017’s main winner is Kingdomino, a quick-to-learn, family-oriented tile-laying game in which each player builds a 5×5 “kingdom” out of oversized cardboard dominoes. Each turn, players connect a new domino to their existing kingdom, making sure at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play. Here’s what the jury said about Kingdomino:
“Kingdomino” lifts the time-honoured principle of dominoes to a new level – without losing any of the sleek elegance of its predecessor. On the contrary: the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well, they are expertly reduced to their essential components. The strong two-player variant with an XXL kingdom rounds off this quick and easy-to-learn gaming experience.
The award of Kennerspiel des Jahres went to Exit – The Game, a riff of the premise of an Escape Room, where a group of people try to escape a locked room. Players work together to solve one puzzle after another until eventually, it’s time to try and overcome the final brain-teaser. The quicker your team is, the more points you’ll score.
Captivating! Challenging! Astounding! The perfect game concept and the remarkable quality of the co-operative adventures of the “Exit – The Game” series are so impressive that all three titles in the first run have been spotlighted. The multiply-innovative puzzles make searching for their solutions – which are never trivial and often ingenious – a sheer pleasure. These games are a must for all Escape Room fans and those who would like to be.
Lastly, the winner of Kinderspiel des Jahres went to IceCool, the adorable penguin flicking game. No, really, you flick penguins around a board and it is super fun! In each round, one of the players takes the role of the Hall Monitor with the aim of catching each other penguin to get points. The others try to run through several doors to gain fish and earn points on their way.
Whoever said that school was uncool? School is cool – ice cool. Once the arena is built, children of all ages can’t stop themselves from sending their penguins skittering over the ice. There is a big learning curve; with practice you can do some amazing tricks. Everything works here: Brian Gomez combines an original game story, an impressive layout, lovingly detailed illustration and the demanding learning experience of the perfect dexterity game.
I’ll be certain to keep my eye out for these games at future events and give them a try! Of the three winners, which one appeals to you the most?
Last Updated: July 19, 2017