SDJ Buzz: 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres

In 2011, the Kennerspiel des Jahres (complex game of the year) was introduced as a companion to the Spiel des Jahres as a way to honor more gamerly games.  The first winner of the award was 7 Wonders.  What will be the second?  Let’s see the nominees.

image by BGG user MacTele

The first nominee is K2, a game that first came out in 2010 (with a German edition released in 2011, making it eligible this year).  This game about mountain climbing (designed by Adam Kałuża and published by REBEL.pl and Heidelberger Spieleverlag) is for 1-5 players aged 10 and up, and takes an hour to play.  This was actually among the first games I talked about on this blog (in the first 20, anyway).  Each player controls two mountaineers that have two goals: make it to the top of K2 (the second highest peak in the world) and survive for eighteen days.  You accomplish this by playing cards that take you up the treacherous path.  You’ll have to deal with weather and a lack of oxygen as you go. At the end of the eighteenth day of the journey, the player with the most points wins – you get points based on how high your mountaineers go.

That’s a pretty simplistic overview of the game, but then, I already talked about it.  One thing I like about this game is the novel theme – I don’t know of any other mountain climbing games.  K2 seems to do very well with the mechanisms, and the fact that it’s a competitive game that can be played solitaire speaks to its complexity.  I’m interested to give it a try sometime.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The second nominee is Targi, a game in the Kosmos 2-player line.  The game was designed by Andreas Steiger, is for ages 12 and up, and takes an hour to play.  You’re playing a member of a nomadic tribe (and not a ninja as I initially thought), trying to collect goods and trade them in for points.

There’s a rough English translation of the rules at BGG, but to learn the game, I suggesting watching user MiWi’s walkthrough video (you can see it here).  Essentially, there’s a 5×5 grid of cards, with 16 border cards that are always in the same place, and 9 random center cards made up of goods and tribe cards.  There’s a robber that will go all around the border, acting as a timer for the game.  In a round, players take turns placing workers on the borders – the only restrictions are that you can’t place on the robber’s space, on a space occupied by another worker, or on a space directly across from another worker.  After each player has placed three workers, you place tribe markers at the intersections your workers make (which can’t be more than two).  You’ll then resolve the cards you have markers on – you’ll either be collecting goods or trading them in for points.  Cards from the center 9 are removed after they are used, and replaced by a card of the other type (goods replaced by tribe cards, and vice versa).  Border cards remain.  You play until one player has played their twelfth tribal card, or when the robber reaches the last space of the track (which is the fourth raid space, meaning that players will have to pay).  The player with the most points wins.

This game looks like a very solid and fun two-player game.  I’m reminded of Jambo to some extent, though the two play completely differently.  Still, there’s that resource management aspect that is crucial to both.  I like the worker placement mechanism, and how you can get extra actions just by creating good intersections.  It’s also interesting how you can block someone when you’re not even taking the action they want simply by placing across from the card they wanted.  This looks like a very nice little game, and I really hope there will be an English version sometime soon.

image by BGG user vittorioso

The final nominee is Village, designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by Pegasus Spiele (Tasty Minstrel has the US publishing rights).  The game is for 2-4 players aged 12 and up, and takes 75 minutes to play.  The game is about building building your family’s legacy in a medieval village.  You play over a series of rounds where you will be placing family members and trying to prosper.  At the start of each round, the board is seeded with cubes representing skills (needed for crafts and travel), persuasiveness (needed for market and council chamber), faith (needed for church and travel), knowledge (needed for crafts and travel), and the plague (reduces your family’s life span).  On your turn, you’ll take one cube from an area and place it in your supply if it’s an influence cube, or lose two time if it’s a plague cube.  You’ll then take the associated action – you could get grain from the grain harvest; you could add a new family member from the next generation; you could produce goods by spending influence, grain, or time; you could sell goods at the market for points; you could send a family member out into the world to explore new cities for points; you could use influence in the council chamber for certain benefits; you could add a family member to the black bag through the church; or you could go to the well and return three same-colored influence cubes to take one other action.  When all cubes have been taken off the board, there’s a mass – you’ll randomly take family members out of the bag (or pay to take yours out) to add to the church hierarchy, which earns points at the end of the game.  If your time marker ever crosses the bridge, you’ll have to kill one of your family members.  It will either go into the village chronicle (worth points) or a grave next to the church (worth nothing).  The game ends when the village chronicle is full, or when the church graveyard is full.  The player with the most points wins.

I’ve heard some good buzz about this game, and it seems like a really novel twist on the worker placement genre.  You have workers to place in various locations, but your actions are determined by claiming cubes.  It provides some really interesting decisions, particularly if there’s an action you really want that only has plague cubes.  The time mechanism seems very interesting as well, and the act of killing off your workers and replacing them with a new generation is kind of cool.  I know Chicken Caesar is doing something similar, but I can’t think of anything else.  Overall, this seems like a very good game.

PREDICTION TIME!

This category is a tough one, partly because no one really knows what the jury is looking for.  Last year’s winner, 7 Wonders, was a gimme – it was going to win no matter what.  This year, I don’t think there’s a clear frontrunner.  K2 has an unusual theme and some good climbing mechanisms; Targi is a two-player worker placement card game that seems like it will offer some good resource management opportunities; and Village is a worker placement game where you’re not actually placing workers.  This is a tough call, but I think I’m going to say the Village will win the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres.  I was torn between that and K2, but I’m going with Village because I think it’s offering the most in terms of new ideas.  Targi looks great, but it’s a two-player game, and I think that will hurt it.  The SdJ is a family award, and I think the KedJ is probably going to go to a game for slightly larger groups than just two.  I could be completely off-base – Targi could be exactly what the jury wants.  However, I’m sticking with Village.

So, to recap – I’m saying that Eselsbrücke will win the SdJ, and Village will win the KedJ.  But please don’t bet on those based on my word – I really have no idea, and am probably wrong.  The awards will be announced on July 9.  Sometime before then, I’ll do another post on the recommended list.  Thanks for reading!

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