The winners have been announced! This year’s Spiel des Jahres went to Kingdom Builder, and the Kennerspiel des Jahres went to Village. So, once again I’m 1-2 (I picked Eselsbrücke for the SdJ). I think Kingdom Builder is a fine choice for the award, so congrats to Donald X. and Queen, as well as Markus and Inka Brand and Pegasus Spiele.
Every year, along with the nominated games, the panel releases a recommended list. So I wanted to blitz through that, see what’s out there.
Drecksau is a Kosmos 2-4 player game designed by Frank Bebenroth for ages 7 and up that takes 10 minutes to play. The object of the game is to get all of your pigs dirty by playing mud cards. However, you can clean all pigs by playing a rain card, and can protect your pigs from the rain by playing a barn, which can be destroyed with lightning, but you can protect the barn with a lightning rod. Farmers also clean pigs, but you can put a lock on your barn to protect from the farmer. It sounds pretty simple and fast to play, and people who have played it seem to like its quickness.
Indigo is Reiner Knizia’s recommended game for the year, published by Ravensburger. It is a game for 2-4 players aged 8 and up, and takes 30 minutes to play. It’s a game like Tsuro, where you’re laying out paths and moving pieces along those paths. However, unlike Tsuro, it’s not a last man standing game. There are gemstones around the board, and you will be trying to guide them into your goals. If gems ever crash into each other, they are removed. However, if they get into a goal, the owner takes the gem. You may share the goal with one other player, so you would both get a gem since there are extras included. You get points at the end of the game based on the gems you collected – 3 for sapphires, 2 for emerals, 1 for amber. I’ve heard some good things about it, and it doesn’t seem quite as convoluted as some other Knizia games, so I think I’d like to play it sometime.
Kalimambo comes to us from Zoch Verlag and designer Antonion Scrittore. It’s a game for 3-7 players aged 8 and up, and takes 30 minutes to play. Players are African explorers who have found a new species. One of that new species is Kali, who is with your group. Kali has brought a friend, a rhinoceros named Mambo that stays in the back of the line. In each round, players secretly choose movement cards and reveal, also revealing a random card for Kali. The highest number moves to the front of the group, and only the farthest back explorer moves in case of a tie. If a player lands in a dung heap, they score three points (you don’t want points). When a player leaves the space in front of Mambo, the rhino charges forward and rams the new back player, who then scores points equal to the distance Mambo ran. If Kali ever would score points, those points go to the player with the lowest number. After twelve rounds, the winner is the one with the fewest points. The game seems very similar to Get Bit, at least in concept. There are some different mechanisms, such as having a random member of the line and dung heaps that hurt you. It sounds interesting, I’d like to give it a look some time.
Kulami is a two-player abstract from designer Andreas Kuhnekath and publishers Steffen-Spiele. It’s for ages 9 and up, and takes 30 minutes to play. The board is constructed from a series of tiles, and you take turns placing marbles on the board. In the end, you get points for each tile you have a majority on. Score is determined by the number of spaces on each tile tile times the number of tiles of that type you won. So if you won two 2×2 tiles, you get 8 points for those. If you won four 3×1 tiles, you get 12 points. And that’s pretty much it. It seems like a fairly straightforward abstract, and I think that the variable nature of the board will give it some extra appeal.
Miss Lupun…und das Geheimnis der Zahlen (translated to Miss Lupun and the Mystery of the Numbers) was designed by Ralf-Peter Gebhardt and Thomas Sing, and published by Winning Moves. It’s a 30 minute pattern building game for 2-6 players aged 8 and up. The object is pretty simple – you have some tasks to accomplish, and ten number tiles (0-9). On each turn, you place a number tile somewhere in the 4×6 grid. Once the board is full, or two players run out of tiles, you see what tasks you’ve achieved (two of a kind on row 5, a sum more than ten in a row, etc.). You play a certain number of rounds, and that’s it. It seems like a pretty simple game to understand, probably one that’s very good for kids. I doubt it’s something I personally would be interested outside of an educational or family setting.
Pictomania was designed by my boy Vlaada Chvátil and published in Germany by Pegasus Spiele. It’s a 3-6 player game for ages 9 and up, and takes 25 minutes. It’s a twist on drawing games, with each player drawing and trying to guess at the same time. You want to guess quickly, so as to get maximum points, but you also want others to correctly guess your word so you don’t lose points. It seems pretty brilliant, but then, Chvátil is my favorite designer. I’ve been wanting to try this since I first heard about it, and I’m still hoping that a domestic publisher will pick it up.
Rapa Nui is another Kosmos game, this one from Carcassonne designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. This one is for 2-4 players aged 10 and up, and takes 40 minutes to play. The idea is that you’re a tribal chief on Easter Island, trying to appoint villagers to different jobs and/or build the famous Easter Island statues. The game involves some hand management as well as a bit of push your luck as your try to take resources that won’t cause disaster for everyone. You can play the game online at yucata.de, though I haven’t checked it out yet.
Santa Cruz was designed by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle and published by Hans im Glück. It’s for 2-4 8+ year olds, and takes 45 minutes to play. In Santa Cruz, you’ll be building homes, churches, and lighthouses while also gaining resources. On your turn, you’ll either explore the island to place new buildings, or you’ll score a certain type of building. You have to be careful of the volcano, which might ruin everything. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I like the designer, so I’d like to give it a look some time.
This year, the jury separated the recommendation list and specified some Kennerspiel recommendations for more complex games. Friday was designed by Friedemann Friese and was published by his company 2F-Spiele (Rio Grande in the US). It’s an unusual recommendation because Friday is a solo game. It’s for ages 10 and up and takes 25 minutes. It’s set in the world of Robinson Crusoe, and you’re trying to build your deck to fight dangers and maintain your health. I’ve heard some good things, and I do like solo games, so it’s on my radar to try.
Hawaii is another Hans im Glück game, this one by first time designer Greg Daigle. It’s for 2-5 plauers aged 13 and up, and takes 90 minutes to play. It’s a worker placement game where you’re trying to build up your village on Hawaii to be the best. Over the course of five rounds, you’ll be collecting some unusual resources – feet for movement, shells for buying stuff, and fruit that can be used for either. You can buy things from the center island, or go to some of the outlying islands to collect what you need. The game has been getting great buzz ever since its release (Tom Vasel’s trashing of it notwithstanding). I haven’t played, but you can try the game on BoardGameArena.
Ora et Labora is the latest big game from Agricola designer Uwe Rosenberg and Lookout Games. It’s a game for 1-4 players aged 10 and up that takes 2 hours to play. It features a lot of the resource management and worker placement that you’ve seen in games like Agricola and Le Havre. You are the head of a medieval monastery that is responsible for buying up land and constructing buildings. It features some pretty nice components, especially the two production wheels. I haven’t looked into the game very much, but it’s got some great reviews so far, and is up to #18 at BGG. So maybe some day.
That’s it for the recommended list. I’d encourage you to check out some or all of these games – they come highly recommended after all. Thanks for reading!