Every year since I started this blog, I’ve done a kind of a wrap up of the nominees for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres. If you still don’t know what those are, the Spiel (SDJ) is the German award for Family Game of the Year, and is probably the most prestigious award in board games. The Kennerspiel (KeDJ) was introduced in 2011 to honor games a little more complex than the Family Games for SDJ. And those wrap ups are coming in the next few posts. However, this year, for the first time, I want to talk about the Kinderspiel des Jahres.
The Kinderspiel (KiDJ) was first presented in 1989, and has been presented annually to the best German children’s game of the year. It’s an award that has gone to such gaming luminaries as Alex Randolph, Wolfgang Kramer, Reiner Knizia, and Inka and Markus Brand, as well as others. The award has gone to games like Loopin’ Louie, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, Viva Topo!, The Enchanted Tower, and last year, to Geister Geister Schautzenmeister.
The Kinderspiel games don’t get talked about a lot in our hobby, but with a kid on the way, I’m finding myself much more interested in what they are. There are three nominees for the award this year, so let’s get to them.
Push a Monster was designed by Wolfgang Dirscherl and Manfred Reindl, and published by Queen Games in their kids line. It’s a 2-4 player game for ages 5 and up that takes around 15 minutes to play. It’s a simple where you’re pushing monsters into an arena while trying to not knock any other monsters out. The arena is an irregularly shaped blob that is elevated. Additionally, there are 27 wooden monster pieces, 2 monster pushers, 81 monster tokens, and a die.
At the start of the game, two purple monsters and one of each other type are placed into the arena. On your turn, you roll a die. This tells you the type of monster you must push onto the arena. You load a matching monster onto one of the pushers, then push it with the other. If a monster falls off of the arena, each other players gets one monster token of that type. Fallen monsters are removed from the game. If you roll the die, and there are no more of that type of monster available, the game ends. The players arrange their monster tokens in a line, and the longest line wins (some monster tokens are longer than others).
The art in this game looks really cute, and the game seems like fun. Probably not the most strategic thing out there, but possibly trying to go for the Animal Upon Animal demographic. It looks really nice, and it does look very fun. I do think this one looks like a good solid kid’s game.
Schatz-Rabatz was designed by Karin Hetling and is published by Noris Spiele. The game is for 2-4 players ages 5 and up, and takes 15-20 minutes to play. The idea of the game (entitled Treasure Trouble in English, but Schatz-Rabatz is so much more fun to say) is that Captain Snaggletooth is retiring and handing over command of his ship. Whoever brings him the most treasure will become the new captain. The game comes with 4 plastic treasure chests, 40 wooden treasure tokens, 9 different “Jack-boards”, 16 pirate ship cards, and an hourglass.
The game begins with one player yelling “For the Cap’n”, and turning the timer over. Players then ry to cram as much treasure as they can into their treasure chest. You can only work with one treasure at a time, and you’re done when the chest is full or when the timer runs out. You then reveal the top Jack-board, and empty your treasure. Any treasures you have that match the Jack-board are discarded, and the player with the most treasures left over takes a pirate ship card. When you have collected four cards (i.e. a completed ship), you win.
This is a simple packing game that really seems to be more of a puzzle as you try to see what you can make fit in your box. Scoring then is pretty random as you don’t know what Jack-board is coming out, and thus don’t know what won’t count. I’m sure the first half of each round is fast and frantic, a little like Galaxy Trucker as people grab pieces from the center and try to cram them into their chests. But it seems like it fizzles a bit in the second half as you’re really just seeing what will prevent you from scoring. There is a variation that has you revealing the Jack-board first, then just trying to avoid the shown pieces. I think I’d prefer that method of play.
Spinderella was designed by Roberto Fraga and is published by Zoch Verlag. The game is for 2-4 players, is for ages 6 and up, and takes around 20 minutes to play. This is a racing game where ants are trying to avoid being captured by spiders coming down from the trees. The game is set up with a racetrack inside the box (propped up by an inlay), and a spider web board raised up over the racetrack. There are three plastic spiders in the game – Spinderella, and her brothers Parker and Peter (get it?). Parker and Peter go on top of the web, and magnets underneath them will hold the thread for Spinderella. Each player gets three ants. There’s also a tree bark piece for the board, and three dice.
On your turn, you roll the three dice. If the green die shows a spider, you move the spiders a distance equal to what is shown on the white die. Parker and Peter move along the red dots of the spider web, never moving more than two dots away from each other. If you roll an ant on the green die, you move one of your ants the distance shown on the brown die.
As Parker and Peter move, the thread for Spinderella will move up and down. If she catches an ant, you move it back to start, and the player who caught it gets to move one of their ants. When all three of your ants cross the finish line, you win.
This game looks COOL. I love magnets, and if this game really works like it describes, this sounds like a great use of them. It’s a roll and move game, but one that makes things interesting by adding the element of moving the ants OR moving the spiders. This looks like a really novel experience, and one I’d love to play sometime.
Time for my predictions! Having never predicted this award before, I’m unsure of the exact criteria. And of course, never having played any of them, this is entirely uninformed, but I’m going to predict SPINDERELLA as the winner of this year’s Kinderspiel des Jahres. I think Push a Monster has a lot of potential as a fun dexterity game, and I think Schatz-Rabatz is going to be good for spatial awareness. But I think Spinderella has the most going for it – great components, unique gameplay with the moving spiders, and a really good introduction to strategy. This all may not be what the jury is looking for, they may be looking for more simplicity, in which case I’d hope they’d go for Push a Monster. But if I were picking, Spinderella would absolutely be my choice, so that’s my prediction.
I’ll be back Friday with the Spiel des Jahres prediction – this one will be a little more informed since I’ve actually played all three. Thanks for reading!