SdJ Buzz: Kennerspiel des Jahres 2016

The Kennerspiel des Jahres, or “connosieur’s game” of the year has been awarded every year since 2011.  I’m 3-2 all time on my predictions here, getting 7 Wonders (2011), Village (2012) and Broom Service (2015) correct, but missing on Legends of Andor (2013 – I predicted Bruges would win) and Istanbul (2014 – I predicted Rococo).  So let’s see how I do this time.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King is a game from designers Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister that was published in 2015 by Lookout Games (Mayfair in the US).  Pelikan and was the designer of the SdJ nominated Witch’s Brew in 2008, and his 2015 collaboration with Pfister on Broom Service won the pair a Kennerspiel Award.  This means that this is the second straight year they are nominated, and if they win, they’ll be the first designers to win multiple Kennerspiels.  Isle of Skye is a tile laying game where players are laying tiles to build their kingdoms in order to score points.

A game lasts 5-6 rounds, depending on the number of players.  In each round, players will get five gold, plus any more generated by their tiles.  They also draw three tiles, and place them in front of their screens.  They take the money they have and set prices for two of the three tiles, and place an axe by the third.  That tiles will be discarded, and each player will get a chance to buy one tile from another player.  Once that is done, each player pays for the tiles they have left and places those tiles.  There’s a scoring at the end of each round, and there will be different scoring objectives every game.  After six rounds, the player with the most points wins.

This game has an interesting economic system going on.  It’s not an auction per se, but there is an aspect of bidding as players set the price they are willing to pay for each tile, or the price they hope other players will pay.  There’s also an element of Carcassonne as they are building a kingdom, but each player has their own area to build in.  It’s a very nice looking game, and seems to have a lot of depth in its relatively small rule set.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Pandemic Legacy is a largely unnoticed game by designers Matt Leacock (designer of the original Pandemic) and Rob Daviau (the father of Legacy games).  Leacock has been nominated for the SdJ three times – Pandemic, Roll Through the Ages, and Forbidden Island – but this is his first Kennerspiel nomination.  It’s the first nomination overall for Daviau.  Pandemic Legacy takes the original Pandemic system and applies it to the Legacy format, where the game changes and evolves between subsequent plays.

This game starts out much like regular Pandemic – players are moving around the board trying to discover cures for four different diseases.  On your turn, you take four actions, draw new cards, then infect cities by drawing cards.  If too many disease cubes end up in a city, it will outbreak.  If you get too many outbreaks, you lose.  If you run out of disease cubes, you lose.  If you run out of player cards, you lose.  But if you manage to complete the objective, you win.  In any case, you’ll then be changing some aspects of the game and move on.  The entire campaign is split into twelve months, and you get two attempts per month to get a win.

I have yet to play a Legacy game.  I’m fascinated by the idea, and I also am extremely curious to know how the game progresses beyond original Pandemic.  I’ve avoided most spoilers (for future reference, do NOT look at the 1 ratings on BGG), and I hope to play someday.  Until then, I’ve only got hype.  And the hype around this game is UNBELIEVABLE.  It hit #1 on BGG really quickly, and is still going strong.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

TIME Stories is a game published by Space Cowboys that was designed by Manuel Rozoy.  It’s his first game, and first nomination for any of the des Jahres awards.  In the game, you are a member of an elite time traveling agency that goes back to fix temporal faults.  If you fail a mission (and you will), you will be able to go back and try again armed with new knowledge.

At the beginning of each scenario, you’ll open up a pack of cards.  Players will pick a location to explore, and the team captain will find it in the deck.  You’ll then spread the location’s cards into a panorama and read card A.  Team members will place their pawn over a part of the location that interests them, and will explore it if they can.  This will give them further actions to take, and TUs must be spent to do so.  If you end up running out of time, your mission fails.  If all agents die, the mission fails.  If a situation comes up that causes the mission to fail, the mission fails.  But if you are able to read the Mission Successful card, you win.

People rave about this game.  It’s apparently almost a perfect hybrid between RPGs and board games, and people love it.  It seems to be more about the experience than about winning or losing.  It’s a little odd that there’s only one scenario in the box, but they’ve been putting out expansions that are basically just a new deck of cards.


Prediction time!  I’ve gone back and forth on what I think it will be.  I think they’ve all got their merits, and any one of them could win, but I’m going to say that the winner will be

Get it?
Get it?

I don’t think the jury will be able to ignore just how insanely popular Pandemic Legacy is.  Plus, it’s unique and innovative, and that’s always a plus for the awards.  TIME Stories is equally innovative, but it reportedly skews towards a more mature theme, and I think the Kennerspiel usually goes to what is basically an advanced family game.  I think that might work against Isle of Skye too, as it seems to be a little more gamerly than the jury usually looks for.  PL has a limited number of plays with it, but I keep hearing about how families really enjoy creating the experience together, so I’m calling it for Pandemic Legacy.  Plus, Matt Leacock finally needs a win.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Isle of Skye won instead as it’s the more traditional Euro of the bunch, but there you go.

My predictions are all locked in – Leo for the Kinderspiel, Imhotep for the Spiel, and Pandemic Legacy for the Kennerspiel.  We’ll find out Monday if I’m still in the running for the Triple Crown when the KidJ is announced, but we’ll have to wait until July 18 for the announcement of the other two winners.  Thanks for reading!

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2 comments

  1. I feel like replay value will be a big factor in the decision here. TIME Stories definitely doesn’t have it, and the 12-24 game limit for Pandemic Legacy is the one big issue it faces. For me, I’m leaning more towards Isle of Skye for the win, not only because it fits the more traditional euro style of the award, but because I think it is a fantastic game! Happy to be proven wrong though!

    • I don’t think replayability is that big of a problem. It’s odd to have a limit, but I’m guessing most people will end up getting around 18 plays in, and there aren’t that many games I’ve played that many times, even those with more “replayability.” I feel that, in nominating both PL and TS, the jury wants to honor innovation this year, so that’s my choice. But as I said, I haven’t played any of the nominees, and would be fine with any of them winning. Thanks for the comment!

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