SDJ Buzz: Kennerspiel des Jahres 2017

Ever since 2011, the SdJ jury has been awarding the Kennerspiel des Jahres, or the “connoisseur’s game of the year.”  These games tend to be more complex than the winner’s of the traditional Spiel des Jahres winners, though still a lot lighter than a lot of serious gamers would like them to be.  I’ve been doing this blog as long as the award has been around, and here’s a recap of my record in picking the winners:

  • 2011: 7 Wonders (got it right)
  • 2012: Village (got it right)
  • 2013: Legends of Andor (I predicted Bruges)
  • 2014: Istanbul (I predicted Rococo)
  • 2015: Broom Service (got it right)
  • 2016: Isle of Skye (I predicted Pandemic Legacy)

So I’m 3-3 over the last six years.  We’ll see how I do this year with a tough slate of nominees.

image from exit-das-spiel.de

EXIT: The Game is actually a series of games from designers Inka and Markus Brand and published by KOSMOS.  The first three games were The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh’s Tomb, and The Secret Lab.  The games are meant to emulate the experience of going through an escape room.  If you’re not familiar with the escape room phenomenon, you basically go to a place, pay them money, they’ll stick you in a room, and you’ll try to escape.  They’re very popular, and there has been a recent trend of escape room games out there – Escape Room: The Game, Escape the Room, Deckscape, and Unlock! are other recent examples of the genre.

I usually go into gameplay at this point, but I’m not going to here.  One reason is that I haven’t played any of the games in the series, though that wouldn’t normally stop me from talking.  The big reason is that I don’t want to know.  I would love to try out one of these escape room games at some point, but they’re one-and-done games – once you’ve played them, you won’t play again.  You physically can’t play this one again as there are apparently things you’ll need to bend, cut, destroy, and/or mutilate.  After the nominations of Pandemic Legacy and TIME Stories last year, I guess I’m not surprised at this nomination.  It might even be the first time a series of games was nominated instead of just a single game.

image by BGG user shem84

Raiders of the North Sea is a game by designer Shem Phillips that was originally published in 2015 by Garphill Games, with Schwerkraft-Verlag publishing the German edition last year.  In Raiders, players are Vikings trying to impress their Chieftain by raiding settlements, taking plunder, and making offerings.

On your turn, you either choose to work or raid.  To work, you place your worker in one of eight available buildings and take the associated action.  You can only place in an unoccupied building, and some buildings only take a certain color of worker.  These buildings could let you get new cards, resources, hire crew, or even play cards for their effects.  Once you’ve played a card and taken that action, you’ll remove a worker from another building, and take that action.  So you effectively get two actions, with the first coming from an unoccupied building and the second coming from an occupied building.  If you choose to raid, you’ll have to have a certain crew strength and be able to expend some resources to go after certain areas.  Raiding will yield some plunder, and possibly cost you crew.  Once the game ends, the player who has amassed the most victory points is the winner.

This game began life on Kickstarter, and I believe that makes it the first time a Kickstarter game has been a nominee for one of the des Jahres awards.  Others have been on Kickstarter, but this one had an initial release there.  It looks like a pretty cool game, with a unique form of worker placement/displacement.  And Vikings.  I was a little surprised that it got nominated for the Kennerspiel, but it looks like a pretty solid game.

image by BGG user EagleEye80

Terraforming Mars is a game designed by Jacob Fryxelius and published by FryxGames (Stronghold published it in the US, Schwerkraft-Verlag published it in German).  In the game, players are taking the roles of various corporations working to make Mars habitable for human life in the 25th century.  This will take several generations – Mars wasn’t terraformed in a day.

During each generation, players will have several actions they can perform.  This includes playing cards, using standard projects, claiming milestones, funding awards, converting plants to greenery, and converting heat into temperature.  The goal of the game is to get the oxygen level up to breathable levels (14%), when there are enough oceans to allow for Earth-like weather (9), and get the temperature up above freezing (+8º Celsius).  When these three conditions are met, the game ends and the player with the highest score wins.

This game has been insanely popular.  It’s already up to #8 on the BGG ranking list as people have really responded to its science-based gameplay and interesting mechanisms.  I frequently hear complaints that the quality of components is not great, but I’ve heard great things about the way it plays.  I’m a little surprised that it got nominated – I thought it would definitely be on the recommended list, but I thought it was probably too heavy for the Kennerspiel nomination.


This is a TOUGH choice.  I keep going back and forth between them.  In the end, I think EXIT won’t get it because it is a one-and-done game.  I hear the experience is pretty great, but still, I think the jury will probably lean towards not HAVING to buy more product in order to continue enjoying the game.  And I think Terraforming Mars is probably too heavy for the Kennerspiel – they tend to go with games that are a bit more advanced than your standard SDJ, but not this heavy.  So, by process of elimination, I’m going with a long shot and saying that RAIDERS OF THE NORTH SEA will win this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres.  Frankly, I would not be surprised if any of these games won as I think they are all probably worthy of recognition.  We’ll find out on July 17 when the winners are announced.

Thanks for reading!

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