The winners have been announced! The Spiel des Jahres this year went to Kingdomino (called it), and the Kennerspiel des Jahres went to EXIT: The Game (I picked Raiders of the North Sea). Add that to my correct prediction of Ice Cool for the Kinderspiel, and that means my record for this year is 2-1, with an overall record for the last seven years of 8-10.
Each year, I also like to run through the recommended lists for the SdJ and Kennerspiel. This year, I’m adding the Kinderspiel as well, for a grand total of 17 recommended games. It’s a big list, let’s get to it. Let’s start with the Kinderspiel.
Chickyboom (Thierry Denoual, Blue Orange Games) is a dexterity game where chickens are perched on a teeter totter, along with hay bales and wagon wheels. Your goal is to remove as much as you can without making the teeter totter topple. Once it falls, the person who caused it loses five points, and the player with the highest score wins. It’s a cute looking game, one that could help teach concepts of evenly distributing weight and balance. It originally came out in 2008, but just got a German edition last year.
Kullerhexe (Marco Teubner, Drei Magier Spiele), aka The Rolling Witch, is a cooperative dexterity game where players are trying to get a rolling witch figure to various shapes on the board before the timer runs out, avoiding holes and trees. At least, that’s what I think is going on – there’s not much English information about the game. But it does use a board that players can manipulate and slant in various directions to get the witch moving. Looks fun.
Lagoonies (Jens-Peter Schliemann/Bernhard Weber, KOSMOS) is a game about hunting for gloop spirits. On your turn, you’ll roll a die and turn a spinner to find what you’re looking for. Then you’ll all look through bubble goggles on the board to try to find the right gloop and collect it. The first person to collect nine wins. The bubbles you’re looking through give the game a really net look, and this is a game that seems to be most about careful (and speedy) observation.
Outfoxed (Game Factory) is a cooperative deduction game where you’re trying to identify the fox who stole Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie. On your turn, you Yahtzee roll to try to get three of the same type of symbol. Getting it will allow you to guess a trait of the thief, or to reveal suspects, or move around the board to new locations. The game uses a cool little window that reveals clues slowly, which is an imperative solution for a cooperative whodunnit like this. The game was originally published in 2014 by Gamewright, and just recently got a German edition.
Sleeping Queens (Miranda Everts, Game Factory) was designed by a six-year-old girl. At least, she was six when the game first came out from Gamewright in 2005. 12 facedown queens are on the table, and you’re trying to wake them up by playing cards from your hand. The King will wake one up, the Knight will steal an awake Queen from another player, the Dragon can stop the Knight, the Sleeping Potion puts someone else’s Queen to sleep, the Magic Wand stops it, the Jester allows you to draw another card, and Number cards can be discarded to clear some space in your hand. If you are the first to get 4 Queens awake, or have the most points when all Queens are awake, you win. It’s a pretty simple game that has had some enduring popularity over the years, and now it’s recommended for the Kinderspiel. Not bad for a six-year-old’s design.
Wizardry to the Power of Three (Michael Palm/Lukas Zach, Pegasus Spiele) is a cooperative game where you’re running through a forest trying to escape a Warden Ghost (you’re wizards that snuck out of school after bedtime). You roll dice, then match the symbols with hidden tiles that you need to memorize in order to be successful. The theme is weird, and it seems like a very familiar mechanism – Leo and Mysterious Forest have been nominees that did the same sort of thing in recent times.
On to the SdJ recommendations:
DEJA-VU (Heinz Meister, AMIGO Spiel) is a speed memory game where a bunch of item tiles are spread around the table. You’ll remove three cards from the deck, and then begin flipping cards. The objects on the cards match the items in the center of the table. You need to try to remember what you’ve seen because when an item comes up a second time, you want to grab it. If you ever see an item come up on a card that you’ve already grabbed, you’re out of the round. Once the deck runs out, check the three removed cards to see if anyone got an item on one of them, then score for how many pieces you got. After three rounds, the high score wins. This seems like quite a fun memory game, and one I think Id enjoy checking out sometime.
Do De Li Do (Jaques Zeimet, Drei Magier Spiele) is another speed game, though this one without the memory element. Each player has their own deck of cards with different animal pictures. On your turn, you flip a card from the top of your deck, then declare the majority if there is one. For example, if the majority of cards on the table are white, say “White”. If they’re zebras, say “zebra”. If there’s no majority, say “not.” If there’s a turtle on the table, precede your proclamation with “oh.” If there are two different majorities on the table (color and animals), say “Do De Li Do.” If there’s a crocodile, slap it. You want to get rid of all your cards. It seems like an interesting twist on Jungle Speed, but without quite so much speed and a little more complicated since you have to say the right thing.
Fabled Fruit (Friedemann Friese, 2F Spiele) is a so-called “fable” game, which is kind of a response to the Legacy craze. In the game, you’re moving around to various action cards in order to collect fruits that you will later trade in for juices. Whenever you claim a juice, however, one action card will be removed and another will be added from the deck. There are four copies of each action card, and they will be played in sequential order. You will use the same setup you ended with in your next game, meaning all games will be different. It’s a pretty light game that is very fun and feels very unique. It’s the only one of the Spiel des Jahres recommendations that I’ve played, and I wholeheartedly endorse its recommendation.
KLASK (Mikkel Bertelsen, Game Factory) is a dexterity game that is a little like soccer, but with magnets. You have a pawn on the board that you are moving with a magnet under the board. Your goal is to knock the ball into your opponent’s hole, which scores you a point. You also score if you can get two magnetic obstacles stuck to your opponent, or if their pawn goes into their hole, or if they lose their pawn to your side. It looks like a lot of fun to play. I just saw a copy in Target today, maybe I should have gotten it.
Shiftago (Frank Warneke/Robert Witter, WiWa Spiele) is an abstract game where you’re trying to make lines of marbles. The way you bring new marbles out onto the board is by sliding them in from the edge. This will push any marbles, and the secret is in manipulating that push so it moves your marbles where you want them. There’s not a lot of English information on this one, but it looks interesting enough.
Tempel des Schreckens (Yusuke Sato, Schmidt Spiele) is a social deduction game where players are either adventurers trying to collect gold, or guardians trying to stop them. You deal five cards to each player, which each will look at before reshuffling them and putting them face down in front of them. You then try to find all the available gold, and you can communicate what you have to try to get people to search your area. Once as many cards as there are players have been picked, the round ends and cards are redistributed. If the adventurers have not found all gold by the end of four rounds, or if they find all fire traps, they lose. But if they find all gold, they win. This seems like a social deduction game I might like, though I am a little leery of the genre lately. This is the German reimplementation of Don’t Mess With Cthulhu/Timebomb.
Word Slam (Inka Brand/Markus Brand, KOSMOS) is a word guessing game that sort of resembles something like Concept. There are two teams working on the same word at the same time. One person from each team knows the word, and starts pulling clue cards with nouns, adjectives, prepositions, or verbs. It seems like a good party game for those who like that sort of thing. I don’t think it’s for me.
And finally, the Kennerspiel recommendations:
The Big Book of Madness (Maxime Rambourg, Heidelberger Spielverlag) is a cooperative game where a group of stupid wizard students open a book they shouldn’t and now they have to stop the end of the world. Each player has an element deck they will be building up to make them stronger in fighting certain spells each monster will bring out. There’s a Big Book of Madness that you’ll be flipping the pages of to find out what monster you’ll have to fight. It seems like an interesting puzzle, but not one I’m particularly interested in pursuing. This is the only Kennerspiel recommended title that I haven’t tried.
Captain Sonar (Roberto Fraga/Yohan Lemonnier, Pegasus Spiele) is a submarine battle between two teams. One player on each team is Captain, guiding the sub through the waters, trying to hunt the other sub and simultaneously stay undetected. Another player is the First Mate, charging various systems for combat or hunting. Another is the Engineer who tracks damage and lets the Captain know when he needs to surface for repairs. Another is the Radio Operator, tasked with listening to the opposing Captain and trying to deduce where they are. It’s like Battleship in real time and with actual fun. I really want to play this again – I only got to play a demo at Gen Con last year. It might have ended up being one of my favorite games had I gotten to play it more.
Great Western Trail (Alexander Pfister, eggertspiele) is a worker placement game set in the American West. The board starts out with seven locations on it, and you start on one of them (your choice). On your turn, you’ll move forward on the trail a few steps, then take the associated action. When you get to Kansas City, you’ll score cows, then head back to start. You’ll be adding buildings to the board as you go, making the trail longer as there are more places to stop. At the end of the game, having the most points will win it for you. This is one I’ve gotten to play once, and enjoyed it though I was terrible at it. There are a lot of paths to victory, and it’s a pretty fun game.
The Grizzled (Fabien Riffaud/Juan Rodriguez, Sweet Games) is a cooperative game about World War I. Each round, the leader determines how many cards are drawn from the draw deck. Players then must play cards or back out. At the end of each round, more cards are added to the draw deck, and the draw deck must be emptied out to win. It’s a tough game, made even tougher when you think about it thematically – the threats to both your safety and morale just keep coming. I’ve played once, and we lost badly (I think fewer players is better for this game). Art is by Tignous, one of the artists killed in the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015.
That’s it for my Spiel des Jahres coverage for 2017. Overall, a good crop of recommendations – some I already knew, others I want to find out more about. Thanks for reading!