SDJ Buzz: Kinderspiel des Jahres 2021

Award season in the board game world is here. Every year, the Spiel des Jahres is awarded to the German family game of the year, as well as its younger sibling awards, the Kinderspiel (for children’s games) and the Kennerspiel (for more advanced games). The first award to be announced is the Kinderspiel, so I’m covering it first here. The award was officially established in 2001, but was awarded as a special prize beginning in 1989 (no nominees, just a winner). I’ve only been covering the award since 2015, around the time my daughter was about to be born because I want to find out more about the really good kid’s games out there. Here’s my abysmal 2-4 pick list:

  • 2015: Spinderella (got it right)
  • 2016: My First Stone Age (I picked Leo)
  • 2017: Ice Cool (got it right)
  • 2018: Dragon’s Breath (I picked Panic Mansion)
  • 2019: Valley of the Vikings (I picked Go Gecko Go)
  • 2020: Hedgehog Roll (I picked Foto Fish)

It’s interesting to note that the last four year’s winners have all had a dexterity element. So I’ll keep that in mind as we get to the nominees.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Dragomino (Bruno Cathala/Marie Fort/Wilfried Fort, Blue Orange) is a more kid-friendly version of 2017 Spiel des Jahres winner Kingdomino. As in its older sibling, you are drafting terrain-based domino tiles and playing them into your kingdom. The big difference is that by connecting two of the same land type, you get to choose a dragon egg. This is placed where the two tiles connect, and shows either a dragon or a broken egg shell. When all tiles have been taken, the player with the most dragons is the winner.

Kingdomino was already a pretty simple game, and this one looks to make it even easier, something kids are likely to be able to play by themselves without having to worry about the 5×5 constraint of the original or even the scoring rules. Here, it’s easy – get as many dragons as possible. Seems like a good nominee.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Mia London and the Case of the 625 Scoundrels (Antoine Bauza/Corentin Lebrat, Le Scorpion Masqué) is a memory and observation game where players are trying to figure out the crook based on clues. Each player has a mix and match notebook, and at the start of the game, a random hat, glasses, mustache, and bow tie are selected and set aside. Each round, one player will deal out the deck for one feature into piles – four piles for hats, three for glasses, two for mustaches, one for bow ties. Players have to watch the cards as they are dealt out, as there are two cards for each feature. This means there will only be one for the card that was removed. You find that in your flip book and lock it in. After all four decks have been gone through, you reveal features one at a time. Whoever got the most right wins.

This game seems like a lot of fun. It’s like a mystery game for kids. I love the mix and match book concept – I had a Garfield Mix and Match book when I was a kid, and LOVED it. All the combinations were really cool. And so I’m glad to see a game that uses the concept. This game looks like one that, while very simple, gives a nice memory and mystery game without actually being a deduction game.

image by BGG user LifestyleLTD

Storytailors (Marie Fort/Wilfried Fort, Lifestyle Boardgames) is a game where some kids find a magic story book. There are ten different stories you could use, each represented on double-sided story cards. You’ll pick one, and on each page of a story book, you’ll add a new card. This card will have you pick some animal to be one of the characters, and the picking is done in a Dixit style voting game – everyone plays an animal, everyone votes, whoever wins gets points, and the character is selected. The player with the most points at the end of the story wins.

This is a game of imagination. You hear the story, and you pick the characters. I’m not sure this is a game I would enjoy at all, but I do appreciate the novelty of the book system here. The big problem for me is that storytelling games rarely work for me, and in this game, you’re not really telling a story. You’re reading a story, and this makes the game less accessible for younger kids trying to play without a parent. The game here is casting the roles with animals, and that’s not terribly interesting to me. I think the game itself looks great and probably would have made a good recommendation.

Prediction time! I was all set to vote for the dexterity game, and then they didn’t nominate one. So now I have to think about it. I’m leaning away from Storytailors as I think there’s less of a game there, so that leaves me between Dragomino and Mia London. I think both would be great winners, but ultimately, my pick is going to be…

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

I think Dragomino is going to be the winner simply because it looks like a very kid-friendly version of a beloved game that already won the SdJ. It seems like something kids can easily play themselves without adults around, and I think that’s important. I think Mia London could too, I just think the memory thing works against it – I don’t think the jury tends to pick memory games. Still, Mia London would be the one I’d pick, partly because I think it looks the most fun, and partly because that would make Antoine Bauza the first person to score a career Grand Slam – he already won the Kennerspiel for 7 Wonders in 2011, and the Spiel for Hanabi in 2013. With a win here, Bruno Cathala will only need a Kennerspiel for his own Grand Slam.

So, there’s my pick. We’ll find out how I did when the winner is announced on June 14. My SdJ and KedJ picks will be coming later this month, so stay tuned for those. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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