SDJ Buzz: Spiel des Jahres 2021

I’ve been on a kind of unscheduled hiatus for a couple of weeks. MY daughter had a birthday, we had family in town, I didn’t have time, and then I found I didn’t have the inclination to write. So instead of force myself, I just took a brief pause. Now I’m back, we’ll see how I do going forward.

Time to take a look at the nominees for this year’s Spiel des Jahres. The award was introduced in 1979, and was the first award in the board gaming hobby that really got international recognition. It has always been the German family game of the year, though for a few years, some heavier games got awarded, which was part of the reason the Kennerspiel got introduced in 2011. I’ve made predictions for the last ten years on this blog, and I’m 5-5.

  • 2011: Qwirkle (I picked Forbidden Island)
  • 2012: Kingdom Builder (I picked Eselsbrücke)
  • 2013: Hanabi (got it right)
  • 2014: Camel Up (I picked Splendor)
  • 2015: Colt Express (got it right)
  • 2016: Codenames (I picked Imhotep)
  • 2017: Kingdomino (got it right)
  • 2018: Azul (got it right)
  • 2019: Just One (got it right)
  • 2020: Pictures (I picked My City)

Last year broke my three-year in a row streak, so I’m hoping to get back over .500 this year. To the nominees!

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Menzel, KOSMOS) is a cooperative scenario-based game where players are the famous outlaw and his companions, having adventures and fighting against Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. The game comes with a book that outlines your adventure, and you’re moving your characters around the board trying to complete stories. The board is pretty cleverly constructed, with tiles imprinted into the board that can be flipped at various times. I heard it described like an advent calendar, but I hope with more reusability.

Beyond that, I can’t tell you much. The game isn’t out in English yet, though a version is coming. It’s a beautiful game to look at, but what else would you expect from Michael Menzel, one of the all-time great board game artists? This is only his second game design, after the Kennerspiel des Jahres winning Legends of Andor, another adventure style game. I think this one looks pretty neat, and as much as my wife likes the Robin Hood legend, I bet she would enjoy this one.

image by BGG user Pegasus Spiele

MicroMacro: Crime City (Johannes Sich, Pegasus Spiele) is a mystery game that’s really about your observation skills. Basically, you’ll be given a stack of cards asking you to look for something on a map, and you unravel the mystery through these cards. The map is a giant cityscape, with all kinds of crossing stories and characters popping up everywhere. Each card will tell you what to do next, as well as if you’re on the right track. The game comes with 16 different cases.

Quite honestly, the board for this game looks like a coloring page, and I suspect that’s what my daughter would want to do if we got this. But still, it’s an extremely clever idea and a remarkable map. I can see families gathered around hunting for the different clues and things they need solve the cases. The theme might be a little dark for a family game, but this really looks interesting.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Zombie Teenz Evolution (Annick Lobet, Le Scorpion Masqué) is a follow-up to Zombie Kids Evolution, which was a Kinderspiel recommendation last year. It’s a cooperative game where players are trying to collect the ingredients needed to cure the zombies and save the world. It’s pretty simple mechanisms – move, fight zombies, collect stuff, create a chain to pass it back. Each game gets progressively more complex as you add more rules and components.

I never thought I’d see the day when a zombie game was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, but here it is. And it looks pretty interesting. I like the way it seems to scale in difficulty. It’s bright and colorful, and it seems like a cool game.

And now, it’s time for my prediction! This is a weird year – not only is it the first time a zombie game has been nominated, but it’s the first time all nominees are cooperative. Not only that, all nominees have a kind of campaign thing going on, but it’s different for each. So, this is a tough choice. I mean, I legitimately have no idea. I think ultimately I’m going with

image by BGG user Pegasus Spiele

I think this one is innovative enough that it will win out. Part of me REALLY wants Zombie Teenz to win just so a zombie game can claim victory in one of the most prestigious board game awards in the world, but I think it will be MMCC. But seriously, I think all of these games have a really good shot, and for the first time in a while, I’m not actively rooting against one.

The Spiel and Kennerspiel awards are announced on Monday, July 19, so we’ll see if I got it then. My Kennerspiel coverage will happen sometime before Monday. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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