SDJ Buzz: Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021

Time for the final group of nominees in this year’s des Jahres coverage. The Kennerspiel was introduced in 2011 as a connoisseur’s award – in other words, an award for a heavier game than what was covered by the Kinderspiel or Spiel. Most gamers seem to be happy it’s here, though it very rarely seems to cover games that are heavy enough for them. I’ve been doing the blog for as long as the Kennerspiel has been in existence, so I’ve done a prediction every year. Here’s the rundown of my selections:

  • 2011: 7 Wonders (got it right)
  • 2012: Village (got it right)
  • 2013: Legend of Andor (I picked Bruges)
  • 2014: Istanbul (I picked Rococo)
  • 2015: Broom Service (got it right)
  • 2016: Isle of Skye (I picked Pandemic Legacy)
  • 2017: EXIT: The Game (I picked Raiders of the North Sea)
  • 2018: The Quacks of Quedlinburg (I picked Heaven & Ale)
  • 2019: Wingspan (got it right)
  • 2020: The Crew (got it right)

I’m looking to go over .500 for the first time since 2015 now, so let’s get to the nominees.

image by BGG user lrrlichtsammler

Fantasy Realms (Bruce Glassco, Wizkids/Strohmann Games) was first published in 2017, but its new German edition got it nominated for the Kennerspiel. It’s a hand-building card game where your goal is to collect cards that will combo together to get you the best score. On your turn, you draw a card, either from the deck or a previously discarded card, then you discard a card. The game is over when there are ten cards in the discard area, and the player with the highest scoring hand wins.

This seems like an incredibly simple game to understand, with the complexity coming from trying to build combos. It seems light on theme, but that doesn’t always matter to me. I think it looks very interesting, and it’s one I’d like to look into more.

image by BGG user thesunshineraven

Lost Ruins of Arnak (Mín/Elwen, Czech Games Edition) is one of the more popular games that came out last year. It’s an exploration game where players are playing cards trying to score as many points as you can. Over the course of five rounds, you can play cards, buy cards, dig, discover new sites, and move up research tracks. You’ll also need to use resources to overcome guardians, and build up your deck so you can do what you need to to win.

The game is beautiful to look at, and CGE doesn’t deliver a lot of duds. People really have been going for this game, impressed with the variety of choices available and the way the deck building works. It seems like a pretty cool game.

image by BGG user cw_ts

Paleo (Peter Rustemeyer, Hans im Gluck) is a cooperative game in a sstone age setting. Players are trying to keep their humans alive while completing various missions, and ultimately to painting a wooly mammoth on the wall. Each player has a deck of cards from which they will draw three on a turn, and choose one. However, you only choose based on the back of the cards, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. You win by finishing the painting, and lose by losing too many people in the process.

This seems like an interesting cooperative game. You’re trying to collect what you need, but you don’t know what you’re going to get until you try stuff, which seems perfectly thematic for the time period. There are a number of modules you can use to shake things up. Looks like a good game.

And now, time for my prediction. Having not played any of them (as per usual), I’m really going with my gut. And my gut is telling me the winner will be

image by BGG user cw_ts

I was really close to choosing Lost Ruins of Arnak, but ultimately I went with this one because I think Arnak might be a little too heavy. I don’t think it will be Fantasy Realms because it’s a much smaller game. But, honestly, it could go to any one of the three and I wouldn’t be surprised.

We’ll find out how I did on July 19, when the Spiel and Kennerspiel awards are announced. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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