SDJ Buzz: Kinderspiel des Jahres 2022

Wow, has it really been that long since I posted? I’m definitely off my game lately. But I’m back, for now, with my annual look at the Kinderspiel des Jahres nominees for this year. For the uninitiated, the Spiel des Jahres is an annual award given to the game of the year in Germany, and they have three categories: Spiel des Jahres (family game of the year), Kennerspiel des Jahres (more advanced game of the year), and Kinderspiel des Jahres (children’s game of the year). The Kinderspiel, or KidJ, will be awarded on June 20, about a month before the other two, so that’s the first one I’m tackling. I’ve been covering these since 2015, and here’s my record so far:

  • 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)
  • 2021: Dragomino (got it right)

Let’s get to this year’s nominees, and then we’ll see if I can get back to a .500 percentage for the first time since 2018.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Auch schon clever is the kid’s version of the Spiel des Jahres nominated roll-and-write game Ganz schön clever from 2018, designed by Wolfgang Warsch and published by Schmidt Spiele. The general theme is that players are at a birthday party and trying to grab whatever they can.

The dice, rather than having pips on them, show different symbols and colors. Some show a wild side that can be used as any symbol or color. On your turn, you may choose all dice that show a single background color and mark off matching symbols on your sheet. Balloons are marked left to right. Candles are also marked left to right, but if there are more than one in a group, you have to have enough symbols on the dice to cover it. Gifts can be marked in any order, but sweets can only be marked off in groups of two, left to right.

Once the rolling player has used their dice, all other players choose a different background color and mark off symbols on their own. Several people can use the same color.

The game ends when one player has marked off all spots in a single area. You’ll get one point per rainbow star you’ve managed to collect, and the player with the most stars wins.

I’ve never played the original Ganz schön clever (aka That’s So Clever here in the States), or its sequels Twice As Clever or Clever Cubed. They’ve always interested me, just haven’t had a chance. This version seems like a nice simple introduction to roll-and-write mechanisms, with a slightly different system for dice collection that is still reminiscent of the original. With roll-and-writes being so popular, it makes sense that they’d eventually reach the kid’s market.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Mit Quacks & Co. noch Quedlingburg (retitled for the US market as Quacks & Co.: Quedlinburg Dash) is a kid’s version of the Kennerspiel des Jahres winning Quacks of Quedlinburg, designed by Wolfgang Warsch and published by Schmidt Spiele. The basic idea is that you’re racing to Quedlinburg on your noble steed.

The board for the game is shared, rather than the separate cauldrons of the original. It shows a track leading to town. Each player has a bag with tokens, the same set for all players. On your turn, you’ll pull a token out. If it has no number, it is placed in one of the three thought spots on your animal board – because it’s dream weed. If it has a number, you move that many spaces and take the action of the token you drew. These could give you bonuses like rubies, clovers, extra spaces, and so on. Eventually, you’ll get up to three dream weeds, and you’ll put all chips back in your bag, and can use rubies to buy more.

The game keeps going like this until someone makes it to Quedlinburg. They win.

Like its predecessor, this game has a bag-based pool building mechanism (which I know is a lot more to say than bag building, but I still refuse to use that term). It doesn’t have the same kind of push-your-luck feel to it, it’s just about trying to race faster than your opponents. And it looks like fun. I wonder if the sheer amount of components (there are 180 tokens that could go in your bag) might hurt its chances at this award.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Zauberberg (released in English as Magic Mountain) is the only game among the nominees not by Warsch and Schmit Spiele, this one designed by Jens-Peter Schliemann and Bernhard Weber, published by Amigo. The basic premise is that you’re trying to get your sorcerer’s apprentices down the hill before the witches get there.

The game is played on an elevated board that slants down. Your apprentices start at the top, and the witches start on predetermined places, slightly further down. On your turn, you will draw a marble from a bag. There are only five, each a different color. Put this marble somewhere at the top of the board and let go. It will follow different grooved paths until it hits something. The piece it hits, be it apprentice or witch, must then be moved down the mountain to the next available space of that color. The ball will continue on its journey until it reaches the bottom. If it hits nothing, a witch of your choice moves to the next space of that color.

Players are working together to try to get four apprentices all the way to the bottom before three witches do. If they succeed, they win.

This is basically Plinko. You know, the peg game on The Price Is Right, where you drop a disc and hope it goes in the big money slot? You’re dropping marbles, and hoping they go in the directions you want them to, but you never truly know. You try to line up your shots the best you can, and hope you hit what you want to. And maybe you WANT to hit a witch to cover up a spot so your piece can go further. It looks like a fun game.

So, there are your nominees. Which means it’s time for my prediction. I’ve done some soul searching on this one, because I came in with a preconceived notion of what I thought would win, and now I’m leaning another way. But ultimately, I think the winner of the 2022 Kinderspiel des Jahres will be…

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Coming into this, I was thinking there was no way Wolfgang Warsch, with two nominations, wouldn’t get a win here. The SdJ jury seems to like him a lot – he got three nominations in 2018, two for SdJ, and won the Kennerspiel that year. The two games from him are both kid versions of previously nominated games, and there’s definitely a precedence for the jury picking a game like that. Dragomino, last year’s winner, is a kid version of the 2017 SdJ winner Kingdomino. And before that, My First Stone Age, which won in 2016, was a kid version of Stone Age, nominated for SdJ in 2008.

Still, I think those Auch schon clever and Quacks & Co. might ultimately prove to be too complex for this award. I don’t know that they’re games kids can set up and play by themselves., at least not the first few times. Plus, Quacks has a lot of easily losable pieces, and I don’t know if that will win over the jury. I’m going with Zauberberg because I think it has the simplest ruleset, it has the fun factor, and it has a dexterity element – last year was the first year since 2016 that a dexterity game didn’t win the Kinderspiel, and I’ve kind of learned not to bet against it.

Still, I could be wrong. And if it is a Warsch game, I’d guess it would be Auch schon clever over Quacks. But we’ll see when the winner is announced on June 20. More SdJ coverage coming soon – maybe I can get myself off my tail and write some other posts as well. Thanks for reading!

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