After my successful prediction of Magic Mountain as this year’s Kinderspiel des Jahres winner, I’m back with my look at this year’s Spiel des Jahres nominees. If you still don’t know, the Spiel des Jahres is the German Game of the Year Award, handed out annually every year since 1978. It’s the most prestigious award in board gaming, even though hobby gamers usually complain about how it doesn’t apply to them (which it’s not supposed to – it’s a family game of the year). I’ve been predicting these on this blog since 2011, and right now have a record of 6-5 in my choices.
- 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)
- 2021: MicroMacro Crime City (got it right)
Let’s see if I can make it five out of the last six. On to the nominees!
Cascadia is a 1-4 player game designed by Randy Flynn, and published in the US by Flatout Games and AEG, with KOSMOS releasing the German version. The game is about building natural wild habitats in the Pacific Northwest, though it’s more of an abstract puzzle-type game than that.
You start with three hexagonal terrain tiles, and each turn, you will draft a new tile that has been paired with a type of animal. There are five animals – bear, elk, fox, hawk, and salmon – and each will have a different scoring condition that changes from game to game. The terrain tiles show 1-2 different terrain types, as well as the animals that can occupy that tile. You’re trying to figure out the best arrangement of these animals, plus the different terrains, to score you the most points. After each player has placed 20 tiles, the game is over.
The game looks very pretty, and seems like a very good puzzle-type game. It’s very much a do-your-own-thing type of game, with the only real chances to mess with other people coming in the form of taking tiles and animals they want. This is one that has been on my radar since I first heard about it, and I’m happy to see it nominated for the SdJ.
Scout is a 2-5 player game designed by Kei Kajino, first published in Japanese by One More Game! and released last year internationally by Oink Games. It’s a ladder-climbing game, which is similar to trick-taking in play, but allows more cards to be played at once, as well as players to run out of cards at different times.
All cards in the deck are dealt out to the players. You are not allowed to rearrange your hand, though you decide at the start of the round whether or not to flip your hand to the other side to use different numbers. The player with the 1/2 card will play it first. On your turn, you can either play a combo or scout. To play a combo, you play one or more cards that are next to each other in your hand. The next player must make a stronger combo (wither a higher value, or a larger set). If they do, they claim the cards from the previous combo into a score pile.
To scout, you simply pick up one card from the combo on the table and add it to your hand anywhere and in any orientation you wish. The player you took it from gets a Scout token, worth a point at the end of the round. You have a Scout and Play token which can be used once per round to play a combo immediately after scouting. When one player is out of cards, or no one else has played since a player’s last turn, the round ends and you score. You play one round per player, and the high score wins.
I’ve been more and more interested in the trick-taking games that are out there lately, and this one looks excellent. The not-rearranging thing is reminiscent of Bohnanza, which is a game I love, and the ability to flip your cards for different numbers is pretty innovative. I knew nothing about this game before looking into it, and am glad I did. It’s on my list.
Top Ten is a 4-9 player game designed by Aurélien Picolet and published, first in French (but not yet English), by Cocktail Games. It’s a cooperative party game where players are trying to give answers that fall at a certain point on a spectrum from worst to best.
At the start of each round, one player draws a theme card and reads it aloud. Each player gets a number card (1-10), and then has to give an answer for the prompt that they think might fall at that point on the spectrum (1 is worst, 10 is best). The player who drew must then try to arrange their cards in ascending order. A miss will give you poop. Too much poop loses you the game. If you get to the end of the fifth round without too much poop, you win.
This game holds absolutely zero interest for me. It’s a party game, which is strike one. It’s a subjective party game, which is strikes two AND three. There’s unicorn poop, which is slightly amusing, but I don’t want to play with that, so strike four. The SdJ jury has no aversion to choosing party games – Just One and Pictures are both pretty recent winners. Still, I don’t see this one winning. For one thing, it’s for ages 14 and up, which doesn’t scream “family game” to me. It’s also got a pretty high player count. I don’t know, this just feels like it would be an odd choice.
But I’m through all the nominees, and that means it must be prediction time! This was a pretty easy choice for me – I think the winner of the 2022 Spiel des Jahres will be
Cascadia just seems to check all the boxes – pretty to look at, easy to learn, fun to play. The scoring might get a bit difficult, but I don’t think it looks that bad. I think Scout looks pretty great too, but I’d still be surprised if it won – it seems a bit too complicated for the SdJ. And while Top Ten MIGHT sneak in with an upset, it really doesn’t feel like an SdJ winner to me. The only reason I can see it winning is that it’s the simplest of the nominees – Cascadia was on a lot of shortlists for the Kennerspiel. Nevertheless, Cascadia is my pick.
I’ll be back soon with my Kennerspiel coverage. Thanks for reading!