Kennerspiel des Jahres 2011 – The Nominees

Happy Towel Day, everyone!

After Monday’s quick look at the nominees for the good old Spiel des Jahres, today we’ll examine the candidates for the all new Kennerspiel des Jahres. As discussed on Monday, not everyone was happy with the introduction of this new award, but my only issue is still the rather subjective distinction between the two. And the three nominees confirm my thoughts a little: they all aren’t trivial games by any means, but if one of them had ended up in the Spiel des Jahres list it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows there, either.

Two of the nominees actually come as a bit of a surprise to me; not because I don’t think they deserve to be there, that’s not it at all. They surprised me because both of them are only recently published and I simply didn’t have them on my radar. Nevertheless, after doing the research, I’m convinced that all three nominees are deserving of the award.

7 Wonders

This was one game I was certain would be nominated with the amount of buzz it generated all year, but I fully expected it to be in the Spiel des Jahres race as the bar to start playing is really not so high. 7 Wonders is a card game – with some additional components but still a card game; your goal is to build up a civilisation to be economically successful, create their own resources and hopefully erect one of the 7 Wonders of the ancient world, all in the pursuit of victory points. The card hand doesn’t really belong to you, it’s passed around the table and everyone gets their pick, so you always want to watch your opponents not to play into their hands.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is a completely different bag of fruit from 7 Wonders, but not less deserving to be here. In Strasbourg you bribe your way through the guilds, the church and the nobility of 15th century Strasbourg in order to influence the fate of the city. You want to build up the city, engage in trade and, not least of all, get members of your family into the coveted (and cushioned) seats on the city council. The bribery is committed through a bidding mechanism that is not quite an auction but is not entirely not an auction either, and the influence cards in your stack have to last the whole game.

Lancaster

The only thing Queen Games’ candidate for this year’s award has in common with it’s competitors is that it’s set in the past. Unlike it’s competitors it is also set in England which was – as it was for pretty much all it’s history – at war with France. Players try to impress the king by sending their knight to battle the French, by maintaining control of one of England’s counties or by expanding their home castle. Every round, players vote on new laws; laws are rules which allow players to pay one kind of resource to gain another, or to gain resources for having the majority of something. But only three laws can be in play, so democracy may not act in your favour if your best moneymaker law is discarded.

Rolling the bones

Not having a working knowledge of two of the games doesn’t make predicting a winner easier for me. I’m tempted to go with 7 Wonders because it’s the one game that I know; on the other hand, 7 Wonders seems to have a lower complexity than its competitors. It’s hard to tell how much influence that will have on the jury since it’s the first year of this new award – but with that in mind I’m putting a veeeery slight preference on Lancaster for its voting-on-laws mechanism; I’m expecting the jury to favour the less-used mechanics on this one.

What do you say? Who’s your favourite? Vote in our poll on the right until Monday for a chance to win bragging rights! And check back later this week when we tackle the list of Jury’s Recommendations.