The nominee list and jury’s recommendation list for the Spiel des Jahres 2010 award came out today. The coveted red seal is awarded on 28th of June, but lets have a look at the nominations already.
The Spiel des Jahres jury has, in a particularly mean turn of events, only nominated and recommended games that I did not have a chance to try yet and so am not able to give a qualified opinion on any of them. Luckily, that has never stopped me from giving my opinion before.
The Spiel des Jahres Nominees
A la carte
This quirky game is not quite what you would call a “gamer’s game”. There is no workers to place, no auctions to win, no battles to fight. Instead, the players sit in front of their tiny metal pot, on their tiny paper stove and try to shake the right amount of shiny plastic crystals from the spice shakers … or flip pancakes printed on paper chits in their pan, an operation that seems to be significantly harder than real pancake flipping, but leaves less of a mess. The game is based on a bit of chaos with a big dash of schadenfreude, but with the right crowd those are the best kind, anyway
Rorschach testing for advanced students. Out of a selection or more or less surreal picture cards one player picks one and says one sentence that comes to his mind. All the other players donate a card they think matches the same sentence, all the cards are shuffled and players get to guess which card was the one described. Since the player that described it gets points only if some, but not all, players get it right, the way to victory is ambiguity here. The game sinks or swims with the art on the cards. If you dislike the art, you won’t enjoy the game much. Being ambiguous but not too obscure about the card you’re playing makes this not a game I will ever have a chance of winning …
A worker placement game about restoring renaissance cathedral ceilings. This may be the first game ever that takes into account the amount of sleep you got the night before. The less sleep, the more actions you have, but also the grumpier you are. Get too grumpy and you scare away your apprentices. And I never even noticed they were observing me as a research project for this game.
Another game from the more creative side of gaming, in Identik (Portrayal is the English title, apparently) one player describes an utterly bizarre scene from an image while the others try to draw it. If you’re as talented as I am for any kind of art, fear not: points are not awarded for beauty but for getting a number of ludicrous details about the picture right (the person on the right side of the shrubbery has only three fingers). Sounds like a blast, but I wonder how much fun it is for a new player against veterans that know all the cards already.
Im Wandel der Zeiten – Das Würfelspiel. Bronzezeit.
This years special award for the longest and most unwieldy name goes to “Roll through the Ages: The Bronze Age”. It’s a Civilization, only without all that messing around with maps and armies but with dice rolling instead. You chose what direction your civilization will take by deciding on developments that you pay with the resources the dice gave you – if they didn’t wipe you out with a small dose of the plague.
Tore der Welt
World Without End was not nominated for the award itself, but already received the “Special Award Game of the Year Plus”. I have no idea what that award is for, I’m just guessing it’s the “We can only nominate 5 games, but we all liked this one, too” award. From all I heard about this game, based on the novel with the same name by Ken Follett, an award is well deserved for the adaptation of a novel to a board game format. Still, weird name for an award.
What do I think?
To be honest, I’m a surprised to see Dixit and Identik on the list, but not unpleasantly so. It’s not the kind of game that traditionally win this award, but both sound like a lot of fun, so lets see what the jury decides. I’m also a bit disappointed not to see Macao or Ad Astra here, that both deserve a nomination if I had any say about it. Out of the nominees, I’m giving good chances to Fresco since worker placement is still the prevalent mechanic in newer strategic games. Crossing fingers for our friendly neighbourhood game publisher. While A la carte may also be a bit outside the usual winning demographics with the manual dexterity element it has , I’d be happy to see the award go there, too. I saw people playing at Essen last year, and it looked awfully enjoyable. It also comes with a cooking pot of the right size to make a one egg omelett. Before you try that, better ask the publisher if the pots are heat resistant or just look like they are.
What’s your take on this years nominees? Are you missing a game that deserves to be there? Have strong opinions about who should win?
Come back tomorrow for a quick tour through the jury’s recommendation list.