As just about everyone with a Twitter account announced today, the nominees for Spiel des Jahres 2011 were announced. This year will be the first time that three awards are handed out: the traditional Spiel des Jahres, the Kinderspiel des Jahres (Kid’s Game of the Year) and, for all new this year the Kennerspiel des Jahres (literally that would be the Aficionado’s Game of the Year, but we’ll follow the translation already popular on the intertubes: Gamer’s Game of the Year).
The introduction of the Gamer’s Game of the Year has been a leettle bit controversial. People were worrying the creation of another price might water down the Game of the Year brand or had various other reservations. Me, I’m on the fence about it. I can see the reasoning behind introducing an additional award: the Spiel des Jahres is intended to go to games that are accessible and enjoyable to everyone. With only one award, there was the need for compromise between that goal and appealing to more experienced boardgamers at the same time. On the other hand, there is no clear line between Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres, the Kennerspiel is “for people who don’t feel sufficiently challenged by the Spiel des Jahres“. This is a very subjective matter, and I see disputes in the future which category a game should be nominated in. We’ll see how that turns out.
For the moment, what changed is that there is nominees for one more award to look into. We’ll give the preference to the traditional award and take a quick look at the nominees for Spiel des Jahres today.
We’ve talked about Matt Leacock’s Forbidden Island at length, so there’s not so much more to say. It’s the only cooperative game in the contest this year and will be a tough one to measure up against.
Schmidt Spiele has good chances for the award this year: publishing two out of three nominees does that. Forbidden Island from above is the one, Qwirkle the other. Qwirkle is a very easy game when you go by the rules. Out of 108 blocks showing six different symbols in six different colours, you try to score points by creating long lines where all blocks share a symbol or share a colour. This may sound simple on the surface, but the Mensa Select award in 2007 tells a different story: this award goes only to games that tax your brain and indeed you get quite a lot of strategic mileage out of the very easy rules. If you’re wondering how a game that received an award in 2007 can possibly be in this year’s Spiel des Jahres, there’s an easy answer to that: the German edition from Schmidt Spiele was only published in September last year, making Qwirkle eligible for this year’s award.
The competitor to the Schmidt Spiele block is Ravensburger’s Asara. In Asara you’re competing to build towers: as many as you can, as high as you can and from as many different materials as you can. With everyone buying tower parts from the same pool, you can guess that no one will be able to fulfil all those demands. It’s like Palazzo without auctions but an added layer of worker placement.
Reading the entrails
I really have a hard time with a prediction this year. Forbidden Island is an awesome cooperative game and sets a high standard to come up against, but Qwirkle and Asara both look like they’re up to the challenge. Especially with the introduction of the Gamer’s Game this year, an abstract game like Qwirkle may find itself at a disadvantage. Or not. What do you think? If you move your eyes left by a few degrees, you will find a poll asking just that. Or, as always, leave us a comment and let us know!
May the better game win!
Check back later this week to find out about the Gamer’s Game of the Year and this year’s jury’s recommendation.