Kennerspiel des Jahres – what is it?

The Spiel des Jahres jury published a video on their website this week explaining the differences between the Game of the Year and Gamer’s Game of the Year. The video is unfortunately in German, but since Spiel des Jahres is highly regarded by boardgamers everywhere, I thought some of you might be interested in a quick summary.

The video didn’t show up on Youtube yet and I don’t want to steal their bandwidth embedding it here, so follow this link to see the video.

The video starts off with a very short history of the awards Spiel des Jahres since 1979 and Kinderspiel des Jahres since 2005. Then it quickly comes to the point, talking about this year’s new creation: the Kennerspiel des Jahres. Bernhard Löhlein, spokesman of the jury, explains the rational behind this new award: there is a growing number of players looking for new challenges in heavier games, and since many of them grew up – or entered the boardgaming hobby – with Spiel des Jahres games, they look to the SdJ jury for recommendations.

Then comes the part that many people have been looking for in this video: what are the criteria for a game to be nominated to Kennerspiel des Jahres instead of the traditional award. These criteria are numerous. A higher number of components figures into the decision as well as the need to keep an eye on the other players’ pieces – player interaction is valued here. The rules for a Kennerspiel des Jahres are expected to be longer and more complex than for the traditional award, but still absolutely must be clear and easily understandable to be considered. A turn in a Kennerspiel will usually take longer than in a Spiel because of more strategic options. Kennerspiele will usually not end with a clear winner but include a final scoring that may change players’ standings. The big uniting factor here is that in a Kennerspiel winning strategies should not be obvious in the first games: players should take the first game to understand the rules and then some more games to figure out how to win. Call it a higher resistance to frustration that is required.

As an aside, we also learn that Strasbourg – at least that’s what I think it is – has the role of King of Ham: one more reason for me to try the game.

There we have the short and easy explanation why some games become a Spiel while others deserve the title Kennerspiel. There is still some subjectivity there, but knowing these things will certainly help you be more successful in your local Boardgame Club’s betting pool next year. Good luck!

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