After we had a look at the nominees for both Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres already last week, and checked the extremely short recommendation list for Kennerspiel des Jahre as well, the list of recommendations from the regular Spiel des Jahres is still worth a look. And so, without much ado:
Spiel des Jahres 2013: The Jury recommends
A very impressive looking dexterity game by Christoph Cantzler (and Zoch) with a wooden ship tumbling back and forth atop a high wave. That’s actual 3D stuff, not an image printed on a board. And it’s not small, either. Your goal as a player is to place all your cargo in different places on the ship, taking care not to bring the whole thing out of balance, because then stuff falls and you get it back to place again. It’s not a deep game, but some tactics in what to place when and where are required. Nevertheless, it’s more for families than for gamers who want to chill after an intense round of Bora Bora.
In the Knizia game this year, Rondo by Schmidt Spiele, things sound easy to start with: you place your game pieces on the game board on fields with matching colours and score the points printed on those fields. But all the stones you place have to be connected, all the colours have to match, and not all fields award the same score. For additional options, you can play stacks of stones on a field to multiply the score there by the number of stones, or you can play a piece face down on a non-matching color to create a bridge to the next field. Simple rules but interesting game play.
Not an exclamation I’d be using much in this game by Heinz Meister and Noris, because it involves dexterity and rolling dice, and I have proven in Dungeon Fighter just how badly I do in both. Yay! is actually somewhat like that game, you’re also rolling dice and your success depends on their value and where they land. Unlike Dungeon Fighter, however, Yay! is an abstract game and is definitely not cooperative. You roll your three dice on a grid and enter their sum on one square that a die is touching. If an opponent has entered a lower number on an adjacent field already, that number is crossed out and lost, so with some luck and a steady hand you can attack your opponents directly. Never mind how badly I would do, I have the urge to try it.
The newest game by Inka and Markus Brand, the designers of last year’s Kennerspiel winner Village, was widely expected to receive a nomination this year. La Boca is a game where communication is key: changing teams of two players have to work together to build a house with two colourful facades from wooden pieces in different shapes. But each player only knows how one of them is supposed to look. Getting the building right isn’t easy, and points are awarded for doing it as quickly as possible. It’s a good thing teams are changing every round, so you get a chance to yell at everyone for messing up under pressure. It’s an innovative idea with simple rules based on communication – the not-nomination did come as a surprise, this is usually exactly what the jury would go for.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Everything important about Escape was already in the review from last year. Although we were less happy with it than most others, that was basically because the game is too easy, not because it’s bad. But in the recommendation lists for family games the game by Amundsen Østby and Queen Games is exactly in the right place, your kids are going to love this one: a real-time dice rolling game with a soundtrack. Hectic, not too difficult and tons of fun. As long as you have a CD player at your gaming table, Escape is a great game to have around. And don’t mind if you accidentally break the rules sometimes, it really doesn’t spoil the fun here.
Abstract games where you build up towers are not a rarity, what is different in Dieter Stein’s Mixtour (Gerhards Spiel und Design) is how you move them: not based on the height of the tower you’re moving but the height of the tower you’re moving onto. For example, if you have a tower with 4 stones, then any tower from exactly four fields away can move on top of it. And win the game, because when the first tower with five or more floors is created, the player on top wins. Another game that very few people had on their SdJ radar, but I’m always in favour of abstract strategy games that play in 10 minutes or less.
Hand aufs Herz
A quirky quiz and reaction game by Julien Sentis where you will only be answering yes-or-no questions. But because that would be too easy, you answer by putting either your left or right hand on the heart pillow in the center of the table. And because that would still be too easy, questions are twisted with negatives and double negatives to confuse you. Still to easy? You score points based on how close to the bottom of the pile your hand is: faster answers, more points. Too easy? Questions are not only trivia but also about the other players around the table. And if that’s still too easy for you, then play with people wearing rings, that’s a lot of fun when slapping your hand onto the heart.
Divination would be a great skill to have in any game, but never more than in Brett Gilbert’s Divinare. Your goal is to figure out how many cards of each color are in the game, and while you initially only know your own hand you slowly discover more from the cards played and passed around. Cards are played to make a bet how many cards of that colour are around, so by making a prediction you hand your opponents more information. But no bet can be repeated, by the time you have certainty the right number will be long taken. Divinare is in that little-used spot between deduction game, bluffing and taking risks, that’s quite a juicy combination.
Hey, didn’t Paolo Mori have a nomination already? With Augustus on the short list, I guess it’s only fair that his other game is a recommendation only, although some are already arguing that it should be the other way around. I wouldn’t know, but it seems to me that Libertalia is the more strategic game of the two. From an identical deck of pirate crew, players pick one each turn to pick up the biggest share of the loot. Each card has a different ability, and to take home the lion’s share picking the right card at the right time is key.