And we’re back with the Spiel des Jahres 2016 coverage. Today we’ll have a look at the Kennerspiel nominees and recommendation list. The jury really embraced the idea of games with a limited life time, nominating a Legacy game and a game with another obsolescence mechanic. Why don’t we just dive right in?
Isle of Skye
After winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres award with Broom Service last year, designer duo Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan are already back with another nomination. Their new game, Isle of Skye, is published by Lookout Spiele and is a tile laying game with an interesting mechanic to pick tiles. Every round, each player draws four tiles to which he assigns a price. They than have the chance to buy tiles from other players but must buy all tiles remaining in their own display themselves, for their own price. Assigning a price is thus a difficult job. You want to make a profit, but you don’t want to pay a too high price yourself. Or you want a tile for yourself and have to guess what is just a bit too expensive for the other players. Tiles you buy go into your clan territory where they will score points based on this round’s scoring rules.
Pandemic Legacy – Season 1
I really gushed enough about this game already, didn’t I? The Legacy variant of Pandemic, designed by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau and published by Z-Man Games, takes Pandemic, a game that I already love, and adds an ongoing story where every decision you make in one game carries over to every future game you play with this set. You rip cards, open packs, glue stickers on the board. So what if the game is over after, at most, 24 plays and you have to buy a new one, it’s such an intense trip to get there.
The other game with a limited time to live in this year’s Kennerspiel selection is T.I.M.E Stories by Manuel Rozoy and Space Cowboys, and it’s an entirely different approach than Pandemic Legacy above. In T.I.M.E. Stories, you solve cases as agents of the T.I.M.E. Agency. Each case is represented by a stack of cards you play through by the game’s rules. The first time, you will inevitably fail, but that’s okay because you’re time travelers. You’ll go back to the beginning but keep the knowledge you gathered during your previous attempts. Once you play through a case successfully it becomes entirely pointless to play it again, you already know how it goes. Then it’s time to buy an expansion with a new case. The cases we played so far make excellent use of that mechanic, you really get to feel like a time traveler. You can find all the glorious details in our review.
This will be a difficult decision for the jury, I can’t even begin to guess who’ll win this one. We played a lot of Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E. Stories already and they’re both great games with huge innovations. But Isle of Skye, which we haven’t tried yet, sounds like a game we’re going to enjoy, too. Maybe the deciding factor will be how much the jury appreciates the thought of a boardgame that is just over and done with at some point. Sure, it’s innovative, but not everyone likes the idea. In that light, my guess is that the award might go to Isle of Skye, but we wish best of luck to all the nominees!
What’s your bet? Any guess already who’ll win Kennnerspiel des Jahres this year?
The Jury’s Recommendations
7 Wonders: Duel
Another game we already reviewed, and another game that more than deserves the spot here. Actually, I would put 7 Wonders: Duel with the the nominees above, I just wouldn’t know what to take out in return. Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala’s two player version of 7 Wonders is possibly the best two player game we ever played. It replaces the drafting mechanic of 7 Wonders with a display of open and hidden cards from which players pick a card in turn to advance their civilization. Taking a card uncovers more cards for their opponent to choose from. Although Duel sounds different from 7 Wonders, the feeling is very similar, possibly even more tense with the addition of two immediate win rules for scientific and military victories, but it works flawlessly in two players.
With Eric Lang’s Blood Rage a Cool Mini or Not game is recommended by the jury for the first time. Blood Rage is a surprise pick to me because it’s a game that revolves around war and conflict, a subject matter the jury usually avoids. Each player controls a viking clan in their struggle to earn the most glory before the world ends in Ragnarök. What wins Blood Rage the place on this list is probably the fact that, although it is a game about conflict, actually sending your troops to kill people is only a small part of the game. Blood Rage uses a drafting mechanic to set you up with things to do for each round, points are mostly earned through area majorities. Those majorities you can influence by killing of the other guys, of course. You also influence your clan’s development in different areas, giving you different strengths of your choice. It is thus a tight, strategic game that is further improved by the high quality components CMON is known for, the four clans each have their own warrior miniatures, complemented by six unique monster minis to join the fray.
The last entry on the recommendation list is another Alexander Pfister design, this one created without his frequent co-designer Andreas Pelikan. Mombasa, published by eggertspiele / Pegasus looks like it’s easily the most complex game to make the list this year. Players are investors in colonial trading companies in Africa, acquiring shares to profit from the companies’ success. At the same time, they control the companies’ expansion, the main factor in a company’s final value. Many different actions are available each round to grow your economic empires, all controlled by action cards. They are the key to long-term planning in Mombasa, when playing action cards you have to spread them equally across three discard piles, and each round you may only take one of them back to your hand. Creating a pile that will be useful in the future is at least as important as taking the right actions now. Mombasa is a game that the jury admits they considered to complex to nominate for the award, so if a complex game with many strategic and tactical options is what you’re looking for, this is absolutely your best bet from this list.
That’s it, the complete list of Kennerspiel nominees and jury’s recommendations. Just like last year, I’m slightly disappointed that there are only three recommendations on the list, compared to twice that on the other awards, but this year I agree with all the jury’s picks. How about you? Are there any games here that you think shouldn’t be? Missing some complex games you wanted to see on the list? Let us know in the comments!