Spiel des Jahres 2019 – The Nominees

Unbelievable! I get sick for a couple of days and the Spiel des Jahres jury inconsiderately publishes this year’s nomination in just those days. How’s a lonesome newsman supposed to deliver the news on time when people don’t take a little bit of care? Oh well, enough lamenting, let’s have a look what fun games the jury picked out this year.

The Nominees

Just One

Just One (Repos Production)

The first pick is a super-light, cooperative party game by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter. In Just One (Repos Production) all you have to do to win a round is guess one single word. All players – except the one who must guess, obviously – come up with another single word as a hint for the word in question. There’s only one more step before the guesser looks at all those hints and hopefully guesses the right word: all duplicate hints are removed. So you don’t want to be too obvious with your hints, the really good ones will likely not make it to the guesser. If your hints are too far out the guesser will probably not get it, especially not if your hint together with some of the others suddenly implies a completely different word. Just One is about as light as a game can get, but exactly what you want from a party game: you can easily explain it to people who’ve already been partying for some time, and it yields the hilarious kind of unexpected results.


L.a.m.a. (Amigo)

This game’s name makes slightly more sense in German. What do llamas have to do with a shedding game by Reiner Knizia and Amigo, after all? L.a.m.a. supposedly not only means the woolly highland animal but is also the abbreviation for Leg alle Minuspunkte ab. Put down all minus points, but I guess P.d.a.m.p. isn’t as evocative a title. But it’s sensible advice, nevertheless. Cards in L.a.m.a. come in seven levels of negativity: The numbers one to six and the llamas, which are worth ten minus points. Yikes. How you get rid of you cards is really straightforward. When it’s your turn you may play a card with the same value as the top card of the discard pile or one point higher than that one. Llamas make it possible to wrap around, they are higher than a six but lower than a one. If you can’t play a card, or don’t want to for tactical reasons, you have two other options. Either you quit and take all the minus points left in your hand at the end of the round, or you can draw a card, potentially giving you something to play next round. Or even more minus points. Not playing a card even though you could creates some interesting tactical options, especially if you’re the type to count cards and thus know how to get your opponents into trouble. That doesn’t change that L.a.m.a. is another ultra-light game for this years nominations.


Werwörter (Ravensburger)

Third on the list is the German edition of Ted Alspachs’s Werewords, published by Ravensburger. Werewords mixes up the classic Werewolf hidden identity principle with a word guessing game like Twenty Questions. The players are inhabitants of a small, werewolf-infested village. The regular citizenry need to find the magic word that will rid the village of the lycantrophes. That word is known to the mayor and to the werewolves who live among the villagers. They will try to ask subtly misleading questions to get the villagers on the trail of the wrong word. This is a really fun twist on word games and hidden identity games. Regular villagers don’t know who to trust while the werewolves have to be subtle enough not to give away their identity.

Jury’s Recommendations

Those are some pretty light games on the nomination list this year. I guess that continues the trend of recent years to put ever lighter games into this category. Let’s see who made it into the recommendations, then.


Belratti (Mogel Verlag)

We already said all we could about picture association game Belratti by Michael Loth and Mogel Verlag in our recent review. I’m happy to see small publishers finding recognition on the recommendation list. Belratti certainly deserves the spot.


Dizzle (Schmidt Spiele)

With Dizzle the roll-and-write renaissance has a representative in the list. In the game by Ralf zur Linde and Schmidt Spiele players take turns picking dice from the common dice pool and marking a matching space on their score card. The only other condition is that the new mark must touch one already on the score pad. Pretty soon it’ll get hard to meet both conditions at once, and other players will have fun sneaking looks at your score card and picking up the dice you need.

Imhotep: The Duel

Imhotep: The Duel (Kosmos)

The two player variant of Phil Walker-Harding’s Imhotep lets you build Egypt, just like its big brother. Temples, pyramids, obelisks and burial chambers still must be built. What changed is how you get the resources for them. Players take turns putting their workers into the three by three harbor grid. When a row or column has at least two workers the ship docked there cahttps://www.meoplesmagazine.com/2016/06/23/imhotep/n be unloaded. The challenge is getting the tiles you want, not just the ones you can get. If you also manage to grab more tiles than your opponent victory might be as good as yours. From reading the rules, I might actually enjoy Imhotep: The Duel more than I did the original Imhotep.

Krasse Kacke

Krasse Kacke (Pegasus Spiele)

When a game is called Gross Shit it’s easy to guess the age of the target audience. But the jury decided Krasse Kacke by Jonathan Favre-Godal and Pegasus Spiele is fun for older players, too. From the description I can’t really disagree. The nominal goal of the game is to prove that it wasn’t your pet that left a nasty surprise on the kitchen floor. So someone will yell something like “That wasn’t a dog doing that, it was clearly a hamster!” Then all other players will look for a hamster card in their hand and try to be first to play it. Only that player gets rid of their card. They also become the next player to accuse some animal of being unhygienic. If no other player has a card of that animal, then it must have been your pet that did it! There’s not much depth here, but Krasse Kacke is a fun game of quick counting and memorization. Also, and I’m surprised at myself for thinking this, in a group of adult players it should work remarkably well as a drinking game.


Reef (Next Move)

Emmerson Matsuuchi’s Reef (publisher: Next Move, German distributor: Pegasus Spiele) is a game I expected to see in the top part of this list. It’s still light enough to not qualify for Kennerspiel, but it has a lot more substance than the nominees. At least it found a place down here. In theory it shouldn’t be too hard to build a reef from differently colored pieces. Making it more difficult is the fact that cards that allow you to play pieces of one color always score pieces of another color. Drafting the right cards from the shared display is essential to winning.


Sherlock (Abacusspiele)

The final entry on the list is not a single game but a series of games: Abacusspiele’s Sherlock. There are currently three games in the series – Last Call, Death on the 4th of July, and Tomb of the Archaeologist – that all share the basic workings. They are deck exploration games, similar to escape-room-in-a-box games, where the players have to solve a case worthy of the great detective. Unlike other deck exploration games, the cards are still in players’ hands. Players have to decide for themselves which cards have important information and should be played and which are irrelevant or misleading and should be discarded. When all cards are either on the table or in the discard pile the players try to make the clues into a coherent story what happened and then answer a series of questions to determine their score.

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