Kennerspiel des Jahres 2019 – The Nominees

Here we go once more. Better a few days late than never, right? The Spiel des Jahres nominations were, at least to me, a bit disappointingly light this year. Let’s see if the Kennerspiel is more aligned with my preferences.

The Nominees

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem (alea / Ravensburger)

As you know I’m an unabashed Stefan Feld fanboy, so I’m obviously happy to see one of Stefan’s games on this list. Carpe Diem is another game where you build the city of Rome – not exactly a new theme, I know – but it wouldn’t be a Stefan Feld design if it didn’t force you to make tough decisions. To start, picking up building tiles to add to your personal Rome board is a tough decision. You pick tiles from a rondell, and where you go this round leaves you two options to visit next round. Which tiles are actually good for you is also far from trivial, different kinds of landscapes to produce goods and different dwellings ans special buildings with effects all compete for your attention. Even scoring points is a hard decision, in each scoring round you have to pick a spot between two scoring cards, and every spot can only be taken once per game. Hard decisions at every corner, exactly what I want from a Feld game – and from a Kennerspiel nominee.


Detective (Portal Games / Pegasus Spiele)

The second nominee is a bit of an odd duck. Usually, Kennerspiel nominees have somewhat complex rules and challenge your brains with strategic decisions. Detective, an Ignacy Trzewiczek game with a story by Przemys?aw Rymer and Jakub ?apot, has an entirely different challenge. The rules are simple, and strategy is mostly needed to use time for your investigations – important, but not exactly difficult. The challenge is to solve a criminal case by talking to witnesses, getting lab reports done, and looking up facts in the online database. Detective is a deck exploration game, but with the difficulty turned all the way up. The cases are difficult, time is scarce, tokens to use your investigators’ special abilities even more so. And to top it off, the five cases you’ll investigate are somehow connected. “Boardgames that tell stories” is truth in advertising for this one.


Flügelschlag (Feuerland Spiele)

Bird collecting is not exactly a common game theme. All the nicer to see Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan (in its German edition Flügelschlag by Feuerland Spiele) made the cut. Collect birds, keep them in the right habitat, feed them, get them to lay eggs, and then score points for your collection, that doesn’t sound all that exciting for everyone, but Wingspan is an engine building game that is sure to excite all fans of that genre. Each bird in your collection adds something to your basic actions, and since you will have fewer chances to act as the game progresses a good engine is essential.

The Jury Recommends

Architects of the West Kingdom

Architekten des Westfrankenreichs (Schwerkraft Verlag)

I said all there is to say about Architects of the West Kingdom by Shem Phillips and Sam Macdonald in our recent review. It’s a great game and I would have loved to see it nominated (in its German edition Architekten des Westfrankenreichs by Schwerkraft Verlag), but I wouldn’t know which of this year’s nominees to remove in order to make space on the list.


Das tiefe Land (Feuerland Spiele)

Lowlands (in German: Das tiefe Land, published by Feuerland Spiele) is a game about the German north, right behind the dike. People there have not exactly fear, but a healthy dose of respect for the North Sea. They make sure the dikes are high and in good repair. That’s your job in the game by Claudia and Ralf Partenheimer. Building the dike is an important activity shared by all players. Whoever contributes the most to the dike will have honor and victory points. Those who help less will lose everything if the dike breaks. But what if you just do the bare minimum so the dike holds, and spend the rest of your energy on growing your sheep farm? That’s the fine balance to find in Lowlands, do just enough to survive for the common good and make sure you emerge as the richest.


Newton (Cranio Creations)

Yeah, science! Isaac Newton contributed much to make people see how awesome modern science is. With the game Newton Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone you can follow in his footsteps. Up to four scientists can travel around Europe to visit cities and universities and develop their theories and scientific tools. They do so with an interesting action card mechanism: Of the action cards you play in a round, all but one return to your hand. The last one remains on the board, so you lose it as an option for later turns, but at the same time it makes its action stronger when you get it from another card. Once again, tough decisions.

Paper Tales

Paper Tales (Frosted Games)

The last game on the list is a very quick one for a Kennerspiel recommendation. Paper Tales by Masato Uesugi (German edition by Frosted Games) only takes about thirty minutes to play, but those thirty minutes will make you think. All you have to do is draft a few cards into your kingdom each round. Problem: There is very limited space. Solution and new problem: Cards in your kingdom age until they are removed from old age. Having cards with synergies is nice, but you have to get those cards at the same time, too.

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