Kennerspiel des Jahres 2020

We already talked about the Spiel des Jahres 2020 nominations, now it’s time for a look at the Kennerspiel nominations. We’re all excited for the expert game of the year, so without further ado, here are the nominees.

The Nominees

Cartographers (Jordy Adan / Pegasus Spiele)

Cartographers (Pegasus Spiele)

The roll-and-write renaissance doesn’t stop for expert games, because that’s exactly what Cartographers by Jordy Adan is. Well, a draw-and-draw game, really. You draw cards, then all players draw on their score pad. That’s close enough. What you draw on your score pad is a map, with the cards telling you what terrain you may draw in what shape. The queen’s edicts tell you how she wants the map to look, meaning what you will score points for. It’s an odd approach to map-making, to start with guidelines what you’re supposed to discover, but that’s monarchy for you. Cartographers is a low interaction game, but it’s not completely without interaction. When an Ambush card is revealed all players pass their map to another player who adds a monster before returning it. Cartographers is a fun approach to make a heavier roll-and-write game.

The Crew (Thomas Sing / Kosmos)

The Crew (Kosmos)

What is this doing here??? I mean, I predicted that The Crew would make an appearance at the Spiel des Jahres 2020, and I haven’t changed my mind about that. I’m just surprised to find it in the Kennerspiel nominations. You can find all you want to know about The Crew in our review of Thomas Sing’s cooperative trick-taking game. Yes, you read that right, cooperative trick-taking game. And it works amazingly well, too.

The King’s Dilemma (Lorenzo Silva, Hjalmar Hach & Carlo Burelli / Horrible Guild & Heidelbär)

The King’s Dilemma (Horrible Guild / Heidelbär)

There is still a lot of design space to explore with persistent change games. With the The King’s Dilemma Lorenzo Silva, Hjalmar Hach, and Carlo Burelli explore a design that is lighter than many, mechanically speaking, but lets you explore a rich, multi-threaded story and confronts you with long term consequences of your actions. The players are the king’s advisors, and they make all decisions for the kingdom in his stead. Technically, they only make a series of yes-or-no decisions, but those decisions are charged. All decisions change the distribution of the game’s five resources on their tracks, and depending on your goal card for the game you will have different preferences where you want each track to end up. But that’s so far from the only thing you have to take into account. If the resources go to far out of balance a revolution will end your game early which is usually – but not always – something you want to avoid. Even keeping the resources in balance, your goal card may conflict with your overarching goal to develop your noble family – maybe it’s worth losing this game to mark one of the family upgrades, right? Negotiating each decision with the other players is another important factor. Also, some decisions have clear implications for your ethics or your reputation, and since you sign some cards and stickers those decisions may come back to haunt you, personally, when that story thread continues. You have so many different interests to balance that each decision is indeed a dilemma – not for the King, but for you. Delicious, delicious dilemma.

A Prediction!

Unlike the Spiel des Jahres, where I can’t really make up my mind who to bet on, a prediction for the Kennerspiel des Jahres is easy, which is both happy and sad. I’m certain The Crew will take the award. I’m happy because The Crew is an amazing game that deserves an award. I just thought that award would be the Spiel des Jahres. Now I’m sad that The King’s Dilemma will very likely not win an award that it also deserves. Cartographers while heavier than other roll-and-write games, also seems a bit light for me to be Kennerspiel. Full disclosure, though, Cartographers is the only of these games I haven’t played yet, so I may be misjudging it.

What’s your take? Which of these three will win? Is The Crew too light to be here or not? And which game did the jury miss that should be here?

As always, best of luck to all nominees. Whichever wins, it won’t be a bad pick.

The Jury Recommends

Underwater Cities

Underwater Cities (Delicious Games)

Internationally Underwater Cities has gathered fans since 2018, now the game by Vladimír Suchy is available in a German edition. The title suggest it, you will build underwater cities to ease the pressure from overpopulation. You’ll do that by placing cards in – hopefully matching – slots on the main board. If card and slot have the same color you resolve both their effects, if the colors don’t match you only get the slot’s effects. Using those actions and managing their resources every player builds their own network of underwater cities, buildings, and tunnels.

Res Arcana

Res Arcana (Sand Castle Games)

In Tom Lehmann’s Res Arcana, alchemists fight for power. Using artifacts and monsters they summon using their hard earned resources, they fight over monuments and places of power that provide them with the power points to win the game. Eight artifact cards are all you’ll get for the whole game, so Res Arcana is a game where every action counts.

Paladins of the West Kingdom

Paladins of the West Kingdom (Schwerkraft)

First you build the West Kingdom in Architects of the West Kingdom, now it’s time to defend it in Paladins of the West Kingdom by Shem Philips and Sam Macdonald. Buildings outposts and fortifications is important to defend the kingdom against its outside enemies – but sometimes converting them is more efficient. To keep the kingdom safe, and to contribute more to its safety than your opponents, you have to make the best use of the interaction between military might, faith, and influence.

Leave a Reply