Sunday, May 08, 2005

Spiel Des Jahres 2005

The nominees for Germany's Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) have just been announced. The 5 nominated games are:
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Jambo
  • Himalaya
  • Niagara
  • Verflixxt
The jury also recommended nine additional games: Boomtown, Diamant, Die Garten der Alhambra, Geschenkt, Piranha Pedro, Power Grid, Tanz der Hornochsen, Typo, and Wie ich die Welt sehe. (Thanks to Erik Arenson's About Boardgames site for the information.)

Allow me to handicap the race a bit. (Well, I guess you don't have any choice - as I'm the guy who owns the blog.) Verflixxt is a dice game from the award-winning team of Kramer/Kiesling, but seems unlikely to win... there's been no buzz about it. Himalaya is a re-publishing by Tilsit of Castle Merchants, a game that was available online for download & printing... and is the real surprise of the nominee list (to me). Jambo is a well-thought of two player game... but the jury does not pick 2 player games. Which leaves us with two excellent choices for Spiel des Jahres!

Around the World in 80 Days is a hour long game for 2-5 players of (no surprise here) racing around the world. It scales well from 3-5 (the 2 player game is less interesting) players and is a wonderful looking, clean playing & very enjoyable game. It has what I consider to be an important trait for any game likely to win the SdJ: luck is involved, but you can't play stupid and win.

Niagara is a bit shorter 30-45 minutes and stunningly beautiful game of gem collecting on a moving river. A nifty set of clear discs simulates the flow of the river towards the waterfalls, while wooden canoes & plastic gems round out the excellent presentation. Surprisingly, there is no actual "luck" in the game - only the randomness of the players choosing their actions at the same time.

Both are by relatively unknown designers, both games work like a charm with gamers & non-gamers... so, how do you pick a favorite? Around the World is similar (but not identical) to last year's winner, Ticket To Ride, which could a point in it's favor... or a point against it. It's been a while since Kosmos (the publisher of Around the World) has won, and Zoch (the publisher of Niagara) won 3 years ago for Villa Paletti.

Frankly, I'll be happy if either of them win, but I'd probably choose Niagara as my personal favorite. And, just to be consistent, I'll make it my prediction.

Results will be announced in late June - we'll see how I did then.


Anonymous said...

Hickory Hollow mall just opened a really good game store that I think you would love. Lots of German games and others that you don't see elsewhere.


Mark (aka pastor guy) said...


1) Who are you?
2) Why do you torture me by telling me about a new game store at Hickory Hollow, where I no longer live?! Sigh.

aka pastor guy

Anonymous said...

who am I? Are you serious?

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...


Niagara DID win SdJ (I was right! I was right!)...

...and eventually I figured out that ZR was ZionRed aka Paul "GuitarMan" Durham. Duh.