Let’s talk about awards today. I’m not talking about those participation awards everyone gets for just showing up. I’m talking about the Spiel des Jahres. Last game night I had, someone asked what the symbol on different games meant. At the time, I pronounced Spiel des Jahres as best I could, and I explained it was a board game award that was based in Germany. I want to take this time and explain it a little more.
Spiel des Jahres translates to “Game of the Year” in German. It’s one of the higher awards games can get, and it’s one that I really look at when considering a new game. Why’s that you might ask? Well, let’s look more into what a game needs to be eligible.
Games need the following to be considered for Spiel des Jahres. Rules and any additional text must be available in German. The game must be published in the current year or previous year for the awards. So a 2009 game can’t win the award in 2018. The game must be available in retail when the selections are made in May. The game must be distributed and sold in German speaking countries. The game must be playable as a stand alone game. So no expansions are considered for this award.
Well, that sounds all fun and good, but what does that have to do with why I like the award? Well, it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what I like. I just wanted to give an idea of what games are considered for the award. Some people might wonder why other great games haven’t won the award. They might not have fulfilled the requirements. The biggest draw for me are the type of games that get this award. It’s family games that get nominated. This usually excludes strategy games, collectible card games, and miniatures games. I look for family games, and this is an award the highlights the best.
Spiel des Jahres was started in 1978 with the purpose of rewarding game design and top quality games in the German market. It’s said that being awarded the Spiel des Jahres can explode game sales, with the winners usually selling between 300,000 and 500,000 copies. That’s a huge deal. So you can see what the draw is to winning this award.
Here are some of the most notable games that have won in the past. See how many you might own, or even how many you see at the big name stores like Target or Walmart. Some of these games are still being sold after coming out 20 years ago. The Spiel des Jahres is a seal that stays with a game. Catan, while having different editions and many expansions, is still being sold today. I can go into Target right now and pick between the regular game, or a Game of Thrones version.
2017 Kingdomino – Tile Drafting/Pattern Building/Variable Phase Order
2016 Codenames – Party Game/Word Game/Pres your luck
2015 Colt Express – Take That/Modular Board/Movement Programming
2010 Dixit – Voting/Story Telling
2009 Dominion – Card Drafting/Deck Building
2007 Zoolretto – Set Collection/Tile Placement
2004 Ticket to Ride – Set Collection/Card Drafting/Route Building
2001 Carcassonne – Tile Placement/Area Control
1995 Settlers of Catan – Modular Board/Trading/Route Building Game
Okay, okay. I get it, this award is quite honorable. There’s got to be some conspiracy of how the winners are picked. Who are the judges? They probably work for some of these publishers or get paid to play the games. Wrong. That’s another reason I like this award. The judges are chosen by one another. The judges must live in a German speaking country and be a prominent voice in the gaming community and an established Game Critic. There are currently 16 members in this unpaid board. They don’t go to the publishers headquarters to play the games. They often play at home with friends and family. They play a lot of games, and discuss this with other the other members.
This is a great idea! It’s not some award brought to you by our sponsors. It’s a group of people that share a love of board games voting for the best family game of the year. This is what I love about my current gaming collection. It’s being able to play a game with any friend or family. I’ve enjoyed numerous games on the list of winners and I look forward to seeing what the winner of 2018 will be.