d20: Top 18 Spiel des Jahres Winners

Ryan

First, an apology for this being late. My wife was having outpatient surgery yesterday, and I was going to write this up after we got home and while watching some baseball.

So of course, the surgery started 3 hours late, and it turned into needing an overnight stay. So I suddenly didn’t get any downtime yesterday, and Drew had tickets to the KC Royals home opener, which because of rain turned into a bit of a marathon itself.

I’ll start off explaining our topic for the week. These are Drew and my Top 18 Spiel des Jarhes Game of the Year winners. Of course on a week when we both had plans on Thursday, I roll an 18.

So the Spiel des Jahres is basically the German Board Game of the Year award. Germany is a huge board game country, so this is a big deal. The main complaint most people have about it is that the games tend to be on the lighter side and pretty family friendly. They have added a more complex game category in recent years, most likely to help recognize excellent games that don’t quite fit the lighter criteria. There is also a kids game award and special prizes given to games that don’t get nominated, but deserve special recognition.

I thought this would be a fairly easy list, but I had played a grand total of 24 of them. Most of the cuts weren’t hard, but getting them in order was. I think all of these are really good games, I just prefer some to others.

1)Ticket to Ride: A gigantic hit when it came out, and still one of the most well known games out there. It’s fun and really easy to teach. I’ve always enjoyed it.

2) Hanabi: It’s cooperative, which I love, and it’s an interesting mechanic. I always have a blast when I play this, and I’m sad we don’t get it out more often.

3) Azul: This won in 2018, and was very deserving. I thought it might have been a little thinky to win, but it’s a great game in general. I haven’t played the new version yet, I’ve heard many people prefer it to this version.

4) Dominion: I love deck builders, and this was the first one I know about. While the genre in general has pulled away from the basics in Dominion, I still enjoy playing it, I’m just not as obsessed as I might be with other games of it’s ilk.

5) Carcassonne: Along with Ticket to Ride and another game down my list, Carc is probably one of the biggest reasons gaming has become more mainstream over the years. Simple, and different than most games before it, it’s still a fun game to play. We currently own the Star Wars version.

6) Kingdom Builder: This game should be more popular than it is. It’s a great example of a clever gateway game. It’s easy to teach, limits the amount of decisions you have to make, but there are meaningful decisions to be made even while limited.

7) Codenames: One of the best party games I’ve ever played. Simple, tricky, and can play a room full of people.

8) Qwirkle: A great abstract game. My main complaint is that the scores can get pretty high, and you have to have a pen & paper handy.

9) Zooloretto: One of the first card games (Coloretto) to get a board game version, it’s a nice implementation of the card game mechanics in a zoo building game.

10) Hare & Tortoise: Mathy, but in a good way. I seem to be the only person I know who really likes this game.

11) Thurn & Taxis: Always felt like a slight step up in complexity to Ticket to Ride to me. I haven’t played it in years, but I remember liking it.

12) Alhambra: Similar to Carcassonne i mechanics, it’s got some neat way to differentiate itself from being a clone.

13) El Grande: Definitely one of the heavier games mechanics-wise to win the SDJ, but it’s still a good game. One of the earlier area control games I remember playing.

14) Um Reifenbreite: I think I’ve mentioned I love racing games, and as a Tour de France fan, cycling games especially fascinate me. I haven’t played it much, but I’ve had fun every time.

15) Scotland Yard: A really neat hide and seek game where one player is trying to escape from the others. The mechanic has been used many times over the years, but this one still does it well.

16) Liar’s Dice: I’m really not sure why this one was considered, it’s a pretty old game, but maybe a slight variation gained it the win. I typically hate bluffing games, but this one does it right.

17) Colt Express: A programming game I have only played once, but I remember enjoying it, but never picked up my own copy. I guess I’d rather play Roborally for that.

18) Settlers of Catan: I didn’t play Catan until I was heavily into board gaming, so unlike many others, it was not an entry game for me. It’s something I’ll play occasionally, but I’m not a huge fan. But it’s obviously been huge in the board game world, and has a huge shadow over all things gaming.

That’s it. There are some games I’ve always wanted to try, and several that just didn’t strike a chord with me, but this is my top 18.

Drew

When Ryan picked “Top 18 SdJ Games” I thought it would be easy.  Turns out I have played* 19 SdJ winners total. But the ones I enjoy, I really enjoy.  I’ll keep my thoughts brief as I think many of you have heard of them, and to be honest some of them I don’t have a lot of experience with.  But it was really interesting seeing what was picked over the years and how they may have changed related to larger gaming trends.

So without further ado, my Top 18 SdJ winners.

1) Thurn and Taxis: I play this at every convention I go to where it’s in the Library.  It’s become an obsession. The route building and decisions that need to be made keep me coming back to this game again and again.

2) Azul: This is one I use to introduce to gamers after they have played one or two gateway games.  I don’t think it’s difficult, it has great components, and it looks good on the table.

3) Kingdom Builder: This was my go to gateway game for a while.  It’s pretty standard Queen fare, but it has great replayability and I haven’t had a bad time playing it yet.

4) Ticket To Ride: To me, this is another classic gateway game.  With the variety of maps and complexity, I think this has a ton of replayability for beginner and experienced gamers alike.

5) Alhambra: This was one of my first Euro games, and my wife and I still play it to this day.  Some of the mechanics are still fun to use and there are a ton of expansions/modules.

6) Carcassonne: This too was one of my first Euro games, and I believe the one that really got my wife interested in gaming too.

7) Kingdomino:  A quick game that has more under the hood than you might think based on appearances.  I think this one is lower due to the fact I like longer games.

8) Codenames: I didn’t like Codenames initially but after playing Duel, I really like the system/series.

9) Dominion: It’s okay for what it is, but I want more out of my deckbuilders.  I want to do something besides just drafting cards.

10) Hanabi:  This was a fun experience the few times I played it, but it wasn’t a “rush out and buy it immediately game.”

11) Qwirkle: I liked this abstract for what it is, but I like the app better.

12) Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective: This is one of those I have ‘played’.  The theme appeals to me and my wife and I love deductive reasoning games.

13) Catan: The OG of Euro games, this one has sort of fallen out of favor with me. It’s a fine game, but that’s it:  just fine. Why settle for just fine when you can play “amazing”, “awesome” or “wow”?

14) Zooloretto: I remember playing this once and that there were animals.  I wasn’t impressed.

15) Tikal: Another one I have “played”, this has just been on the app, and I had difficulty figuring out what I was supposed to do.  This isn’t really the games fault, but I calls them like I sees them. I imagine this would be higher if/when I actually play the physical game.

16) Dixit: The art in this game is freaking amazing, but I played this a few times with a good group for it, and wasn’t all that impressed.  I am not a big fan of party games to begin with, but this just fell flat for me.

17) Colt Express: This one is low because I’m terrible at it and I don’t enjoy programming games (despite being a programmer for a living).  The theme is neat and it’s a unique take on the programming aspect, but again, just fine.

18) Rummikub: I have played this one.  That’s all I have to really say about it.

So there are my top 18 SdJ Winners.  I am sure there are ones that I haven’t played that would find their way on the list, but so many games, so little time.

So what are your favorites? Are there any we should try? Are there any you really dislike? Let us know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “d20: Top 18 Spiel des Jahres Winners

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