Topic of the Week: Spiel des Jahres

I guess it was inevitable with me taking over for a bit that this was going to be Topic of the Week at some point. With the nominees for 2024 announced, I thought it might be interesting to see how past winners and nominees have held up.

Some Questions to ponder

  • How many have you played?
  • How many do you own?
  • Which is the oldest one you still play?
  • Which is the oldest one you own?
  • Do you disagree with the jury on any games?
  • Any favorites?
  • Any games you really dislike?
  • Why does Kramer / Kiesling keep winning and Knizia does not? (He gets nominated a lot)
  • Did you know that on a famous German TV Show about bets someone bet that they could recognize every SdJ by the sound of the box shaking:

Some Helpful Links:

Winners “Spiel des Jahres”

Games do not always get nominated when they are published but when they are published in German. So international games often take some time to make it to the list. Nominee List are longer before 2011 when Kennerspiel was introduced. The other nominees are not documented before 1999.

Year Winner Notes Other nominees
2024 ??? Captain Flip, Sky Team, Footsteps of Darwin
2023 Dorfromantik Next Station London, Fun Facts
2022 Cascadia Scout, Top Ten
2021 MicroMacro Adventures of Robin Hood, Zombie Teenz Evolution
2020 Pictures Christian & Daniela Stöhr My City, Nova Luna
2019 Just One L.a.m.a, Werewords
2018 Azul Half a K(iesling)
2017 Kingdomino Bruno Cathala Magic Maze, Wettlauf nach El Dorado
2016 Codenames Vlaada Chvatil Karuba, Imhotep
2015 Colt Express Machi Koro, The Game
2014 Camel Up Concept, Splendor
2013 Hana-Bi Augustus, Qwixx
2012 Kingdom Builder Vaccarino EselsbrĂĽcke, Las Vega
2011 Qwirkle Forbidden Island, Asara
2010 Dixit Through the Ages the Dice Game, Fresko, A la Carte, Identik
2009 Dominion Vaccarino Pandemie, Finca, Fauna, Fits
2008 Keltis Knizia Blox, Stone Age, Witch’s Brew, Suleika
2007 Zooloretto Yspahan, Thebes, Thieves, Arkadia
2006 Thurn und Taxis Andreas & Karen Seyfahrt Buccaneer, Blue Moon City, Aqua Romana, Just4Fun
2005 Niagara No Thanks, That’s Life, In 80 Days Around the World, Jambo, Himalaya
2004 Ticket to Ride Alan R Moon St Petersburg, Raja, Dawn Under, Ingenious
2003 Alhambra Clans, Die Dracheninsel
2002 Villa Paletti Trans America, Puerto Rico
2001 Carcassonne Zapp Zerapp, The Amulet
2000 Torres K&K win 2 years in a row Carolus Magnus, Citadels
1999 Tikal K&K Giganten, Union Pacific–I was not aware how many train games Alan R Moon made before Ticket 2 Ride
1998 Elfenland a lesser known Alan R. Moon?
1997 Mississippi Queen
1996 El Grande Half a K(ramer)
1995 Catan Klaus Teuber
1994 Manhattan Andreas Seyfahrt
1993 Bluff In other places known as Perudo which is dated 1800 on BGG
1992 Um Reifenbreite This seems to have been published in 1979 originally? A bicycle racing game
1991 Drunter und DrĂĽber aka Wacky Wacky West by Klaus Teuber wins 2 years in a row
1990 Adel Verpflichtet aka Hoity Toity Klaus Teuber
1989 Café International
1988 Barbarossa Klaus Teuber’s first win
1987 Auf Achse Half a K(ramer) wins again
1986 Heimlich & Co Half a K(ramer)
1985 Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
1984 Dampfross
1983 Scotland Yard
1982 Sagaland
1981 Focus Sid Sackson
1980 Rummikub
1979 Hase und Igel aka Hare and Tortoise. Don’t ask me why they changed the animal.

Winners “Kennerspiel des Jahres”

Before Kennerspiel was introduced in 2011, a few of the games that would today be Kennerspiel nominees got special awards. I’ll add the ones that would likely have been Kennerspiel to this list nevertheless! The Sonderpreis was intermittent and some of the games would have been Kinderspiel des Jahres these days.

Year Winner Notes Other Nominees
2024 ??? Daybreak, Guild of Merchant Explorers, Ticket 2 Ride Legacy
2023 Challengers Iki, Planet Unknown
2022 Living Forest Cryptid, Dune: Imperium, Recs: Ark Nova, Kohra, Witchstone
2021 Paleo Cooperative Lost Ruins of Arnak, Fantastic Realms, Recs: Aeon’s End, Riftforce, Jaws of the Lion, Barrage
2020 Die Crew Cooperative Cartographers, King’s Dilemma
2019 Wingspan Elizabeth Hargrave Carpe Diem, Detective
2018 Quacks of Quedlinburg Wolfgang Warsch Ganz schön Clever, Heaven and Ale
2017 EXIT Inka & Marcus Brand. This is the whole series Raiders of the Northsea, Terraforming Mars, Recs: Captain Sonar, Great Western Trail.
2016 Isle of Skye Alexander Pfister. Another 2 year in a row win. Pandemic Legacy 1, TIME Stories, Recs: 7 Wonders Duel, Blood Rage, Mombasa
2015 Broom Service Andreas Pelikan & Alexander Pfister Orleans, Elysium, Recs: Marco Polo, Arler Erde, Deus
2014 Istanbul RĂĽdiger Dorn Concordia, Rokoko, A
2013 Legenden von Andor Michael Menzel Palaces of Carrara, Brügge. Recs: Terra Mystica, Tzolk’in
2012 Village Inka & Marcus Brand K2, Targi
2011 7 Wonders Antoine Bauza Strasbourg, Lancaster
2009 Space Alert Vlaada Chvatil
2008 Agricola Uwe Rosenberg’s lone price
2006 Caylus
2001 Lord of the Rings Knizia

One core consideration: the SdJ isn’t aimed at me, indeed it isn’t even aimed at the me-equivalent who lives in Germany. So I’m not expecting to see a whole lot of overlap.

Own: Scout, Magic Maze*, Just One, Colt Express, Concept, Splendor, Ingenious; Aeon’s End, Riftforce, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Captain Sonar

* but nobody else I know likes it except @Lordof1 and we don’t often get a chance to play together.

Have played: Cascadia, Azul, Kingdomino, Machi Koro, Codenames, Imhotep, Camel Up, Hana-Bi, Dixit, Fresco, Dominion, Pandemic, Stone Age, Niagara, No Thanks, Ticket to Ride, Citadels, Elfenland, Catan; Ark Nova, The Crew, Ganz Schön Clever, Heaven & Ale, EXIT (not the whole series), Isle of Skye, PanLeg1, Time Stories, Palaces of Carrara, Tzolk’in, K2, 7 Wonders, Space Alert, Agricola, LotR.

…OK, more overlap than I expected; I’m particularly surprised to see Aeon’s End getting in, because “huge sprawling game with lots of expansions” would seem to go against the usual ethos of “neat minimalist game, one box and that’s it”.


They also like teasing Matt Leacock. Which makes the Kenner nomination for Ticket to Ride Legacy interesting as they’ll have to balance giving moon award with not giving Leacock an award.

I guess there is the second chance with Emission daybreak.


I’m in the minority where I am eager to see the SdJ noms and which one wins. I found myself enjoying these “family weight” games with club members. If I want heavy games, I just look at what interests me. I don’t need an awards committee for that.

What’s also weird is that I tend not to look at Kennerspiel. They are outside of the “family board game” types, but they aren’t interesting enough - worse, I find them utterly boring to play. Isle of Skye and Istanbul are good examples.

Although, I am noticing a trend with SdJ, it now leans over towards the solitaire types in the recent years, which I didn’t like. SdJ tends to give us games that are about having these “shared experiences” with my friends. In the case of their target audience, an average German family having a shared experience together. I find this a shame.


Seeing how I’ve been exposed to SdJ games since Kindergarten, I should probably list

the ones I have not played:
  • 1985 Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. I think I was too young when this won
  • 1989 CafĂ© International–teenagers don’t play stupid boardgames (I played 1991 & 1990 much later)
  • 1992 Um Reifenbreite
  • 1994 Manhattan
  • 1997 Mississippi Queen – I was busy being introduced to games far cooler than SdJ, namely Magic the Gathering and Pen&Paper RPGs
  • 1998 Elfenland-- see previous entry
  • 2002 Villa Paletti–busy writing my Diplom Arbeit (Master Thesis)
  • 2006 Thurn und Taxis–I own a used copy but have not played. Oops. But my hometown is on the map
  • 2007 Zooloretto–my Arkham Horror years saw me look down upon such simple games as SdJ usually presented
  • 2011 Qwirkle–it looked like a total rip-off of Ingenious which got snubbed and so I decided to never play this.
  • 2020 Pictures–another phase of “I am not playing low complexity family games and also this reeks of drawing games and I dislike drawing games”
Oldest games, I...
  • own currently: Carcassonne
  • would still play: Dampfross if only I could get my hands on a copy
  • actually still play: depends on what is considered still playing? Carcassonne probably. Ticket 2 Ride if app plays count. Dixit if I can finally get others to play it with me again.
  • Current favorite: probably Cascadia
  • Most Solo plays: Cascadia
  • Most multiplayer plays as an adult:
    • Carcassonne
    • Catan
    • 7 Wonders
    • Dixit
    • Codenames
    • Kingdomino
    • Azul
    • Just One
    • Istanbul
    • Wingspan
    • Die Crew
  • Most legendary games: Dixit, Codenames, Just One
  • Most confrontational: Catan, Carcassonne
  • Favorite games as a child: Sagaland, Dampfross, Scotland Yard, Auf Achse, Barbarossa, Heimlich & Co

SdJ Games that didn’t hold up in my opinion:

  • 2023 I do like Dorfromantik. But it fizzled out after 10 games or so for us at least, the other nominees are just weak
  • 2021 Micromacro–just not for my “old” eyes . Other nominees weren’t anything to write home about either
  • 2020: Pictures? Really? My City or Nova Luna should have won. Just saying. But Knizia never wins. Except Keltis which wasn’t that great. Rosenberg also never wins.
  • 2017: another Knizia snub with El Dorado. Kingdomino is fine. Really. But…
  • 2011: Qwirkle a rip off at least visually of Ingenious which was snubbed by the jury. Meh.
  • 2005 Niagara: Legendary win against my partner. had to sell the game. Cannot even mention it without hearing a tirade.
  • 1995 Catan: Destroyed by Mitspieler. I won’t tell this one again.

Questionable Kennerspiel Choices

  • 2023: Challengers-- I played this at Spiel. Yes yes, deck construction minimalized. What an achievement. I am not impressed enough for this award. I have not played Iki and I admit that Planet Unknown is also not exactly the great Kennerspiel style game I expect to win (even though it is my favorite polyominoes game)
  • 2022: shows how little I understand that Living Forest won over Cryptid, Dune:Imp and Ark Nova was only on the rec-list
  • 2021: Our friends swear Paleo is great. And considering Fantastic Realms was nominated… why not give the award to Arnak?
  • 2017: yes EXIT was new and innovative. My choice this year is obviously Terraforming Mars
  • 2013: this is scandalous: Terra mystica and Tzolk’in only made the recommendations List while the price went to Legends of Andor which I played once and … didn’t like.

edit: forgot “owned” games list:

Games I own
  • Cascadia
  • Just One
  • Azul (OG + Hex)
  • Kingomino (well Origins)
  • Codenames
  • Camel Up (it is inching towards the sell pile, so many other racing games I would rather play and the chaos and simplicity don’t make up for it. Should have played this when it was fresh and I would feel different)
  • Kingdom Builder (Winter Kingdom actually)
  • Dixit
  • Thurn und Taxis
  • Ticket 2 Ride (Legacy only but still)
  • Alhambra (on the sell pile)
  • Die Crew
  • Wingspan (also now Wyrmspan)

Most of these have solid place in my collection unless otherwise noted
I used to own quite a few more at some point or other and a lot more if I count all the nominees and recs.

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I own: Cascadia, one of the Azuls, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Quacks of Q.
Would love to own: El Grande, Broom Service, Colt Express.

I’ve played: Forbidden Island, Splendour, Colt Express, Dominion, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Dixit, 7 Wonders
Would like to play: MicroMacro, Dorfromantik (I have the PC version).

Oldest game is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, which I must play the next chapter of soon.

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Personally I think Daybreak is the much stronger contender than Ticket 2 Ride Legacy.

  • It is much cheaper than T2R Legacy
  • It has more replay value
  • Legacy games have previously got awards it is no longer due to being innovative that they would hand out this award.
  • Ticket 2 Ride has previously won SdJ
  • Daybreak is in my opinion simply the better and more innovative game.

But yeah Matt Leacock got a bunch of nominations and no wins.
SdJ doesn’t always pick up on future “classics” and Pandemic is definitely one they missed but it lost against Dominion which is a bit of a consolation.

The other 2 designers that got nominated far more than they win are Knizia and Feld. That I noticed at least.

and yet there is some :slight_smile:
SdJ is aimed at the whole family of (usually 4) getting together for a family game. This is supposed to be under every Christmas tree that year.

When I was young there wasn’t the Kinderspiel but SdJ was aimed at a young audience and for most of the 80s it was almost expected that we would get the SdJ for Christmas. And if I didn’t one of my friends would. Except Sherlock Holmes. That was an outlier.

Yes, the games used to be a bit more interactive than they are now. Some of the best games I still own and play are the party games (Just One, Dixit, Codenames). But other than that there are a bunch of “feel good” games where there are no losers and everyone gets a trophy :wink: The multiplayer solitaire really took off sometime after Kingdom Builder. But this is a general trend in boardgames and It feels like SdJ is just following that rather than setting it…

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I honestly don’t see Aeon’s End in that space!

Also my tastes are weird. I can see what people might find appealing about Cascadia, for example,and I like a lot of other quite light games that might be considered in the same space, such as Railroad Ink—but it just leaves me utterly unenthused; but I think this is a problem with the {me, Cascadia} interaction, not that it’s a bad game for anyone else.

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Own: 30

Ticket to Ride
El Grande

Magic Maze
Quest for El Dorado

The Crew
Quacks of Quedlinburg
one EXIT game (Secret Lab)
Isle of Skye
7 Wonders
Space Alert

Nominees and/or Recs:
Lost Ruins of Arnak
Jaws of the Lion
Great Western Trail
Pandemic Legacy 1
7 Wonders Duel

Played: 29

Haven’t played my copies of Citadels, The Crew, EXIT, Space Alert, or Targi. I will count Deus as played, but I’ve only played it on BGA. I used to own Hanabi, but no one in my gaming circle really got on with it, so I traded it away in a Math Trade. I have also played Camel Up, and then The King’s Dilemma over TTS and Terraforming Mars on the app, if we count that.

I would still play any of these games. They are good. Oldest one I own appears to be SH:CD, and it’s one I really need to finish, as I have only played the first case!

Awards don’t really mean much to me when it comes to picking a game to play (or movie to watch, etc.) Reviews, word of mouth, or actually getting hands on at a convention or game night is what will really grab my attention. That said, having not played a lot of the games overall, I’m not really in a position to decide if the jury made a mistake or not. Perhaps El Dorado should have won out over Kingdomino, as I do think it is the better game and nearly as accessible, though definitely longer to play.

Out of these, I really enjoy Quacks, GWT, Concordia, and Orleans. Some of the ones I’ve played have only hit the table once or twice, which is someting I need to remedy, but finding time is really hard.

As for why Knizia does not win, I think the judges are prejudiced against bow ties. :wink:

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Well, we’re a much more typical German family than I would have guessed - turns out we own the last three SdJ winners!

Do I disagree with the jury in anything? Yes, very much indeed if they rated Istanbul higher than Concordia. Very few games are better than Concordia, and Istanbul ain’t one of them!