Planet Unknown has won the German-language Deutscher Spiele Preis award at Essen Spiel 2023. The competitive tile-placement board game beat out some stiff competition at the world’s largest tabletop trade show to take home one of the most prestigious awards in the hobby.
The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Games Prize, crowns two winners every year in a pair of categories - Family and Adult Games, and Children’s Games. The public nominates several titles by popular vote, along with a select number of journalists and personalities in the hobby. Essen Spiel publishes a shortlist of nominees prior to the show and reveals the winners as part of the weekly celebration.
Planet Unknown’s win in the Family and Adult game edged out two other very popular and successful board games this year. Dorfromantik: The Board Game, adapted from the popular video game of the same name, won the 2023 Spiel des Jahres earlier this year, while Heat: Pedal to the Medal exploded off the metaphorical starting line and continues to be one of the hottest (sorry) racing board game in recent memory. Other nominees in this category included Honor, Marrakesh, Woodcraft, Challengers, Hitster and Tiletum
Designers Ryan Lambert and Adam Rehberg don’t have many titles to their name - their last big release was 2018’s fantasy puzzle game Swordcrafters - which makes the success and accolades garnered by Planet Unknown all the more remarkable. Dorfromantik’s Michael Palm and Lukas Zach previously worked together on Bang! The Dice Game, Adventuria and several other titles - the pair will return with Dorfromantik’s tabletop sequel next year. Heat: Pedal to the Medal’s designer duo are apparently working on “their biggest release yet” following this recent success.
Mysterium Kids: Captain Echo's Treasure, designed by Antonin Boccara and Yves Hirschfeld and published by Libellud, clinched first place in the Children’s Play category. This prize honours board games specifically designed for younger crowds without watering down the complexity or aesthetics that are often hallmarks of this hobby.
Released in 2022, Mysterium Kids translates the limited information and deductive reasoning of its full-sized namesake through a tambourine, of all things. Players take turns embodying the ghost of Captain Echo, who attempts to guide the rest of the group towards pieces of his treasure using only the sound produced by a tambourine.
One last award, the InnoSpiel, went to Jens Merkl’s Spaceship Unity. According to Essen Spiel’s website, the InnoSpiel awards “honours particularly novel or special game ideas and concepts that stand out from the crowd.” Unlike the other awards listed above, the InnoSpiel is selected by a panel of jurors and “focuses on quality and innovation features” instead of popularity or commercial success.
Spaceship Unity certainly hits those markers, as the title lets kids and players transform their home and furniture into a spaceship in order to craft an ongoing narrative of adventure and exploration. A standing fan might become the engine, and the kitchen table serves as the fuselage of their ship. The story is designed to play out similar to episodes in a television series and relies on teamwork to win in its fail-forward adventure.