The 2020 nominees for the Spiel des Jahres - Germany’s prestigious ‘Game of the Year’ award - have been announced, supposedly highlighting the best board games of the last 12 months.
The Spiel des Jahres is an annual prize running since 1979 that awards a board game picked by a panel of judges. The German prize typically favours family board games, with more complex titles recognised by the separate Kennerspiel des Jahres - ‘Expert Game of the Year’. Meanwhile, the Kinderspiel des Jahres - ‘Children’s Game of the Year’ - selects the best board games for kids.
Past winners of the Spiel des Jahres have included The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Dixit, Codenames, Hanabi, Camel Up, Azul, Azul and Colt Express, to name just a few.
Last year’s award, the 40th in its history, went to party board game Just One, in which players must describe a hidden answer without choosing the same clues. The 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres was won by Elizabeth Hargrave’s acclaimed bird-themed board game Wingspan, while Valley of the Vikings was named the best children’s board game on the Kinderspiel des Jahres’s own 30th anniversary.
This year’s Spiel des Jahres nominations include city-building legacy board game My City (pictured) from prolific designer Reiner Knizia. Knizia was nominated last year for card game LAMA, and has appeared on the award’s shortlist over a dozen times, but only claimed the top prize once - for 2008’s Keltis.
Joining My City is Nova Luna, from co-designers Corné van Moorsel and Uwe Rosenberg - the latter being the acclaimed creator of Agricola, Patchwork, A Feast for Odin and more. The board game sees players completing tasks depending on the current phase of the lunar cycle, arranging tiles carefully in order to place all of their makers fastest.
Completing the three frontrunners is Pictures, a party board game in which players attempt to recreate images using components such as rope, sticks, stones, cubes and blocks in order to get another player to correctly guess which picture they’ve copied.
As well as the three board games from which the overall winner will be picked, the Spiel des Jahres jury picked out six more board games as ‘Recommended’ by the award: two-player board game The Fox in the Forest, Little Town, Spicy, Draftosaurus, real-time co-op board game Kitchen Rush and Colour Brain. It’s worth noting that several of these games were released before 2019/2020, with the Spiel des Jahres basing its shortlist on the German-language release date of titles.
Nominated for the 2020 Kennerspiel des Jahres are two games that the Dicebreaker team are big fans of: co-op board game The Crew and legacy board game The King’s Dilemma. They join Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, a roll-and-write game in which players compete to chart a fantasy land.
Recommended for the Kennerspiel des Jahres were the latest card game from Race for the Galaxy creator Tom Lehmann, Res Arcana, and Underwater Cities, the hefty strategy game from Pulsar 2849 designer Vladimir Suchý. Rounding out the nods is Paladins of the West Kingdom, the middle chapter of designer Shem Phillips’ West Kingdom trilogy after Architects and before this year’s Viscounts.
The Kinderspiel des Jahres jury - which is made of a separate panel from the other two awards - selected Hedgehog Roll, Foto Fish and Wir sind die Roboter (We Are the Robots, in English) as the best board games for kids from the last year. The seven board games Recommended by the judges were Slide Quest (which the Dicebreaker team enjoyed playing last year), Go Slow!, Puzzle Memo, Magic School, Hans im Glück, Zoo Run and Zombie Kidz Evolution, billed as the first legacy board game for kids by its creators.
The winners of the 2020 Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced on July 20th, following the separate reveal of the Kinderspiel des Jahres winner on June 15th.