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Chill village-building board game Dorfromantik takes home Spiel des Jahres 2023

Mysterium Kids and Challengers! among other winners at one of tabletop’s biggest awards

Dorfromantik board game close-up
Image credit: Pegasus Spiele

The winner of this year’s Spiel des Jahres has been announced, alongside its two sibling awards that honour the best in board games - or at least the best in the German commercial market.

Regardless, the prestigious ‘game of the year’ honour for 2023 was awarded to Dorfromantic, a board game by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach that adaptats the cosy vibes video game of the same name. Published by Pegasus Spiele and illustrated by Paul Riebe, Dorfromantik is a cooperative tile-placement game where players construct a European countryside full of idyllic views, long roads and winding rivers.

Dorfromantik joins Cascade in 2022, MicroMacro: Crime City the year previous to that and dozens of other board games that won in the past as the recipient of a wooden meeple-shaped trophy and designation that some find caters more to the hoi polloi than the hobby’s most ardent members. Part of that’s in the award’s definition: the Spiel des Jahres favours family-friendly titles while leaving the meatier and more complex titles to the Kennerspiel des Jahres. Board games for the kiddos most often end up in the Kinderspiel des Jahres category.

Dicebreaker first got their hands on Dorfromantik at 2022 Essen Spiel.Watch on YouTube

Other nominees for the big honour were Fun Facts by Kaspar Lapp, a party game about ranking the answers to ostensibly innocuous questions, and Matthew Dunstan’s flip-and-write Next Station London. This predecessor to the more recent Next Station Tokyo sees players drawing colourful lines in an attempt to redesign London’s underground subway system.

The 2023 Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded to Johannes Krenner and Markus Slawitscheck’s Challengers! This tournament-style deckbuilding game pits eight players against each other in 1-vs-1 matches using decks that gradually evolve as cards are alternatively drafted and culled. A clever set of limitations to an already simple ruleset keep the action light and frenetic. Challengers! beat out Iki by Koota Yamada and Planet Unknown by Ryan Lambert and Adam Rehberg.

This year’s Kinderspiel des Jahres winner was Mysterium Kids by Antonin Boccara and Yves Hirschfeld. This all-ages take on the popular spooky whodunnit essentialises the experience around sound clues instead of evidence cards and adds a spectral pirate to the haunted mansion vibe. The other nominees for the Kinderspiel included Carla Caramel by Sara Zarian and the monster collector Gigamons by Johann Roussel and Karim Aouidad.

Challengers! clinched victory in the slightly crunchier Kennerspiel des Jahres category.

A final, special pair of awards were given to the Unlock! and Unlock! Kids series for their work on the app-assisted, escape room-inspired puzzle boxes. The Sonderpreis award was last given to Pandemic: Legacy: Season 2 in 2018 for Matt Leacok and Rob Daviau’s work - along with the rest of the team - on what many felt at the time was the best entry in the prolific Pandemic board game franchise.

More information on the 2023 winners, along with runners-up and the board games that landed on the recommended list for each category can be viewed on the Spiel des Jahres’ official website.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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