Every year around this time, gamers try to predict which games will be nominated for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award, signifying the best tabletop games of the previous year. From the early aughts, I’ve been one of those gamers, always wrong with my guesses and then trying to nab each nominated title as soon as possible because, they have to be good, right? This year is a bit different. This morning it dawned on me that I don’t give a shit anymore.
Now, to be fair, it’s not the games’ fault. I’m sure the games nominated for the SdJ and the Kennerspiel des Jahres (a similar award which going to more complicated, heavier titles) are good games. In fact, one of the KdJ nominees in my much-loved Terraforming Mars, which I’ve reviewed here at Stately Play. No, there’s something different about me.
I’m not sure if it’s the absolute glut of games being released these days, so many that it’s impossible to afford, much less play, even a small fraction of new releases. Maybe it’s just that my tastes have changed and the complex, heavy economic games I tend to gravitate toward aren’t what very many other gamers are looking for.
Looking at the nominees, these are games that I would have been excited to try in the past. Hell, just a couple years ago I bought Rise of Augustus because I was told it was like gamer bingo. BINGO! Now, I see Kingdomino is basically fantasy dominoes and I could care less. I have kids, these games should appeal to me, but they don’t and I find myself simply ignoring most of the Cult of the New hotness.
The SdJ announcements used to be an interesting conversation starter that lasted until the winners were announced in July. Now, I’m not only uninterested in the games nominated, I’m uninterested in the entire process. Burnt out? Maybe, but I still find love for some titles out there. I’m loving Gloomhaven and have recently started realizing how fantastic the solitaire titles from smaller companies, companies I had been ignoring, like Victory Point Games are. Oh, and don’t get me started on how great Arkham Horror: The Card Game or reprints like The Great Zimbabwe are.
So, the love for games is still there, just not for titles like Magic Maze and whatever Knizia game made it on the list this year. Maybe we’ll get back there someday. Maybe there’s no turning back. If anyone has a cure, I’m listening.
All that said, the SdJ is still big news in the game world, so here are your 2017 nominees and a summary of each title from a guy who hasn’t played any of them:
Spiel des Jahres
- Kingdomino, by Bruno Cathala. Dominoes with fantasy landscapes instead of dots. Oh, and you move your king around or something. My kids might like it, but they’ll never find out! Mwuhahahahaha!
- Magic Maze, by Kasper Lapp. 1-8 players each have a command they can issue to four adventures. For example, one can move the pawns north, another east, one can place new tiles, one can go up escalators (don’t ask). The goal is to move each pawn to their talisman and then exit the maze. The trick is that play is simultaneous, so everyone’s reaching all over the board at the same time, pushing pawns. The other trick is that there’s no talking allowed, and it’s all timed. Might be fun, but videos I’ve watched of it gave me a headache. [Reminder: Dave is old. -ed.]
- Wettlauf nach El Dorado, by Reiner Knizia. It’s a Knizia game and the last game he designed worth playing was from 1999. Also, not available in the US, so I can’t buy it anyway.
Kennerspiel des Jahres
- Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius. Should win everything, but you already know that. Also, gets points for having the designer with the coolest surname. Seriously, it sounds like something Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis would have named a dragon in Dragonlance circa 1985.
- Raiders of the North Sea by Shem Phillips. Viking game with Victory Points. It seems all good viking games have victory points (Fire & Axe, Blood Rage), so might be worth a try. That said, I’m still painting my Blood Rage figures (for the last 18 months), so I might be all viking-ed out.
- EXIT: Das Spiel by Inka and Markus Brand. This is an escape-room-in-a-box, a one-off puzzle and not a game. Yeah, I said it. It’s cheaper than an escape room, but there’s something cool about finding secret doors, opening real safes, and interacting with stuff in real escape rooms that I doubt these $15 games can replicate. Probably fun, but one of the best three “complex” games released last year? Ouch.
There you have it, opinions from someone without any information to make informed opinions. That’s the Stately Play guarantee!