Okay, maybe three exclamation points indicates a bit more excitement than I really feel about the Spiel des Jahres award in general, but I am certainly far more interested in this year’s list than I was about the last one. So, here are the…
2009 SdJ Grand Prize Nominees:
- FITS – Reiner Knizia, Ravensburger
- Dominion – Donald Vaccarino, Hans im Gluck/Rio Grande
- Finca – Ralf zur Linde and Wolfgang Sentker, Hans im Gluck
- Fauna – Friedemann Friese, HUCH and friends
- Pandemic – Matt Leacock, Z-Man/Pegasus Spiele
If you know anything about me from this site, you know that the reason I’m excited is because Pandemic is on this list. I thought that it was the best game of 2008, and even given the focus of the SdJ (being more family-focused and all), I think that it would be the best choice. Of course, it is a cooperative game, and no coop game has ever won the award before. I’d hope that this would be an advantage for Pandemic, but given the tendancy of the Jury to pick “retread” games as the last two winners (Keltis being the Lost Cities board game, and Zooloretto being a boardgame reworking of Coloretto), I fear that originality and innovation are not as important as they claim it is.
Of the other nominees, Dominion is clearly the other selection that most English-speakers are most familiar with. I like Dominion just fine, but no where near as much as Pandemic. I also question whether the average family in Germany would get into the theme or deck-building mechanic that much. And while I don’t really know much about the other three nominees, my guess (as an egocentric American and BGG member) is that these two games are the frontrunners. They certainly would be among hobby gamers, but the level of depth that makes this true might be enough to knock them out of real contention to actually win. So heck, I don’t know what will happen.
FITS is the other one of these games that I’ve heard a lot about, mainly from all the Gathering of Friends reports from a few months ago. It sounds like fun and is on my wishlist, but it seems like it may the token puzzle/abstract game on this year’s list, and those type of games haven’t seemed to win a lot in the past. Of course, with his win last year, the Good Doctor Knizia may well be on a roll and pick up another.
Finca and Fauna are completely foreign to me. Neither have English publications yet, and nothing that I’ve read on BGG sounds terribly compelling to me. I’d be surprised if they won, but for all I know it could happen.
In addition to the Grand Prize, the SdJ jury occasionally gives out some special prizes to games that don’t really fit into the mold of their normal nominations. There are two for this year:
New Game Worlds – Space Alert, Vlaada Chvatil (Czech Games Edition)
Party Game – GiftTRAP, Nick Kellet (Heidelberger Spieleverlag)
Both of these are pretty good choices. Space Alert has been near the top of my wishlist since it came out at Essen, and I’m waiting anxiously for the Rio Grande version that is supposed to be coming out any time now. It is cooperative and pretty groundbreaking in its use of audio media as a component in a game, so it was a great selection for this “New Game Worlds” category. GiftTRAP is a great idea for a party game, but has fallen a flat for me in actual practice. But still, it’s always good for me to see some party games get a little love.
And then we have the list of games that didn’t quite make the cut as finalists, but that the Jury still recomends:
- Cities – Martyn F, Emma Games
- Diamonds Club – Rudiger Dorn, Ravensburger
- Einauge sei wachsam! – Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, Amigo
- Maori – Gunter Burkhardt, Hans im Gluck
- Mow – Bruno Cathala, Hurrican
- Poison – Reiner Knizia, Amigo/Playroom
- Valdora – Michael Schacht, Abacusspiele
- Zack & Pack (Pack & Stack) – Bernd Eisenstein, Kosmos
I’ve only had the chance to play one of these games so far, but I’ve heard quite a bit about some of them. Valdora sounds like a really solid pick-up-and-deliver game, and many are surprised that it didn’t get a nomination. And it and Diamonds Club are already on my wishlist because I’d heard so much good stuff about them from the podcasts I listen to. I’ve played Poison a few times in the past (since it’s been out forever from Playroom), and wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Cities has also gotten some good press, but it doesn’t sound like something that I personally would be interested in (a combination of Take it Easy and Carcassonne isn’t all that exciting to me for some reason). And then the others… well, I’ll need to hear some serious recommendations about them before I’d consider picking them up.
So, I’ll be awaiting June 29 with some anticipation to see if my beloved Pandemic can pull it off. If any of you out there have any sway with the Jury, put in a good word for it!