Spiel des Jahres Nominees!!! – What I think…

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.

Special Prizes

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 WorldsSpace Alert, Vlaada Chvatil (Czech Games Edition)
Party GameGiftTRAP, 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.

Recommended Games 

And then we have the list of games that didn’t quite make the cut as finalists, but that the Jury still recomends:

 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!   


  1. With GiftTRAP, it really does matter what group you play it with. It falls flat on its face at Board Game Night, but with my immediate family over the holidays, that was one of the best times I’ve had gaming.

    Pandemic should absolutely win the Spiel, by the way.

  2. Britt

    Was Agricola a 2007 or 2008 release?
    If 2008, Agricola, hands down, is superior to Pandemic.

    (Of course, wasn’t Agricola the winner of the 2008 Game of the Year? I can’t recall.)

  3. Chris Ingersoll

    2008 Spiel de Jahres GotY was Keltis, as Chris mentioned (see “last two winners”).

    Agricola’s awards, per is BGG page (bolding added by me):

    * 2009 Gra Roku Game of the Year (Poland), Winner
    * 2009 Gra Roku – Gamers’ Choice (Poland), Winner
    * 2009 Gra Graczy – Gamesfanatic.net (Poland), Winner
    * 2009 Golden_Ace, Special Jury
    * 2008 BoardGameGeek Golden Geek, Winner, Game of The Year
    * 2008 Spiel des Jahres Winner, Special Prize for Complex Game.
    * 81st game to be added to the Austrian Hall of Games.
    * 2008 J.U.G. Winner, Game of the Year
    * 2008 Deutscher Spiele Preis Winner, Game of the Year
    * 2008 International Gamers Award Winner, General Strategy/Multi-player Game
    * 2008 Hra roku Winner
    * 2008 Spiel der Spiele (Austria) Spiele Hit für Experten
    * 2008 Tric Trac d’or, Winner, Game of the Year
    * 2008 Jda “Juego del Año en España” Winner http://www.premiojda.es/
    * 2007 Meeples’ Choice Award Winner.

  4. Chris Ingersoll

    Well, bolding WOULD HAVE been added, if I could ever remember which tags work on this site. 😛

  5. Chris Norwood

    Actually, I had GiftTRAP go over better at game night than it did with my family.  The game I played over Thanksgiving just drug on and on (and was then interrupted by some other visitors), so we ended up just quitting declaring  winner.

  6. Chris Norwood

    Both were released in the US in 2008, but Agricola was released in Germany back in 2007.  And like Chris mentioned, it won a “Special Award” for a complex game last year from the SdJ jury. 

    The thing to remember about the SdJ is that they are essentially looking for a family game, which will be sold in grocery stores and everywhere else all over Germany, and Agricola was way too complex for that.  And as it comes to this year, I’m even a little worried that Pandemic might be too heavy for them. 

    But to your other statement, no.  Pandemic is, hands down, superior to Agricola.

  7. Chris Norwood


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  8. Britt

    I never had an opportunity to play Pandemic solo, but after several plays, Pandemic lost its luster for me.
    No offense to anyone, but in my last two plays of Pandemic at the store, Carol and I both felt like bystanders, rather than contributors/players in the game. Our two partners were dictating our game actions to such an extent that we were simply placeholders for cards—not fun. (In fact, one of the major reasons why we passed on buying it when it restocked.) As a cooperative game, Pandemic is less fun than Shadows Over Camelot and BSG. I have a feeling that Pandemic is a really solo game dressed up as a coop, which is fine.

    You know to which cliche we are headed with our difference of opinion, though.

    As for being a family game nominee, I would be very surprised if Pandemic wins.

  9. Chris Norwood

    Britt, you ignorant slut!*

    Okay, obviously, you’re entitled to your (incorrect) opinion.  I’ll admit that there is a potential for abuse when players of differing experience with Pandemic are playing together, where a domineering player may dictate the actions of others.  As the most experienced player in our group, what I try to do (hopefully with success in most cases) is to explain the situation on the board as I see it, and present other players with at least a few different suggestions of what they could do.  But I also try to be open to their ideas and then work together on a plan.  Therefore, what should  (and ususally does, in my experience) happen is that the whole team works together on that plan, which then dictates the actions of everybody.  If you don’t want to be a team player in that case, then you clearly don’t need to be playing a wholly cooperative game.  But I bet that if you and Carol played the game just with yourselves, you’d have a great time with it (as we did when we first played it at my house). 

    What I totally and completely disagree with, however, is the idea that Pandemic is a solo game dressed up as a coop.  Frankly, it is the one game that requires the most cooperation between its players that I know of.  And while I’ll agree that BSG and especially Shadows are really good coop games that are richly thematic, they also take 3-8 times as long to play than does Pandemic, so it doesn’t wear out its welcome like those other two games can often do. 

    *SNL reference that I hope everybody got

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