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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Spiel des Jahres

Posted Friday, 26-May-2017

The Oscars of gaming has a lot going on behind the logo.

 

Contributed by Calvin Wong

The Spiel des Jahres (simply: Game of the Year) is board gaming’s largest and most prestigious award. Awarded by a jury of German-speaking board game critics, winning one is a huge deal for any game and can a gigantic boost in sales and popularity.

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the award:

Instant classics

Hanabi. Ticket to Ride. Carcassonne. Catan. Rummikub. The Rubik’s Cube. 7 Wonders, Dixit, Dominion – all are Spiel des Jahres winners, and have gone on to be considered classics in the gaming world. Some of them are so classic we might not even think of them as modern board games!

The four most recent winners of this coveted award are: (click the image to go to the game’s description)

codenames

 

colt-express hanabi kingdom-builder

 

The Spiel of the Year

The SdJ has recently been split into three awards, but from 1979 to 2001, the main prize was the Spiel itself.

 

Gaming's biggest honor.
Gaming’s biggest honor.

 

Originally created to honor excellence in gaming, the first winner was Tortoise and Hare – beating out such games as Acquire and Shogun. Since then, the awards have only increased in relevance, as any game which has won the award can attest.

 

Stratospheric sales figures

A typical board game in the modern market can expect to sell between 500-3,000 copies, with the latter figure being a considerable mark of success. An SdJ nomination can push that number up to 10,000 and a win ensures that the game will be sold in German retail stores – SdJ winners can sell up to half a million copies, which in board game terms brings it almost on par with 1 year of Catan.

 

Being shelved alongside Monopoly helps.
Being shelved alongside Monopoly helps.

 

“Nein Sprechen Englicsh”

Another quirk of the SdJ is what qualifies a game for eligbilitity – The game must be available in Germany at retail during the current or previous award year and have a German language version of the rules.

 

This probably isn't enough.
This probably isn’t enough.

 

Germany’s board game industry has been going for decades, and the jury are mainly-german speaking critics, so this only makes sense.

The criteria

The SdJ is given to games for excellence in game design, clarity of rules, layout of the box, and physical design aspects such as the production quality.

 

Clearly Dominion's gameplay was good enough to overcome its box art.
Clearly Dominion’s gameplay was good enough to overcome its box art.

 

The award is also heavily weighted towards being accessible to the general public, and not just board game enthusiasts – which is why so many of the award winners go on to be hugely successful gateway games.

Kinder/Kenner

However, as the industry grew, the main award turned out to be a little too constricting.

 

 

It's hard to imagine this game being nominated for the main award.
It’s hard to imagine this game being nominated for the main award.

 

The ever expanding categories of board games led the SdJ to be divided into three separate awards: in 2001 the Kinderspiel des Jahres was created, awarding children’s games – and in 2011 was further split into the Kennerspiel des Jahres, or Connosieur’s Game of the Year for more complex titles: this year’s winners for example are My First Stone Age and Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.

And the Special Award goes to…

Prior to the award splitting, several special awards were given out to honor games the jury thought were excellent but did not for whatever reason fit the main award.

Examples of games that received a special award include Agricola, Shadows over Camelot, Caylus, and Space Alert – were these games released today, they might have been given Kennerspiels.

 

Breaking molds and building fences.
Breaking molds and building fences.

 

Logography

 

I love how the kinder is smaller than the others.
I love how the kinder is smaller than the others.

 

Winners and nominees have the right to display the SdJ logo on their box as part of the marketing for the game, helping it reach truly staggering sales figures. They do have to pay a small fee to the SdJ committee for each copy sold, but it’s definitely worth it.

While winners can display the logo on their box indefinitely – nominees can use the logo on their box for up to 3 years. games that made the shortlist can use the logo on the reverse of their box for up to 2 years.

Biggest winners

 

The three biggest SdJ winners of all time are Wolfgang Kramer, designer of El Grande (6 wins, 4 nominations) Reiner Knizia, designer of Tigris & Euphrates (4 wins and 3 nominations) and Klaus Teuber, designer of Settlers of Catan (4 wins and 1 nomination).

 

I just like to imagine that Mr. Kramer has a bunch of these on his desk.
I just like to imagine that Mr. Kramer has a bunch of these on his desk.

 

The jury’s in

 

10 non-angry men & women.
10 non-angry men & women.

 

The SdJ jury is composed of board game journalists and critics in the German-speaking countries who volunteer their time (there is no payment apart from travel and accommodation when traveling as a jury member). There is no set number of jury members, and addition to the jury is by invite only.

Published by BoardGamePrices.com



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