Spotlight on Games > Ludographies
Spiel des Jahres Winners
Fri Sep 9 15:03:33 MDT 2016

The Game of the Year, that's what Spiel des Jahres means in German. Germany, the home since the 1990s, for some of the greatest board games being made, experiences this choice annually courtesy of a self-appointed jury of game critics.

At its best, the award recognizes exciting new developments in gaming technology while looking for games suitable for a general audience and featuring the some of the better graphics and production values. No wonder than that the award's distinctive sticker is often sought by those trying to amass a collection of all of the prize winners.

Game players in Germany have not always been content with the jury selections, however. In 1990, the Deutsche Spieler Preis or German Game prize began to be awarded. It is decided by the votes of game players themselves and can often be seen as a kind of critique of the jury choice. Of course, in some years the same game has won both awards, a consensus that probably indicates a true winner of a game.

In the list below, in most cases it is possible to click on the game title to access a review. In addition, from 1990 the code DSP indicates which game has won the popularly-voted prize.

Hare & Tortoise
1979
Designer: David Parlett (1st win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (1st win)
Setting: Fairy tale
A very arithmetic game featuring strong decisionmaking in both strategy and tactics.
Rummikub
1980
Designer: Ephraim Hertzano (1st win)
Publisher: Intelli/Arxon (1st win)
Setting: Abstract
Essentially a sort of multi-player, visible Gin Rummy, made very pleasant by use of tactile, hard tiles.
Focus
1981
Designer: Sid Sackson (1st win)
Publisher: Parker (1st win)
Setting: Abstract
A fluid capture game where movement is based on stack size rather than on intrinsic nature as in Chess.
Sagaland
1982
Designer: Michael Matschoss and Alex Randolph (1st win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (2nd win)
Setting: Fantasy
A memory game, and a roll-and-move game, but one in which players can use each die separately, and even to move in opposite directions. Bluff and logical deduction can also play a role as a movement to the castle to report what has been found may indicate to others the correct location.
Scotland Yard
1983
Designer: Werner Schlegel, Dorothy Garrels, Fritz Ifland, Manfred Burggraf, Werner Scheerer and Wolf Hörmann (1st win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (3rd win)
Setting: London police
One of the first assymmetrical and semi-cooperative games with the police players working together against a single escapee as well as featuring logical deduction and off-map movement.
Railway Rivals
1984
Designer: David Watts (1st win)
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele (1st win)
Setting: Early railroads
One of the first games to feature drawing on the board, to determine the best paths of railroads, and almost uniquely, then actually tests them by having a number of demands appear, the winner being the one who can deliver them the best.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
1985
Designer: Gary Grady, Raymond Edwards and Suzanne Goldberg (1st win)
Publisher: Franckh-Kosmos (1st win)
Setting: Sherlock Holmes
A rather unique textual analysis detective game which at times truly feels like the real thing. Even in 2009 it remains a vein which few others have mined.
Heimlich & Co.
1986
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer (1st win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (4th win)
Setting: Spies
One of the first to employ hidden victory conditions and require logical deduction of identities based on what players do, which also requires good bluffing.
Auf Achse
1987
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer (2nd win)
Publisher: F.X. Schmid (1st win)
Setting: German trucking
A classic routing problem game with tricky-to-evaluate auctions driving the proceedings.
Barbarossa
1988
Designer: Klaus Teuber (1st win)
Publisher: ASS (1st win)
Setting: Fantasy
Actually a word game as well as a sculpting game in which players both have to be good guessers as well as create clay figures which are somewhat difficult to guess at, but not too difficult.
Café International
1989
Designer: Rudi Hoffmann (1st win)
Publisher: Mattel (1st win)
Setting: Restaurant
A tile placement (diner seating) game with open holdings requiring considerable lookahead and analysis.
Adel Verpflichtet
1990
Designer: Klaus Teuber (2nd win)
Publisher: F.X. Schmid (2nd win)
Setting: English art collectors
One of the first to employ simultaneous multiple option selection as well as sophisticated set collection.
[DSP: Adel Verpflichtet]
Drunter und Drüber
1991
Designer: Klaus Teuber (3rd win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (1st win)
Setting: Civic planning
A unique combination of tile placement with voting, made possible by hidden victory objectives and giving each player only a fixed number of votes.
[DSP: Labyrinth der Meister (Master Labyrinth)]
Um Reifenbreite (Homas Tour)
1992
Designer: Rob Bontembal (1st win)
Publisher: Jumbo (1st win)
Setting: Bicycle racing
The subtleties of drafting and handling hills are fully-explored without ever becoming tiresome or too long-winded.
[DSP: Der Fliegende Holländer]
Liar's Dice
1993
Designer: Richard Borg (1st win)
Publisher: F.X. Schmid (3rd win)
Setting: Abstract
The possibilities of bluffing already present in much older games are rationalized into a board game with some unique twists.
[DSP: Modern Art]
Manhattan
1994
Designer: Andreas Seyfarth (1st win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (2nd win)
Setting: Skyscrapers
This saw one of the earliest appearances of the majority control concept, but surprisingly this was not the only idea as it also immediately extended the new idea to operate in three dimensions.
[DSP: 6 nimmt (Take 6)]
Die Siedler von Catan (Settlers of Catan)
1995
Designer: Klaus Teuber (4th win)
Publisher: Kosmos (2nd win or 1st as the new Kosmos)
Setting: Colonization
A modular board which is never the same twice, various strategic paths and extensive item trading are the hallmarks of this classic.
[DSP: Die Siedler von Catan]
El Grande
1996
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer (3rd win), Richard Ulrich (1st win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (3rd win)
Setting: Medieval (Spain)
Another of the early majority control games even has nearly direct conflict, without actually constituting such.
[DSP: El Grande]
Mississippi Queen
1997
Designer: Werner Hodel (1st win)
Publisher: Goldsieber (1st win)
Setting: Paddlewheel racing (America)
An early use of modular board in a racing context features a built-in danger for the leader who has the least chance to cope with the unknown course that lies ahead.
[DSP: Löwenherz]
Elfenland
1998
Designer: Alan Moon (1st win)
Publisher: Amigo (1st win)
Setting: Fantasy
This game of travel is one of the first winners to employ drafting in a big way, this time to choose tiles that enable travel over the various types of routes while avoiding opposition attempts to stymie same.
[DSP: Euphrat & Tigris]
Tikal
1999
Designer: Michael Kiesling (1st win), Wolfgang Kramer (4th win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (5th win)
Setting: Archaeology
Allocating resources as efficiently as possible, with consideration of possible opponent moves, keeps this very competitive while still feeling quite real as the more one excavates, the larger the pile (of dirt?) that appears.
[DSP: Tikal]
Torres
2000
Designer: Michael Kiesling (2nd win), Wolfgang Kramer (5th win)
Publisher: Ravensburger (6th win)
Setting: Architecture (Spain)
The games revisits the third dimension in this game of constructing towers and playing cards to have pieces climb to the tops of the largest structures.
[DSP: Tadsch Mahal]
Carcassonne
2001
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede (1st win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (4th win)
Setting: Civic planning (France)
Tiles are placed and pieces used to take over countryside features in four different types, attempting to complete them.
[DSP: Carcassonne]
Villa Paletti
2002
Designer: Bill Payne (1st win)
Publisher: Zoch (1st win)
Setting: Abstract
In this dexterity game players first build up a multi-platform structure with shaky pillars and then must one by one remove pillars hoping to avoid crashing the entire structure.
[DSP: Puerto Rico]
Alhambra
2003
Designer: Dirk Henn (1st win)
Publisher: Queen (1st win)
Setting: Landscaping (Spain)
Players make difficult drafting decisions as they try to collect sets without knowing what will be available in the future. They then face further difficulties laying out purchased items in an optimal fashion.
[DSP: Amun-Re]
Zug um Zug (Ticket to Ride)
2004
Designer: Alan Moon (2nd win)
Publisher: Days of Wonder (1st win)
Setting: Railroads (American)
Players face many difficult decisions, in choosing which location cards to draft and in when and how best to play them.
[DSP: St. Petersburg]
Niagara
2005
Designer: Thomas Liesching (1st win)
Publisher: Zoch (2nd win)
Setting: River transport (North America)
The river moves so rapidly in this partly action game that while attempting to trade and travel, captains must work hard to avoid going over the falls, literally.
[DSP: Louis XIV]
Thurn and Taxis
2006
Designer: Andreas Seyfarth (2nd win), Karen Seyfarth (1st win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (5th win)
Setting: Early mail (Germany)
Drafting place cards to create travel routes has many dilemmas as there are so many ways to score points, but so little reliability in the cards that appear.
[DSP: Caylus]
Zooloretto
2007
Designer: Michael Schacht (1st win)
Publisher: Abacusspiele (1st win)
Setting: Zoological gardens
Difficult decisionmaking abounds as players are cooperatively creating odd lots to be drafted.
[DSP: Die Säulen der Erde (Pillars of the Earth)]
Keltis
2008
Designer: Reiner Knizia (1st win)
Publisher: Kosmos (3rd win)
Setting: Mythology (Ireland)
Being forced to play cards in each suit in order, players face agonizing decisions over whether to play what's in hand or wait and hope to draw better cards in the future.
[DSP: Agricola]
Dominion
2009
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino (1st win)
Publisher: Hans-im-Glück (6th win)
Setting: Late medieval
This card game features a simple set of rules by which the player builds capabilities and victory points by buying cards with a wide variety of abilities and then continually re-shuffling, finding the best way to play the hand dealt.
[DSP: Dominion]
Dixit
2010
Designer: Jean-Louis Roubira (1st win)
Publisher: Asmodée Editions (1st win)
Setting: whimsical
This party game provides a beautiful set of large, illustrated cards. A player issues a clue for the card he means to play while every other player chooses a card having the best match. Then all are anonymously revealed. As in Barbarossa the clue giver seeks to be neither too obvious nor too obscure.
[DSP: Fresco]
Qwirkle
2011
Designer: Susan McKinley Ross (1st win)
Publisher: Schmidt (2nd win)
Setting: Abstract
This board-less cube placement game is about adding to and especially completing rows, preferably as many as possible.
In this year also was given an award which cannot be ignored, the Kennerspiel des Jahres (enthusiast's game of the year): 7 Wonders.
[DSP: 7 Wonders]
Kingdom Builder
2012
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino (2nd win)
Publisher: Queen (2nd win)
Setting: Medieval
Building up a kingdom in narrow spaces amid conflicting goals.

Kennerspiel des Jahres: Village.
[DSP: Village]

Hanabi
2010 (2012)
Designer: Antoine Bauza (1st win, previous Kennerspiel des Jahres winner)
Publisher: Abacussspiele (2nd win)
Setting: modern
Creating the best possible fireworks show.

Kennerspiel des Jahres: Die Legenden von Andor (Legends of Andor) by Michael Menzel and published by Kosmos
[DSP: Terra Mystica]

Camel Up!
2014
Designer: Steffen Bogen (1st win)
Publisher: eggertsspiele (1st win)
Setting: modern?
Wagering on camel races.

Kennerspiel des Jahres: Istanbul by Rüdiger Dorn published by White Goblin
[DSP: Russian Railroads]

Colt Express
2015
Designer: Christophe Raimbault (1st win)
Publisher: Ludonaute (1st win)
Setting: Old West
Robbing a train.

Kennerspiel des Jahres: Broom Service by Andreas Pelikan & Alexander Pfister, published by alea
[DSP: The Voyages of Marco Polo]

Codenames
2016
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil (1st win)
Publisher: Heidelberger Spieleverlag (1st win)
Setting: modern
International spies/themeless

Kennerspiel des Jahres: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Andreas Pelikan & Alexander Pfister, published by Lookout Games
[DSP: Mombasa]

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Created July 3, 2009
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