The announcement of a Spiel de Jahres winner can be controversial, and people tend to start debating the criteria and the choices as soon as candidates are announced. But in general, the games that win the prize represent solid games ideal for a budding collection. More intense gamers might be more interested in the Kennerspiel, but the titular prize represents games I’m likely to introduce new players to as a game that they can hopefully not be overwhelmed by, but that I can still enjoy myself.
Upon reviewing the history of the award, it turns out that I have played 15 of the last 22 awarded (essentially since Settlers of Catan which won in 1995). Of the winners I have played, these are the games that made my top 5.
#5 – Carcassonne
Carcassonne is one of the first games I bought when starting to build my collection, and it’s still sitting on my shelves. The game isn’t necessarily one that I play regularly, but it is one that I will pull out to take to family events due to the ease of teaching and the relatively quick turns when you adjust the rules to have a player take their next tile at the end of their turn, as opposed to at the start. For gamers, playing with a hand of tiles is definitely the way to go, but even in its pure form (ie. playing by the rules) this game has sticking power.
#4 – Ticket to Ride
There’s a reason Ticket to Ride is considered a classic gateway game – it’s attractive, easy to teach, quick playing, and has a theme with a decent amount of universal appeal. Years later, there are a number of available versions available, allowing gamers to develop routes in a number of countries without leaving home. I myself have a few different map expansions on the shelf, next to my TtR copy, and while I don’t play it very much at all, I can’t bear to get rid of it, it’s just that good.
#3 – Alhambra
This game has its detractors within my circles of the Twitter-verse, but I thoroughly enjoy it. It a relaxing, rewarding tile-laying puzzle, with a dummy player I can actually tolerate when playing with two. I love sneaking a purchase just before my opponent can, the variable round lengths add tension when vying for majorities, and I love building my palace on the tabletop as the game progresses. One day, I will haul out my Alhambra Big Box and actually play my way through all of the extra modules contained within, but even without all the extra stuff, though I do always add the coins, I continue to like this game a lot.
#2 – Kingdom Builder
I’ll say it, I like Kingdom Builder. It’s dry and you only have 1 possible card to play, and yet I love taking the restrictions and using my collected special abilities to do whatever I want anyway. Add in the variety of potential scoring possibilities and this game earns a spot on my list as a light enjoyable way to pass the time that can still get pretty cutthroat. I’ve played with non-gamers and watched them start to realize the possibilities allowed by building next to a settlement in order to grab it’s ability for future turns. I love those games that let you discover new depths of strategy within the first play, as they make for great introductions to modern hobby games, and Kingdom Builder has served me well in this capacity.
#1 – Codenames
I don’t like party games and hate feeling like everyone’s staring at me, yet I thoroughly enjoy Codenames everytime we play. It goes over well with family and friends, always seems to lead to “one more round”, and can be as family friendly or not as fits the setting (without any forced “adult” cards – *groan*). While it’s not likely to be my first or second choice for a designated game night, this game is more than likely the first one I’ll grab for family events and since all of the games on this list are ones I’m more likely to play with newer gamers, Codenames had to take the top spot.