Tag Archives: Heaven & Ale

Boardgames in the News: Does “More Mainstream” = “Less Friendly”?

Modern board gaming has always been a very inclusive and friendly hobby, if niche.  For example, people attending conventions often carry games home for friends, but more surprisingly, they also often carry games for complete strangers.  This can require trust from either or both parties: sometimes it is the “mule” who pays for the goods, sometimes items are preordered and paid for in advance and then collected by the “mule” and posted on.  Similarly trusting are those that take part in the “Maths Trades“.  These are multi-person trades which happen in a loop with everyone receiving a game from one person and giving a game to somebody different.  Obviously if one person fails to honour their part of the deal, the whole thing breaks down.  Yet these things happen on a huge scale with hundreds of people participating, and although there are occasionally problems, most people are very happy with the result and take part again and again.

– Image from lautapelit.fi

As the hobby grows, the first signs of change are perhaps becoming visible.  For example, earlier this year voting for the Deutscher Spiele Prize was closed four days early due to attempted vote-rigging.  It seems an online video blogger claimed he had a special deal with the publishers of one of the games in the running, KLONG! (aka Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure), Schwerkraft Verlag.  He posted a video syaing that if the game won the award, he and all the followers of his YouTube Channel would get a promo card for the game.  Schwerkraft denied any involvement, but around a hundred votes were cancelled (about half of which only placed the one game) and other people were unable to vote at all because voting was stopped prematurely.  The organisers of the Deutscher Spiele Prize say Azul‘s position at the top was never in doubt and KLONG! would not have won in any case.  It might have improved on its eventual seventh place though, perhaps threatening the positions of Heaven & Ale and Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (which finished in fifth and sixth respectively).

Ludicreations at Essen 2016
– Image from kickstarter.com

Perhaps this could be seen merely as a gamer trying to game the system, but whatever, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.  More serious was the series of thefts from stalls that occurred at Essen this year.  It was not the first time money had been taken from a stand—famously, at Essen in 2016, Ludicreations had a cash box stolen, containing about €3,500.  R&R Games were also robbed that day, but the Ludicreations theft is known more widely thanks to their response.  Such a loss can be very significant for a small company, so inspired by the theft, they designed a game called Steal this Game and launched it on KickStarter, raising over $50,000.  This year the fair grew and so did the thefts.  Six companies fell victim this time, Artipia Games, FoldedSpace, Greenbrier Games, Gotha Games, Hub Games and Japanime Games.  Reportedly, the thieves got away with a total over €20,000, but not without loss themselves as staff on the Artipia stand (ironically demoing their new game A Thief’s Fortune) realised what was happening.  Although they weren’t quick enough to stop the theft, they succeeded in detaining one of the decoys.

Essen 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

There is no suggestion these crimes were carried out by boardgamers, in fact, the Police have said that they were a professional team.  Two people distracted the cashier by bombarding them with questions and a third then swiped the cash-box.  Efforts are now underway to recoup the losses which were mostly uninsured.  Japanime Games are collecting donations, while Artipia Games have launched a KickStarter campaign for five promo cards.  Attention has also turned to trying to prevent the same thing happening next year.  There have been calls for more vendors to take card payments, however that is not without its problems.  This was amply demonstrated at the UK Games Expo this year which coincided with a Europe-wide Visa systems failure leaving many gamers unable to pay for their purchases.  There is also a question mark over whether the infrastructure available at the Messe would be able support everyone moving to card transactions at such a bug fair with such a large commercial component.  For these reasons, Merz Verlag (the company who run Spiel) are focussing on increasing security and making it much more visible.  Conversation is still on-going and it remains to be seen how much these changes will alter the feel of the show.  One thing is clear, however, the wider world has discovered our little hobby and that brings some unpleasant consequences.

Essen 2018
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2018

This week the The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize list was announced with first prize going to Azul.  Typically the Deutsche Spiele Preis rewards a slightly heavier game than the the Spiel des Jahres awards, but for the first time since Dominion in 2009, one game took both awards.  This year we haven’t played many of the games on either list, but our first game of Azul was shortly after it’s release at Essen last year and our local groups have played the spots off it since.  So, it is no surprise to us that it has been recognised by both the Spiel des Jahres Jury and the voters from the industry’s stores, magazines, professionals and game clubs, as well as taking the French award at Cannes, the As d’Or and the Origins “Best Family Game of the Year”.

– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Other games that featured on the top ten list included the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg (currently only available in German) and one of the runners-up, Heaven & AleThe Mind, which received a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres Award, also featured in the top ten, as did the inevitable Pandemic Legacy: Season 2.  Other than Azul, the only game we’ve played is Altiplano, and that squeaked in at number ten, but Rajas of the Ganges and Clans of Caledonia may feature in the not too far distant future.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis for Best Children’s game went to Memoarrr!.  The prizes will be awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, Essen.

– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor Vacabck

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2018

Almost every time we’ve played Azul, the topic of conversation has moved on to the Spiel des Jahres and how it would be a travesty if it did not receive at least a nomination. It was with this in mind that we read the Spiel des Jahres nominations when they were announced this morning.  There are three nominees in each of the three awards:  a children’s game award (Kinderspiel des Jahres), the “Advanced” or “Expert” Kennerspiel des Jahres, and the main Spiel des Jahres (often interpreted as the “Family Game” award).  In addition, for the first time since 2010, there is also a special award for Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 by Matt Leacock & Rob Daviau, reflecting Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 that were all nominated, but failed to win a prize, and have had a significant influence on cooperative and legacy games as a whole.  The other nominees are:

  • Kinderspiel des Jahres
    Kinderspiel des Jahres 2018Emojito! by Urtis Šulinskas
    Funkelschatz (aka Dragon’s Breath) by Lena & Günter Burkhardt
    Panic Mansion (aka Shaky Manor) by Asger Harding Granerud & Daniel Skjold Pedersen
  • Spiel des Jahres
    Spiel des Jahres 2018Azul by Michael Kiesling
    Luxor by Rüdiger Dorn
    The Mind by Wolfgang Warsch

Firstly, more than half of the nominees were designed by either Wolfgang Warsch, or Michael Kiesling, so huge congratulations to them.  In our view, Azul richly deserves it’s nomination and it would be no surprise if it ultimately wins the award.  Of the other two nominations for the “red pöppel”, The Mind has received quite a lot of attention, and is a bit like a cross between Hanabi and The Game (both of which have been acknowledged by the Jury in the past, in 2013 and 2015 respectively).  Luxor has a good pedigree as it is designed by Rüdiger Dorn (also designer of The Traders of Genoa, Goa, Istanbul, and one of our group favourites, Las Vegas), but it is a bit more of an unknown as it has only just come out.  Usually the Kennerspiel Prize winners are a good fit to our group, but this year they are also largely unknown to us, so there is clearly a lot to discover before the winners are announced in Berlin on 23rd July (Kinderspiel des Jahres winners will be announced in Hamburg on 11th June).

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de