Tag Archives: Wingspan

17th September 2019

Blue and Pink arrived nice and early and so after ordering food, started a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is one of the first of the “Roll and Write” games from the last couple of years and, as it received a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination last year, arguably one of the best.  This type of game has been around for many years, with Yahtzee being one of the first, but the current trend was started by games like Qwixx.  Qwixx came out seven years ago, but has since been followed last year by games like Roll to the Top!, Railroad Inc., Welcome to… and the Roll Through the Ages and Penny Papers Adventures series of games.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

These games all have different themes and different mechanisms, but the basic principle is the the same with players rolling dice (sometimes bespoke dice) and marking the results on a piece of paper, usually from a bespoke pad, or more recently a laminated card.  Ganz Schön Clever is an abstract game using six coloured dice which are used to fill in boxes in five coloured areas of the individual player “boards” (the white die is wild).  The active player, rolls all six and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the way the dice are used, and the fact that filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  With just two, the game is played over six rounds, giving them just eighteen dice on their own turn with another six from their opponent’s turn and as many bonuses as they can get.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available.  This time round, Blue was failed to get a good start and Pink took her to the cleaners, finishing with a hundred and ninety-two, a winning margin of twenty-six.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had only just started, when the others started rolling in, but unusually, there was no sign of Burgundy.  By the time food had arrived, we were into double figures, but still no  sign of Burgundy.  People were starting to get worried until Blue borrowed a phone and checked her email to discover he wasn’t feeling well.  There were still enough players for three games, and eventually, everyone else took themselves off leaving Blue, Pink and Green to play the “Feature Game”, West of Africa.  This is a game set in the Canary Islands (which really are west of Africa, unlike Krakatoa which is famously not East of Java), and has a slightly nasty edge to it, making it almost like a “Vanuatu Light”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple with some very nice little elements. The basic flow of the game involves planting crops, selling crops, becoming Alcalde (or mayor) of islands and then building settlements.  Each player has their own deck of cards which they use to carry-out their actions, with each card having a value.  Players simultaneously choose up to five of their cards (the first four are free, the fifth comes at a cost), then each hand is evaluated and the lowest value hand is played first.  This means there is a nice tension between choosing a low value hand and going first, or choosing higher value cards, giving other players the chance to carry out actions first, potentially meaning that those actions are no-longer available.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two types of cards: islands and actions.  Moving workers or boats are simple actions where players just move workers a given number of steps along the shipping lanes, however, some of the action cards need a location to be played.  For example, planting crops needs to be played with an island card which indicates where the crop tokens are to be played.  Similarly, selling crops and settling both need to be played with island cards, but the clever part is that island cards can be used for multiple actions and actions can be carried out at multiple islands an unlimited number of times.  The round ends once all players have completed their actions, then any planted crops are automatically moved into the warehouses where they can be moved and/or sold in later rounds.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The islands are split into east, west and central with islands in the different regions having different characteristics.  So the western Canaries only have spaces for production, while the eastern islands only have spaces for settlements.  Selling goods is more lucrative in the east than in the west, however, each lot selling for twelve gold, instead of six.  So shipping goods eastwards can be lucrative, but that requires playing a card and only four (or five) can be played each round.  Selling only provides gold, however, and players need points to win.  The two players with the most gold at the end of the round get a point each, but this is not the main source of points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, the occupation of each island is evaluated and the Alcalde or mayor of each is assigned, with players getting a point for each island they control.  This is not the main source of points either though, that is settling with each settlement giving three points.  Settling is expensive though and gets more so as the cheaper plots get built on.  Another of the clever little features of the game is that the number of settlements available in each round is limited which adds more pressure to the turn order.  As this is so critical, ties have to be resolved, and are always in favour of the player with the most gold which increasing the importance of money, adding balance to the game.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had the lowest scoring starting hand so went first.  This can be a substantial advantage as he knew he would be able to do what he wanted.  Green went next and managed to interfere with Blue’s plans, though she had been aware of the risk and had managed to build in some extra options to help mitigate the effects a little.  Pink took control of La Hierro and La Palma, and Green took La Gomera leaving Gran Canaria to Blue who also picked up Fuerteventura, with an eye to later in the game.  Green got the best of the early rounds though setting up a small, but important lead, though more significantly, arguably better positioning.  The game is not a long one, and there isn’t really time to build an engine, so it wasn’t long before Green, in particular, was threatening to trigger the end of the game by getting twenty-five points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

It was then that Blue made her monumental mistake: when choosing which of two island cards to play she ended up playing both and not the sale action card to go with them.  This, coupled with Green’s action which he took first, meant she was unable to do anything at all in the penultimate round.  Green followed this by messing up his final round, also failing to play a sale action card which meant he didn’t have enough gold to build the number of houses he wanted to.  He was still able to build one final settlement though, giving him a clear win with forty points.  It was much closer for second with Pink’s thirty-two points just pipping Blue by a single point.  It had been an enjoyable game, but despite the excellent balance and some really nice touches, none of the three players could put their collective finger on what was lacking and what the game needed to take it from “OK, but eminently forgettable” to “great”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighboring table, despite their reluctance to play it with two chemists, Pine and Lime had joined Red and Mulberry to play Periodic: A Game of the Elements.  This is a recent KickStarter delivery, and seemed entirely appropriate for the International Year of the Periodic Table.  On their turn, the active player either pays energy to activate trends (such as “Decrease Atomic Mass” or “Increase Atomic Radii”) to move their flask around the periodic table board in the direction allowed by the trend.  If they finish a trend movement on an element that appears on the top, visible card of one of the four goal card decks, they can “discover” that element.  Flasks can be moved up to five spaces, but activating the trend multiple times means the player’s flask can be moved further enabling them to “discover” multiple elements.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

The first activation costs one energy point and all additional trends costing two energy points with tokens spent in this way placed on a space associated with the trend used.  Instead of paying to move, the active player can take all the energy accrued on that trend and move their flask according to a trend, but just once.  Thus, the conservation of energy forces players to spend carefully and play efficiently.  When someone discovers all the elements for one goal they take the associated card with a bonus action tile, and all the other players who discovered some of the elements on the card, get consolation points.  Players can also discovering particular types of elements, as shown in by cards laid out around the edge of the board.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

Moving along a step along this “track” gives players academic achievement which is worth an ever increasing amount of points.  The third and final source of points are from the agenda cards which give players personal objectives and are dealt out at the start of the game.  The game ends when someone completes the research track or when a stack of goal cards is depleted and the player with the most points at the end wins.  Unfortunately, due to a “rules malfunction”, the group were halfway through the third stack of goal cards when they realised the game should have ended so decided to carry on till all four piles were depleted in what they referred to as “Periodic: The Director’s Cut”.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, Pine and Lime needn’t have worried that Mulberry’s and Red’s chemistry backgrounds would give them a significant advantage.  Although there were a lot of nice chemistry references that the scientists appreciated it was not necessary to understand these to play the game effectively.  The strategies employed varied:   Red and Mulberry concentrated on progressing on along the academic track, while Lime on his agenda cards and Pine focused on goal cards.  In the end, it didn’t make a lot of difference and there was a three-way tie for second place with Red, “The Evil Chemist” finishing seven points ahead of the others, with a final total of seventy-one.  Everyone had enjoyed the game though and would be happy to give it another go though they all agreed they would do things differently next time.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other side of the room, Ivory was introducing Black and Purple to this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Wingspan.  Wingspan was our “Feature Game”, a few weeks ago and was always going to have another outing – in fact, this time we had a choice of two copies!  Wingspan is a robust, card-based engine builder, with beautiful production and gorgeous artwork.  The idea is that players are collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activate each card in turn.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The primary action associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game give bonuses that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resemble their diet.  The designer and producer have paid attention to other details too.  For example, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is not accurate, but are proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the game was very tight, though different strategies were employed.  Purple tried to maximise her food income, starting with an Eastern Phoebe which provided invertebrates , and later adding a Baltimore Oriole, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, a Mountain Chickadee and an Indigo Bunting ensuring a lucrative food source giving her a wide variety too.  Then she added a White-Faced Ibis and a Ferruginous Hawk both birds of prey that are triggered by other players actions and give points at the end of the game for each food they bring in.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s arguable that the cards could have been shuffled better, and as a result birds that ate small mammals or fish and aquatics didn’t come out till later so she wasn’t able to take as much advantage of some of her food supplies as she might.  In contrast, Black and Ivory went for a more egg-based strategy, with Ivory playing a Cassin’s Sparrow and a Brown-Headed Cowbird both of which laid eggs, the sparrow when activated and the Cowbird on other players’ turns.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black played a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, which also activated on on other players’ turns and coupled it with a House Finch which enabled him to store a lot of eggs.  The end result was really close, with only four points between first and third.  Everyone had a similar number of “tucked” birds, bonus points and end of round points.  Purple took more from her birds and finished with ten food on her cards from her predators.  Although Black and Ivory had no stored food they had twice as many eggs as Purple and, on aggregate, Ivory pipped Purple, by just two points.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, some of the group decided to head off for an early night leaving Blue, Black, Purple, Pink and Pine to play “something short”.  Pink determinedly eschewed the option of Bohnanza, and suggested “Sahne” instead, which was quickly accepted by the other four.  This cute little game, correctly known as …aber bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake), is the archetypal “I divide, you choose” game.  Played over five rounds, players take it in turns to be the “Master Baker”.  They divide the eleven slices of the pie into pieces and each player takes it in turns to take a piece (leaving the Master Baker with whatever’s left).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

As players take their share, they can choose to keep slices or eat slices:  eating a slice guarantees points (equal to the number of blobs of cream on top), while saving it gives the opportunity for more points if the player has the most of that type stored at the end of the game.  Each slice has a number on it which is the number of points the player with the most uneaten slices of that type gets, but also how many are available (though a couple are always removed to add a little non-determinism).  Thus, the most valuable cakes are also those with the most slices available but also those with the most cream.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started out collecting slices of strawberry tart, while Pine opted for what he insisted was gooseberry flan, but looked like it was made out of peas.  He also went for the pizza (or possibly apricot?) and got into a tussle with Blue for that and cockroach (which Pine insisted on calling pecan, though in truth it could have been date too).  Things kicked off when Pine offered Pink (sat to his left) a particularly favourable selection and when Blue pointed this out, was persuaded by Pink to be “nice”.  However on Pink’s turn, when he had the option to be nice to Blue, he wasn’t.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Clever mechanisms, a great game do not necessarily make.

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2019

With “Essen” approaching, last week the Deutscher Spiele Preis list was announced. This is the result of an open vote by games clubs, gamers and people in the industry.  It typically rewards a slightly heavier game than the the Spiel des Jahres awards, but as the top ten are published, a range of tastes and complexities usually feature.  Last year number one on the list was Azul, the first game to win both the Deutscher Spiele Preis and the Spiel des Jahres since Dominion in 2009.  This year, the winner of the Deutscher Spiele Preis is the same as the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres i.e. Wingspan (Flügelschlag in Germany).  This is a great card game with fantastic production values which is well deserving of the prize.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Other games in the top ten list include third placed Teotihuacan: City of Gods which is emotionally the sequel to the well received Tzolk’in: They Mayan Calendar and the hugely popular fifth placed Architects of the West Kingdom, both very solid “Euro Games”.  The Taverns of Tiefenthal, Underwater Cities and Newton also medium-heavy weight Euro games made the top ten too, as did the Spiel des Jahres winner, the light family game, Just One. Some slightly more unusual games were also recognised, including Spirit Island, a complex cooperative game, and in particular, Detective, which is a real-time puzzle game with an internet component. The Deutscher Spiele Preis for Best Children’s game went to Concept Kids: Tiere (Animals).  The prizes will be awarded at the International Spieltage, Essen.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

 

23rd July 2019

It was a quiet, if hot night; Blue and Khaki were the first to arrive closely followed by Pine and Burgundy, and all four settled down to eat and discuss the very British subject of The Weather.  Just as they were finishing eating, Ivory turned up toting his copy of the “Feature Game”, Wingspan.  Then he started something when he ordered a desert, specifically ice cream.  Everyone else, who had struggled to finish their supper and had hitherto been replete watched with envious eyes as Ivory tucked into his two scoops, one each of Baileys and Toblerone.  Only Burgundy held out and it wasn’t long before another food order was placed, including two grown-up orders of a single scoop of raspberry sorbet and one childish order of a scoop each of chocolate orange and Toblerone.

Ice Cream
– Image from horseandjockey.org

While waiting for the second round of deserts to arrive, the group decided to play something, and, given that the Spiel des Jahres awards had just been announced, decided to give L.A.M.A. a go. L.A.M.A. was nominated, but did not win (despite Reiner Knizia’s amazing outfit), however, for our group it was a much better fit than Just One, the winner.  Just One, is a word guessing game in a similar vein to the previous laureate, Codenames, which was extraordinarily unpopular with our Tuesday night group.  Word games are similarly unpopular, so Werewords was never likely to go down well either, making L.A.M.A. our group’s pick, even though we had not hitherto played any of the nominees to form a real opinion.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

As Ivory commented, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO.  The deck contains coloured cards numbered one to six, and some Llama cards.  Players take it in turns to play a single card, the same number or one higher than the last card played.  Llama cards can be played on sixes, and one’s can be played on Llamas.  If they cannot play (or choose not to), players can draw a card from the deck, or stick with what they have, and not play for the rest of the round.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

When either everyone has passed, or someone has played out their hand, everyone scores points equivalent to the face value of their cards in their hand, and Llama cards score ten.  There is a catch though, in a mechanism faintly reminiscent of No Thanks!, any duplicate cards do not score, thus, a two fives and a six will only score eleven.  Players receive tokens for their score, but if a player checks out with nothing they can return a token to the pool.  Since white tokens are worth one and black worth ten, and players can return either, the advantage can  sometimes be with the player with a higher score.  For example, someone with nine points can only return one white token leaving them with eight, while someone with a single black ten can return everything they have.  The game ends when someone reaches forty.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started badly, by picking up a massive twenty-four points on the first round.  Burgundy did slightly better, although the size of his total was largely thanks to Pine who repeatedly stepped up the current card value upsetting Burgundy’s plans.  This became something of a running joke, with Pine playing a one and thus preventing Burgundy playing his Llama cards.  Pine and Ivory started well remaining in single digits for several rounds, but in the end it was surprisingly close.  Fairly inevitably though, it was Blue who hit the magic forty first with Burgundy and Ivory just behind with thirty-nine each.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Khaki took a very creditable second place thanks to winning one round and ditching ten points as a result.  It was Pine who won the game, however, as the most consistently low scoring player, finishing with eight points fewer than Khaki, a total of only twenty.  With the ice cream desserts and the llama aperitif dealt with, it was time to move on to the main course, the “Feature Game”, Wingspan.  Ivory commented that he’d been really looking forward to this and described it as, “an engine builder like Terraforming Mars, but much prettier”.  While we set up, Pine explained that his curious order of “Yardbird” was not a reference to the game, but the IPA.  It turns out the beer is not named after the the rock group (that featured Eric Clapton among others), but actually Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The players are bird enthusiasts seeking to discover and attract the best birds to their network of wildlife reserves.  The game itself is fairly straight forward: there are two main types of actions, introduce a new bird card, or carry out an an action and activate the associated birds.  In order to introduce a new bird card into their reserve, a player needs entice them by spending food.  Each bird is played in one of the three habitats: woodland, grassland or wetland.  Some birds, like the Common Raven, can be found in any habitat so players can choose where to play them, others birds like a Green Heron are only found in one or two habitats (in this case, wetland), so  can only be placed in those habitats.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There are three other actions, collect food, lay eggs or acquire more cards.  In each case, players place one of their action cubes (or fluffy little birds in our pimped out copy), in the space to the right of the right most card in the associated habitat.  The more birds there are in a habitat, the better the action.  So, for example, if a player has no woodland birds and decides to take food, they can only take one food die from the bird-box dice tower receiving one food in return.  On the other hand, a player that has four bird cards in their woodland habitat can take  three food if they activate their woodland habitat.  Once the action has been completed, the player activates each bird in that habitat, in turn.  The grassland action, laying eggs, and the wetland action, taking cards work in a similar way.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Eggs can generally be placed on any bird card as long as it has sufficient capacity.  Eggs, aside from looking a lot like Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, are very useful as they are needed when adding cards to habitats—after the first card in a habitat, in addition to food, there is a cost of one or two eggs per bird.  They are also worth points at the end of the game.  Activating the wetland action, allows the player to take a face up card from the three available, or draw blind (similar to Ticket to Ride games).  In both cases, any birds in the habitat are also activated after the action has been taken.  Some birds have a special power on activation, while others give a bonus when they are originally played and some give an advantage when other players do  a particular action.  These special actions include providing extra food, laying extra eggs or acquiring extra food.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Some actions dictate where the food goes, so in some cases, the food is left on the bird card and cannot be used by the player, instead scoring a point at the end of the game.  Similarly, some cards are tucked under other cards, simulating flocking birds, or the prey caught by predators, and these score a point each at the end of the game.  Eggs on cards also score, and there are interim challenges, and the most successful players at these also score.  Finally, each bird is itself worth points, and each player starts with a choice of two bonus cards which provide points if that player is successful in a given category.  The game lasts four rounds with each player getting eight actions in the first round, but only five in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the gorgeous artwork, there are a lot of very nice little touches in this game.  For example, although the egg capacities for the birds aren’t correct, they are proportionally right with the American White Pelican only holding one egg, while the Mourning Dove holds five.  Similarly the food requirements and habitats are correct.  Sadly, the cards are all North American birds, but there are plans in the pipeline for European birds and even Australian, African and Asian bird expansions in due course.  At the start of the game each player gets two bonus cards and keeps one of them.  These can reward players with two points for every predator they have, or give points if the player has, say, four or more birds with a large wingspan, but the probability of these is given on the card which is a nice feature too.  So, all in all, it is a very well produced game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started very quickly, luring a Barn Owl to his woodland, and it quickly started hunting, with any prey caught being stored on the owl card and worth points later in the game.  He quickly followed this with two cards that allowed him to draw extra bonus cards, and looked to be set up for a strong game.  Next to him, Pine was struggling—the game is not complicated, but it is a little different to anything else we’ve played.  He got the hang of things eventually though, and his Canada Goose looked a very nice card as it allowed him to tuck two cards underneath it (each worth a point at the end of the game) for the cost of one wheat when activated.  Khaki was helping everyone out though, as his Ruby-throated Hummingbird kept everyone supplied with food.

– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy just quietly got on with things, but as he and Khaki had the most eggs in nests on the ground at the end of the first round, they took the end of round bonus points.  Meanwhile, Blue’s Yellow-Billed Cuckoo was giving her useful eggs whenever someone else laid eggs, as long as she remembered to activate it.  With Burgundy and Khaki taking the end of round bonus for the most wetland birds at the end of the second round, it was starting to look ominous.  Ivory had his eye on a bigger prize however.  The end of round bonuses increase in value throughout the game, so he was clearly after the bonus at the end of the third round, which rewarded the player with the most grassland birds.  Burgundy had his eye on that too though, as did Blue and as the number of actions decreased the game became increasingly difficult.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue’s Eastern Bluebird proved very useful as it allowed her to play to birds for one action.  So in the end Burgundy, again took the points, this time tying with Blue, with Ivory just edged out.  As the final round came to a close, it was too late to improve the engines and everyone just had to concentrate maximise their points.  And after that, all that was left was the counting.  The game is a little bit “multi-player solitaire”, so nobody was sure who was going to win, though Burgundy was high on most people’s list.  Indeed, it was very close with just five points separating the podium positions, and only one point between the rest.  In the end, Burgundy on eighty-six tied for second place with Khaki, who had a lot of high value birds and had been determined not to disgrace himself (and definitely didn’t).  Blue just had the edge however, largely thanks playing her Inca Dove which allowed her to lay a lot of eggs in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Tempt a hot group of gamers with ice cream and most will give in.

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2019

The 2019 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Just One.  This is a cooperative party game where one player guesses a word based on clues given by the rest of the group.  The really clever part is that the clues can’t be too obvious in a way faintly reminiscent of Dixit, the 2010 winner.  However, in Just One, this effect is achieved by the removal of any clues that are given more than once.  Just One was designed by the same people as The 7th Continent, though the two games couldn’t be much more different.

Just One
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time.  This honours more challenging games and this year was awarded to Wingspan (known as Flügelschlag in Germany).  This is a very pretty engine-builder card game where players are bird enthusiasts trying to attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves.  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Tal der Wikinger (aka Valley of the Vikings) which is dexterity game where players are rolling balls to knock down barrels.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2019 – Time to Vote

Like every other sphere, boardgames also receive awards, the best known of which is probably the Spiel des Jahres.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”.  There is usually quite a lot of overlap with the recommendations, nominees and winners of the Spiel des Jahres Awards, but the Deutscher Spiele Preis typically rewards a slightly heavier game, often more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category.  This is especially likely to be true this year as the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel” nominees, are particularly light.  The most recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Russian Railroads and Terra Mystica, with only Azul, last year’s winner, featuring strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards (the first game to win both awards since Dominion in 2009).

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Game weight is not the only difference between the two awards:  The Spiel des Jahres nominees and winners are selected by a committee with a clearly defined list of criteria, whereas the Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the International Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four and so on.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2018.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes Architects of the West Kingdom, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (the sequel to last year’s winner Azul), Dice Settlers, Endeavor: Age of Sail, Everdell, Key Flow, Newton, Reykholt, Solenia, and Teotihuacan: City of Gods, as well all the nominees and recommendations for the Spiel des Jahres award, like L.A.M.A., Wingspan and Carpe Diem.

Deutscher Spielepreis 2019
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July and there are hundreds of free games and tickets for the International Gamedays at Essen to win.  It’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

UK Games Expo 2019 – Not as Hot as Last Year, but that’s a Good Thing…

Last weekend was the thirteenth UK Games Expo (sometimes known as UKGE, or simply Expo), the foremost games event.  Every year it grows bigger, and this was no exception. Historically, Expo is focused on gamers playing games rather than publishers selling new games, however, the exhibition aspect has been growing, and this year there were two halls full of vendors selling games and demoing wares.  Last year, there was an issue with the air conditioning on the Friday which, combined with the thousands of “hot water bottles” walking about looking at games, made it unbelievably hot.  This year, working facilities and a little more space made it much, much more pleasant, although Saturday was busier than ever!

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

This year the hot games included Wingspan, copies of which were flying off the slightly wobbly shelves following it’s recent Kennerspiel des Jahres nominationFoothills, a two player Snowdonia game by UK designers Ben Bateson and Tony Boydell (designer of the original Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine and Guilds of London) was another extremely popular game.  Foothills is produced by Lookout Spiele, but there were sixty copies available from the designer’s Surprised Stare stand, which sold out in less than forty minutes (though there were a small number of copies to be had elsewhere for those that kept their eyes peeled).

Foothills
– Image by boardGOATS

Surprised Stare were also demoing Foothills and another Snowdonia-based game, Alubari, which is due for release later in the year (hopefully).  There was a new Ticket to Ride game available (London) as well as another instalment in the Catan series (Rise of the Inkas); the new expansion for Endeavor: Age of Sail was also available to see (coming to KickStarter later in June) and “old” favourites like Echidna Shuffle were there to be played and bought too.  There were some very good deals to be had from some of the third party sellers as well, including some of the Days of Wonder games for just £15.

Horticulture Master
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the reasons for attending conventions is the opportunity to see and play games that are not available elsewhere.  One example was Horticulture Master, a cute little Taiwanese game with beautiful artwork, which combined card collecting elements from Splendor with Tetris-like tile laying from games like Patchwork and Bärenpark.  Another cute little game was Titans of Quantitas from Gingerbread Games, a clever two player strategy game based round the old fashioned digital rendering of the number eighty-eight.  What really made this game special though was the fact that the stall was guarded by a fiberglass goat!  Not everything was quite as wholesome though, as one Games Master was thrown out and banned for life for including content in a role-playing game that allegedly involved sexual violence and played on the shock factor.  This is definitely the exception rather than the rule, however, and UK Games Expo is a great place for family and friends to spend a weekend.

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2019

Every year, in May, the nominees are announced for the most prestigious award in board gaming, the Spiel des Jahres.  There are typically three categories, the Kinderspiel (children’s game) , the Kennerspiel (“expert’s” game) and the most desirable of all, the family award, the Spiel des Jahres.  The nominees for this year’s award have been announced as:

Last year the group picked out the eventual winner, Azul, after playing it at Essen, but this year nobody really had much idea of what would be nominated.  While we enjoyed the sequel to Azul, Stained Glass of Sintra, we felt it was not in the same league as its predecessor.  This year the games generally seem to be light, almost party games.  Our personal favourite for the “Red Poppel” was probably Echidna Shuffle, but we knew that was unlikely to make the cut for other reasons.  Those who had played it felt that Teotihuacan: City of Gods was in with a shout for the Kennerspiel award, but in truth, that it was probably a little too complex.  Wingspan was the only game from this year’s nominees that the group had really picked up on, and is planned as a “Feature Game” for later in the year.

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 22nd July (Kinderspiel des Jahres winners will be announced a month earlier in Hamburg on 24th June).

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de