If you love board games but are looking to break out of your Monopoly and Scrabble rut, you might want to check out the recently announced 2016 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) nominees. Since 1978, a jury made up of professional game critics and enthusiasts has handed out the prestigious German awards to the best tabletop games of the year.
The awards are divided into three categories: the Spiel des Jahres, which is the overall game of the year, the Kennerspiel des Jahres, awarded to more complex games, and the Kinderspiel des Jahres, awarded to games for children.
If the past is any indication, you’re likely to see the Spiel des Jahres winner at a game night near you soon. Past winners that have gone from obscurity to staple include Settlers of Catan (1995), Ticket to Ride (2004), Carcassonne (2000), and Qwirkle (2011).
The Kinderspiel des Jahres winner will be announced on June 20 and the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres winners will be revealed on July 18. Take a look at the nominees below:
FOR THE "SPIEL DES JAHRES" (GAME OF THE YEAR):
Two spymasters try to get their respective teams to contact secret agents by guessing their codenames. The spymasters must give one-word clues that point to the corresponding word on the board—and the more codewords the spymaster can manage to describe with one word, the better. But if a team guesses the codename that belongs to the hidden assassin, they immediately lose the round.
Imhotep makes players responsible for building the great monuments of Egypt. The first player to build five monuments wins, but obviously, it’s not that easy—it requires excavating the stone, shipping it, moving it to the construction sites, and unloading it in a certain sequence. And of course, your opponents are trying to thwart your progress.
Made by HABA, a company with a number of challenging, yet family-friendly games under their belt, Karuba is a game of exploration and treasure hunting. In it, players lay tiles to create paths, similar to players in Carcassonne. But instead of building cities or farms, explorers must journey through the jungle to find temples and gain gold, crystals, and glory.
FOR THE "KENNERSPIEL DES JAHRES" (CONNOISSEUR GAME OF THE YEAR):
4. ISLE OF SKYE: FROM CHIEFTAIN TO KING
Another tile-laying game, Isle of Skye increases the complexity by asking players to achieve four different objectives—and those objectives change each time you play. Still, although the goals change, the bottom line doesn’t: You’re the chieftain of a famous Scottish clan, and you’re trying to build your kingdom by gaining points. The winner is the player with the best kingdom, not the most money.
5. PANDEMIC LEGACY: SEASON 1
The first Pandemic (2008) is a cooperative game that pits players against four diseases threatening to eradicate the human race. (No pressure.) Pandemic Legacy takes it to another level. Depending on your actions in the game, Legacy might have you destroy certain items, place stickers on the board, write on cards, and even change the rules. There are secret dossiers and black boxes. Characters can get completely removed from the game, never to return.
As you can probably tell from that description, Pandemic Legacy is a part of a new genre of game that’s only playable once—but each game can last 12-24 sessions, so you’ll get your money’s worth. And how’s this for hype? VICE calls this “the greatest board game of all time.”
6. T.I.M.E. STORIES
Another cooperative game, T.I.M.E. Stories sends players to various points in time to solve problems. The twist: You’ll always be able to complete the mission, but if you can’t get it done in the assigned time, you’ll have to start over from the beginning to try again.
FOR THE "KINDERSPIEL DES JAHRES" (CHILDREN'S GAME OF THE YEAR):
Even the King of the Jungle needs a haircut. Players help Leo the lion get from his bed to the barbershop, but he encounters various distractions along the way—and the clock is ticking. If the clock strikes 8 p.m. and Leo hasn’t made it to the shop yet, he has to go back to his bed and start over. Players win if they can manage to get Leo to the barber in five days.
When the cat’s away, the mice will ... try to strip the pantry of every last crumb and morsel they can find? In Mmm!, the players are the mice, who must try to fill their bellies before the cat catches them.
9. MY FIRST STONE AGE
Also known as Stone Age Junior, this is the kiddie take on an existing grown-up game called—you guessed it—Stone Age(2008). In the same fashion as Catan, players must collect various goods to build their own settlements.