Enlarge (credit: Spiel des Jahres)
The Spiel des Jahres—Germany’s “Game of the Year”—award is the biggest prize in the board-game business. It guarantees both sales and bragging rights around the world. In May, the Spiel des Jahres jury announced its shortlist. Today, the organization crowned the winners: Kingdomino by Bruno Cathala won the main award, while Exit: The Game by Inka and Markus Brand won “complex” game of the year. (The “children’s” award already went to penguin-flicking game Ice Cool.)
The two titles are quite different. Kingdomino is a quick-to-learn, family-oriented tile-laying game in which each player builds a 5×5 “kingdom” out of oversized cardboard dominoes, each showing different landscapes and bearing different numbers of crowns. Points are awarded at the end of the game by multiplying the size of each connected landscape area by the number of crowns that each landscape area contains. Add all the landscapes in your kingdom together and you have your total. Simple!
But thanks to a clever tile-selection mechanism, each turn gives you only a limited choice, and taking better tiles immediately means you choose later in the next round. Conversely, taking worse tiles in the present ensures first choice in the future. Once chosen, tiles are placed based on easy rules—but with the limitation that your kingdom can never grow beyond a 5×5 grid or you lose the tile. (A well-regarded, two-player variant lets players expand their kingdoms to a 7×7 grid, allowing for more strategic depth.)
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