Once a year the discussions about the supposedly best board games of the current season come thick and fast. The Spiel des Jahres eV association recently officially announced the nominated titles in the categories Children's Game of the Year 2018, Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 and, of course, Game of the Year 2018. What is to be understood as a recommendation for most social players, usually makes the tills ring at publishers. When the colorful logos are emblazoned on the game packs, it is not uncommon for real panic buying. After all: thanks to the suitability of the titles nominated for the Games of the Year, the two events are particularly interesting for casual gamers or beginners. Experienced board players will likely call the nominees their own at the time of the official announcements. We present you the nominated board games for the awards Game of the Year 2018, Kennerspiel of the Year 2018 and Children's Game of the Year 2018 as well as our opinion on the selection of the jury in the following article.

Games of the year 2018: understandable decisions?

From our point of view, the 2018 vintage can be described as excellent in a playful way. Board players spend countless hours of fun with each of the nominated titles. The only big innovations shouldn't necessarily be expected - but that has become rarer in the parlor game segment anyway.

You can rely on the jury of the Spiel des Jahres eV: the list of nominees includes everything that has ranked and named in the good 2018 board game year. The fact that the most expected game titles are on the selection lists is a sign of the outstanding quality of a few board games - and at the same time a sign of the good taste of the players themselves, who every year at least roughly indicate the direction for possible awards with their buying and gaming behavior or as in the case of the German Game Prize, judge the awarding of the award yourself. As is the case every year: the awards of the Spiel des Jahres eV are jury awards and therefore do not necessarily have to suit the taste of the masses. In fact, the opinions of the players and game experts often coincide, also because the so-called shortlist complement the nomination list and publishers and authors serve as “consolation”.

In 2018, popular board games such as Azul (Pegasus Games), Heaven and Ale (Tierra del Fuego Games), Luxor (Queen Games) and Funkelschatz (HABA) have been nominated for the awards across all categories. A real winner this year could be the game author Wolfgang Warsch, who is nominated with a total of three titles in two categories: the card game The Mind (NSV), the highly acclaimed board game Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg (Schmidt Spiele) and Ganz schön clever (Schmidt Spiele ) would definitely be worthy award winners.

The games publisher Asmodee is pleased about an extraordinary award. The outstanding gaming experience Pandemic Legacy Season 2 convinced the jury to such an extent that they unceremoniously pounded a special prize out of the ground for 2018. If you follow the reasons given by the jury of the Spiel des Jahres eV, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is henceforth the "benchmark for all legacy board games". This game is "currently the best legacy game with a fascinating game world."

The nominees for the games of the year 2018: the best board games of the season?
This is the benchmark for future legacy board games and was awarded a special prize by the Jury des Spiel des Jahres eV in 2018: Pandemic Legacy - Season 2 by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau (Asmodee).

The reasoning is understandable, but daring: after all, legacy board games are no longer a rare game idea, so that the yardstick will be adjusted frequently and strongly in the future. Whether a pure further development process justifies the award of a special price can be viewed critically. However, the playful quality of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 cannot be shaken. Perhaps the special award should be understood more as an author's award than a game award. After all, the jury stated in its reasoning that it wanted to “honor the outstanding performance of the two authors with a special prize”. The two game authors Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau have made legacy board games socially acceptable - but above all suitable for the masses - over the past ten years. Even if there are complex game mechanisms behind the basic idea of ​​these strategic evolution games, the authors have managed to make the rules so intuitive that even inexperienced players do not have to overcome high entry hurdles in order to have fun with the legacy board games available. Changing board game systems have made themselves enthusiastic for almost all groups of players. Even if it almost seems as if Leacock and Daviau have become slaves to their own (admittedly grandiose) basic idea, it was time to praise the two creative minds for their years of work.

Picking out a single game title for the 2018 special award would be unnecessary if the idea of ​​honoring authors for their “life's work” became a fixed item on the program for the awarding of the games of the year. That would be an equally groundbreaking advancement of the Critics' Award, like the birth of the legacy board games.

The nominees for the game of the year 2018

The Game of the Year 2018 award is a groundbreaking decision-making aid for the average board player when it comes to purchasing high-quality game titles. So it's no wonder that authors and publishers are looking forward to the award ceremony on July 23, 2918 in Berlin. The selection of the nominated games was particularly successful this year, because the nominees could hardly have been more different.

The following three board games have been nominated for the Game of the Year 2018:

  • Blue by Michael Kiesling (Next Move, Plan B Games / Pegasus Spiele)
  • Luxor by Rüdiger Dorn (Queen Games)
  • The Mind by Wolfgang Warsch (NSV)

Sounds fun? And whether! 

Each of the three games deserved a win, with the tactical placement game Blue Michael Kiesling was able to get the most praise from the start. At the game events of the current season, the players agreed that Azul is one of the best board games of the year - if not the top board game of 2017/2018. Azul calls for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, to decorate the palace of the Portuguese King Manuel I with tile patterns. Correlated columns and rows wash points on the accounts of tactically wise craftsmen. On the other hand, if you take too risky action and speculate, you will miss out on valuable points. What becomes visible on the gaming table as the game progresses is like a masterpiece of craftsmanship. The beautiful tile patterns flatter the eyes of the players and become the real star of the tactical board game at Azul, which is marketed by Pegasus Spiele in this country. The game board, on the other hand, is rather simple and functional - nothing should distract from the aesthetics of the colorful tile images. As simple as the simple train-to-train mode is, the gameplay that Markus Kiesling built around this selection mechanism is so elegant. Azul is a masterpiece that no board gamer should miss out on, with or without the 2018 Game of the Year seal.

The second nominated title for the game of the year 2018 is based on adventurous treasure collecting. Rüdiger Dorn is there Luxor a board game created by Queen Games that puts old mechanisms in the limelight. The core of Luxor is a clever card game mechanism in which only the two outer cards out of a total of five cards can be played. Because rearrangement is prohibited and new cards are placed in the middle of the card, it is quite a challenge for players to move their three pieces across the board. Forward planning is essential for success at Luxor. In order to collect treasures, up to three pawns must be placed on the respective field. Particularly fast - and tactically clever treasure hunters - find their way to the Pharaoh's burial chamber to take possession of the sarcophagi. 45 to 60 players, ages 2 and up, spend around 4 to 8 minutes using the right cards at the right time in order to position their pieces on the board in the best possible way. It's fun, extremely exciting and inspires with a high replay value.

The nominees for the games of the year 2018: the best board games of the season?
Turns dusky pink tiled damp rooms from the 60s into impressive bathing palaces for kings: tile art from Azul by Michael Kiesling (distribution: Pegasus Spiele).

The card game The Mind is just one of three titles by Wolfgang Warsch that the Jur des Spiel des Jahres eV put on their nomination lists this year. The cooperative card game from the Nürnberg Spielkarten-Verlag is just as banal as the game idea of ​​The Game, but it shines with its surprisingly well-functioning, communication-free gameplay, which repeatedly creates moments of surprise. This time, The Mind extends over several levels, to which other players rise together when they have mastered the previous level goal. The basic principle is hardly worth mentioning: number cards have to be placed in ascending order - in complete silence. Communication is strictly forbidden at The Mind, and players would do well to stick to this simple rule to keep the tension going. The question of when to play at the right time hovers over the discard pile like a sword of Damocles during a game. Any number cards played too early can cost the player round valuable life points. And because communication is known to be forbidden, each player has to decide for himself when to take action - while assessing the playing behavior of his fellow players. The sense of time arouses intense emotions in the comparatively simple card game The Mind in 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, which oscillate between excitement and despair. The game principle that Wolfgang Warsch devised for The Mind is simply ingenious. And the card game from NSV is extremely affordable for a purchase price of around ten euros.

What is still missing are the games on the recommendation list. Each of the six titles on this list narrowly missed the 2018 Game of the Year nomination. Nonetheless, all of the board games on the extended recommendation list ensure great moments on the gaming tables at home. 

The jury of the Spiel des Jahres eV expressly recommends:

  • 5 minute dungeon
  • face cards
  • Majesty
  • Memoarrr!
  • Santorini
  • woodlands

With different levels of entry barriers, but always above-average game quality, the titles on the recommendation list are notable alternatives for players who can't do much with the nominees for the Game of the Year 2018 award (or who already have all the nominees on their game shelf). 

Nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018

Particularly exciting for frequent gamers is the awarding of the Kennerspiel des Jahres Critics' Prize every year, including in 2018. Game designer Wolfgang Warsch is represented with two titles in this category, along with the nomination of The Mind his chances of winning an award are good. However, like every year: the competition is strong. And with Heaven & Ale there is a playful heavyweight on the nomination list for the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018. The board game from eggertspiele (distribution: Pegasus) provides exciting entertainment with its demands on the management skills of the players. In addition, the board game by Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt is embedded in an interesting setting. Everything revolves around the fine art of beer brewing - far removed from modern bottling plants. In idyllic monasteries, the production of high-percentage cold hops was still a real manual work. The right timing is at Heaven & Ale just as crucial as good resource management. Both ingredients are perfect to inspire frequent gamers in the long term. Wolfgang Warsch will have a hard time coming to terms with his nominees Pretty clever and The quacks of Quedlinburg to prevail against the competition. 

The nominees for the games of the year 2018: the best board games of the season?

However, that is not impossible. especially the Quacks from Quedlinburg creates an explosive mood with an explosive mixture. The game idea around the art of alchemical kettle blasting is not entirely new, but for connoisseurs it is worth taking a closer look at this tactical board game from Schmidt Spiele. Luck is not entirely irrelevant here, but it is often wise decisions that determine whether a brew is edible or not. Thanks to the great illustrations by Dennis Lohausen (including Glück auf, Terra Mystica) makes The quacks of Quedlinburg also optically a lot.

Buying new recipes to put your own alchemical skills to the test is fun for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and ensures entertaining games lasting 45 to 60 minutes.

The entertaining dice game Pretty clever almost seems a little simple-minded compared to its two competitive titles. Nevertheless, Wolfgang Warsch's game idea has it all. The more efficient players act in entering the dice results in their personal game slips, the more points the possible chain reactions will be. Different templates must be filled in to complete an area. With each new round of the dice, players are asked to make clever decisions: that is exactly what they do Pretty clever so incredibly clever. And because it's not just about winning with a high score, but also improving your personal best with every game, this comparatively simple dice game is extremely addictive.

All in all, the following titles have been nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018:

  • The quacks of Quendlinburg by Wolfgang Warsch (Schmidt Spiele)
  • Pretty clever by Wolfgang Warsch (Schmidt Spiele)
  • Heaven & Ale by Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt (eggertspiele / Pegasus)

The games on the jury's recommendation list ensure more entertaining hours. The deck building game Clong! from the house of Schwerkraft inspires with its charming fantasy setting, in which the adventurers miss almost any seriousness. Great backstory needed Clong! not because players share an experience: there is simply this one Leeroy Jenkins on every treasure hunt! It almost goes without saying that the monstrous dragon should be on the scene. 

Game designer Emanuele Ornella is involved Pioneers a strategic western adventure that revolves around the clever placement of the eponymous pioneers. It is important to move different figures, each with their own bonus effects, out of the stagecoach at the right moment, so that they are connected to each other as much as possible towards the end. Of course, the passengers in the carriage also score points on the board. Pioneers was published by Queen Games and invites lovers of strategic board games to rewrite the settlement history of North America.

The following two board games are on the recommendation list for the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018:

  • Clong! by Paul Dennen (Schwerkraft Verlag)
  • Pioneers by Emanuele Ornella (Queen Games

Nominated for Children's Game of the Year 2018

The children's games are mostly about colorful board game adventures full of fantasy or magic. This is largely the case this year as well. One title, however, stands out from the crowd because of its focus on human emotions. Urtas Sulinskas vividly brings feelings for children onto the game board - and the idea is well received. With Emojito! the publisher has Huch! & friends a playable symbiosis of learning environment and classic board game in the program. In view of the quality of the game and the basic idea, an award with the Children's Game Critics' Prize 2018 would hardly be surprising. 

Overall, the jury nominated the following titles for Children's Game of the Year 2018:

  • Emojito! by Urtas Sulinskas (Huch! & friends)
  • Sparkle Treasure by Lena and Günter Burkhardt
  • Panic mansion by Asker Sams Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen (Blue Orange / Asmodee)

Kite friends receive the appropriate title with HABA's Sparkle Treasure. The child-friendly fantasy board game draws on a more classic setting that children should be familiar with from countless similar children's board games. Still enthusiastic Sparkle Treasure Children's hearts, because the combination of story, game idea, process and material works so well that this board game can stand out from the crowd. 

Children who deal with the Nominée Panic Mansion dare a trip to a mysterious villa. The children's game ensures plenty of action: by tilting and shaking the box, an adventurer and three treasure chests are to be transported to the appropriate room in the villa - of course, if possible, omitting the other house items, e.g. spiders or ghosts. Different game variants make Panic Mansion an exciting family adventure in which the child-friendly jogging game knows how to perfectly implement the idea of ​​haptic feedback. Panic Mansion is hectic, not very educational - but all the more entertaining. 

There are another five children's board games on the recommendation list:

  • The legend of Wendigo
  • dinosaur world
  • Rhino Hero Super Battle 
  • SOS Dinosaur
  • Speed ​​Colors

Placing only five titles on the recommendation list is a sign of criticism for the jury of the Spiel des Jahres eV. The children's game coordinator Sabine Koppelberg has obvious points of criticism in the area of ​​children's board games in one Note addressed to the 2018 vintage. A lack of editorial revisions, incorrect rules and regulations and unevenly balanced game mechanisms are three factors that the game experts noticed. Sabine Koppelberg writes:

“We see the implementation of many games in this year not quite as heroic and fairy-tale. After just a few rounds of the game, critical points became clear: Extraordinary game ideas, in which different mechanisms were combined with one another in a very attractive way at first glance, are not properly balanced. For example, the skill component does not challenge the children, while the memo element is too demanding. Or the children are unable to use the accessories. You need help to overcome imprecisely crafted wooden blocks with pawns or to move a cardboard rail in the game board. Unfortunately, cardboard game material in particular was often not made stable enough to withstand many games, so that trees, mountains or volcanoes, for example, buckled or corners were frayed after just a few rounds.

What annoyed us the most this year, however, were incorrect rules without a careful editorial revision. Especially with international publishers, sometimes misleading and incomplete translations led to helplessness and frustrated shrugging at the gaming table. Playing correctly here, purely intuitively - only experienced adults could do that. Some extraordinary and stunning game ideas that we and the children really loved didn't make it onto our recommendation list. It's a shame, especially since these deficits were obvious after the first game. Here we ask ourselves, why is that? Are the publishers or the German sales force really under such high pressure that they have to pump the new release into the market with a hot needle?

Other completely convincing new releases did not make it onto our current list, because their nationwide availability in retail is only marginal or not yet guaranteed at the present time. That is also a shame.
For these reasons, we have not fully exhausted the maximum number of 10 recommended children's games this year, but have selected eight very different games for children between the ages of five and seven, which we hope will bring joy to as many children as possible for a long time.

Including the three candidates for the award "Children's Game of the Year 2018", who particularly impressed us, with an unusual game idea, an understandable set of rules, stable, child-friendly game material and, above all, lots of fun for children and older players. "

It seems that children as a target group are hardly worth the effort to create a flawless and fluid gaming experience - perhaps because children will not criticize the games presented to them. Publishers shouldn't forget one thing: today's playing children are tomorrow's board players. Anyone who experiences board and card games as valuable experiences at a young age will remain loyal to physical gaming, perhaps even for a lifetime.