The year 2016 is drawing to a close. Time to look back on a year that didn't go well with the network community with the hashtag #scheissjahr. 2016 was a year of mixed feelings, ups and downs - culturally, socially, politically. And despite all the horror news, there was a lot of positive to hear, especially for board players. In our annual review of 2016, we summarize the past twelve months in a nutshell.
We wish all readers a happy new year.
Actors and musicians had a hard time in 2016. Roger Cicero, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince and Rick Parfitt are just a few of the names who suddenly passed away in the year that was drawing to a close. Film fans mourned screen legend Bud Spencer, Anton Yelchin and, most recently, Peter Vaughan, among others. Even the board game scene was not spared from sad events, for example when Harald Bilz from the Heidelberger Spieleverlag died unexpectedly in August. When Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack the day before Christmas Eve and she too would not survive 2016, it became clear that fate would not take a break on Christmas days either. With the death of the music legend George Michael, the catastrophe and with it that appeared #schissyear Perfect.
And then there was the Donald Trump thing ...
After all, players were able to venture into fantastic worlds to avoid the bad headlines at least temporarily. 2016 was a good year in terms of play. The successful trade fair events in Cologne and Essen also stood for this. especially the Games fair in Essen set a new record with over 170.000 visitors in 2016. The toy industry reported double-digit growth rates and it seems to be back in trend to get board games off the dusty shelf. There are, however, many notable titles from 2016. The Schwerkraft Verlag was faced with real hype, bringing one of the hottest board games onto the market with Terraforming Mars. The exhibitor stand of the Oberhausen publishing house was literally besieged at SPIEL'16 and the sales were accompanied by tumultuous scenes as fans tried to secure one of the coveted copies. While some went away empty-handed, others smelled the business of their life and offered copies of Terraforming Mars at horrific prices on the well-known Internet auction platforms.
Experienced board players can expect to be voted for the Kennspiel of the Year every year - for the 2016th time in 37. This year, the jury had the chance to choose a real top-class figure as the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres XNUMX, but ultimately remained comparatively conservative. Even if with Isle of Skye If the award received a very good title from Lookout Games, the jury would have had a decision in favor of Pandemic Legacy - Season 1 or TIME Stories Can and maybe even have to show far more courage.
Otherwise, 2016 is also one of the recycled ideas. New legacy game systems like seafall* meanwhile belong to the regular new releases as well as the publications of card game variants of popular board games (Camel Up, Glück auf, Port Royal etc.). The latter should especially please frequent travelers. A special kind of recycling is the miniature game Kingdom Death: Monsters 1.5, which rose within a few hours on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to the Olympus of the most successful financing projects in the field of parlor games. Real fans don't let themselves be stopped by good recycling - and certainly not by debates about sexism.
Courage to criticize
Even if board games are described as a cultural asset, they were primarily used for entertainment in 2016. That is a good thing and brings people together at regular intervals, but the question arises as to how critical board games in particular can - or must - be. A prime example of this was the great expert game Mombasa by Alexander Pfister. Not only did Mombasa draw attention to itself with its playful quality, it also plays in and with the colonial era. With its serious background, this board game would have been the ideal starting point for a critical examination of the sensitive subject of colonial rule, the negative effects of which are still noticeable today.
Discussions flared up in community forums about whether such settings are allowed in a board game, even about whether background stories from a parlor game could even make a meaningful reference to the real world. In view of the recurring debates, the author and publisher (unfortunately) kept a low profile and avoided a critical examination of the important topic. Unfortunately, because Mombasa, like just a few other titles, could have been a masterpiece for a successful socially critical board game. For 2017, I would like to see more courage in uncomfortable settings for parlor games. Has two things Mombasa at least achieved: It entertains at a high level and reminds people of one of the darkest chapters in their history - as an invitation to think about it.
After taking over Lucasfilm, Disney was omnipresent with the Star Wars brand in 2016. For analogue game fans, this resulted in a true paradise of Star Wars board games: Star Wars Rebellion, new content for Star Wars Pen & Paper, expansion for Star Wars - The Card Game as well as Imperial Assault, X-Wing and Armada and, most recently, the ingenious collecting game Star Wars - Destiny. Above all Star Wars - Destiny* is one of the surprise titles of 2016. The Heidelberger Spieleverlag has provided a never-ending supply and will continue on this path in 2017 as well.
A real highlight for casual and frequent gamers were escape games, which became a regular topic on social media in the period after SPIEL'16. Thanks to the extremely successful Escape series Exit - Das Spiel by Inka and Markus Brand, parlor players can hunt for records and compete with the best times of other teams. It is therefore no great surprise that the series published by Kosmos Verlag will be continued in the spring.
2016 was a year of mixed feelings and not free from disappointments for players either: just think about it seafallthat may be good, but not unforgettable. The next year will be a tough time for those who hope to get better and may be disappointed with the reality. After all: hope dies last.