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“Spiel des Jahres” Game of the Year 2017 winners (spieldesjahres.com)
139 points by bdbm 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

One of the more interesting games that, in the UK, had pretty much gone no where, was "Settlers of Catan". Then, around 1998 IIRC, it got a 10/10 in a gaming magazine and I think this, very much, spawned the revival of German board games on the UK games scene.

Before then it really was mainly war games (warhammer et al), RPGs, and card games (Magic TG from about 1993 onwards).

There are some absolutely fantastic games out there, but just don't buy from the top X games. Know the size of your play group and buy to suit them.

For example Agricola is a great game, but works best with 3-4 players. My group has 5 players so it's "ok" https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31260/agricola

Recent games that have surprised us. If you like poker, Sheriff of Nottingham and 5 players is exceptionally good fun in a group prepared to be able to put on silly voices and get into character. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/157969/sheriff-nottingha...

Also Camel Up is great for parties (up to 10 people with the expansion) and kids love it as well but is a lot of fun in groups of 5 https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/153938/camel

Group dynamic is important in buying the 'right' game but you cannot go wrong with Settlers of Catan if you can get 4 players. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/13/catan

If you have a local game shop, or even better, a local games cafe, you can usually get a chance to try out a game. Just remember to buy from them. They are your gateway to a whole new dynamic computer games has pretty much tried to destroy.

Board games are so so so good these days, just avoid Monopoly. ;)

> Board games are so so so good these days, just avoid Monopoly. ;)

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Monopoly_(game)&o... Monopoly was intended as a way to demonstrate that an economy which rewards wealth creation is better than one in which monopolists work under few constraints.

In other words and put much more harshly: Monopoly is played the right way if after a short time one player is happily winning and all the other ones are really angry.

This really should have been written on the box explicitly.

I didn't see the connection until someone pointed it out to me when I was already an adult. All I have from this game is memories of boredom playing it with family as a kid.

It did say that explicitly. The original version of the game was "The Landlord's Game"[1], and it came with two sets of rules: monopolist, as you know the game and anti-monopolist, with a land-value tax. You were meant to play the game with the former rules, and then again with the latter to see how much nicer it was. It turns out that being a monopolist is more fun, so, over time, the game was shortened to just that part and gained popularity through a bunch of rethemes. Parker Bros. bought one of those rethemes, though not from Elizabeth Magie, the creator, but from some other guy who claimed to have made it.


> It turns out that being a monopolist is more fun

...for the monopolist. Everybody else is bored to tears. This makes it a terrible game in its more well-known form.

I'm not saying I'm a fan of the game. But, in its defense, I've never played the nice version. There are probably few living people who have. Perhaps it's even more boring?

If you were bored playing Monopoly, you were probably not playing with the real rules (i.e. you had no auctions, you used free parking, etc).

Played correctly, Monopoly isn't a terribly long game, and (usually) once someone gets ahead, it is a fairly quick steamroll.

> the real rules

The Parker Brothers rules, rather. The game was a folk game before its acquisition by Parker Brothers, and their rules are a slightly simplified version of the Quaker variant learned by the man responsible for the graphic design of the published version of the game. House rules trace their lineages to versions of the game before Parker Brothers published it, and are equally valid. Although money on Free Parking introduces a ton of randomness, lengthens the game significantly, and is bad, it is no less real.

This. I played as a kid with all the traditional house rules, which really drag it out. As an adult I've tried it straight up with box rules and wow -- it's quick and brutal. Still not very fun but it does make a point.

This comes up every time somebody complains about Monopoly but even with auctions the game is still far too long and ends well after the winner is apparent.

Then the players are probably much too nice.

Okay, but to really make that point, you need:

a) mechanisms to make the game proceed faster, and

b) to play the "follow-up" second ruleset, where (AIUI) you use something like Georgist rules (the land value tax) where players are supposed to realize, hey, you can't monopolize under the LVT because monopoly rents just get taxed away.

As a heads up, speed is increased significantly by following the official auction rule: When you land on a property, you have the option to purchase it outright; or if you do not purchase, the bank will then conduct an auction of the property.

That's what I've heard, but it only solves the "getting all property bought up" problem. The other bottleneck is "getting some player to trade away the last of a color", which seems to be unchanged, right?

Monopoly really shines in electronic versions, where book-keeping and rule enforcement is easy to do. There's no "free parking money pot" nonsense that just makes the game unnecessarily long.

It really shines in hell.

> One of the more interesting games that, in the UK, had pretty much gone no where, was "Settlers of Catan".

In the Netherlands, Settlers of Catan was one of those boardgames that you pretty much could not avoid in mid to late nineties, and from what I understand it was even bigger in Germany. It really seems to hit a sweet spot in terms of accessibility and depth.

One of my personal favourites is Citadels[0] (called Machiavelli in the Netherlands), because when your group gets really good at it, the character-draft mechanic turns into in making strategic choices where everyone is basically trying to trick the other players into thinking they've chosen a different character than they have, either by bluffing or making them think they're bluffing. So it actually feels like everyone is trying to pull off Machiavellian schemes.

For a more lighthearted party game version of that, Mascarade[1] (both of these games are by Bruno Faidutti, which explains why their mechanics are somewhat similar). I've played this with ten people and it turns into a wonderfully chaotic game.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadels_(card_game)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarade

Big Agricola fan here, also Tzolk'in, Fresco, Puerto Rico, and Power Grid for similar depth/strategy level.

However, I've been recently trying to build out my mid-range collection, to have more stuff with appeal to a broader audience, including my 6 year old daughter. To that end, we've really enjoyed Patchwork, Broom Service, Set, and Carcassonne.

For goofy games that play quickly over the lunch hour at work, see Deep Sea Adventure and Witch Trial, as well as various other card games.

>For goofy games that play quickly over the lunch hour at work

I started playing those 1 hour games at work and really like a game that can be played quickly that have some depth, but not "break out the spreadsheet" depth..

Colleretto is my choice for a light quick playing games with some strategy but not too deep. I like Big Points too.

Tzolk'in is really kinda fun (Spinning gears), then some people figured out a "Dominant strategy" for winning consistantly. Making me realize these games are a delicate balance and no matter how much you test..

If someone in your group has figured out a dominant strategy for a particular game, it can be worth evaluating if there are strategies which can specifically counter it. In the matter of Tzolk'in in particular, there are at least four major strategies available, and well documented:


Tzolk'in is also helped in that you can play it online, to practice— basically, execute the dominant strategy and see if it does as well online as it does in your particular group. See: http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!gamepanel?game=tzolkin

A group I was in had a bunch of fun with Boss Monster. It worked well with three or four people, and might have with more.

Red 7 is good for playing a few games over lunch. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/161417/red7

Sheriff of Nottingham is getting an expansion later this year which will make the game playable with six players. I've been waiting for so long for that because it would easily get to the table more often at 6 players for me, and in front of more casual players.

Agreed on Sheriff! Such a fun game.

I think whats important is having one or two people "hosting" the events to realize what you've said above and plan accordingly.

Having a plethora of games to choose from and selecting the right one for certain people and group sizes has made a lot of my friends realize just how much fun they can be.

> There are some absolutely fantastic games out there, but just don't buy from the top X games. Know the size of your play group and buy to suit them.

I agree to some extent - group size is just one factor. There's also mechanics and play-style to consider. Casual vs. Heavy, party vs. strategic, themed vs. abstract etc.

I wholly agree that monopoly should be avoided though :). Sure, maybe if you play with certain rules it's okay, but even then there are so many better games!

Agreed, one of the most impressive games I have played is Terra Mystica, but only within our group when we are looking for something heavy. Phenomenal game mechanics.

Kingdomino is perfectly fine, but I felt the SdJ nominees this year were all pretty safe choices. If anything, I would've preferred Magic Maze, which seems to be the most unique of the SdJ nominees. Plus, Honshu, which also came out this year, is a much better bid-and-build-domino-cities game than Kingdomino, but I understand it's a little more complex than the average SdJ winner.

Meanwhile, Exit winning the Kennerspiel frustrates me. It's a solid design, and the escape-room-in-a-box can be quite fun, but it's hardly a gamer's game and the other nominees were incredible.

I guess my takeaway is that the SdJ is built up too much and doesn't reflect my segment of the hobby very well.

Honshu is good, but I actually prefer Kingdomino myself. The bidding for turn order with the cards that form the pool of cards you get to choose from is a little hard for people to wrap their heads around, and seems a bit arbitrary, although it does work.

Magic Maze has the whole no-communicating bit going against it, although it does look interesting and I would like to play it. I'm surprised it got the nomination, and the nomination alone will bring a lot more attention to that game, so that's cool.

Funny, that is exactly what makes the game delightful for me: the dual-use of evaluating whether I want to use a card for its bid or try to hang onto it (or both). But yes, Kingdomino admittedly has a much simpler flow to it there, and hence is better for a broader audience that the committee is targetting. Also strictly speaking I don't know if Honshu had a German release this year anyway?

I totally agree that non-communication is a disappointing game mechanic; it almost always ends up being quite... impure design-wise? It still ended up feeling like the most dynamic of the 3 games for me, though admittedly my opinion of El Dorado is only from one play and word of mouth.

I'm a digital nomad. I'd like something a bit more exciting than simple card or dice games, but space is at a bit of a premium. Any recommendations for games that have a lot of depth (and thus can be played over and over), are very quick to pick up the basics (so we can teach others), and are physically tiny (or can be)?

An iPad. Seriously, most board and card games either have or are in the process of getting an app nowadays. You can load that sucker up with hundreds of deep complex games with good A.I. and play them to your heart's content.

Also, a lot of games have a lot of empty space in their box. I've been able to fit 6 games in the space of a Targi box, for example (great 2 player game that's deep but small, btw). I think I managed to put Targi, Tides of Time, Lost Cities, a Smash Up expansion (playable at 2 players), and a couple others in there.

I'd also recommend a 6 Nimmmt! or a Rage deck (has 6 suits numbered 0-15, suitable for a lot of modern card games). There are a whole bunch of games you can play with those decks and they take up no space at all. Also 6 Nimmmt! is a blast with 6+ players, in my opinion.

Also I'm a game designer, and I find myself bringing out a Rage deck pretty often to prototype new ideas. It's very versatile. Just did it again for a new idea yesterday.

6 Nimmmt: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/24313/games-playable-deck...

Rage: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/1907/games-playable-rage-...

Some smaller footprint but deeper games I'd recommend are Arboretum, Akrotiri, Kahuna, Targi, Bohnanza, Noir: Killer vs Assassin, Tichu (can be played with standard playing cards and 4 marked up jokers, or with the aforementioned Rage deck.. super deep partner game), Biblios, Armadora, 12 Days, R-Eco, Condottiere, For Sale (playable with 6 Nimmmt! and some tokens), The Game (playable with 6 Nimmmt! deck).

Just chiming in to second the praise of Tichu: the rules just feel so well designed with their careful blend of systematic regularity (everything adding up to easy 100s, no asymmetry between the for colors) and convention (most new players already know the combinations from poker) that is balanced by just the right amount of occasional chaos (when too man hands align into "bombs") and arbitrary detail (the bird and the dog, two of those specially marked jokers) to spice things up. Everything seems to have a purpose, whereas the arbitrary elements of evolved rulesets of traditional card games often seem somewhat random to me.

This is really anecdotal, and I don't have a ton of experience with iPad versions of board games, but I've tried several on Android and it feels like all of them are just slightly rough around the edges. It's really hard to put my finger on it but something about them is just slightly unsatisfying to use. Maybe it's the performance or lack of snappy animations or sounds. Hearthstone is one that feels pretty good to play.

In my experience, this is one of the areas where iOS has a real advantage over Android -- the iOS games are frequently better polished and put together. (That's been true every time I've looked -- which I've done multiple times, but not constantly, so maybe things have/will shift; I dunno.)

Only issue with Arboretum would be potential table space.

Condottiere is also a great small game!

Splendor is a great game that meets your description: https://www.amazon.com/Asmodee-SCSPL01-Splendor-Board-Game/d...

Takes about 5 minutes to explain and plays in 30 min or so (After the first game). It has a nice mix of random/strategy, etc.

Edit: The box is way bigger than the contents, so a custom foam solution seems to be popular with some people.

If you like Splendor, I can't help but recommend Finca. It has a similar method of acquiring victory points, but the wheel mechanism for gaining $CURRENCY adds just a little more depth.

Side note: I'm processing BoardGameGeek.com data, and one of the goals I've set is around finding a game similar to these two. My best candidate at the moment is "Potion Explosion".

Century: Spice Road would be an obvious match for Splendor.

Looks good. I have a list of human recommendations that are contrasted to the analysis. Right now, human recommendations are winning by a landslide, and I suspect your entry will only help that.

Chess. Seriously. Just hear me out.

I'm mostly in the same boat traveling a lot for work. On my last trip, me and several coworkers/co-travelers started playing a lot of chess together and are continuing to have a blast.

I've been wanting to try to get into it for a while and I finally just did it. Don't read a bunch of stuff and psych yourself out. Just play and realize you're going to lose. A lot. You're _supposed_ to lose since somebody has to and there is no luck. Just learn from your mistakes.

It is a perfect travel game, though. It has essentially infinite depth, very easy to learn the few rules, and there are countless sizes and prices. It also adapts exceptionally well to digital and asynchronous versions.

For example, our group has been sending moves back and forth with chess.com's site and app. It's like communicating without having to think of things to say. I feel like I know these people better just by playing against them.

EDIT: also, it's simple enough that you could easily create a makeshift set if you don't have one available.

EDIT2: I've also had some luck adapting some games to work with playing cards and other simple pieces. A lot of games come with little thematic goodies that aren't really necessary in order to play. You should still consider buying the game if you like it to support the creator, though.

How do you feel about Go?

Can't say I've played it. I plan to learn some one day, but I live in the US. A lot of people here at least know how to play chess. I think many have never even heard of Go.

Everything you can play on a chessboard[1]; you can buy cheap, lightweight plastic/rubber travel boards all around the world for about $1. Or you use a sheet of paper, draw your own board and play with crown corks. Or in sand with coconuts.

And you'll find people to play with even when you don't speak a common language; I have very fond memories of playing all of the staff of a bar in Copacabana, Bolivia, until sunrise (just knowing the little Spanish(es) I had picked up in the 6 months before) :)

Also, Dominoes, though a good set is rather on the heavy side.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checkerboard#Games_and_puzzles...

Carcassonne is what i use for that niche.

it is a complex game with a very simple ruleset (i.e. one-operation per turn, every turn is the same)

There is an ipad version which is better than the physical one (easier to learn since it only allows legal moves, automatically keeps score, automatically shuffles) Plus no clean-up.

If you don't have internet and are alone, you can play against an AI and still have a good time. If you have internet you can play 1v1 with ranked matchmaking opponents and continue to get better.

If you want to play in a group, you can play a local game passing around the ipad. I've played this way with a group of people who had never played the game before, everyone finished knowing not only the gameplay rules but with inferred nuances about strategy.

In addition to many of the games listed here, also consider:

* Deep Sea Adventure — A tiny push-your-luck game that blends theme and mechanics perfectly, is easy to explain, and is a ton of fun without being too thinky. It also scales perfectly from 2 to 6 people. Expensive if you're just counting components, but the value of the game and the fun it brings makes it worthwhile.

* Celestia — Also push-your-luck style, but with a bit more production (and, oddly, cheaper than Deep Sea Adventure).

* Patchwork — A great little two-player game where you're making a quilt. That sounds silly, but it's like Tetris that's powering a small economical engine. Really fun.

* For Sale — Good for 3-6 players, a really simple little card game where you get properties in the first round and auction them off in the second. Plays in 15 minutes, fits in a small box. (I think they even make a travel version.)

* Santorini — the retail version is a big production, but if you get it, you could easily make a smaller version of it. Takes 30 seconds to learn and is hard to really master. Comes with a ton of God power cards that make a bunch of replayability.

* Smash Up — the base set comes with 8 factions. Each player takes two factions (of their choice, at random, etc.) and smashed them into a deck. You then compete against others to topple bases and score points. A lot of fun with the right crowd. I think they've released about 50 factions total so far, with 8 new ones released each year currently. All totally optional.

* Star Realms — great little two-player deck builder. It's space themed, if you want another theme, they have other versions that work similarly. It's just one deck of cards, plus expansions if you like it.

* Dixit — I love Dixit. I've never played it with anyone that didn't have fun. The box really spreads things out, and is mostly holding the scoring track, but you could replace that with something smaller easily. A deck of amazing art cards, a couple of voting tokens, and a way to keep score. Could fit into a sandwich bag if you create a smaller scoring system.

Zendo is terrific: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zendo_(game) One player thinks of a secret rule, and the others have to guess the rule by building little sculptures.

It's best played with a set of Icehouse pieces, which pack pretty small and can be used for a whole bunch of other games too. You don't need Icehouse pieces, though, you can also play Zendo with coins, matchsticks, etc.

I think Zendo is better with a set of basic lego blocks (1x1, 2x1, 2x2) in 3 colours. It's easier to construct and build things.

But fundamentally it is an incredible game in whatever form you play.

Do you require your Lego structures to be fully connected? Seems like that limits the possibilities a bit, but it would mean you can safely pick them up and move them around, which is always fiddly in normal Zendo.

We don't require it but inevitably people build fully connected structures due to the ease of pickup and move around.

Wow, Lego blocks! That's a great idea, I'll have to try it.

They key thing when using Lego is not to go crazy with variety you need a large number of a small variety of blocks.

Makes sense. The one meta-rule I always emphasize when introducing people to Zendo is "make the rule really simple, it'll be much harder to guess than you expect."

This is one of my favorite games. I love how while it has a "spiritual" theme, the mechanics feel like pure deduction/scientific method.

Small games with good replay value

1. Jaipur: 2 Players only, acquire different goods to trade in the market.

2. Coup: Multiplayer, lots of bluffing

3. Monopoly Deal: Simple, fast paced game (with little resemblance to Monopoly)

+1 for Coup. It's easy to teach and very fast.

- San Juan (2-4 players)

- Haggis (2-3)

- Dominion (2-4 players, box is nice but you can just have a stack of cards)

All the other suggestions are good, but it's nice to have flexibility with player size.

As an alternative to the Dominion base game, you can also use the Dominion: Intrigue expansion as a standalone (or as a base for the other expansions). It provides a substantially different 'flavor', although the rules are the same.

A full collection of Dominion and all promos and expansions is thousands of cards plus special tiles and metal tokens, and even the base game alone is very cumbersome as a loose "stack of cards".

I like Tiny Epic Gallaxies. Space exploration game. The game has some depth, but not a ton, and stores in a box that is quite small.


I second Tiny Epic Galaxies.

My wife and I play this at coffee shops on small tables with no problems.

It's a simple enough game to learn, but can become quite complex the more you get into it.

Highly recommended.

My ten year old cannot stop playing Star Realms with his friends. Probably for more than a year now.

I have no idea how easy it is to pick up our "national" card game in Switzerland. It is called Jass and you can use a conventional card set and use 6 to Ass of each color.

Most common play form is the Schieber where you play a 2 vs 2.

To reduce the "luck component" I'd recommend dropping the melds and the factor for the different trump.


"No Merci" / "No Mercy" / "Gershanks" is a fantastic game that's little more than a deck of cards.

"Paperback" is about the size of a small speaker, and is sort of but not really Scrabble as a deck builder.

"Captain Sonar" is regular size and utterly fantastic, but for best experience you really want 8 players; every player down is noticeable. It's cooperative / competitive and real-time.

For physical games: Citadels, Hanabi, Love Letter (pick about any flavor), Star Realms, Sushi Go! or Sushi Go Party!, Jaipur, Werewords, One Night Ultimate Werewolf/Alien/Vampire

Digital games (mobile or computer): Ticket to Ride, Star Realms, Jaipur, Splendor (I'd recommend the physical game but it is a bit too much air in the box to buy physically for a nomad), Patchwork.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf gives the app away for free, and you can play with just a deck of cards.

Quite true. Some groups will have problems without a few of the aids, though, so it is definitely not a requirement but a nice to have.

Hive. 2 player though.

Seconded. Like chess but quicker/more casual and needs no board.

Seconded. There's a pocket edition that comes in a nifty bag

The non-pocket edition I bought came with a nifty bag too. Only difference is the tiles are bigger.

You'll want to pick up citadels or hanabi.


My wife and I really enjoy Pandemic and quite often play a quick game using the iPad version during meals.(The physical version is not particularly compact)

A laptop and a copy of Tabletop Simulator (or some other virtual tabletop of your choice).


Seconded Bridge. Also, Go.


I found TIME Stories to be an expensive box of disappointment. You can play it only once since there is only one scenario in the box and you need to buy others after that. You'll be done with it in a couple hours

We are in the realm of opinion, so I want to offer a contrasting one. We had a great time with it, and yes, it was a one-off thing. The scenarios are about $15 a pop which compared to taking the same group of friends to a movie is a bargain. (and MUCH more engaging, imo) It is like a multi-player point and click adventure with light roleplaying elements. I don't know if it should have won the SDJ, but then again, it didn't. :)

EDIT: added more specific description of what I liked about it, in an attempt to up the quality of my comment.

Same here, we loved it. Played it together with my partner.

We immediately ordered a second scenario after completing the first. The price was worth it for us.

I don't think movies are good benchmark. You go to movies relatively rarely and basically because someone I group really want to see the movie or to be able to talk around watercooler if movie is really popular.

Most people dont go for movies outside those constraints if ever. Movie is rather expensive choice people normally don't do.

Yeah, the description makes it sound like you'll have plenty of playthroughs and they'll each be different.

I bought a card-based "escape room" game that was the same way. The description makes it sound a little like you'll get multiple plays from it, but in reality it's just a set path. The "cards" aspect was just them cheaping out, instead of making something re-usable.

I plan to let some family play it (and the other escape game we bought) but I still think $15 is too much for a single 1-2 hour play session.

Ah, kingdomino got an award. I got a copy last year from a friend who picked it up at Essen. It is excellent. Pretty easy to learn, plays in 15 minutes, hidden depths to strategy. Great gateway game, and not too expensive either.

My only house rules are to remove the bonus points for a full board and centered castle, and to allow someone to declare a broken board and discard a tile at any time (instead of discarding their last tile).

Yeah, I don't like playing with the full board and centered castle for bonus points variants either. It seems unnecessary in most games, and just punishes someone who has a slightly less optimal board even further (they're probably not going to win it anyway).

I had a feeling Kingdomino would win it. It feels like a classic pretty much right out of the box and is really easy to teach people, yet still provides just enough decisions to engage the brain and be enjoyable. It also has nice chunky components and a fun spatial puzzle to work out.

I think my copy is going to get played quite a bit in the years to come, and I don't think I'll be getting rid of it for a long, long time.

Anyone have suggestions for two-player games?

- Jaipur (set collection)

- Love Letter (any flavor; draw a card and play one)

- Condottiere (bidding/bluffing game to take over italy)

- Citadels (drafting)

- Masquerade (hidden-ish roles; better at two than Coup is)

- Portal of Heroes (scales well up to 5)

- Star Realms (deck-building)

- Splendor (similar to Jaipur but chips rather than cards)

- Codenames: Duet

Lovely, thanks :)

7 Wonders Duel

Ok, changed from http://spieldesjahres.com/en/awardwinners. Thanks!

Title should say [2017], all of the winners are http://spieldesjahres.com/en/game_archive

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