Spiel des Jahres 2022 is around the corner! (Has it really been a year already since we last spoke with each other? 😅) We’re blessed with another strong year full of wonderful games that all compete for the most prestigious awards in board gaming. As in the previous years, I’ll try to predict what games have the best shot at ending up on the longlist (aka recommendations) and the shortlist (aka nominations) when the jury announces their picks on May 23rd.
Even more so than in previous years, I didn’t have much time (thanks, kids 👨👩👧👧), so I’ve mostly used the same algorithmic approach as last year. First, I took all eligible1 games and separated them into two lists: one for Spiel des Jahres and one for Kennerspiel des Jahres, depending on their Kennerspiel score.2 Then I ranked those games in a couple of different ways, and finally combined those into the final result:
- Recommend.Games recommendation algorithm (50% ranking, 25% score). This has proven to be a powerful and reliable method to capture the jury’s taste, but it’s slow to recommend new games with few ratings.
- Spiel des Jahres probability (10%). Similar to the model that calculates the Kennerspiel score, I’ve trained a model that tries to predict a game’s chances to end up on the jury’s longlist. This is particularly designed to unearth candidates with few votes, but it’s still rudimentary at this point.
- Average BoardGameGeek rating (5%). Let the gamers speak! In order to give new games a chance, we’ll take a look at the simple average rating.
- Geek score (aka Bayesian average, 5%). This score starts out at 5.5, and gets closer to the actual average the more ratings come in. It’s more reliable, but also strongly favours games that have been around for longer and hence gathered more ratings.
- Recommend.Games ranking (5%). We introduced a new default ranking on R.G a couple of months ago, which seems to pick up new games shooting up the hotness a little faster than on BGG, so let’s give it a shot as part of these predictions. 🤓
Candidates for Spiel des Jahres 2022
2–6 players, 30 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (2.0), 96% Spiel
Well, this is something of a surprise prediction since Die wandelnden Türme doesn’t even have an English title yet and only a handful of ratings on BGG. There must be something about this game if the algorithm could still pick it up amongst the crowd.
#2: So Clover!
3–6 players, 30 minutes, 10+ years, light (1.1), 100% Spiel
A cooperative word–association game by publisher Repos Production, in many ways reminiscent of Spiel des Jahres winner Just One. The jury generally doesn’t mind repeating themselves, so So Clover! is definitely in the running.
#3: Top Ten
4–9 players, 30 minutes, 14+ years, light (1.1), 98% Spiel
Another cooperative party game, light and with an immediate hook – exactly what the jury is looking for.
2–5 players, 30 minutes, 8+ years, light (1.1), 97% Spiel
This is an interesting one: While the jury completely ignored the original Lost Cities (now considered a classic), it did pin the main award on Keltis (essentially the board game version). Will they come back to the same system for the Roll & Write version?
#5: Cross Clues
2–6 players, 5–10 minutes, 7+ years, light (1.0), 100% Spiel
…and another cooperative word–association party game… I sense a pattern! 😅 Does Cross Clues have what it takes to set itself apart from its competitors?
#6: Fire & Stone
2–4 players, 45–60 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (2.0), 86% Spiel
1–4 players, 20 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (1.8), 98% Spiel
Phil Walker-Harding has built an impressive portfolio of award winning games over the past years, so Explorers could be his next shot at winning Spiel des Jahres.
2–7 players, 25 minutes, 8+ years, light (1.4), 99% Spiel
The little sibling of the inaugural Kennerspiel des Jahres winner already won the 2022 As d’Or, the French equivalent of Spiel des Jahres, so this is definitely one to watch.
2–6 players, 10–20 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (2.0), 95% Spiel
There’s been many cute and/or ugly animal themed light games by Jacques Zeimet that were often well received by the jury, so Hula-Hoo! could be the next in that line.
2–4 players, 20–40 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (1.8), 93% Spiel
My two cents
Alrighty, so these were the top ten candidates for a recommendation as determined by our algorithm. As always, I’ll add my personal best guess for the three nominees:
Candidates for Kennerspiel des Jahres 2022
3–5 players, 30–50 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (2.2), 74% Kennerspiel
A bit of a latecomer to Germany, Cryptid already gathered a lot of momentum internationally and hence is an easy recommendation for our algorithm.
1–4 players, 30–45 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (1.9), 53% Kennerspiel
Cascadia is another international favourite that was met with positive reviews, though most find it soothing rather than exciting. Also, it seems to be just on the border between the two awards, so could end up on either list.
#3: Ark Nova
1–4 players, 90–150 minutes, 14+ years, medium heavy (3.7), 100% Kennerspiel
Ark Nova is the heavy eurogame of the season and has a good shot at a spot on the longlist. It’s way too heavy for a nomination though.
1–4 players, 60 minutes, 13+ years, medium light (2.3), 98% Kennerspiel
1–4 players, 60–90 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (2.2), 97% Kennerspiel
Another non–controversial game with a soothing animal theme. I don’t have more to say about Meadow.
#6: Dune: Imperium
1–4 players, 60–120 minutes, 14+ years, medium (3.0), 100% Kennerspiel
My feeling is that games with a strong franchise generally are somewhat outside the jury’s scope: While strongly drawing in the enthusiastic fan base, it leaves the majority of the audience rather distance. Dune: Imperium might just be the exception to the rule since the reviews were really strong.
1–4 players, 80 minutes, 10+ years, medium (2.8), 100% Kennerspiel
Another game that was available internationally and has recently seen a German release from Kosmos, who certainly know how to win awards with their games.
1–5 players, 30 minutes, 14+ years, medium light (1.7), 88% Kennerspiel
Canvas definitely has some stunning artwork, though the critical response to the gameplay was rather lackluster…
#9: Free Ride
1–5 players, 50–90 minutes, 10+ years, medium (2.7), 100% Kennerspiel
Friedemann Friese’s venture into the train game genre. It’s been a while since the jury was really excited by one of his creations.
#10: Living Forest
1–4 players, 40 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (2.2), 77% Kennerspiel
Living Forest is the latest Kennerspiel hotness. It got quite recently released and hasn’t received a lot of ratings yet, but is definitely on the jury’s radar.
My two cents
Same procedure as for Spiel des Jahres, here are my three top picks for Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination:
This is always the section where I squeeze in a few more title in order to increase my chance of covering the whole list. There’s plenty of strong games I could mention, but I’ll restrict myself to two additional candidates for Spiel des Jahres that the algorithm just wouldn’t quite pick up:
- Voll verplant (internationally known as Metro X): A simple to learn, yet very difficult to master flip & write subway building game.
- SCOUT: A highly celebrated ladder–climbing game from highly celebrated publisher Oink Games.
Looking through the list of games, there’s two trends I see:
- Games arriving late to Germany. More so than in previous years, there’s plenty of titles with release date 2020 or earlier in the BGG database which have become only available in the past 12 months to the German market. Of course, there’s a bias towards these games in the algorithm since they received more ratings than brand new titles, but there might also be some release delays due to the ongoing effects of COVID–19.
- Nature. Maybe this is the legacy of smash hit Wingspan or maybe it’s people looking for comfort. But there are definitely a lot of animals, plants, parks, etc, on the covers of this list.
Will the jury agree and follow my predictions? We’ll see on Monday, May 23. I can’t wait! 🤩
As every year, it’s not straightforward to determine what games are eligible for the awards. Generally speaking, it’d be those games release between April 2021 and March 2022 into German retail. Hence, filtering by BGG release year will exclude games that were released earlier elsewhere, but only recently in Germany, and likewise let some games pass that have not seen a German release in that time window. I did my best to catch what I could, but there’s always some that get away. ↩︎
I’ll trust the algorithm and the scores it outputs blindly. As every year, it’ll be an interesting validation of the Kennerspiel score to see whether the jury agrees or not. ↩︎