The cat’s out of the bag and the winners have been announced!
This year’s show was… long… On the one hand, it’s nice to have all three awards (including the Kinderspiel) back together in one announcement, but on the other hand, once you add special awards, the review of the 1983 awards, interviews etc, even die hard fans (and obviously I’m one of them) have a hard time keeping their attention up. The jury is clearly actively trying to improve the award ceremony, so hopefully next year everything will be a bit snappier.
But without further ado, here are the winners of Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres 2023!
Spiel des Jahres 2023
1–6 players, 30–60 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (1.7)
In the end, the main award went to what most observers (myself included) considered the favourite. I guess I should be happy the jury didn’t pick Next Station: London, so I don’t have to stop being Spiel des Jahres’s fanboy. 😅
Maybe we can continue the co-op vs solo game discussion some other time, but for now I really do think this is a very pleasing puzzle, whether on your own or with friends, and it’ll make a great ambassador for the hobby, maybe even pull in a video gamer or two. I don’t think it’ll knock anybody off their socks or redefine their expectations of board gaming, but they’ll have a good time, and that’s what matters most.
Kennerspiel des Jahres 2023
1–8 players, 45 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (1.8)
Just as with Spiel des Jahres, most people’s first guess won Kennerspiel des Jahres 2023. This decision was somewhat controversial nonetheless: not so much because of the game’s qualities, but because of the colour of the award. Some people went full on gatekeeper because the jury called Challengers! a “connoisseur game” – just read through the comment section of this BGG news article 🍿.
It is worth noticing that this year’s Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres are only separated by 0.1 on BGG’s complexity scale (1.7 and 1.8 respectively, at the time of writing). And I certainly have been considering Challengers! a candidate for Spiel des Jahres as well. But one also needs to trust the jury in their judgement here who don’t blindly follow BGG’s data and apply some algorithm (trust me, I’ve tried 😅), but actually watch a wide spectrum of people play the games and hence understand the difficulty they can present. I highly doubt the 28 people who voted Challengers! to be a “light” game (complexity: 1) ever tried to explain the game to casual gamers and then leave them to fight their battles on their own.
In the end, we’re left with a winner that’s not quite like any other game out there and hence could push people’s expectations of board games today. Challengers! doesn’t have the same strategic depth as the other nominees, but if there were no skills involved, how come I fail this consistently with my decks after dozens of games on Board Game Arena? 😉
Special Awards 2023
1–5 players, 30–60 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (2.4)
Let’s not forget the special award for Unlock!: Game Adventures as well as Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories, and to some extent the whole Unlock! line. I’ve personally been a big fan of their games for a long time and agree with the jury’s sentiment that the entries have become even better over time. Let’s hope that this rare honour will encourage them to keep it up – and maybe become a little faster in bringing new cases from France out into the rest of the world.
If you had asked me in winter about my guess for Spiel des Jahres 2023, I would’ve said it’ll be a battle between Dorfromantik and Challengers! (with a slight advantage for the latter), but I wouldn’t have a clue about Kennerspiel. Because it didn’t come head to head between the two favourites, I can now claim that I called both awards correctly again, bringing my total to seven out of eight over the past four years.
As always, it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to another year of gaming and predictions. With a little luck, I’ll be live at the ceremony in Berlin next July again. 🤞