Spiel des Jahres 2024 predictions – Part 2!

Spiel des Jahres

The waiting is finally coming to an end! On Sunday, July 21, the jury will announce the winners of Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres 2024. We’re blessed with another year of very strong games and I’m certainly very excited to learn what games will win the two awards.

I’ve been doing this for four years now and I’ve called seven out of the eight winners correctly. No reason to rest on any laurels – there’s another batch of awards coming up, and this year might be the closest race yet!

Nominated for Spiel des Jahres 2024

Spiel des Jahres 2024

Before we dive into the individual games, let’s look at some numbers to see some objective measures for them – as far as this is possible. What we’ve got at our disposal are the jury’s reviews, recommendations to the S_d_J bot, BoardGameGeek’s average rating and the Bayesian rating. Additionally, I’ve created a poll on BGG where the geeks could have their say:

Game Jury R.G Average Bayes Poll
Captain Flip 7.2 (5) 5.3 7.0 6.0 28.9%
In the Footsteps of Darwin 7.0 (3) 5.1 7.4 6.2 13.2%
Sky Team 8.8 (4) 7.0 8.2 7.5 57.9%

Obviously, Sky Team is the high favourite according to all metrics. But will the jury follow the numbers? Let’s take a closer look at all the nominees and their pros and cons.

Captain Flip

2–5 players, 20 minutes, 8+ years, light (1.1)

Captain Flip

Hoist your flag, recruit a colorful crew, and earn as many gold coins as you can.

The first release by PlayPunk, co-founded by hall of fame member Antoine Bauza, immediately landed them their first nomination. This game is doing to Paolo Mori’s Libertalia what Draftosaurus did to 7 Wonders. That’s a lot of Spiel des Jahres cred in just two sentences.

On the surface, there isn’t all that much to this game of flipping tiles and filling your ship with a colourful set of characters. It’s quite random and solitaire – yet this design somehow manages to pull the magic trick of keeping everyone around the table invested in every single draw and flip of a tile. It’s fast, it’s immediate, it’s fun – in other words: it’s perfect Spiel des Jahres material.

In the Footsteps of Darwin

2–5 players, 20–30 minutes, 8+ years, medium light (1.6)

In the Footsteps of Darwin

Assist Charles Darwin with his research for On the Origins of Species.

I’ll admit I have neither played nor heard all that much about this game until Ben Maddox’s interview which I’ve mentioned in the previous article. One very interesting outcome was that In the Footsteps of Darwin was designed from the onset very intentionally with winning awards in mind. So far this plan seems to (almost) work out: The game got nominated for both As d’Or and Spiel des Jahres, widely regarded as the most important awards in board gaming. It didn’t win the former, but now has the chance to win the latter.

Sky Team

2 players, 15 minutes, 12+ years, medium light (2.0)

Sky Team

Pilot and co-pilot work together to land planes.

Sky Team is only the third two-player-game to be nominated for either Spiel and Kennerspiel after Jambo and Targi. Of course, neither of them won, and I’ve already made the somewhat bold statement during the nominations predictions that Sky Team “has next to no chance of winning”. I’m not so sure of that anymore. For starters, there were similar sentiments that card games or co-ops wouldn’t have a chance of winning Spiel des Jahres – until they did. Also, the jury stated that one can simply play this game in teams – given that MicroMacro and Dorfromantik are essentially solo games that play well with a group, I’d say this logic checks out.

Of course, the strongest argument for Sky Team is its overwhelming reception, both within the geek community (it’s en route of breaking into the BGG top 100) and the jury (just look at the phenominal average score of 8.8).

One last thought about it being nominated on the red list even though most pundits had it under anthracite. First off, it should prove that Spiel des Jahres isn’t nearly as shallow as the grognards want us to believe. Second, it shows that the question of Spiel or Kennerspiel is much less about complexity and much more about approachability. The studio did a great job of providing a clear yet compelling first game experience, while literally hiding the extra material (and complexity) at first.

Who will win?

It may be my ignorance, but In the Footsteps of Darwin is for me the outsider amongst the nominees. I have a really hard time deciding between the other two games. Sky Team appears to be quite an exceptional game, but maybe the whole two-player-curse is still too much of a burden. In the end, my (proverbial) money is on Captain Flip – it’d be the winner most in keeping with the most recent choices.

Nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres 2024

Kennerspiel des Jahres 2024

Let’s take a look at the same metrics as above, but for the Kennerspiel nominees:

Game Jury R.G Average Bayes Poll
Daybreak 8.3 (4) 4.5 7.8 6.5 40.8%
The Guild of Merchant Explorers 7.3 (3) 6.9 7.7 7.0 24.8%
Ticket to Ride Legacy 8.0 (2) 7.1 8.8 7.3 34.4%

Daybreak hasn’t been available in retail for very long (not at all yet in Europe outside Germany), which harms its rating related metrics. This way, Ticket to Ride Legacy looks like the favourite by those numbers, but Daybreak would be the frontrunner according to the jury and the poll. Again, let’s take a look at the nominees in details to understand their chances of winning.


1–4 players, 60–120 minutes, 10+ years, medium (3.0)


Cooperatively decarbonize the planet and create resilient societies.

I had the good fortune of trying out Daybreak at SPIEL Essen last year. I’ll admit, when I sat down at the table, I was overwhelmed by the flurry of icons. 😵‍💫 But quickly, the gears all fit together and the beautiful thematic touches won over my heart before we’d finish the second round. This design is a masterpiece and the way it manages to make a statement without forgetting to be a fun game experience is quite outstanding.

This doesn’t mean it’s perfect – game play can feel fairly solitaire and some thematic choices aren’t to everybody’s taste. Some called the game too easy, other too hard. Some find the heavy topic of the climate crisis disturbing their escapism, others find the game overly optimistic and relying too much on technical advances for its solutions. And pretty much every German seems to take offence with nuclear power being presented as a green source of energy. So should this game receive the award, I think it’s safe to say it’s going to generate some conversations, both in public and around the Christmas tree. In my opinion, this is the strongest argument for making Daybreak the Kennerspiel 2024.

The Guild of Merchant Explorers

1–4 players, 45 minutes, 14+ years, medium light (2.0)

The Guild of Merchant Explorers

Explore strange lands, establish trade routes, and search for treasure.

This game is so old, not only did I already predict it to be on the longlist last year, but reportedly even its German publisher had already marked it as “out of print”. Now it’s nominated for the biggest award in board gaming and can hope for many more print runs to come.

Despite its age, I still haven’t played it, so I don’t have much more to say about The Guild of Merchant Explorers. My impression is that it was received very warmly and the nomination certainly wasn’t a surprise (other than it not being clear what year it belongs to), but I haven’t heard of much enthusiasm either, so a win would come unexpectedly.

Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West

2–5 players, 20–90 minutes, 10+ years, medium (2.5)

Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West

Build train lines across the United States in a twelve-game campaign.

This game might be the first hobby board game I’d call a true blockbuster title: the biggest publisher in town hires some of the most famous designers to make one of the most popular titles even bigger. Marvelisation in action. Of course, just as Marvel movies can be perfectly executed and highly entertaining cinema, Ticket to Ride Legacy has received high praises for its game play experience.

This experience comes at a cost though. The game retails for 100 euros or more, which is an extremely steep ask for an award that otherwise emphasises approachability every chance they get. It would be very disappointing if the jury displayed this kind of blatant disregard of the economic reality of many of its target audience.

And then there’s the issue of the game’s narrative: Unlike in classic Ticket to Ride, where you’re simply riding the existing railroads, the legacy version is all about building and expanding westwards. For that, it heavily relies on the common tropes of the “Old West”, which is often romanticised in American culture. The designers themselves acknowledge omitting its darker side in a pretty tired note at the end of the rulebook:

Native American tribes were dispossessed and killed. Railroad laborers were exploited, mistreated, and injured. While designing this experience, we found no way to include these elements within the lighter theme of the game.

The German edition made it somehow even worse by translating “light” as “shallow”. I don’t say that every game needs to address every possible problematic aspect of its setting nor that the jury shouldn’t have nominated TtR Legacy because of it, but a note like this just seems like a poor excuse. Harald Schrapers, the jury chairman, wrote an essay in Spielbox 2024/2 expressing his disappointment about the thematic embedding – and yet he still ranks TtR Legacy amongst his top games of 2024.

Who will win?

I guess I made my position pretty clear: if the jury takes their own mission of promoting Kulturgut Spiel seriously, they need to hand the award to Daybreak, period. Even leaving the somewhat political considerations aside, there’s too many aspects speaking against Ticket to Ride Legacy and not enough for The Guild of Merchant Explorers, so my clear favourite on all acounts is Daybreak.

I feel I’ve leaned pretty far out of the window, especially given that I called this the closest race yet. 😅 We shall see if my predictions come true on July 21 – I’ll be even more excited than usual!

See also