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What Does it Take to Win the Biggest Board Game Award? Let’s Look at Kingdomino!

What Does it Take to Win the Biggest Board Game Award? Let’s Look at Kingdomino!

Every year a jury of German game journalists gathers to bestow the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. This Game of the Year award is one of the biggest awards in the industry, with winners often going on to both critical and commercial success. 2017’s winner is Kingdomino and it now enters rarified air, joining games like Hanabi, Ticket to Ride, and The Settlers of Catan (now just Catan).

kingdoKingdomino is a light tile-laying game by prolific designer Bruno Cathala. Despite playing in only 15-30 minutes, it’s been praised for its tactical decisions and beguiling turn-order system. You’re trying to build out the land around your castle turn by turn by laying large cardboard dominoes. Like the traditional plastic numbered versions, these tiles are rectangular and divided into two halves. Instead of pips, each half features an image of natural terrains. The goal is to create large connected areas of a single terrain type, while watching out for the bonus-point potential of crown tiles.

Of course, if that’s all there was to the game it probably would not have taken home this coveted award. The key tension apparently comes from the way in which you obtain the tiles needed to build this happy home. Only one per player is visible at any time and they’re arranged in ascending order of value. Yes, that’s right – some tiles are objectively better than other tiles. What makes the decision more difficult is that turn order for the next round is based on this value. The better a tile you get right now, the later in the round you go next time. You’re potentially responsible for your own lack of options. Ouch.

The simplicity of this system is what the Spiel des Jahres committee recognized. In their Jury Statement they wrote: “Kingdomino lifts the time-honoured principle of dominoes to a new level – without losing any of the sleek elegance of its predecessor. On the contrary: the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well, they are expertly reduced to their essential components.”

In some way, the jury functions similar to the way Motion Picture Academy Awards are handed out. The minimum requirements are low. The game must have a German-language edition and be readily available at retail around the time of judging. It also has to have been released in the prior year. Other than that, the requirements are light. Jury members play games on their own, with their own groups and their own friends. Simplicity of mechanics leading to engaging play is one of the hallmarks of past Spiel des Jahres winners and it’s easy to see why when you know that the committee values being able to play the game with many people.

The Spiel jury also gives out two other awards. The Kennerspiel award is given to meatier games-kenner is German for Expert-and this year’s recipient is the Exit: The Game series, which are escape room like games. This year’s Children’s Game award, the Kinderspiel, went to ICECOOL. It’s a fantastic dexterity game of flicking wobbly penguins through a high school.

Will Kingdomino go down as an all-time classic the way Dominion has? It’s impossible to say right now but it’s easy to see why it took home this year’s award. The rules are few, the scoring is light, and yet it’s been received well by critics and gamers alike. At only $20 from your local store, it’s an easy game to pick up and add to your collection.

What game would have won your own Game of the Year award?

Featured Image Credits: Spiel des Jahres

Image Credits: Blue Orange Games

This is a sponsored post by Blue Orange Games

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.

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