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Codenames Wins Top Board Game Award And More You Should Play!

Codenames Wins Top Board Game Award And More You Should Play!

Earlier this month the winner of this year’s Spiel Des Jahres, Oscars of tabletop and essentially a kingmaker, was announced and it was the amazing Codenames. It’s a good thing since you’ll start seeing this one in all the stores.  So what about other winners from the award’s nearly 40 year history? Are there games that have won the award that you might have missed? Let’s look at some past winners you need on your gaming shelf right away! (We’ll revisit Codenames at the end too).



Image credit: Thirteen of Clubs/

It shouldn’t surprise you that past winners of the Spiel Des Jahres contain a whole bunch of games that are considered epic level tabletop classics. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Alhambra, Ticket to Ride and Dominion all won in past years. We shouldn’t have to tell you these games are fantastic, but here we are doing it, because we care.

All these games (with the exception of Dominion) were also featured on episodes of “TableTop” on the Geek & Sundry Channel,  so please head there if you need any more info. Here’s the episode on Ticket to Ride.

Dominion, by the way, has a browser playable version, so if you’re not familiar with it, go enjoy it there first then buy it for your awesome collection.



Image Credit: R + R Games / MindWare Games

The 2011 and 2013 winners are both symbol matching games with unique and innovative twists.|

In Hanabi, all the players are working to put on a fireworks display by placing down cards of a specific color from 1 to 5. The twist is that you can’t see your own cards so you have to trust your fellow players to give you useful clues. The game plays fast and is addictive. Check it out. Qwirkle is a tile placement game which plays a lot like Dominoes but uses a system of colors and symbols to limit placement and allow for multiple scoring options. It also plays very quickly and is easy to teach. Plus it comes with a giant cloth bag you pull tiles out of and that’s always satisfying.

Both of these games are fun and easy but have a deceptive depth of strategy. Hanabi is a little more well known and tends to be in most collections. It’s easily portable too, and a fun thing to take on long trips. The Hanabi “deluxe edition” even comes with tiles instead of cards, which makes these games much more similar.  Qwirkle is a little more off the radar, I think perhaps because its packaging makes it feel like a game aimed at families and not more serious gamers. It is exceptionally well designed and I would recommend it highly, even if I had to win it at a Yankee swap before I considered playing it.


The competitive picture based storytelling game won in 2010 and its fantastic. It was played on TableTop and you can watch that right here:




Image Credit: Rio Grande Games

Wolfgang Kramer is currently the game designer with the most Spiel Des Jahres victories, having 5 winning games as either the sole of co-designer. Klaus Teuber is second with 4 games. Both of these guys are game designing rockstars.  However, for now let’s just look at Kramer’s work.

Torres is a game of tower building and pawn movement that incorporates action point management and special action cards.  This is definitely a thinking person’s game as it’s a little abstract and has multiple layers of strategy. Its action point pool mechanic is a favorite of Kramer’s work.


Image Credit: Rio Grande Games

Tikal is part of a trilogy of games with similar mechanics and themes. Because all three had masks on their box art this has been nicknamed the “mask trilogy”. In Tikal, players take turns exploring the jungle seeking treasure and occupying temples. Because of its action point, pool players have a lot of options on each turn but a limited amount they can choose at any given time. It’s a really fun dynamic and each of the Mask Trilogy (and Torres) make good use of it.

El Grande, Auf Achse (which means “On The Road”) and Heimlich & Co are Wolfgang’s other three winning games but are a little older and can be harder to find. Of the three I’ve only ever played El Grande which I really enjoyed for its innovations. Check them all out if you can!  On top of being winners, Wolfgang Kramer’s works are always fun to check out.



Image Credit: Asmodee Games

Finally, the “can’t miss” recommendation amongst Spiel Des Jahres winners is Colt Express. If you have a chance to buy or play this game, do it. Not only does it have a bunch of well designed mechanics but you also play with a bunch of small, fist-sized, cardboard train cars which your bandits (meeples) run around and try and steal things from. The game incorporates everything I like about games like Bang! but with a 3D visual style that really adds a lot. You’ll want to play this game multiple times to try out the special abilities of the various bandits, and also so you can show off your neat cardboard train to various friends.


Image Credit: Asmodee Games

So, that’s a short list of games that have won Spiel Des Jahres that you should run out and add to your collection. If you’d like a longer list, just pull up a list of the winners online because they are all fantastic. The same organization has awards for more complex games and kids’ games that come out every year as well. So, I guess we just handed you a pretty long shopping list. Happy spending.

If you haven’t checked out Codenames, that’s a very good idea, and if you wait a bit, it’s due to be on an episode of  TableTop  in the near future. Until then, check out the official Spiel Des Jahres award announcement video which is in German, but we think you get the idea. Ach du lieber!

Do you own any of the previous years winners? Do you own Codenames? What games on this list excite you? Let us know in the comments. 

Header Image by BoardGameGeek User: The Innocent

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