Last year I covered the games nominated for the most prestigious prize in boardgames, the Spiel des Jahres. I went over the basics of the prize – decided on by a jury, heavily weighted towards family games – in that post, and gave some back ground on the award. Of course, the prediction in that post were severely hampered by coming out two weeks after the prize was announced. This year, I am ahead (slightly) of the game. The prize is due to be announced next Monday. This years candidates are a curious bunch. I have actually played all 5 games, and they are all over the place. Let's take a look.The 2010 nominees include a game first released in the mid 80s, 3 party games, an art game, a sequel, a cooking game, a dice game and another art game (in a totally different way.)
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age is a dice game. You use the totals of your dice rolls to accumulate resources that will help your civilization thrive. I thought the game was only ok. It's far too reliant on the roll of the dice, which can severely constrict the choices you have. Plus, the dice are printed on with ink, and can start to wear out. Probably my least favorite of this years nominees.
Dixit is sort of a combination of Apples to Apples and impressionism. The idea of the game is that the start player looks at the hand of oversized cards they have. Each card is a beautiful painting depicting weird scenes. I can't stress enough how great the art in this game is. The player looks at the cards, chooses one and announces a title for the painting. He then places the card face down on the table, and all the other players try to find one of their cards that best matches that title. Once all the cards are in, each player votes on which they think is the original player's choice. If everyone guesses right or wrong, the original player gets no points. So, it is important that your title is not too literal. This is a great party game. Creative, funny and totally different. The scoring is a little clunky, but I find that is often true with party games. This is probably my favorite of the candidates, but can it win?
Ala Carte is a remake of a dexterity game from the 80s. It's hilarious. The idea is that you are trying to complete recipes that need some quantity of the included spices. The fun part is that the spices have to be shaken out of the bottle into your little frying pan. Oh, did I mention that each player gets a little oven and frying pan in this game? It's as awesome as it sounds. Shaking the spices out of the bottle is very challenging, and leads to a lot of laughs. In fact, this game is great for getting people involved in games. If it's being played, people will come watch. The problem is that it is not that fun once you have played a few times. The dexterity part is fun & novel, but after awhile the lack of real strategy becomes apparent. Plus, it annoys me that a game from 1986 is nominated in 2010. Call me a purist…
Fresco is the meatiest game in the running. It's definitely a true Euro game. Each player is a painter trying to paint frescoes in a cathedral. There is a nice bidding mechanism, that forces the player to choose where they want to be strong & where they will be weaker. It also involves mixing colors to create new colors for the more complicated (and worthwhile) frescoes. I liked this game a lot. It was full of tough choices, and used the theme quite well.
Portrayal The last game on the list, and in some ways the strangest. It's a party game, and it's fascinating but I'm not sure it's fun. One player draws a card that has a picture on it (the pictures range from fairly complex to pretty basic) they then describe the picture to all the other players who must draw what he describes. After the drawing is done, the back of the card reveals 10 points that each drawing must include for points. The reader did not know what these details were. Did he remember to mention them? I have actually used this game as a team building tool, to work on communication. The problem is that some of the drawings are fairly detailed, and often deal with spatial issues that can be pretty tough to describe. It just seemed a little dry to me.
So, who's going to win? My money is still on Dixit. It's got a bizarre artistic bent that makes it intellectual, but it has very familiar mechanics from most party games. Fresco might sneak in if they want to reward a "gamers game", but I think it unlikely.
We'll find out on Monday!
Last 5 posts by Ezra
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