Episodes 56 & 57: Spiel des Schpiel 2008

56 & 57: Spiel des Schpiel 2008

Release Date: June 19, 2008

Running Time:  79 min. | 89 min.

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Envelope, please. In anticipation of the Spiel des Jahres  (Game of the Year), one of the most prestigious awards in the board game world, we play all five nominees and try to predict the winner.

Nominee #1: Blox
Nominee #2: Marrakech
Nominee #3: Stone Age
Nominee #4:
Nominee #5: Witch's Brew

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.


Spiel des Jahres Nominees



BGG | Official Site (German)

Designers: Wolfgang Kramer, JurgenGrunau, Hans Raggan

Publisher: Ravensburger

Players: 2-4  | Ages 8 & Up

Get out your forklift! In this abstract building game, you must use tactics and good luck to erect the most valuable towers. Trouble is , you might not be the one to clear them and score the points! An elegant fast-paced game with more strategy than first glance.



BGG | Official Site

Designer: Dominique Ehrhard

Publisher: Gigamic | Fundex

Players: 2-4  | Ages 6 & Up

The bazaar is bustling: it’s the big day at the rug market!  You are a  salesperson trying to attract Assam the merchant to take notice of your wares . Assam will move about the board using dice and you'll place your rug (actual cloth rug pieces) on top, hoping to gain payments from other players.


Stone Age

BGG | Official Site (German)

Designer: Michael Tummelhofer

Publisher: Hans im Gluck | Rio Grande Games

Players: 2-4  | Ages 10 & Up

Players struggle to survive the Stone Age by working as hunters, collectors, farmers, and tool makers. Using combinations of dice, cards, and tiles you gather resources, raise animals, and work to build the tools needed to build your civilization.



BGG | Official Site (German)

Designer: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Kosmos

Players: 2-4  | Ages 8 & Up

Keltis owes a great debt to Knizia's early masterpiece, Lost Cities. In Keltis, players use numbered cards to move as far as they can along the paths of stone. You must choose whether to play your cards in ascending or descending value.  Your score will depend upon how far your figures have advanced along the paths.


Witch's Brew

BGG | Official Site (German)

Designer: Andreas Pelikan

Publisher: Ravensburger

Players: 3-5  | Ages 9 & Up

"I'm the Snakehandler!" "No, I'm the Snakehandler!" In Witch's Brew, players use cards and compete to take on roles which will help them complete recipes for potions to score points. 


Mail Bag

Thanks to donors Larry "Chairman of the Board" Kruger, and Adony "Agricoler" Beniares

Andres Pabon from Colombia wrote in with some great information on some classic Spanish card games he enjoys, especially Toruro. He sent us the complete rules to the game and I can't wait to give it a try!


I'm sure there are some goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!

Steve Cates found an error in our rundown of Stone Age. "The penalty for starvation doesn't include losing all your resources, just lose 10 vp." Thanks for keeping us honest, Steve.



Surprise! In anticipation of the Spiel des Jahres Award announcement coming up, we thought we'd release the episode(s) early.

Also, I have a 48 Hour Film Project this weekend, so I am going to be crazy-busy writing and shooting movies, so I needed to get The Spiel edited as soon as I could.

Hope everyone enjoys the super-sized Spiel des Jahres coverage!

You snuck up on me! Good thing that I randomly stop by to check out the site!

I look forward to listening! I hope you bring them with you to Origins! I'd love to give each of 'em a try. Judging by the length of the episode(s), I'll probably know how to play 'em when I'm done!


No need to take our word on the SdJ nominees. You can try them yourselves! :)

If you're going to be at Origins, that is.

I'll plan on bringing Keltis, Blox, Marrakech, and Witch's Brew.


So far you are two for two - I dismissed both games right from the beginning as not sounding like something I would want to try, and by the end of the description I want to give them a shot. Witches brew especially sounds fun - I like games where you end up double guessing yourself on the order of card play.

I have been looking forward to this episode for a month now and was pleasantly suprised to see it downloading through itunes yesterday - I was expecting to have to wait a bit longer.

I appreciate the detail you go into in the reviews AND the enhanced pictures as it really helps me to decide if it is one I want or not.  Not only did you add two games to my wishlist (which now I have to wait for), but you helped me eliminate two of them as well.  I have studied all of them on the geek but the presentation and the picutres really helps me make a more educated decision as to gameplay, etc.

Thanks a TON!



Thanks JMoody and Slyvus.

Even while I may have selected a different set of nominees, I always appreciate how the jury comes up with at least two or three games that are flying below most people's radar - games that would easily be disimissed if not for the nomination.

Fun to know we can help spread the word, too.

I had to vote for Stone Age, because even before listening to this episode I already knew I would like it (and I'm planning ordering it on my next game order). However, both Blox and Witch's Brew sound awesome! Thanks guys; I guess I'll have to order those when they become available in English...

I didn't care much for either Marrakech (the rugs sound awesome, but I guess I prefer Blox to this very similar one) or Keltis (never cared much for Lost Cities), but the other 3 games do look great for me.

Thanks Andres.

Stone Age was a lot of fun. We played with three players and I think the competiton for the various spots on the board would get even more heated with more players.

Marrakech and Blox are not that similar other than they are both relatively light abstract strategy games. Blox is definitely more meaty, since your die roll in Marrakech can foil even the best laid plans. That said, as an introductory strategy game, especially for younger players, I think Marrakech can be quite enjoyable. Makes me wonder why it wasn't nominated for the Kinderspiel des Jahres...

This was the only one I've played, and I just figured I'd address your critizism of it.  You say that you have to go for the food spot if you are the first player, and I completley disagree, even from the get go.  I do however believe that you should take one of the three "village" actions.  The main reason you don't have to take farming is that the starvation strategy can and does work, though it can be countered.


Good show, though I still need to finish, just wanted to address this.

Thanks for the alternate view, Karrde.

I can see where you're coming from, but I still have some doubts.

The game certainly makes food management and important factor to consider throughout the game, even if your choice is to starve your people selectively. Hunger is a powerful motivation, right? :)

I think our concern was that you really do have to invest in the field at some point early on or it will become increasingly difficult to not incur the stiff penalties. If you wait too long to invest in the field, you'll be spending much of your turn just trying to recoup your losses or gather enough food to prevent even more starvation.

Great show(s) -

I really enjoyed the detail of each game. I even feel in a position to pick the winner for myself !

I've been meaning to try Stone Age on BSW for awhile and am even keener to give it a whirl now. Likely it will end up as a 'buy'. Both Witches Brew and Keltis are tempting - the former because I like the sound of the player interaction (and most definitely I would want the German addition) and the latter because it does sound like a neat twist on Lost Cities, but one I can play with the whole family.

So, in my envelopes-

 One I would like most: Stone Age

One I think will be runner up: Witches Bew

One I think will win: Keltis

When are the results announced ?

I had to laugh at Dave's solution for the "Box of Golf" colour blind problem.

<<Go get yourself some custom dice with divots, and clubs and stuff engraved on them.>> Yes that's one options, Dave, alternatively you could just use five standard  d6s and nominate the '1s' as dead rolls (black) and the '6s' as wild (purple). So you need to roll as many of one number as possible with the specials above. That would save a lot of money but be lower on the goober front.

Alternatively look for other dice games with five dice that have different faces on each (eg Alhambra, The Dice Game).

Of course you still need to solve the problem of the gems which are also colour coded. I would suggest producing simple chits that are marked "M" (Mulligan), "S" (Back Spin), "W" Wind, "G" Green - then it is just a case of drawing the chits when you need them.

You could even make them double sided so that they have their 'ability' on one side and the other side reads "1VP", as a reminder to what they're worth of you don't spend them.


Just my 2c. I am a BIG fan of Box of Golf so hope my thoughts help :-)

Keltis, the second Reiner Knizia game to get the award.

Wer war's? ( Who was it?) won the Kinderspiel des Jahres a couple of minutes earlier.


So it was a double prize winner for Dr Knizia this year. Congratulations.


btw, thanks for an excellent double episode!


Way to pick the winner, Stephen!  It does seem like the Spiel des Jahres jury had to have taken Knizia's reputation and career body of work into consideration when making this selection.  To me, it's kind of like when Susan Lucci won an Emmy after 18 failed nominations.   I'm not sure whether it's a good or bad thing, but I think that it definitely makes "Game of the Year" a misnomer.

At any rate, well done, Dr. Knizia!

Thanks, Science!

I certainly don't mean to stir the pot too much over Keltis winning, but it seems reasonable to raise such questions when the jury member Steffan Duksch listed the SdJ criteria for us last year and it was definitely weighted toward innovation in design and game experience. To me, it doesn't seem like Keltis would be the best fit for the award under those guidelines, that's basically all I am trying to say.

Let's keep things in perspective.

The good news is that game players win when any of these games make it to more tables in more homes across the world.

Innovation is a tricky thing to define. Sometimes it's about taking something that already exists and finding new and interesting uses for it. Perhaps we could, charitably, argue that Reiner has shown good innovation in finding a way for more that two players to enjoy Lost Cities (if, indeed, they enjoyed it before).

Actually, I thought there was also a SdJ criteria about simplicity - it rewards games that are easy to bring to the table for the family to enjoy. As much as we, as gamers, may enjoy Stone Age, I can't ever imagine getting the Lady Fuchsia to play it with me.

Likewise, Witches Brew sounds a lot of fun but there are some complexities there which may make it difficult for the average family to pick up.

Keltis, on the other hand, fits the bill nicely in terms of accessibility.

I think that many people who love playing games (ie We the Spielers (sounds like a game title)) forget that the average punter in the street is put off by some of the depth that we may enjoy.

Didn't we have this same conversation last year when Zooloretto won ?

Anyway - I can see some reasons why Keltis took the prize (ahem, as also predicted by Steerpike), not all of them political. Although I do suspect that politics helped more than a litte ....


However, as Stephen rightly points out, this should be kept in perspective. The winner should be the hobby.


Excellent points, Steerpike. I should have listed the criteria jury member Stefan Ducksch mentioned last year in his email interview with us. Here it is:

"Criteria: If one isn´t fulfilled, the chance for a game to be recommended or even more is very small. In comparison of the criteria the game concept and its originality is very important.

Consistent for our selection is the goal: To make a good recommendation for people, who do not buy more than 4 or 5 games/year. They trust us every year, so the idea ist, to select a different game-idea than in the year before. Not to have the impression, all games work the same way."

I highlighted the innovation but did neglect to mention simplicity as an important factor. To me, it's not that you can't make a case for Keltis on some level given the criteria. It's that you can make a *better* case for several of the other games fitting their own criteria.  Blox & Witch's Brew ranked much higher on the scale when I went down the SdJ checklist: innovative and simple. Given that circumstance, as you said, I think the clincher was Knizia's pedigree.


I think that we are in broad agreement but I would reiterate that simplicity is in the eye of the beholder.

Witches Brew may sound simple to the average Spieler but I know that my wife would struggle to get her head around it.

The concept of "use the first power if you are the winning bidder and the secondary if you bid the same thing but passed and not at all if you declared first and then someone claimed the same role" may be second nature to anyone with a basic grounding in Puerto Rico - or who is a pirate named Ariba - but to Joe Public it is less intuitive.

Compare this with "play a card, draw a card" and the difference in degree is clear.

I think that sometimes it's difficult to step out of our gaming POV and really think like the average family. I see this often when Steerpike Jr has friends round and pulls out a game only to have them look bewlidered at the array of options on offer.

I agree that Keltis is very simple. Having already played Lost Cities it is a little hard to compare the learning curve, but I think Keltis is even more straight-forward than Lost Cities. The one thing I came away from Keltis with was the sense that it was wonderfully streamlined.

However, what would the look be on the faces of Steerpike Jr's friends when he pulls out a game about moving along a stone path?

Jonathan - I agree that the theme is thin on Keltis and it would cause bemusement amongst many a friend of Steerpike Jr. Actually he found the theme on Lost Cities painfully undernourished and is not, himself, a big fan.

I talked about this a little in my blog post following the SdJ results: "and the winner is"

(did anyone notice a shameless plus there?)

The thing is, I am not sure how much the criteria of "theme" is considered as part of the SdJ process. This is a Eurogame award after all !

To be clear, I am not necessarily agreeing that Keltis is the best game this year (I would vote for Stone Age or Witches Brew as way above it) merely that I can see, given the criteria of simplicity, why Keltis was a strong contender for the SdJ award.


 First off, I loved the episode as always. I went in a bit interested in a couple of the games, and ended up really hoping to try them all (especially Witch's Brew).

It does seem mildly suspect that Keltis was awarded the Spiel des Jahres award despite its mechanical similarity to Lost Cities, but we should remember that Knizia had one a special SdJ award for Lord of the Rings in a previous year, so its not truly his first recognition.

I do believe that Knizia's reputation probably influenced the jury somewhat, but any award is going to satisfy some onlookers and displease others. And since some years back Modern Art lost to a revamp of a game in the public domain (Liar's Dice), Knizia winning for a revamp of earlier mechanics doesn't seem soooo bad...