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Merge branch '59-sdj-2021' into 'master'

Resolve "Spiel des Jahres 2021 winner predictions"

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title: Spiel des Jahres 2021 predictions – Part 2!
slug: spiel-des-jahres-2021-predictions-part-2
author: Markus Shepherd
type: post
date: 2021-07-01T00:00:00+03:00
- SdJ
- SdJ 2021
- Spiel des Jahres
- Spiel des Jahres 2021
- KSdJ
- Kennerspiel
- Kennerspiel des Jahres
- Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021
- Game of the Year
- Germany
- Predictions
- Spiel des Jahres nominations
- Spiel des Jahres 2021 nominations
- SdJ nominations
- Kennerspiel nominations
- Kennerspiel des Jahres nominations
- Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021 nominations
- The Adventures of Robin Hood
- 'MicroMacro: Crime City'
- Zombie Teenz Evolution
- Fantasy Realms
- Lost Ruins of Arnak
- Paleo
{{< img src="sdj-all" size="x300" alt="Spiel des Jahres" >}}
It's time! On Monday, July 19, we will finally know which games won {{% sdj / %}} and {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021{{% /kdj %}}. I really think this is an exciting year with six very strong nominees that all have a lot of arguments going for themselves (and a few against). Even after following the whole year releases very closely, I'm still torn as to who'd be the favourites to win. Algorithms won't be much help here either – the sample is just too small. So I'll have to go with my instincts instead… 🤷
[Last year]({{<ref "posts/sdj_2020_3/">}}) I manage to call both awards correctly. Quite a bar to clear again.
Let's check out the nominees!
# Nominated for {{% sdj %}}Spiel des Jahres 2021{{% /sdj %}}
{{< img src="sdj-2021" size="x300" alt="Spiel des Jahres 2021" >}}
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 [recommendations to the `S_d_J` bot](,300531,310448,312484,318977,326494&excludeRated=false), BoardGameGeek's average rating, and the [Bayesian rating]({{<ref "posts/reverse_engineer_bgg/">}}):
| Game | [R.G](,318977,326494&excludeRated=false) | Average | Bayes |
| {{% game 318977 %}}MicroMacro: Crime City{{% /game %}} | **8.0** | 7.9 | **6.9** |
| {{% game 326494 %}}The Adventures of Robin Hood{{% /game %}} | 7.0 | **8.2** | 6.0 |
| {{% game 310448 %}}Zombie Teenz Evolution{{% /game %}} | 2.1 | 8.1 | 5.9 |
Overall, {{% game 318977 %}}MicroMacro{{% /game %}} seems to be favourite, but will it survive our own scrutiny?
## {{% game 318977 %}}MicroMacro: Crime City{{% /game %}}
*1–4 players, 15–45 minutes, 10+ years, light (1.1)*
{{< img src="318977" size="x300" alt="MicroMacro: Crime City" >}}
As has been discussed many times, possibly the greatest strength is the immediacy of this game. Better than no rules required: not even opening the box is required. Genius. Also, the jury emphasises that the winner should be ambassador for the hobby board gaming. {{% game 318977 %}}MicroMacro{{% /game %}} would definitely broaden many people's perception of what a modern board game can be.
But before we get too excited, there are some important caveats. The crime theme might be the most obvious – murder and other quite mature topics might not be everyone's idea of family entertainment. The publisher certainly struggles with this: my edition says 8+ years on the box, later editions seem to say 12+. They also introduced some form of content warning for the successor, so parents can stay clear of cases that might not be suitable for their offspring. Overall, judging by their statements, the jury seems to have little objections to some comic figures being murdered, so this might not be an obstacle to the {{% sdj %}}red meeple{{% /sdj %}} after all.
The other issue is player count. The box claims that this game is for 1 to 4 players, but the jury "corrected" this in their announcement to 1 to *3* players. Those who played the game know that sometimes two players can be a crowd, so this game wouldn't really be one to be enjoyed by the whole family around the Christmas tree – and candles definitely won't provide enough light to read the details off that giant map… 🕯
Let me take this opportunity to address the "it's not a game, it's a puzzle" faction. First off, even if this were true, the jury clearly wouldn't care: Already in their second year, in 1980, they awarded a special prize for the Rubik's Cube, which undoubtably is a solitaire puzzle. An experience someone who loves games would enjoy? Bring it on…
Still, I'd like to make the argument that this *is*, in fact, a game. The standard version, where the game asks you to answer one question about the case after another, might present itself as a series of puzzles, with no player decisions at all. But I'd urge anyone playing this game to quickly switch to the advanced version. There, players are presented with the crime, but are then left alone to investigate the full story on their own. No guiding hand by the game, no feedback if the investigation is complete. The group needs to *decide* for themselves in what order to investigate the different scenes and when to call it complete. This experience differs crucially from a classic puzzle that gives you unambiguous feedback when it's done.
But then again, it *really* doesn't matter anyways…
## {{% game 326494 %}}The Adventures of Robin Hood{{% /game %}}
*2–4 players, 60 minutes, 10+ years, medium light (1.7)*
{{< img src="326494" size="x300" alt="The Adventures of Robin Hood" >}}
{{% game 326494 %}}Robin Hood{{% /game %}} has been praised for its narrative experience that perfectly blends art, mechanics and storytelling. The classic tale will draw in many people for their childhood memories. Moving around freely on a game board and opening "advent calendars" along the way just sounds like a lot of fun, and the book looks gorgeous.
Keeping in mind that there is no English edition yet and consequently only very few ratings on BGG, it is actually remarkable how highly our algorithm already rates the game. By all appearances, this is a strong contender.
If there's one drawback, it might be the price point. It retails at around 50€, but will have run its course after a finite number of plays. This might not sit well with the very casual audience the award is aimed at.
Further, it appears the designer chose a pretty traditional set of characters. This might please fans of the original stories, but for my taste I'd appreciated the courage for a more diverse representation in 2021. The jury wants to award a game for *everyone*, so any player should be able to see themselves in the game.
## {{% game 310448 %}}Zombie Teenz Evolution{{% /game %}}
*2–4 players, 15–25 minutes, 8+ years, light (1.3)*
{{< img src="310448" size="x300" alt="Zombie Teenz Evolution" >}}
There's no way around it, this is the dark horse amongst the nominations. Neither the core mechanics nor the zombie theme seem terribly exciting for hardcore gamers, but for many people that haven't played dozens of zombie games, this is actually surprisingly appealing. The legacy elements promise an interesting and engaging story, and unlike {{% game 326494 %}}Robin Hood{{% /game %}}, this game has been praised for its diverse cast, including a wheelchair on the cover. I imagine this must mean the world for some kids who feel very empowered by this image.
The numbers don't look very good for this game, but then again, it had just been released and it doesn't really seem to be targeted at BGG's core demographics. But there is a serious obstacle to winning the main award: both the cartoon artwork and the "teenz" in the title suggest that this is a family game. And while many people will refer to the {{% sdj %}}red award{{% /sdj %}} as the "family game of the year", the jury will go through great length to avoid this term since, again, the {{% sdj / %}} is meant to be for *everyone* and that includes groups without children. Pinning the award on what appears to be a game for a young audience might exclude some loyal fans.
## Who will win?
I've been going back and forth on this – as you can tell, there's pros and cons for each of the nominees. In the end though, my money is on **{{% game 318977 %}}MicroMacro: Crime City{{% /game %}}** to win {{% sdj %}}Spiel des Jahres 2021{{% /sdj %}}. The immediate access and potential shift in the perception what a game can be is just too enticing to pass.
But the other nominees are definitely strong contenders, and any of the potential outcomes on July 19 wouldn't surprise me. It'll be exciting!
# Nominated for {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021{{% /kdj %}}
{{< img src="ksdj-2021" size="x300" alt="Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021" >}}
Let's take a look at the same metrics as above, but for the {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel{{% /kdj %}} nominees:
| Game | [R.G](,300531,312484&excludeRated=false) | Average | Bayes |
| {{% game 223040 %}}Fantasy Realms{{% /game %}} | 7.0 | 7.5 | 7.0 |
| {{% game 312484 %}}Lost Ruins of Arnak{{% /game %}} | 7.3 | **8.1** | **7.6** |
| {{% game 300531 %}}Paleo{{% /game %}} | **7.7** | 7.9 | 6.8 |
This promises an even closer race – the numbers certainly don't yield any clear favourites. 🤷
## {{% game 223040 %}}Fantasy Realms{{% /game %}}
*3–6 players, 20 minutes, 14+ years, medium light (1.7)*
{{< img src="223040" size="x300" alt="Fantasy Realms" >}}
{{% game 223040 %}}Fantasy Realms{{% /game %}} has been around internationally for some time and has garnered a loyal fanbase, though it failed to make a huge impact so far. Winning {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel{{% /kdj %}} could change that.
It certainly has a lot going for itself. A quick card game with lots of winning combinations to be discovered sounds like something the jury always appreciates, in particular since they clearly lean towards simpler games for both awards. The fast playing time and wide player count could make it the ideal "step up" for those who seeks the next challenge after enjoying a {{% sdj / %}} winner.
There is the issue of its bland theme and artwork. It doesn't have to be a negative though, as a generic setting might just mean lots of people will be open to playing a particular game. In this particular case, the artwork does feel pretty old-fashioned, including some of the more problematic tropes of the genre. When drawing in new gamers, appealing artwork is very important, so I really think this game could be a winner with better artwork.
## {{% game 312484 %}}Lost Ruins of Arnak{{% /game %}}
*1–4 players, 30–120 minutes, 12+ years, medium (2.8)*
{{< img src="312484" size="x300" alt="Lost Ruins of Arnak" >}}
{{% game 312484 %}}Arnak{{% /game %}} certainly is a fan favourite (currently #65 on BGG) – choosing this game could make the skeptical crowd on the 'geek very happy. The game does come with a broadly appealing theme, a successful merging of two evergreen mechanics (*deck building* and *worker placement*), and great development work that makes playing the game very intuitive.
It *is* on the pretty heavy side for the award though. There's a lot going on in terms of different tiles, tracks, effects… If a {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel{{% /kdj %}} is meant to be *one* step up, this game might really be *two* steps.
It also seems to draw some lukewarm responses from critics. While the execution of the design is generally praised, it doesn't seem to do anything special. On the other hand, this comes from people who have played hundreds of games and chase that next big innovation, while the {{% kdj %}}Kennerspiel{{% /kdj %}} award is targeted at people who might have never played a worker placement nor deck building game and might really enjoy those mechanics here.
## {{% game 300531 %}}Paleo{{% /game %}}
*1–4 players, 45–60 minutes, 10+ years, medium (2.6)*
{{< img src="300531" size="x300" alt="Paleo" >}}
### Pros
### Cons
## Who will win?
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