The winners of the Nederlandse Spellenprijs 2015 (Dutch Game Award) will be announced tomorrow. In previous years games like 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo and Qwixx won this award. These are game that are well appreciated by many gamers in our tiny country, so I’m curious about what will be the family game and expert game of this year. You can read about the nominees and my favourites below.
The nominees in the Family game category this year are Camel Up, Splendor and Sushi Go!.
All simple games that are easy to teach. You can play each of them with almost everybody, so these games are perfect family games to me. Camel Up has the best look and table presence with the dice pyramid and the cool looking camels. Splendor also has a good look with its poker chips and lovely artwork. And although Sushi Go! doesn’t have a great table presence, it does have cute artwork.
Camel Up is a racing game where you (secretly) bid on one or more camels to come in last or first. The different coloured camels move around a track by themselves or as part of a stack of camels, if the camel beneath them moves.
Splendor is an engine building game and what I mean by that is that in this game you try to collect certain gems and those gems help you to get other, better, gems. In this way you get more and more different tools and so, slowly, you are able to acquire the gems or nobles that will give you points.
Sushi Go! is a drafting game. You start a round with a couple of cards in your hand, every turn you choose one and you pass the rest on to your neighbour. You try to collect sets of different types of sushi and those types score points in different ways.
For me Sushi Go! should win this award. I find Splendor and Camel Up fine games, they work well, but I found them OK in terms of fun. I prefer Camel Up over Splendor, the later, with its engine building mechanism, felt a little to clean to me, almost perfunctory. The betting and Camel manipulation mechanisms from Camel Up was a little more exciting.
Why do I pick Sushi Go! then? Well, first of all, I think it’s the most simple, easy to explain, game from the three nominees. Secondly, it’s portable and thirdly, I really like drafting. Drafting makes everyone a bit greedy and that ensures that everyone is excited and it keeps everyone involved. Simply a great game.
The nominees in the Expert game category are Concordia, the Golden Ages and Istanbul.
I have to say, unlike in the family game category where I found two of the games just OK, I like all three expert games. They are all good and fun games.
Concordia is a classic trading in the Mediterranean game, but it has this cool deck building mechanism. You start with a couple of basic action cards and you can buy extra cards to get better actions, but, in addition to the action, the cards also depict a God and all gods have a different endgame scoring condition. So, you’re not only managing your action card, but also the amount of points you may score at the end.
The Golden Ages is a civilization game with a very short and simple rule-set. You discover land, put workers at work, build buildings or wonders, develop new technologies that give you benefits or points and you can go to war with each other to get even more points.
In Istanbul you try to convert three types of resources in money and, most importantly, rubies. You do that by placing your worker on certain action tiles, but in this game placing workers is a bit different. Initially, all your workers (disks) are part of a stack and every time you move to an action tile you have to leave a worker behind and these workers that are left there until you pick them up again with your merchant and his assistants. So, you are a bit restricted in your movement and that makes it very interesting.
Like I said, I think they are all fine games, but Concordia gets my vote. This is a great game. To build a deck that work well for you during the game and at the end, when all the cards give you points, is very challenging and fun. The only thing I find a bit frustrating is that the end game score comes as a surprise. You know which cards you have, but you might not remember the cards of your opponents. However, Concordia is a great game in its entirety, the look, the component and the gameplay is wonderful.