Spiel des Jahres 2016

Hare and Tortoise, Scotland Yard, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, The Settlers of Catan, El Grande, Carcassonne, Alhambra, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Dixit, Qwirkle, Hanabi and Colt Express. All these games made a lot of people happy and, despite the age of some of them, they still do today. Have you played any of them? Probably. They are a couple of the winners of the German game of the year award, the Spiel des Jahres.


This year we welcome one more game to the SdJ family, the family that games wish that they belong to. Codenames, Karuba and Imhotep are the nominees. All three games supposed to be perfect family games. Games that can be played by your kids, your grandparents and everyone in between. Games that should be able to bring a smile to the faces of gamers and non-gamers alike.

I definitely think that all three nominees succeed in that. Unlike last year, where I found that all three games were just OK in terms of fun. They made me smirk a little, not smile.

All the nominees are different. Codenames is more like a party. Sometimes loud, sometimes subdued. Karuba is more like that Netflix show that you keep binge watching.  And Imhotep is more like that after diner discussion, sometimes peaceful and harmonious, sometimes balancing on the edge of a knife.

I have reviewed all of them, would love to play all of them some more, have all of them in my collection and would recommend all of them to other people. But if you ask me which game I like the most? Or which game I think might win, I have to think hard.


My first reaction when the nominees were announced was: Codenames. Codenames will win. I like the game myself and people all over the planet are raving about the game for over a year now.

It’s a very simple and a very clever concept and it is incredibly fun. Let your team-mates guess a certain word, or ideally more than one word, by giving a one-word hint. But then I was thinking about it and read, and agreed with, a comment on the www that was about the fact that it really depends on the people you play Codenames with, whether it is going to be fun or not. More than the other two games this one is made by the players. It is a very good game, but if the people play it too serious or your ‘knowledge of language’ differs too much I don’t find it fun at all.


Imhotep can also be considered a serious game. At least the most serious of the three. The thinkiest, the deepest game of the lot. It is also the nastiest game of the three. On a scale of lovey dovey and inquisition cruel it’s still on the lovey dovey side, but you find that other players can mess with your plans and compared to the other two games that’s already a lot of cruelty.

I really like the game, but I do think it’s the driest, although I know Germans don’t care about that, and the least appealing of the three, so it’s my number three.


Karuba is the opposite. Instead of several shades of brown they have boards with vibrant yellow and green, with shiny diamonds and orange and purple meeples.

It also has a very simple idea. Build a route from A to B and be the first to get to B, or gather as much gold on your way. It’s this simple idea, the fact that it plays in thirty minutes or less and every player tries to solve the same puzzle that makes that Karuba is incredibly addicting. You can explain it in a couple of minutes and after it the fun can begin. Over and over.

Karuba should win, it’s the perfect Spiel des Jahres winner and a great representative of the board gaming world (in Germany). If one of the other games would win I won’t be disappointed, I gave them all four out of five thumbs, but I think you can’t go wrong with Karuba, while with the others it more likely depends on the type of people you are with and the type of games they (might) like if you will have fun or not.



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