And the winner is...
The prestigious Speil game show is going on this weekend in Essen, Germany - world's largest game convention. They began awarding a “Game of the Year” award (called the “Speil des Jahres”) in 1978, and it's the most coveted recognition in the industry. You can read more about the awards and past winners here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiel_des_Jahres .
The award is specifically targeted at casual / family-style games, which are very popular in Europe.
Some years ago they instituted a “Kennerspiel” award for more sophisticated (a.k.a. complex) games, and a “Kinderspiel” award for children's games (the under-ten crowd).
I have only played a couple of this year's nominees, and none of the winners. Having won the award now, they will probably sell out fast - we Americans may not even be able to find them here. (You can get games shipped over from Europe, but you'd pay a high price for the privilege.)
But fret not! Most of the Spiel des Jahres winners make there way across the pond to America within a year of the event. By that time they are usually re-titled in American English, and the cards and rules translated for our mostly-monolingual market. So if you're not an impatient type, these might be on the wish list for a while.
A few of these are available here in the States, and have been for a while. Search your favorite game store, and ask your local game group (sometimes those folks have “connections”).
Meanwhile, the big winners this year have been announced, and they are:
“Camel-on-Camel” from Pegasus Spiel took the big award for 2014 - a race game with some wacky stacking tactics. This one is available in the U.S. if it hasn't already sold out. It's a strange theme, but all accounts I've read or heard say it's very fun, and very easy to learn.
“Istanbul” has been awarded the Kennerspiel prize. This is a game of economic wheeling and dealing, manipulating markets and making investments at just the right time. The setting is a middle-eastern marketplace, with all the adventure you'd expect with such a theme.
The Kinderspiel winner this year is “Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister!” (Does sound quite German, doesn't it?) It's a kids roll-and-move adventure about ghosts in a haunted house defending their hidden treasures. Of course the object is to collect those treasures and escape from the ghost's domain. Some awesome games for kids come from Europe, but some never seem to make it onto the store shelves in this country. You might have to search for this one - and maybe learn German, too.
Overall, there were over 600 new games debuted at the Essen game show this year. How many will we get to play? Well - let's get started!