The middle of 2012 may seem a bit late to be announcing the best games of 2011, but when it comes to board and card games, it takes time to really digest a title and gauge its worth. For the past few months, eleven German game journalists have pored over the slate of 2011 releases to decide who would win their country's internationally-recognized "Spiel des Jahres" award.
The votes have all been tallied and the winners now have their trophies in hand. Earlier in the year, I wrote about how the nine nominees were likely games most people had never heard of, but in the end, the winners were definitely the most recognizable. For the overall game of the year award, Kingdom Builder from publisher Queen Games and designer Donald X. Vaccarino took home the Spiel des Jahres award. A second award was also handed out for the best complex game (Kennerspiel des Jahres), going to Village from publishers Eggertspiele and Pegasus Spiele, and designers Inka and Markus Brand.
Among its competition, Kingdom Builder was the most recognizable due to the stature of its designer. Vaccarino is already a Spiel des Jahres recipient for his first hit game, Dominion, but has spent the past several years exclusively publishing new Dominion card sets. With a strong reputation to back him up, Vaccarino broke that trend in 2011 with Kingdom Builder and has continued on with Nefarious and Infiltration.
People were clamoring to see just what the guy who made Dominion would cook up next, and Vaccarino did not disappoint. Kingdom Builder is a unique castle-building game that uses reconfigureable sets of hex-shaped terrain pieces. In other words, it's nothing like Dominion, yet equally worthy of the German press's accolades and your attention.
The full breakout of components for Kingdom Builder
Village also had a healthy amount of buzz going into the Spiel des Jahres awards ceremony, and was widely predicted to take the Kennerspiel complex game award. As a worker placement game that has players controlling four successive generations of residents, Village challenges its players in unique ways. Namely, they'll have to pay for their actions with the most precious resource of all: time, made only more precious be the reminder that the workers under your control only have so long to live.
Inka and Markus Brand, designers of Village, accepting their awards. Photo by @eggertspiele
Kingdom Builder has been available in the United States for close to a year, but Village is still waiting on its American import. Publisher Tasty Minstrel Games will be bringing Village stateside, and hopes to have the imported copies in hand later this summer.