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Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at table games! Take a look at our complete board game cover,

On Monday, the biggest international price of the board game will be announced. The Game of the Year is awarded by a jury of German game critics and traditionally goes into a lighter family game. The newer Kennerspiel of the year goes into a more complex and strategic game. (Take a look at our list of shortlists 2017 and 2016.)

Earlier this summer, the jury published a shortlist of three titles in each category. While we wait for the winner to be announced in a few days, we will briefly look at the nominees in the categories Game of the Year and Kenner of the Year. Some of these games are currently hard to get in the US but all should be available in English later this year.

If the jury would ask me I think the obvious and objectively correct choice from this setlist is the awesome tile game Azul and the puzzle-y roll-and-write Pretty smart, But they did not ask me! And so we wait …

game of the year


Plan B plays 2-4 players, 30-45 minutes

Who would think of creating a game about producing and placing … * checks notes * Moorish Azulejos Tiles in Portugal? Michael Kiesling, that's who. The renowned and productive designer – I recommend his 2013 Without worries– is back in peak shape with Azul,

The game is simple enough: Pull wonderfully thick bakelite tiles from several central pools and place them in specific patterns on your player board to score points and complete lines or sentences. The components look good, the rules are easy to learn and the game is even fast – and it's more memorable than you'd expect. Highly recommended for families and players alike, this is also a great "Gateway" style game that can bring non-players into the hobby.


Queen Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes

Here is what you need to know: This is the new title of Rüdiger Dorn, who made everything out of the Dice Chucker Las Vegas to the connoisseur game winning Istanbul, His latest title has an old theme: to plunder the tomb of a pharaoh. But the real innovation (or gimmick, depending on your point of view) is the way your cards are played. Instead of being able to play something, your cards are arranged in an immovable line from which you can only play the card at the left or right end. After playing one card, draw another one that is exactly in the middle of the four remaining cards. The challenge is to use this system to push cards to the edge so you can move your adventurers through the grave.

The mind

Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag, 2-4 players, 20-40 minutes

A polarizing title, The mind is either a work of minimalist geniuses or "not even really a game." Essentially, you get a card game with numbers from 1 to 100 on them. Each player receives a certain number of cards in each round (the number increases in each round), and then all of these cards must be played in ascending order on the table without speaking or signaling.

Delay becomes the main method of communication. If you have the 2 in your hand, you will probably beat it quickly on the table. But what if you have the 7? Or the 10? Or the 20? The farther your lowest card is from what has been played, the longer you wait to see if other players discard a card first. Put all your cards together in the right order and you go to the next round. (They get some "lives" to cover up the occasional flaw, and a "shuriken" allows everyone at the table to publicly discard their lowest card.)

That's … pretty much the game! Does that sound irritating or corrosive?

Kennerspiel of the year

Quack of Quedlinburg

Schmidt Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes

A game where you can brew dubious potions (a "quack" is a bargain hunter). The game sees players pulling ingredients from a shared bag, each time deciding whether to stop and cook or what they are doing at a higher risk and possible reward. Colorful, accessible and not too heavy. (It is also from Wolfgang Warsch, who has created The mind.)

Pretty smart

Schmidt Games, 1-4 players, 30 minutes

"Pretty clever!" promises this dice and mark game, and that's it. "Roll-and-write" games like these, where you roll a few dice and make some markings or record a number on a block (think Yahtzee) are in recent years by titles like Qwixx. Qwinto. avenue, and Again, But Pretty smart is more thoughtful than most of his siblings and offers numerous opportunities to place the dice results. The fact that it was actually nominated for the Game of the Year jury's most complex award was surprising to many, but this is a fantastic game. (And there will be an English localization later this year.) Yes, that's it third Nomination for designer Wolfgang Warsch this year.

Heaven & ale

Eggertspiele, 2-4 players, 60-90 minutes

Much harder than anything on the list, Heaven & ale is a classic Eurogame about converting some resources into … other resources. In this case, the goal is to brew beer in your convent using the ingredients of your monastery garden. A serious "player game", this has been checked very well. It also comes from Michael Kiesling (with Andreas Schmidt), and if it does not break a lot of new gameplay ground, it does what it does very well. An extension has already announced in early 2019,

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