What Does it Take to Win the Spiel des Jahres?

The Spiel des Jahres is a prestigious award in the board and card game community. There are actually several categories, including Best Children’s Game and Best Connoisseur/Expert Game, but Game of the Year (which is redundant because Spiel des Jahres means “Game of the Year” in German) is the top prize.

Games are judged by the following criteria:

  • concept
  • rule structure
  • layout
  • design

Past recipients of Game of the Year include:

Year Winner
2015 Colt Express
2014 Camel Up
2013 Hanabi
2012 Kingdom Builder
2011 Qwirkle
2010 Dixit

I thought it would be fun to conduct an exploratory analysis on the games that have won the Spiel des Jahres and see if we can detect any patterns. I don’t intend to draw any conclusions from the analysis, of course. I’m just doing this for fun. In other words, don’t expect to win the Spiel des Jahres with any of the findings here.

About the Data

The list of 37 winners was scraped from the Wikipedia page on the Spiel des Jahres. I then scraped details for each game from Board Game Geek, including number of players, manufacturer’s recommend age, and the amount of time each game takes to play. (The Spiel des Jahres site has a “game database,” but it only outputs winners by year and was harder to parse.) All of this was done with R’s XML and RCurl packages and some custom functions.

Number of Players

Number of Recommended Players for Spiel des Jahres winners.

Of the winners, 75.68% of the games allow from 2 to between 4 and 6 players to participate. Only 2.7% of the winners allow the option of 1 player. Only 21.62% of the games involve up to 7 or 8 players and at a minimum 3. Maybe those games can be classified as “party games” and don’t always meet the criteria the judges are looking for. But really, how many games aren’t party games? Solitaire? Friday?

Manufacturers’ Minimum Age Recommendations

Minimum Age Recommendations for Spiel des Jahres winners.

Of the winners, 75.68% of the games recommend players are at least between 8 and 10 years old. Only 8.11% of the games are considered appropriate for 6 and up. And 16.22% of the games are for players 12 and up.

Average Play Time

Average Play Time for Spiel des Jahres winners.

There’s nothing really interesting about this plot. It seems the playing times are spread out and there are no interesting patterns. The midpoint is about 45 minutes, so what if I combined all games less than or equal to 45 minutes and all games longer than 45 minutes?

Average Playing Time in Three Categories

Of the winners, 45.95% take longer than 45 minutes to play and 29.73% of the games take 45 minutes or less. The one category that rides the fence is games that take between 30-60 minutes, with 24.32% of winners falling in that category.

So What Does it Take to Win?

As I noted at the beginning, you can’t just run out and design a game that:

  • allows from 2 to between 4 and 6 players to participate
  • recommends players are at least between 8 and 10 years old and up
  • and takes longer than 45 minutes

and expect to win the Spiel des Jahres. That doesn’t even cover the main criteria judges use to vote (except maybe rule structure).

Your best bet is working for one of these publishers:

Publishers With Most Awards
Publisher Total Awards
Ravensburger 6
Hans im Gluck 5
F.X. Schmid 3
Kosmos 3
Queen Games 2
Zoch Verlag 2

Or being one of these designers:

Designers With Most Awards
Designer Total Awards
Klaus Teuber 4
Alan R. Moon 2
Donald X. Vaccarino 2
Wolfgang Kramer 2
Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling 2