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Spiel des Jahres 2000

Bruno Faidutti

August, 2000

Last Sunday, on the 9th of July, in a big hotel in Berlin, the Spiel des Jahres jury (Game of the Year in Germany), without a doubt the most important award in the games business, gathered together designers, publishers and journalists of the gaming press (there is a real gaming press in Germany) in order to announce their award. As I was fortunate to have a game - Citadelles - among the three "finalists" for this prestigious prize, I caught an airplane to Berlin in order to join the party.

Arriving on Saturday evening around 10:00 PM, my taxi didn't manage to cross the path of the Love Parade, a huge techno beer festival with a surprising family attendance, in order to reach my hotel. The following day, on Sunday, I walked around Berlin, which I had not set foot in for twenty years. The city no longer resembles a true big city, and more closely resembles a giant construction toy. The remnants of the previous night's parade, with fluorescent costumes and dazed stares, brought a human touch to that cold world.

6:00 PM, and a change of scene and costume. I arrived at the Hotel Esplanade, to await the start of the party. A formal reception, certainly, but elegant fashion remains alien to German culture. I think that Leo Colovini (the author of Carolus Magnus) and myself were the most elegant - not counting Alan Moon, of course, since he has his own variety of style. Rumors were already circling the room. After a chat with some of the members of the jury, I sensed quickly that Citadelles had not taken the prize. But, actually, no one was really suited to win: Torres is too complex and too cerebral for a family game, Carolus Magnus is too abstract and has an endgame problem, Ohne Furcht und Adel (the German name for Citadelles) is a card game and works best with five or more players (German families have only one or two children).

The meal and wines were excellent. Even in Germany, a grand hotel is a grand hotel. At my table, the general consensus was that Carolus Magnus was going to win. Apparently at the table occupied by Leo Colvini, they were certain that it was going to be Citadelles. Between the numerous courses, the members of the jury presented the games of the initial nominee list, Kardinal & König, Kardinal, La Citta, Metro, Port Royal, Tadsch Mahal, Vinci, Zertz and Zoff im Zoo. I am still amazed that gems like Andromeda, Morgenland, and Silberzwerg were not selected.

To increase the suspense, the publishers of the three finalist games each prepared a small skit for the party. Winning Moves brought in Charlemagne in person, to complain about the use of his name in such a trivial manner.

Ravensburger brought in a theatre actor to perform a long one man show, which I would likely have found very funny were it not entirely in German.

We had a production of the creation of Citadelles through the play mechanisms with a king calling, out the various characters involved: the author, the illustrator, printer, and seller. Kudos again to Gaby Salomon, who made a fantastic Fool.

In the four corners of the room were some large 3D representations of the three finalist games. (Okay, they were really only in three corners.) At about 11:00 PM, a spotlight turned from one to the other until it stopped, to general surprise, on Torres. It is hard for me to comment on this choice, as Torres is the only game of the three I have not played. It is surely a good and well conceived game, but this very strategic game is not one suited to my tastes. The aesthetics also left me cold. One cannot be overly astonished that the same jury that chose El Grande and the superb Tikal also appreciated Torres, which belongs to the same family. Congratulations to Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.

Though quite surprised, I was not really disappointed. We stayed in the hotel a long time, to converse and drink beer—except for Joe Nikisch of Goldsieber, who dove directly for the schnapps. It was an opportunity to meet some of the game authors whom I had never met, notably the nice Leo Colovini and Michael Schacht, and one Reiner Knizia equal to his legend, and making some contacts with various publishers. I left prototypes with my friends at Hans im Glück, and another with Stefan Brück of Alea. So, maybe again next year.

- Bruno Faidutti

(Translated from the French by Frank Branham)

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