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DSP 2007

RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .

21 September 2007 . . . The results of the popularly-voted Deutscher Spiele Preis (German Game Award) were announced the other day. The results were somewhat surprising and difficult to fathom, probably because this year there didn't seem to be an across-the-board favorite.

The results:

  1. Pillars of the Earth
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Vikings
  4. Yspahan
  5. Zooloretto
  6. Arkadia
  7. Imperial
  8. Leonardo da Vinci
  9. Thebes
  10. Colosseum
This would seem to definitively settle things about what the game of year is, but if you think about it, it just raises more questions.

Such as, why do some popular games not place in the top ten at all? This is probably a problem of distribution. The majority of the voters are German and if the game is not published in Germany, does not enter the German distribution system or does not have German rules, this limits its chances. This probably hurt the following games (the number in parentheses is the game's current and impressively high ranking on

Then there are games whose semi-remake status or combative nature or both – BattleLore (8), Shogun (9) – probably effectively excluded them. Others may have fallen by the wayside by virtue of being considered too small or "only" for two players – Mr. Jack (104) – or "only" a card game Caylus Magna Carta (123) (the 2004 winner St. Petersburg was a card game canny enough to include a board). Past rankings are here).

There were two games which it seemed should have placed: Taluva (165) and Hermagor (235), but strangely did not. Perhaps they were numbers 11 and 12.

But mentioning BGG is a reminder that there is a "people's choice" style award occurring there on an ongoing basis. Of course votes from the rest of the world and especially native English speakers are much more prevalent. In addition, probably those who bother to rate games should be considered more hard core than the DSP voters. Their winner, for example, would have been the aforementioned BattleLore with Shogun coming in second place.

How do the DSP top ten fare in BGG? (BGG ranks at left, change from DSP in parens):

Ignoring for a moment the big jump of Imperial, the next three places are just the same as for the DSP. After that, basically it seems that Leonardo da Vinci and Colosseum come up to pretty much swap places with Vikings and Zooloretto which fall lower How should we understand these differences?

First, consider weight. With Imperial it's very likely that it's too heavy for the DSP voters, not all of whom are numbered among the hard core, though these probably count for very many of the BGG voters.

Second, consider time. Leonardo da Vinci appeared early in the year, i.e. over a year ago. On BGG the ratings were made as the game was played and frozen in time. But DSP voters have had a lot more games to play since then and may well have moved on, burying their memory of this game somewhat. It seems that game makers with potential award winners may need to start thinking like American movie studios and put their product out right at the end of the judging period. Or, bring out a significant expansion kit that gets people playing it again.

Third, consider other awards. Zooloretto is the rather recent Spiel des Jahres winner. This certainly got it a lot of attention and no doubt plenty of those who had not played it yet reconsidered it and played it. This may have helped its chances.

Fourth, consider presentation. Perhaps since until recently all German games look so much nicer than our American ones, this is not considered an important factor in America and elsewhere. But I believe that in Germany there is a strong feeling that an award winner should not only play well, but look good. Pillars of the Earth (photo, photo) and Notre Dame (photo) were games considered to have excelled in that regard. On the other hand this may have hurt the chances of Leonardo.

Fifth, innovation. A winner should bring something entirely new. This is another factor that may have hurt the chances of Leonardo.

Sixth, theme. Vikings had the interesting wheel innovation, but game play reminded less of the pillaging of the fearsome sea warriors than of drafting the Minnesota variety.

Seventh, and last, luck. While a fair amount of luck is perfectly fine for the Spiel des Jahres, it is often a limiting factor for the DSP and this year that probably hurt Thebes

What now? Having learned the seven important factors that alter BGG rankings for the DSP, let's see if next year we can perfectly predict the DSP 2008 top ten. Are you game? Good, see you here in a year.


by Rick Heli