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Board Games – How to Know You Are Playing the Best Games in the WORLD!

Updated on January 29, 2010

Lots of Board Games

There are a lot of board games to play. I dare say there are tens of thousands of board games you can pick from if you want to play a game. I bet just reading this caused you to start rattling off titles of games you know of. Did you come up with at least 20?

I have a saying relating to movies: "Life's too short to watch bad movies." This means I am a little pickier about the time I spend at the theatre and in front of my entertainment system. Well, the same rule applies to board games - There are so many of them that if you want to pick one to play or buy, you want it to be a good one. So, let's say "Life's too short to play bad games".

Board Game Awards

Back to the movie analogy - most everyone knows what an Oscar is. It represents national recognition of excellence in film making. Now, the purpose of this article is not to argue that a game or movie is great just because it wins an award. Aliens, Die Hard, and Raiders of the Lost Ark never won an Oscar - but they did alright at the box office. The point is that there are standards of excellence. If you select from that crowd, you stand a better chance of picking a winner than if you look at box covers and say "Hey, I like the picture on that box."

The first step in the process is to understand the awards. Then, we will give you the winners of the awards for the last several years - to give you a starting point.

The awards we will cover are:

  • Spiel Des Jahres
  • Games Magazine Game of the Year
  • International Gamers Award

Spiel Des Jahres Award
Spiel Des Jahres Award

Spiel Des Jahres

Spiel des Jahres is German for "Game of the Year." It is internationally recognized as the prestigious award for board games and card games.

It was created in 1978. The goal of the Spiel des Jahres is to recognize excellence in game design. A secondary reason for this award was to promote top-quality games in the German market. A typical designer board game sells between 3000 copies to 10,000 copies. Like an Oscar can do for an actor or director, a game that wins a Spiel des Jahres nomination can expect to see their sales increase to anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 copies.

As we said, this is specifically a German award. Therefore, the jury is a group of German board game critics. The games up for review are games released in Germany in the previous year. It is useful to know that the games considered for the award are usually family board games. This means you probably won't see war games (Memoir '44 and Tide of Iron), role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons), collectible card games (Magic and Pokémon), and other hobbyist games being nominated for this award.

For the past 20 years, there has been a separate award for children's games.

The evaluation criterion includes:

  1. Game idea & originality
  2. Rule structure & clarity
  3. Presentation (art and parts)
  4. Game mechanics

GAMES Magazine
GAMES Magazine

GAMES Magazine

This US magazine awards games in several categories. They include categories of traditional and electronic games. The focus of this article will be on the traditional games. The awards they present include:

  • Game of the Year
  • Best New Abstract Strategy Game
  • Best New Advanced Strategy Game
  • Best New Family Game
  • Best New Family Card Game
  • Best New Family Strategy Game
  • Best New Party Game
  • Best New Puzzle
  • Best New Word Game
  • Best New Historical Simulation Game

International Gamers Award
International Gamers Award

International Gamers Award

To recognize the outstanding games and their publishers, a committee representing countries throughout the world created the International Gamers Awards (IGA). This makes the award truly international in scope. It is their goal to truly select the "best of the best" and have them be respected by the general public at large. The goal is to lead to greater exposure for wonderful games to more and more people and spread the word on a global scale.

This award is designed for both Strategy and Historical games. There are three categories:

  1. Best Multiplayer Strategy Game
  2. Best 2-Player Strategy Game
  3. Best Historical Simulation Game

In the Resources section of this article, you can learn more about both the committees for strategy games and historical games.

And the Winners Are...

As a starting point, we figured this article is worthless to you without letting you know which games were the real winners. So, without further ado, we present the past winners of the awards we mentioned.

Spiel Des Jahres

  • 2007 - Zooloretto
  • 2006 - Thurn & Taxis
  • 2005 - Niagra
  • 2004 - Ticket to Ride
  • 2003 - Alhambra
  • 2002 - Villa Paletti
  • 2001 - Carcassonne
  • 2000 - Tores
  • 1999 - Tikal
  • 1998 - Elfenland
  • 1997 - Mississippi Queen
  • 1996- Settlers of Catan

GAMES Magazine

Game of the Year

  • 2008 - Pillars of the Earth
  • 2007 - Vegas Showdown
  • 2006 - Australia
  • 2005- BuyWord
  • 2004 - New England
  • 2003 - Dvonn
  • 2002 - Evo
  • 2001 - Aladdin's Dragons
  • 2000 - Torres (MULTIPLE AWARD WINNER)
  • 1999 - Fossil
  • 1998 - Quoridor

International Gamers Award (IGA)

General Strategy Award

  • 2007 - (Multi-Player) Through the Ages and (2-Player) Mr. Jack
  • 2006 - (Multi-Player) Caylus and (2-Player) Twilight Struggle
  • 2005 - (Multi-Player) Ticket to Ride Europe and (2-Player) War of the Ring
  • 2004 - (Multi-Player) St. Petersburg and (2-Player) Memoir ‘44
  • 2003 - (Multi-Player) Age of Steam and Puerto Rico (TWO WINNERS) and (2-Player) Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Historical Simulation Award

  • 2006 - Twilight Struggle (WINNER IN BOTH CATEGORIES)
  • 2005 - Sword of Rome
  • 2004 - Lock ‘N Load
  • 2003 - Hammer of the Scots

In Conclusion....

If you are looking for a great game, you do have a few to choose from. This list is certainly not exhaustive nor does it cover every award possible for a board game. But, what this list offers you is a starting point - remove the "bad games" from the list.

I will also point out that there is a secondary list of games you probably want to consider looking at. The web site keeps a running Top 10 list of the current favored games. This is just a list of current popular games, so some entrants may be new releases or pre-orders. As of the creation of this article, here is that list, in no particular order.

  • Puerto Rico (Award Winner)
  • Settlers of Catan (Award Winner)
  • Through the Ages (Award Winner)
  • Twilight Struggle (Award Winner)
  • Last Night On Earth
  • Agricola
  • A Touch of Evil
  • EkeTorp
  • Race For the Galaxy
  • Descent - The Road to Legand
  • Stone Age
  • Pandemic
  • Titan
  • The Devil's Cauldron

If you want to go a step further and focus on the best company to buy games from, that is an easy recommendation. For international, award winning games, I highly recommend you look at games published by Rio Grande Games. By far, they are the big winner in these lists.

I would like to point out games that are not here. Many of you might be saying "How come my favorite game is not here? I have never heard of any of these games". I am not making a claim about these commercial American games. It may be related to when they came out, or they may just be very popular in the United States, but not recognized as award-winning games at the international level. It may also be that these awards are at the hobby-level, not the casual game night level.

  • Monopoly
  • Sorry
  • Life
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • SceneIt
  • Scattegories
  • Risk
  • Apples To Apples
  • Scrabble
  • Pictionary

Other Awards

We wanted to list, for you, a few other awards, so you can continue your research - if you think that is necessary.

  • BSG-Prisen - Norwegian Game of the Year

Which Games Are Your Favorites?

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