Collecting SDJ: One man's decent
Updated: Jan 21
Early in 2017 I decided to engage in the slightly fool quest of collecting the entire Spiel De Jahres based on the fact that I noticed I already had six. I've decided on two entirely arbitrary rules, one I will neither look up what the actually SDJ winners are nor buy them online (purely since otherwise the whole project could be over in a day). Two, I won't pay full price for anything more than five years old, for no specific reason.
The six I already had were:
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (1985) - which despite its flaws of pace and presentation I've always admired for its ambition and out of the box thinking. The somewhat related 221b Baker Street The Master Detective game was one of my first few none conventional favourite boardgames. Even after all this time and with its excellent sequels I can't bring myself to play all its cases knowing its a one time deal. Actually, when I was at secondary school they brought out a PC version of the game, or at least some of its cases. It was probably twenty years before I played the tabletop version and sadly my memory for stories meant I still knew the solution.
Carcassone (2001) - which I love but which my wife and I (at a point when it was my girlfriend and I) played positively to death and eventually all the expansions in the world can't stop the law of diminishing returns. Didn't stop us picking up Gold Rush and South Pacific.
Ticket to Ride (2004) - is one of those games that my family are always willing to play, for that reason the collection also contains UK and Nordic countries. Its also one of a few entry games that I don't actually tire of. For the record the family rotation these days is Ticket to Ride, Mysterium and Magic Maze.
Hanabi (2001) - I love the concept, the mechanics, the simple complexity. I absolutely obsess over controlled communication in games and Hanabi is built for it. I only bought it because I'd bought Takenoko and had a Japanese game thing going on.
Codenames (2016) - I'll be honest, I prefer Spyfall. What I do enjoy about Codenames is that it seems to favour those who in life prefer efficent communication over extra conversation. But for two similar games that came out at a similar time the purity and pressure of Spyfall always amuses me.
Focus (1981) - I spotted in a Charity shop and kicked this whole project off. I enjoy abstract games but find balancing, or rather, handicapping them a difficulty. Ultimately, as games designers we struggle to balance our games, but every player is unbalanced in skill and most players face the same opponent repeatedly.
So, at this point I started hunting in charity shops and bring and buys for a complete collection of SDJ winning games.
On the subject of abstract games, I purchased Blokus from a local charity shop and would have any way but was encouraged to do so by the SDJ logo on the box. Blockus was nominated for the prize but did not win, which you would never know from the box. Now I realise my refusal to look up the winners makes me my own worst enemy here but I feel there's no excuse for this. Renier Knizia's version of Blokus, Callisto, is slightly better anyway. That said Renier's SDJ nominated games are some of the worst for putting the nomination on the box in such a fashion that it is intended to look like a win.
Still, I picked up Rumikub (SDJ 1980), on of my wife's favourite games, for £1.50, Settlers of Catan (SDJ 1995) for £2, also Seafarers of Catan and its expansion for £3.50. I like Rumikub but there's not much to say about it, its Rummy with with tiles. Now sorry to offend but I don't like Settlers of Catan. I was delighted to find it in a charity shop actually because I knew it well enough to know I had to own it for the collection but it would be going straight onto the shelf. I won't go into why I don't like such a beloved game since I see no reason to be negative towards something I have a lot of respect for, suffice to say it doesn't happen to be a personal favourite.