Sky Team, Captain Flip, In the Footsteps of Darwin set for sales boost after being unveiled as this year’s Spiel des Jahres award nominees

The trio of games in the running for this year’s Spiel des Jahres prize – widely considered the biggest award in board gaming – have been revealed.

Sky Team, Captain Flip and In the Footsteps of Darwin have been picked as finalists for the German game of the year prize, which can explode sales by hundreds of thousands of copies for the winner – and by thousands of copies for the nominees.

While publishers tend to keep tight-lipped about actual sales figures, Pegasus Spiel co-founder Karsten Esser told BoardGameWire in an interview last year that winning the SdJ can boost a game’s sales by 10x to 20x in the months following, due to a slew of exposure across mainstream shopping outlets in the run-up to Christmas.

That kind of boost can be hugely impactful for publishers and designers alike – and is particularly important to smaller outlets in the fight to stand out amid an increasingly competitive industry which sees thousands of releases each year.

Among those celebrating this year’s nominations is PlayPunk, the new publisher launched last year by 7 Wonders and Takenoko designer Antoine Bauza and Repos Productions co-founder Thomas Provoost, which has scored a nomination with its first-ever game – the Paolo Mori and Remo Conzadori-designed Captain Flip.

Bauza is no stranger to the Spiel des Jahres, having won in 2013 with co-operative card game Hanabi and picked up a Kennerspiel – the award for slightly more complex games – for 7 Wonders two years earlier.

In an interview with BoardGameWire last year he said of Captain Flip, “When Paulo explained the rules, we already knew that we wanted to make the game because when he started to pitch the game, we were like, ‘Oh, yes, that’s clever. I want to play it.’

“…it’s those kinds of spark and those kinds of feeling we are looking for – something that when you first heard of it, you say ‘oh, that makes sense, obviously that’s a good idea’.”

Fellow nominee Sky Team, designed by Luc Remond, is a rare two-player-only game to be in the running for the award – the first since Targi in 2012, which itself came seven years after the last two-player-only nominee, Jambo.

Sky Team, which requires players to work together to successfully land an aeroplane, has proved a popular game since its release last year, and was named Best 2-Player & Cooperative Game in the Golden Geek Awards 2023.

In The Footsteps of Darwin also has prior awards form, having nominated for France’s As d’Or and being named a Mensa Select Winner this year.

The game, from French designers Grégory Grard, Matthieu Verdier, sees players take on the role of junior naturalists who have just arrived aboard the Beagle to help Charles Darwin finish his book On the Origin of Species.

This year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres prize for more complex game – the main SdJ is aimed at family-weight titles – sees Pandemic creator Matt Leacock going up against himself thanks to nominations for co-op climate action game Daybreak (which has the much slicker name e-mission in Germany) and Ticket to Ride Legacy – Legends of the West.

Despite a storied history of board game designs, Leacock has never quite managed to win either the SdJ or Kennerspiel despite a string of nominations.

Leacock was previously in the running with Pandemic in 2009, Roll Through The Ages in 2010 and Forbidden Island in 2011, and was nominated for Pandemic Legacy – Season One in the Kennerspiel competition in 2016. He did win a ‘special prize’ at the awards in 2018 for Pandemic Legacy – Season Two.

Leacock and his co-designers – Matteo Menapace for Daybreak, Rob Daviau and Alan R Moon for Ticket to Ride Legacy – face competition for this year’s Kennerspiel from strategic exploration game The Guild of Traveling Merchants, by Matthew Dunstan and Brett J Gilbert.

The nominations for this years children-focused Kinderspiel were Big little gems by Wolfgang Warsch, The Magic Keys by Markus Slawitschek and Arno Steinwender and Taco Cat Pizza Junior by Dave Campbell and Thierry Denoual.

This year’s awards underline how international board gaming has become, with no German-speaking designers nominated for either the SdJ or Kennerspiel for the second time in three years.

That is a marked difference from the late 1990s and 2000s, in which German-speaking designers dominated the nominations despite wins for games such as Ticket to Ride in 2004 and Dominion in 2009.

The winner’s of this year’s competition will be announced on July 21.

The full list of nominees:

Spiel des Jahres 2024
In the footsteps of Darwin by Grégory Grard and Matthieu Verdier
Publisher: Sorry We Are French
Illustration: Maud Briand and David Sitbon
Entertaining tile collecting for 2 to 5 people aged 8 and over

Captain Flip by Paolo Mori and Remo Conzadori
Publisher: PlayPunk
Illustration: Jonathan Aucomte
Malicious puzzle game for 2 to 5 people, ages 8 and up

Sky Team by Luc Rémond
Publisher: Kosmos / Scorpion Masqué
Illustration: Eric Hibbeler and Adrien Rives
Tactical-cooperative high-altitude flight for 2 people aged 10 and over

Ghost Writer by Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman (Pegasus Spiele)
Harmonies by Johan Benvenuto (Libellud)
Doesn’t fit! by Thomas Weber (Schmidt)
Guess it if you can by Ralf zur Linde (Moses)
Trekking – Journey through time by Charlie Bink (Game Factory)
Trio by Kaya Miyano (Cocktail Games)

Nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres 2024
e-Mission (Daybreak) by Matt Leacock and Matteo Menapace
Publisher: Schmidt
Illustration: Mads Berg
Sustainable world saving for 1 to 4 people aged 12 and over

The Guild of Traveling Merchants by Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert
Publisher: Skellig Games / AEG
Illustration: Gerralt Landman
Strategic exploration for 1 to 4 people, ages 10 and up

Ticket to Ride Legacy – Legends of the West by Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock and Alan R. Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Illustration: Cyrille Daujean and Julien Delval
Epic campaign game for 2 to 5 people, ages 10 and up

Beer Pioneers by Thomas Spitzer (Spielefaible)
Botanicus by Vieri Masseini and Samuele Tabellini (Hans im Glück)
Mixed Forest by Kosch (Lookout Spiele)
Ritual by Tomás Tarragón (Strohmann Games)

Nominated for Children’s Game of the Year 2024
Big little gems by Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: Schmidt
Illustration: Mariana Zuaneti
Treasure hunt with guessing game for 2 to 4 children from 5 years

The Magic Keys by Markus Slawitschek and Arno Steinwender
Publisher: Game Factory / Happy Baobab
Illustration: Camillia Peyroux
A risky treasure hunt for 2 to 4 children aged 6 and over

Taco Cat Pizza Junior by Dave Campbell and Thierry Denoual
Publisher: Blue Orange
A clairvoyant card game for 2 to 6 children aged 4 and over

Fluffy Valley by Maxime Rambourg and Théo Rivière (Loki)
Delicious Lava by Sophia Wagner (Three Magicians)
The Needle in the Haystack by Thomas Sellner (Schmidt)

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