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The board game of the year is based on a (brilliant) video game

Germany’s prestigious Spiel des Jahres award goes to Dorfromantik: The Board Game

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Hexagonal tiles showing train track, fields, and wooded villages, on a wooden tabletop Image: Pegasus Spiele
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

This doesn’t happen every year — in fact, it’s never happened before. This year’s Spiel des Jahres, a prestigious German award for the best board game of the year, has gone to a video game adaptation: Dorfromantik: The Board Game.

Video game adaptations are common enough in tabletop gaming, and many of them are excellent, but the Spiel des Jahres award belongs at the traditional heart of the board game industry. Since its inception in 1978, it has remained focused on broadly accessible, family-friendly board games, as opposed to war games, role-playing games, collectible card games, and other more complex or hobbyist forms of tabletop gaming. Previous winners include canonical classics like Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, so a video game adaptation winning the award is a big deal.

But when you consider the game in question, perhaps it’s not so unexpected. Dorfromantik is a minimalist tile-placement game about building beautiful, pastoral landscapes of towns, rivers, forests, farms, and train tracks. Though it’s quite tightly designed, there are no competitive elements to it, and no resources or populations to worry about. It’s very much like Catan or, especially, Carcassonne, reimagined as a meditative single-player chillout game. And it’s absolutely wonderful.

Dorfromantik: The Board Game, by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach, adapts the video game’s design while opening it up to as many as six players, although it remains a purely cooperative, non-competitive experience. The Spiel des Jahres jury chairman Harald Schrapers praised the game’s relaxed approach: “This cooperative, feelgood game has new, exciting goals from game to game, but you can never lose,” Schrapers said (via Google Translate).

At time of writing, Dorfromantik: The Board Game is out of stock at Amazon, but you can find a copy at Cardhaus Games.

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