Meet the biggest board games of the year: these games won the industry's most influential awards

These are the three board games you'll hear a LOT about in 2020 (and the runners-up you might love too)

Board game award winners
(Image credit: PD-Verlag, Thames & Kosmos)

The Spiel des Jahres are the most famous and influential board game awards of the year, and loads of games recognised by it have become smash hits, and featured in our list of the best board games

The winner of the main award this year is a weird and creative game called Pictures, about recreating images using, basically, a load of junk. An ingenious, small and cheap cooperative card game called The Crew also won one of the three awards, with a cute children's game about hedgehogs rounding out the list. If you're looking at buying new board games this year, expect to hear lots about them.

One of the reasons the SdJ carries such weight is that it doesn't tend to be a stuffy award chosen for real 'insiders' – it often favours clever, light games that are great for people new to modern board games. Previous winners include Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, if you want examples of just how big previous winners have become.

There are three awards in the SdJ: Spiel des Jahres (Game of the year); Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur's game of the year); and Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children's game of the year).

Board game news Pictures

(Image credit: PD-Verlag)

The winner of the core Spiel des Jahres is Pictures, in which you'll need to recreate an artsy picture using a bunch of weird components the game comes with: shoelaces, wooden blocks, sticks, stones and some coloured cubes. That's it! There are 16 pictures on cards in the middle of the table, and everyone else has to work out which one of them you're trying to mimic as best you can from the provided debris. It's silly, it's funny, there are no big rules explanations, and you get to be triumphantly creative.

The two runners-up were: My City; and Nova Luna. My City is a game of building up a city using Tetris-like pieces over many ages. It's a 'legacy' game, which means that when you play a game, you don't clean it all down at the end – you keep certain things in place, and build on them the next time you play.

Nova Luna is quite fiddly-looking game of laying tiles that, I'll be honest, I am struggling to understand no matter how many times I read the blurb. Hopefully I'll get to try it out and maybe things will fall into place…

Board game news The Crew

(Image credit: Thames & Kosmos)

The Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur's game of the year) winner is also a game that's really beginner-friendly this year, and is of more interest to enthusiasts because it's such a clever conceit, rather than for being a big, complex game or anything like that.

The Crew is a trick-taking game, meaning it plays like Hearts in lot of little turns where everyone lays a single card to 'win' that trick… but instead of just trying to win whenever you can, you all have specific objectives to achieve, and you're working together to meet them. 

One player might need to specifically win a trick that contains the blue 8 card, for example, which means everyone else has to play along to make sure that card is played in a trick that person can definitely win. But there'll be many objective, and if you've played Hearts, you'll remember that a big part of this kind of game is how, towards the end of rounds where you've already used lots of cards, you often don't have much of a choice as to what cards you're able to play, or you're playing cards of the 'wrong' colour intentionally. So a key part of the game is working out together who's able to play what, to enable the right person to do what's needed.

It comes with loads of scenarios, so though the game stays the same, you're always solving a new puzzle.

The runners-up were: Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale; and The King’s Dilemma. Cartographers is a game of literally drawing maps, according to the whims of the Queen – you'll get more points the more you can make the land you're 'discovering' fit what she desires.

The King's Dilemma is a fascinating social and narrative game, in which you all play as members of the King's court, making decisions for a fictional land. You want to do what's best for the kingdom… except you also all represent your own personal 'houses' with unique interests, so maybe you'd like to exploit the latest crisis for your own ends, or maybe you suspect someone else is trying to, and you want to stop it…

Board game news Hedgehog Roll

(Image credit: Lifestyle Games)

Finally, the Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children's game of the year) winner is Hedgehog Roll, also known as Speedy Roll in Germany. It's a slightly bonkers racing game, in which you need to move along a board by collecting the right food symbols for your hedgehog. How to you collect them? You roll a hedgehog (which suspiciously resembles a brown tennis ball with a face) over some velcro tokens matching the food symbols – pick up the right ones and you'll be able to move! But don't pick up too many, you greedy 'hog, or your prickly pal will be too stuffed to move.

You can play the game competitively, seeing who can each the end first, or cooperatively, in which the aim is work together to stay ahead of a fox, which moves inexorably up the board every turn.

The runners-up were: Foto Fish; and Robots (AKA Wir Sind De Roboter). Foto Fish helps kids to build observation skills by giving them a grid full of coloured fish, and a camera-shaped cardboard frame. Roll two dice with the same coloured fish options on, and the kids need to find a 'photo' they can frame on the board with their camera that includes the two fish.

Robots is another original concept, and again can be cooperative or competitive. There are cards in the middle of the table with a route on, and many objects along the route evenly spaced. The robot has a hidden card that tells them which object they're travelling to, and how fast. The robot declares how fast they're going (just 'slow', 'normal' or 'fast'), then makes a beep sound to start their journey, tracks their travel in their mind, and then beeps to indicate a stop. Everyone else guesses what object they reached. That's it! There's a bit of a social element in that you have to work out how fast that particular person things 'fast' is, or whatever, but it's just a simple, inexpensive guessing game with few rules.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.