Over the course of a few of my reviews, I’ve mentioned the Spiels des Jahres (which loosely means, “Game of the Year”) a few times (Camel Up, Kingdomino, and The Quest for El Dorado) but haven’t properly described what it is or why it is important. In 1978, the award was created to reward excellence in game design in the German market.
Games released in Germany within the previous twelve months are eligible to be judged and are categorized as “Family-style” games, hence why you’ll see more Kingdomino as opposed to Twilight Struggle.
There has been a movement to establish a secondary category for these “heavier” games and in 2011, the Kennerspiel des Jahres was established, which roughly translates to “Connoisseur-Enthusiast Game of the Year.” There is also an award for Children’s Game of the Year. There are also occasional special awards but not every year.
Nominations are typically announced in May with the winner being decided in June or July. Looking at the list of winners is basically a Who’s Who of classic modern games.
Sales and marketing do not impact a nomination of a game. However, having a game win the Spiels des Jahres can result in a monumental boost in sales.
The long and short of it is that the Spiels des Jahres is arguably the biggest award a designer and publisher of board games can receive.