The International Gamers Awards, which is I try to equate to the Golden Globes (since the Golden Globes are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press), have announced their Eurogame winners for 2005. Well, ok, maybe the IGA hasn't attained the status of the Golden Globes when ranged against the Academy Awards of this little hobby (aka, the German Spiel des Jahres). And they use a funky voting system to determine who wins the award (scroll to the bottom of the linked page to see it). It's sort of a least common denominator thing. It's as good a method as any other.
So. I'm going to ignore the 2P award since (a) I have no idea why 2P gets a category of its own while there is no 3P, 4P, 5P, 6P and 7+P award, (b) War of the Ring is touted on its box to be a 2-4 player game, which should disqualify it and (c) they just gave an award to a Risk descendant whose production values have utility issues. Aaaaanyway.
Ticket to Ride: Europe is perhaps the best representation of a least common denominator. It's a rehash of a game that's already won a lot of praise from the LCD gaming crowd. If the IGA was going to pick a "good game" as Greg says they aim to do, then I think they did their job. No one is going to argue with Ticket to Ride: Europe.
At least it was better than that horrible "me too" pick, St. Petersburg, in the previous year.
So, for 2005, the three awards were:
SdJ: Niagara (fits the high luck, "low thought required" family game profile of recent SdJs)
DSP: Louis XIV (does its main audience, the strategy gamers, a service here)
IGA: Ticket to Ride: Europe (the safest pick, a very effective LCD game)
Nothing surprising in the winners, all appealing to the markets/audience of the respective awards. No risks either, as all three come from major publishers (Zoch, alea, Days of Wonder). Was it only five years ago that the SdJ took a risk and picked the best award winner in its history, the Kramer/Kiesling masterpiece Torres?
As I said, 2005 is/was a crappy year for games (depending on which "season" you're using).
Postscript: There's a low buzz around Caylus. I read the rules. I'm not impressed. The whole thing seems fiddly to the extreme, with a lot of special things going on depending on where your "workers" are placed. Of course, this is all just from a rules reading. The game may be much better in play, but I'm not getting on the bandwagon just yet despite what Rick Thornquist's rating is. (And I can identify with Rick's tastes - the man has the correct opinion on Taj Mahal!) I wish there was more information on Hacienda, which is looking like the only hope for a good big box strategy game from Esson 2005.