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Could Central European countries host their own ‘Spiel des Jahres’?

According to an economic report from PR News Wire, the global market for board games is expected to reach $12 billion a year by 2023. Similarly, the global market for card games is also experiencing record levels of growth and consumer demand and is estimated to currently be worth around $4.9 billion. In an intensely and increasingly competitive market where around 5,000 new board games and countless new card games are released every year, quality is key. spiel des jahres

One of the most significant barometers of board and card game quality comes in the form of an annual German competition, known as the Spiel des Jahres (SDJ, Game of the Year). Every year, thousands of game designers submit their own creations to SDJ’s crack team of gaming experts, with the panel comprising of industry insiders from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

An SDJ nomination has been estimated to increase global sales of a board or card games by around 3,000 – 10,000 units, while the winning game can usually expect to sell a staggering 300,000 to 500,000 copies of their game.

While the German competition is currently the gold standard of board and card game certifications, it is worth pondering whether a Central European version could carry the same weight. As we shall see, there is no shortage of excellent game designers in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary who deserve global recognition. Let’s take a closer look and determine whether a more local version of the Spiel des Jahres could work in these countries.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is a worthy candidate for its own SDJ, owing to the fact that is has a well-established board game industry. One major example is the award-winning Czech Games Limited, which has released numerous sci-fi board games will global cult followings such as Through the Ages: A New Story of CivilizationGalaxy Trucker, and Space Alert.

The country also has a huge affinity for card games, perhaps best evidenced by the fact that it is ranked as first in Europe when it comes to the frequency with which residents partake in casino games, according to a report from Radio Prague. This perhaps helps to explain the huge popularity of classic casino games such as blackjack in the Czech Republic. As this in-depth guide on the game of blackjack explains, blackjack has several regional variants, with the one most widely played in Europe being, of course, European blackjack.

This is the variant that has been played in the cafes, parlors, and gambling lounges of Prague for generations, a city which has been fanatic about playing cards for at least the past 130 years. A country with such a strong passion for card games and ingenuity in board game development is certainly worthy of its own major competition.

Poland

Poland is a huge fan of card games, with dozens of original card games that have been widely played for hundreds of years. Some of these are derivatives of popular Russian card games, such as TysiącDureń, and Dureń Piątkowy, while others are original creations, such as Szpaczki, 3-5-8, and the 3-player trick game Mizerka. However, the real area where Poland shines in the contemporary sphere is board games.

When the company behind the game Monopoly held a global vote on which city should be the focus of its next board, the Polish capital city of Warsaw came in sixth place, with a total of 100,000 votes. Meanwhile, a number of Polish board game creators have won international awards for their work, with several going on to secure nominations at the Spiel des JahresImperial Settlers by Ignacy Trzewiczek won a recent Golden Geek Award, while K2 by Adam Kałuża made it to the finals of the SDJ.

Hungary

Hungary has a long history of ingenious creations in the world of both card games and board games. The most popular card game in the country by far is Ulti, in which players must launch ‘bids’ for each other’s cards until a full suite is achieved. The game has its origins in the long-since dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire and has been a staple of Friday nights in Hungary ever since.

Beyond the popular traditional card games, Hungary also has a major enthusiasm for board games. The country’s domestic ‘Game of the Nation’ competition, held in the capital city of Budapest, in which a panel of 75 jurists select the best game in Hungary, draws huge amounts of voters and viewers. The most recent winner, a fiendishly complicated board game titled Castle of Mind, immediately flew off the shelves around the country upon winning.

These countries all have longstanding traditions of board and card games, as well as a strong track record of current innovation. All are worthy of their own internationally-recognized competition in these fields, and we hope to see such developments in the near future.

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