The recent announcement of the Spiel des Jahres winner, Qwirkle, gave me the good idea to play that game again...as well as the excuse to talk about a handful of other SdJ winners I've played "recently." Ok, not really that recent, but there was a game party last year when I specifically wanted to concentrate on games from 1999 or earlier. Quite by accident, I found myself concentrating on some SdJ winners from that earlier decade. It shouldn't have been a surprise, I suppose--the Spiel des Jahres jury is very deliberate in its selection of games it thinks will be modern classics, good for pleasant experiences around a game table for family & friends. That focus runs counter to what some gamers want in a deeper, strategic challenge, but it happens to line up nicely with what I like in a game. For me, I've got enough mental challenge in my day job. I don't need my fun & relaxation to be brainless, just a little less taxing than my workweek. The SdJ winners do that for me.
Games like Settlers of Catan, Mississippi Queen, and Drunter & Druber (Wacky Wacky West) were like revisiting favorite books or familiar movies, while Cafe International was an old classic I no longer care for. Torres is a more complex SdJ winner than others liked more than me, but I still enjoy playing it once in a great while. I cheat a little and consider Bohnanza an honorary SdJ game, since it was an unusual card game that made the nomination list.
Even now, the SdJ jury is making selections that rub some gamers the wrong way, but I think time will show the value of their choices. Qwirkle is light & pleasant--a common reaction is surprise that no one thought of it before! But it took Susan McKinley Ross to do that, and now we've got a game I could see playing in 20 years, unlike many others on my shelf. Time may pass those titles by. For the brand, new Kennerspiel, I agree that 7 Wonders is lighter than expected for new prize, but I also agree that it's a landmark game. We felt that way when Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion appeared on the scene. They were so good, they just had to be picked to win an award.