In an unprecedented decision from the Spiel des Jahres jury, 1994 prize winner The Settlers of Catan was stripped of its “Game of the Year” award after the release of gamer Hoffman “Hoff” Cexley’s findings that the classic board game is “totally broken.”
The Spiel des Jahres – known as “the Academy Award of boardgames” – is decided annually by a jury of German game critics and is considered one of the highest accolades in boardgaming.
In the 41-year history of the prize no game on the awards list had ever been removed until Mr. Cexley, 38, successfully lobbied the Spiel des Jahres jurors to reconsider Catan’s status.
“That Catan is mortally broken and nigh unplayable shocks me based on its vast popularity and evergreen reputation as a gateway game to the board gaming hobby,” said Mr. Cexley, 38. “I shudder to think of all those poor, misinformed gamers that don’t realize they’re fans of such a terrible game.”
Mr. Cexley discovered Catan’s fundamental design flaws while playing the game with his wife, Wren Cexley (37) and their twin daughters Samantha and Dolores (both 13).
It was the first-ever game of Catan for Mr. Cexley and his family.
Mrs. Cexley and the twins didn’t notice Catan’s egregious mechanical failings until Mr. Cexley pointed them out during gameplay.
“Can’t you see? Sheep are vastly, unbelievably overpowered,” said Mr. Cexley.
As the game continued Mr. Cexley became more and more upset, finally declaring that Catan was “designed poorly” and “unwinnable” and that there was “less-than-zero sense” in his playing any further. He refused to complete the game-in-progress.
“Hoff’s starting settlements were bad, and he got frustrated when we wouldn’t accept his repeated demands of six clay and four grain for one ore,” said Mrs. Cexley. “Then he refused to trade with any of us for the rest of the game, made only 4-to-1 trades with the bank, and got a bit unlucky with the Robber.”
Mr. Cexley was in last place with zero points and one ore card when he quit the game. According to his family, Cexley then retreated to his study to start a petition on Change.org demanding that the Spiel des Jahres jury revoke Catan’s “Game of the Year” award immediately.
Mr. Cexley also spearheaded a one-man social media campaign using the hashtags #CatanIsBroken and #OverpoweredSheep.
Although Mr. Cexley’s petition only garnered two signatures, it was the “passion” of Mr. Cexley’s plea that prompted the Spiel des Jahres jury to reconsider and ultimately decide to erase Catan from the official record book of award winners. Vornamen Weber, Chairman of the Spiel des Jahres jury, released an official statement:
“It’s remarkable that after twenty-five years, over 18 million copies sold, and hundreds of thousands of plays, that one gamer at last has discovered Catan’s irrevocable design problems. I can’t believe no one caught this sooner.” [In the video statement, members of the jury can be seen nodding vigorously.] “We regret that Mr. Cexley was subjected to this broken game and had to endure the emotional duress he did while playing it. It is our unanimous decision to rescind the Spiel des Jahres award for Catan effective immediately.”
“Broken or not, the twins and I absolutely loved Catan!” said Mrs. Cexley.
Klaus Teuber, designer of Catan, was unavailable for comment.
Mr. Cexley’s next Change.org petition is demanding that the Spiel des Jahres jury take away the 2004 award from Ticket to Ride (2004). Mr. Cexley cites as evidence his one abbreviated solo play of the game, where he lost to himself by more than 100 points.