As announced on the GameWire, the finalists for 2005 are out.

Nobody asked for my opinion, but here goes. In the General Strategy category, I've played 6 of the games. I've observed Around the World in 80 Days and Louis XIV so have a decent idea about the play in each of those. I know very little about Ubongo or Ys, but have heard great things about Reef Encounter.

Of the games I have played, I would vote for Ticket to Ride - Europe or Shadows Over Camelot. My opinion might change after I get a chance to play Reef Encounter. Ticket to Ride - Europe improves substantially on what was already a solid game (better ticket distribution, tighter board, big cards), and Shadows Over Camelot is my family's new favorite cooperative game (surpassing Lord of the Rings: the Boardgame). I'm not a big fan of Keythedral, and I think Antiquity and Struggle of Empires might be a bit too big / long to win. Carcassonne: the City is a great game but might suffer from excessive sequel-itis.

I can't say much about the two player category. I own War of the Ring and Dungeon Twister but haven't played either. I gave Oceania as a gift to a friend but haven't played it, though I understand the mechanics well - I suspect it is too thin to win. Jambo, the only game in the category that I have played, is a very solid two player game that I would love to own. I bet it has a decent chance of winning.