The Kramer Rule

When I read Tom’s article last week, I immediately disagreed with it, and responded to him with some of my disagreements.  But it wasn’t until he suggested that I write a rebuttal that I realized – there’s a reasonable and objective way to measure whether the effect he suggests exists – and whether, in fact, Wolfgang Kramer is the exception.  This eliminates the personal bias that I feel Tom brought to his article, and focuses the response on the claims Tom made.

Tom had two primary claims in his article:

  • “The Spiel des Jahres has a peculiar knack for honoring great designers for some of their worst games.”, and
  • “…it appears the award diverts designers’ attention from their more innovative and enduring creations. “

So, do these assertions hold?

The place we’ll need to go for objective data is BoardGameGeek.  But how do we measure these claims?  The claim that designers see some of their worst games selected for the Spiel des Jahres is easy enough to measure – where does the Spiel des Jahres winner fall, in ratings, among the designer’s offerings?  Since a Spiel des Jahres award brings exposure to a game, we’ll ignore rank (which is significantly impacted by the number of ratings), and just use average rating, for all games with at least 100 ratings.  If Tom’s claim is true, one would expect Spiel des Jahres winners to hold a low position among a designer’s games in average ratings – particularly given that BGG tends to look for (and thus rate higher) heavier games than the Spiel des Jahres jury.

To determine whether the award diverts designer’s attention away from their more innovative and enduring creations, we’ll look at the 5 years _before_ the designer won the award, and the 5 years (or time available) _after_, to see how their output has been effected, and look at whether their design with the highest average rating – presumably their most innovative and enduring creation – came before or after their first Spiel des Jahres award.  (We’ll use their first award, among those with multiple awards, because it’s something we can look at for all winners, not just repeat winners, and because if such an effect exists it would presumably begin from the moment they’ve won the award.)

As Tom’s article focused on more recent winners – 1994-present – we’ll look in the same range.

Andreas Seyfarth

Spiel des Jahres 1994: Manhattan

Spiel des Jahres 2006: Thurn & Taxis

Andreas Seyfarth has never been a prolific designer; not including expansions or new editions, he’s only released five games with 100+ ratings.

Manhattan rank: 4th of 5

Thurn & Taxis rank: 3rd of 5

Neither of these is his “worst” game.  And in fact, both have a higher average rating than his other major release, Waldmeister, which falls just short of 100 ratings.

Five years before Manhattan: No games released.

Five years after Manhattan: No games released.

Five years before Thurn & Taxis: Puerto Rico, San Juan

Five years after Thurn & Taxis: Airships

Highest average rating: Puerto Rico (released _after_ Manhattan)

The data here is mixed.  Seyfarth’s “best” game clearly was designed after he won the Spiel des Jahres, but on the whole his limited published content makes it difficult to say that the award has had any significant impact upon his work.

Klaus Teuber

Spiel des Jahres 1995: Die Siedler von Catan

(Three previous awards) 

Teuber has 43 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Settlers rank: 1 of 43

Clearly, this is accepted as Teuber’s _best_ design, not his worst.

Five years before Settlers: Adel Verpflichtet, Drunter & Drüber, Vernissage, Der Fliegende Holländer

Five years after Settlers: Löwenherz, Die Siedler von Nürnberg, Catan Card Game, Starfarers of Catan, Entdecker, Die Ritter von der Haselnuss

Highest average rating (besides Settlers or Settlers derivates): Löwenherz (released _after_ Settlers)

The data here is fairly clear.  While Teuber had two Spiel des Jahres winners in the half-decade prior to Settlers, even ignoring Settlers derivatives his published designs after Settlers are the ones more appreciated on BGG.

Wolfgang Kramer

Spiel des Jahres 1996: El Grande

Spiel des Jahres 1999: Tikal

Spiel des Jahres 2000: Torres

 (Two previous awards)

Kramer has 66 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

El Grande rank: 1 of 66

Tikal rank: 3 of 66

Torres rank: 6 of 66

All three of Kramer’s designs rank very high among his offerings on BGG.

Five years before El Grande: Big Boss, Expedition, 6 Nimmt!, Top Race, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, Columbus

Between El Grande and Tikal: Haste Worte?, Tycoon, El Caballero, Take 5!, Magalon

Five years after Torres: Maharaja, Hacienda, Mexica, Gulo Gulo, Pueblo, Goldland, Wildlife, Australia, Tanz der Hornochsen!, That’s Life!, Sunken City, Who’s the Ass?, Saga, FBI, Vampire

Highest average rating (besides El Grande): The Princes of Florence (released _after_ El Grande)

Kramer had success both before and after his aware.  However, the most interesting effect here is the _number_ of releases before and after his impressive Spiel des Jahres streak – in the five years prior to El Grande’s win – after he’d already won two awards – he had six games published.  In the five years after, he had _15_ games published.  Tom gave Kramer as an exception to his hypothesis, but this data suggests one real advantage of the award – greater demand for the designer’s games.

Werner Hodel

Spiel des Jahres 1997: Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen (and the expansion, The Black Rose) are Hodel’s only published games, so there’s no useful data here.

Alan R. Moon

Spiel des Jahres 1998: Elfenland

Spiel des Jahres 2004: Ticket to Ride

Alan has 49 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Elfenland rank: 14 of 49

Ticket to Ride rank: 3 of 49 (behind two Ticket to Ride sequels)

Definitely two of Alan’s better games, as BGG sees it, not his worst.

Five years before Elfenland: Reibach & Co., Freight Train, Mush

Between Elfenland and Ticket to Ride: Union Pacific, San Marco, Capitol, Santa Fe Rails, Clippers, Europa Tour, 10 Days in Africa, New England, Das Amulett, 10 Days in the USA, Canal Grande, Andromeda, Wongar, King of the Elves, King’s Breakfast, Mammoth Hunters, Lumberjack, Gold und Rum, Time Pirates

Five years after Ticket to Ride: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Ticket to Ride: Märklin, Incan Gold, 10 Days in Asia, Diamant, Skyline 3000, Ticket to Ride: The Card Game, Walk the Dogs, Gracias, Surf’s Up, Dude!

Highest average rating (besides Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride derivatives): Airlines Europe (released _after_ both Elfenland and Ticket to Ride)

If you want to make a case for a designer’s innovation being negatively impacted by the Spiel des Jahres award, this is the best case so far.  But at that, the data doesn’t really support that conclusion; Alan had much more success and innovation in his published designs the five years _after_ Elfenland won than in the five years preceding – and more in the five years after Ticket to Ride won than in the five years preceding Elfenland.  It’s only when you compare the period after Elfenland to the period after Ticket to Ride that you can make any claim that the Spiel des Jahres award has had a negative impact.  And even that’s questionable; it’s notable that Airlines Europe – which, while derived from a much earlier game, shows significant innovation in its development – is a post-Ticket to Ride design.

Klaus-Jürgen Wrede

Spiel des Jahres 2001: Carcassonne 

Wrede has 20 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Carcassonne rank: 2 of 20 (behind Carcassonne: Winter Edition)

Clearly not Wrede’s worst game.

Five years before Carcassonne: None

Five years after Carcassonne: Carcassonne: The City, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, The Downfall of Pompeii, Carcassonne: The Castle, The Ark of the Covenant, Mesopotamia, Carcassonne: The Discovery, Die Fugger, Krone & Schwert, Dragonriders, Anasazi

Highest average rating (besides Carcassonne or Carcassonne derivatives): The Downfall of Pompeii (released _after_ Carcassonne)

Frankly, Carcassonne put Wrede on the map; he’s had his greatest success with the game, but he’s had a wide variety of games published in the years since Carcassonne, and the award has undoubtedly helped him to see so many of his games hit the market.

Bill Payne

Spiel des Jahres 2002: Villa Paletti

Payne has not had any noteworthy designs published other than Villa Paletti.

Dirk Henn

Spiel des Jahres 2003: Alhambra

Henn has 17 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Alhambra rank: 5 of 17

While not acknowledged by BGG as his “best” game, Alhambra is far closer to his “best” than his “worst”.

Five years before Alhambra: Wallenstein (first edition), Atlantic Star,

Five years after Alhambra: Shogun, Alhambra: The Dice Game

Highest average rating: Wallenstein (second edition) (released _after_ Alhambra)

(Or, if you don’t count it, Shogun – also released after Alhambra)

Frankly, Henn’s period of greatest innovation was back in the early 1990s – long before he won the Spiel des Jahres.  It’s hard to argue that winning the award has significantly impacted his output; the largest effect has been to bring more of his early db Spiel games to a wider audience.

Thomas Liesching

Spiel des Jahres 2005: Niagara

Liesching has only two games on BGG with at least 100 ratings, another case of insufficient data to prove or disprove Tom’s hypothesis.

Michael Schacht

Spiel des Jahres 2007: Zooloretto 

Schacht has 48 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Zooloretto rank: 9 of 48 (Aquaretto ranks #2, Zooloretto Mini #5)

Once again, Schacht’s Spiel des Jahres winner is viewed as being far closer to his “best” design than his “worst” one.

Five years before Zooloretto: China, Coloretto, Hansa, Dschunke, Richelieu, Magna Grecia, Crazy Chicken, Industria, Mogul, Rat Hot, California, Paris Paris, Fist of Dragonstones, Der Elefant im Porzellanladen, Coloretto Amazonas, Architekton, The Hollywood! Card Game, Diabolo, Sushi Express, Hispaniola

Five years after Zooloretto: Aquaretto, Mondo Sapiens, Zooloretto Mini, Baldora, Africana, Mondo, Felinia, Industry, The Golden City, Coney Island, Shanghaien, Call to Glory, Zooloretto: The Dice Game, Gold!, Bürger, Baumeister & Co., Crazy Creatures of Dr. Doom, Boss Kito

Highest average rating: Web of Power (released _before_ Zooloretto)

On the whole, there’s no evidence that Schacht’s innovation has suffered in the least as a result of winning the Spiel des Jahres.  Of his top 10 games, five are post-Zooloretto, four are pre-Zooloretto, and one _is_ Zooloretto.

Reiner Knizia

Spiel des Jahres 2008: Keltis

Knizia has 169 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Keltis rank: 60 of 169 (Keltis: Das Orakel is the highest ranking of the Keltis derivatives at #16)

Not only is Keltis not Knizia’s “worst” – it’s comfortably in the top half.

Five years before Keltis: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition), Amun Re, Ingenious, Ingenious: Travel Edition, Carcassonne: The Castle, Whoowasit?, Blue Moon City, Razzia!, Blue Moon, Ribbit, Tower of Babel, Schatz der Drachen, Cheeky Monkey, Merchants, Palazzo, Medici vs. Strozzi, Pickomino, Genesis, Poison, Beowulf: The Legend, Geowulf: The Movie Board Game, Duell, Times Square, Great Wall of China, Risk Express, Mago Magino, Reiner Knizia’s Decathlon, Marco Polo Expedition, Euphrates & Tigris Card Game, King Arthur: The Card Game, Lord of the Rings, Minotaur Lords, Alles Tomate!, Bunte Runde, Easy Come, Easy Go, Tal der Abenteuer: Die Schatzsuche im Himalaja, Toppo, Code Cracker, Gravediggers, Reiner Knizia’s Amazing Flea Circus, Queen of the Cupcakes, Dead Man’s Treasure, Fish Eat Fish, Head-to-Head Poker, Dragon Parade, Double or Nothing, Escalation!, Little Italy, Pirates!, Spy, Battleship Express, Mmm… Brains!, Figaro, SuDoku: Das Kartenspiel, King Arthur, Penguin

Four years after Keltis: Keltis: Das Orakel, Priests of Ra, Keltis: Das Kartenspiel, Qin, Ra: The Dice Game, Jäger und Sammler, Indigo, FITS, Star Trek: Expeditions, Modern Art: The Card Game, Keltis: Das Würfelspiel, BITS, Keltis: Der Weg der Steine, Yin Yang, Abandon Ship, Samurai: The Card Game, Big Five, Speculatum, Heckmeck Barbecue, Callisto, Ingenious Challenges, The Hobbit, SWAT!, Genial Spezial, Mini FITS, Zombiegeddon, Buzz It!, Scary Tales: Snow White vs. The Giant, Scary Tales: Little Red vs. Pinocchio, Ramses Pyramid

Highest average rating: Euphrat & Tigirs (released _before_ Keltis)

While the data for other designers looked at so far does not point to a negative consequence from winning the Spiel des Jahres, here there’s a clear case to be made for it.  While most of Knizia’s gamer-oriented designs date from the late nineties, his published games in the years before Keltis’ release have been _much_ better received on BGG than in the years since.  Personally, I suspect this is more coincidental than intentional – but the data is clear.

Donald X. Vaccarino

Spiel des Jahres 2009: Dominion

Spiel des Jahres 2012: Kingdom Builder 

Vaccarino has 6 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings.

Dominion rank: 2 of 6 (Dominion: Intrigue is #1)

Kingdom Builder rank: 3 of 6

Five years before Dominion: None

Between Dominion and Kingdom Builder: Dominion Intrigue

One year after Kingdom Builder: Infiltration, Gauntlet of Fools

Highest average rating (Besides Dominion, Dominion Intrigue, or Kingdom Builder): Infiltration (released _after_ Dominion)

Much as with Wrede, Vaccarino burst on to the scene with his Spiel des Jahres winner.  But unlike Hodel or Payne, it has just been the start.  There’s nothing to suggest that winning the award has had any negative impact to his innovation.

Jean-Louis Roubira

Spiel des Jahres 2010: Dixit

Roubira has 4 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings, but only one (Fabula) is not descended from Dixit.  Dixit was his first published design, and took two years until it achieved wide release in Germany and won the award.  As a result, there’s not enough information to make or refute any claims relative to Roubira.

Susan McKinley Ross

Spiel des Jahres 2011: Qwirkle

Ross has 2 ranked games on BGG with at least 100 ratings, the other one being Qwirkle Cubes – a follow-up to Qwirkle that was released before Qwirkle made it to Germany.  Again, there’s not sufficient data to make a case in either direction.

=====

So, having reached the present day, let’s look at the data.

Five designers have insufficient data to make any definitive claims about.  That leaves nine designers to consider.

Claim #1: The Spiel des Jahres has a peculiar knack for honoring great designers for some of their worst games.

The only designer you could reasonably make this claim for is Seyfarth, for whom Manhattan is a below average game according to BGG and Thurn & Taxis is precisely in the middle.  For Teuber, Kramer, Moon, Wrede, and Vaccarino, the Spiel des Jahres was awarded to their best design, as designated by BGG.  For Henn, Schacht, and Knizia, the award was for a lower rated game from their oeuvre, but still firmly in the top half of their designs.

One out of nine does not a knack make.

Claim #2: It appears the award diverts designers’ attention from their more innovative and enduring creations.

Once again, there is one designer for whom the data fits in with Tom’s claim.  Here, it’s Knizia.  Looking at his history, you can reasonably argue that his post-Spiel des Jahres output does not measure up to his pre-Spiel des Jahres output.  Of course, much of this may have to do with how much he accomplished prior to winning the award – but regardless of the cause, the data is clear.

The other data here – while it fails to point to designer’s attention being diverted – is less definitive.  For Wrede and Vaccarino, the fact that their first design won the award means that the fact that their “best” non-SdJ designs came later really doesn’t mean much.  Seyfarth is close enough to the same camp to also drop from the discussion.

That leaves six designers.  For four of them, their game with the highest average rating on BGG (besides their winner) came after they won the award.  For two – Knizia and Schacht – their game came earlier.  For most designers, the years following their win not only saw an increase in the number of designs they had published, but also more of their highest rated games on BGG.

So, while Tom was right to call out Kramer as a designer who didn’t match his claims, neither do Teuber, Moon, Wrede, Henn, Schacht, or Vaccarino.  And neither Seyfarth nor Knizia fits into both claims.  And it’s nearly impossible to apply the first claim to Hodel, Payne, Liesching, Roubira, or Ross.  You could claim that winning the award has diverted them from game design as a whole, I suppose, but looking at the games they designed none of them won for a game in the sweet spot for BGG, so unless you posit that had they not won they would have started moving in that direction with their designs, I don’t think that holds either.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the real issue at the heart of Tom’s article is that – other than for Kramer – the games which have won have not been games Tom enjoys, and he’s not fond of the proliferation of titles which often result from a Spiel des Jahres win.  But that makes for a far harder central point to write an article about.

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16 Responses to The Kramer Rule

  1. Nicely done Joe. I strongly disagreed with Tom’s article too, but you’ve made a watertight case here.

    • Another Martin seconds Martin’s comment. Tom overreached by stating that the SdJ jury chose a designer’s “worst” game, but as Joe points out, his claim doesn’t hold up even if he had argued that the SdJ chose a game that wasn’t the designer’s best. Thanks for writing this, Joe!

      • Tom Rosen says:

        Thanks for writing an interesting rebuttal Joe, I’m glad you went ahead with it. Although it’s a bit quantitative and seems to take BGG ratings as a proxy for “greatness” when I would think you yourself would find that a poor proxy given all of the wonderful obscure games you shine a light on for the rest of us.

        I few specific points I wanted to make in response:
        -Regarding Teuber, my understanding is that Lowenherz and Entdecker were designed in conjunction with Settlers as part of a larger design that was eventually broken into a trilogy of sorts. Therefore, I don’t think the 1997 release date of Lowenherz is the relevant date in this case.

        -Regarding Knizia, I think that we have a disjunction in how we’re understanding the term worst or what exactly the concern with the SdJ selections is. I realize that Keltis is rated reasonably well so is not Knizia’s worst in terms of its ranking among his other designs. Worst is a shorthand for least deserving of an award, not least enjoyable to play. Keltis is simply a reimplementation of an older design. The older design is a fine one, so the reimplementation will also be perfectly fine and receive decent ratings. The same can be said for Zooloretto. While both are ranked reasonably well, they do not evidence any enduring or meaningful design work.

        -Regarding Wrede, I very much agree that Wrede throws a wrinkle into my hypothesis. I was wondering if anyone would dig out my glowing Carcassonne review to rebut me with my own words (www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/133252/carcassonne-as-heavy-as-tigris-and-caylus). Carcassonne is definitely Wrede’s best game, so does not fit the mold of receiving the award for his lowest common denominator design. On the other hand, he’s a perfect example of a designer getting caught in the whirlpool of his own success, notwithstanding the likes of Anasazi, which seemingly no one has said anything nice about until in response to my article. I can’t help but wonder what he’d be inventing if not spending so much time on Carcassonne add-ons.

        • Joe Huber says:

          Tom,

          I’m not claiming BGG ratings as the arbiter of greatness. But they are an _indicator_ of objective greatness – and the best available independent source of data.

          To argue that 1997 isn’t the relevant release date for Löwenherz is to suggest that the game was complete and in it’s finished form prior to the Spiel des Jahres award for Settlers – which is possible, but far from certain. And to me, Löwenherz has never felt it borrowed strongly from Settlers (unlike Entdecker, where the ties are clear). Having seen the process from inspiration to finished game many times, I see no particular reason to assume that there was not significant additional post-SdJ work on Löwenherz.

          With Knizia (and apparently Schacht) you seem to giving too great a weight to the initial inspiration. And I’d note that both Lost Cities and Coloretto were given fair consideration for the Spiel des Jahres when they were released. The jury simply saw the reimplementations as adding something – or the level of competition in the years they won as lighter – or perhaps some other factor. Personally, I prefer Keltis to Lost Cities and Zooloretoo to Coloretto, though I realize that doesn’t seem to be the majority opinion.

          The reason you’ve heard nothing positive about Anasazi is that what’s positive about it is that it’s an entirely different, non-derivative design. The game itself doesn’t stand out. But Wrede has eleven published designs owing nothing to Carcassonne – about one a year – since Carcassonne won the Spiel des Jahres. How many designers have one original design published per year? And many of these games have been very well received. While that might not satisfy you, it’s more than enough to convince me that his creativity has not been hampered by the market demand for Carcassonne products.

  2. Clyde says:

    When Tom said “worst”, he was obviously talking about worst for him.

    • Joe Huber says:

      Well, that’s easy enough to check, as well.

      Seyfarth – maybe. Thurn & Taxis _is_ tied for Tom’s lowest rated Seyfarth, but he rates Manhattan higher.

      Teuber – no. Tom _himself_ rates Settlers higher than Löwenherz.

      Kramer – not going to even bother to check this one.

      Moon – no, Tom rates Ticket to Ride well, and higher than many other games from Alan.

      Wrede – no. Tom rates Carcassonne a 10.

      Henn – no. While Tom only rates Alhambra a 6, that’s higher than at least one other Henn game he’s played.

      Schacht – no. But Tom does rate Zooloretto a 5; it’s just that he rates Boss Kito and Africana (and perhaps others) lower.

      Knizia – no. From Tom’s point of view, we’re sinking lower and lower; he rates Keltis a 4. However, he rates Poison a 3.

      Vaccarino – no. Again, Tom doesn’t rate Dominion highly (and Kingdom Builder doesn’t do much better), but he still rates both higher than Nefarious.

      So no – other than possibly Thurn & Taxis, none of these is even the game Tom finds worst from each designer. But to be fair, a number of them are closer to being the worst for Tom than for BGG.

      • Tom Rosen says:

        My BGG ratings are based on frequency of desirability of playing a game, as the BGG scale indicates, not how much I think a game deserves to be honored with an award.

        Also, Boss Kito doesn’t count, it’s hardly even a game ;)

  3. Bob Scherer-Hoock says:

    Two points (the first two) that I haven’t seen made in these discussions, and one that has been made but I think needs to be emphasized:
    1) Rather than affecting a designer’s creativity, what the SdJ award more clearly affects is the marketability of a designer and his or her award-winning games. If the creativity of a designer like Moon or Teuber appears to suffer after an SdJ win because they spend their time on expansions and sequels, it’s only because that’s what the market (and publisher) is demanding. The designers (and publishers) need to make a living, and if expansions and variants of Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan sell, then that’s what will be created, published, and marketed. Moon and Teuber previously won the SdJ with Elfenland, Adel Verpflichtet, Drunter & Druber, and Barbarossa, but none of those sold nearly as many copies as Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. Those two, along with Carcassonne, are some of the best-selling games of our generation, and the creative people behind them would be silly not to milk the cash cows.
    2) Two of the SdJ winners that were somewhat scorned in the original article were Keltis and Zooloretto (along with its cute panda). Both were big-box versions of hugely popular card games that may have been worthy of the SdJ, but fell into the jury’s apparent reluctance to honor card games (but they also fell into publishers’ apparent lack of reluctance toward marketing something built on a proven success).
    3) Any SdJ winner must be viewed in the context of that year’s competition rather than other games produced, in whatever category, over a wider period of time.

  4. huzonfirst says:

    I did my own quickie analysis after Tom posted his article. I focused on his first claim. I looked at all the SdJ winners and asked myself, “Is there a reasonable chance that a good portion of experienced gamers (i.e., people similar to Tom) would consider this the designer’s best game?” The overwhelming answer was “Yes”. 27 designers have won an SdJ (I’m not including the Kennerspiel) and I felt that for 20 of them, you could say that the winner was among their best games. However, this statistic is pretty skewed, as quite a few SdJ winners have only a small number of published designs. So it might be better to restrict this to “well known” designers. Here are my conclusions for that group.

    Best Design (8):
    Hoffman (Cafe International)
    Kiesling (Tikal)
    Kramer (El Grande)
    Moon (Ticket to Ride)
    Teuber (Settlers)
    Ulrich (El Grande)
    Vaccarino (Dominion)
    Wrede (Carcassonne)

    Not Best Design (7):
    Borg (Bluff)
    Henn (Alhambra)
    Knizia (Keltis)
    Randolph (Enchanted Forest)
    Sackson (Focus)
    Schacht (Zooloretto)
    Seyfarth (Manhattan & Thurn and Taxis)

    You could argue about some of these one way or the other, but overall, I think it’s reasonable to say that for about half of the well known designers, one of their SdJ winners could be considered their best design. Therefore, like Joe, I reject Tom’s hypothesis.

  5. huzonfirst says:

    As for Tom’s second claim, that designers’ output changes for the worse after winning the award, I still think he’s exaggerating a bit, but I do think he’s closer to the truth than Joe does. I can think of several cases in which an SdJ award led to a subsequent downturn in interesting releases. Here are some of them:

    Teuber – After Settlers, once the queue was emptied of existing prototypes like Entdecker and Lowenherz, Teuber almost exclusively focused on Settlers expansions and spinoffs. To his credit, many of these derived games included interesting innovations, but they were still restricted to being shoe horned into the Settlers franchise, which was disappointing to many of his fans. It took 6 years before Teuber returned to non-Settlers designs.

    Moon – Alan has openly stated that his design goals after the win for Ticket to Ride have been very different. One result of this is much fewer original releases and almost all of these have been Ticket to Ride games.

    Henn – I disagree with Joe’s analysis. Prior to Alhambra’s win, Henn was averaging one original design a year. Afterwards, this dropped to almost nothing. I think the SdJ had a significant effect on Henn’s output.

    Schacht – I think many seasoned gamers would say that almost all of Schacht’s most interesting work came prior to Zooloretto. However, the end of his “gamer’s games” phase was more like 2004, several years before he won the SdJ. So I would agree with Joe that Schacht may not have been affected by the award. Then again, it probably encouraged him to continue designing family-style games.

    Knizia – Joe says this is the one case that supports Tom’s contention, but I disagree. Knizia had stopped designing gamer’s games long before Keltis won. His designs had become progressively lighter and lighter beginning in 2001. Given the wide number of markets that Reiner designs for, I suspect that he, more than any other designer, was immune to the effects of an SdJ win.

    So that’s at least 3 instances, possibly a fourth depending on what you think of Schacht’s case. It also ignores designers who’ve never won an SdJ, but have switched from challenging games to simpler ones, inspired in part by the payoff should they win one (Dorn seems to be an obvious example). In the end, it isn’t too surprising. Designers have to eat too and it’s not only harder to design and develop a first-rate gamer’s game, they don’t usually sell as well as a good solid family game. When you realize that an SdJ win means a sales increase of an order of magnitude, at a minimum, and that only simpler games need apply, it’s actually surprising that we still have designers who are creating the more challenging fare–going the family route certainly gives you more bang for the buck. So in that regard, Tom’s thesis is correct. But Joe’s analysis also shows that this is by no means an iron-clad rule and that for plenty of designers–most obviously including Herr Kramer–an SdJ win doesn’t really change their approach to game design.

    • Joe Huber says:

      I’m afraid that with Henn you’re looking too far into the past – I’ve listed _every_ game 1998-2002 and 2004-2008 with at least 100 ratings. If you want to remove the 100 ratings restriction, the picture doesn’t change much; you add Derby, Yukon Company, and Tendix before Alhambra, Cherubim after. It’s still not a remarkably different picture before and after the award.

      And with Moon – if you’re going to take away points for his production after Ticket to Ride, you have to give some back for the years after Elfenland; you could make a reasonable argument that it was the most prolific and productive period of his career. Unless you wish to posit that winning a _second_ Spiel des Jahres leads to decreased output and innovation – which I don’t buy either…

      • huzonfirst says:

        With Henn, yes, the games I’m talking about were db-Spiele designs, which had low print runs. So the 100 rating restriction needs to be removed in this case. And it makes a big difference: a game a year before Alhambra, 3 games in 10 years since then (one of which was an Alhambra spinoff).

        And for Moon, I’m just saying that winning the SdJ for Ticket to Ride changed his output for the worse. I acknowledge that his first SdJ probably *improved* his output, by giving him the financial freedom to do all those great games he combined with Weissblum on. But the question was how many instances there were where a designer’s output was negatively affected by winning an SdJ and there’s no question in my mind that TtR’s success has led to considerably fewer original games from Alan than he had created before it won.

        • Joe Huber says:

          It’s three games in _5_ years, vs. five games in 5 years, if you count them all.

          In the 10 years since Alhambra was published, Henn’s had seven designs published, not including New York or the Alhambra boxes.

          While I’d agree that 7/10 is less than 5/5, Henn’s two highest rated games are part of the 7.

        • peer says:

          Naerly all of Henns newer releases are reworkes of his dh-Games. Nearly all of his dh-games have been republished so he stopped publishing games (the upcoming rework of Spekualtion ist a latecomer). So I guess you can use him for an argument either way: He did not produce much new after the award – but he hasnt published really new designs for quite some time prior to the award either.

  6. My reaction to both this and the original: boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/20267

  7. jeffinberlin says:

    One point that has to be made–and that is difficult to quantify in your study, Joe–is that game designing and game releases often come in clumps. With first-time designers winning SdJ, for example, it is difficult to determine how many post-SdJ designs were actually created after winning the award. More likely, most of them had already been created earlier and were finally brought to the attention of publishers after the designer’s received the jury’s attention. I think I read somewhere that Donald X Vaccarino originally presented 40+ game designs to Rio Grande games, which signed only Dominion to start? I’m still getting games published now that I completed years ago, before I had contact with publishers and my game designs were piling up.

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