As Time Goes By:  My Favorite Designers Through the Years

I’ve been playing Eurogames regularly for over 20 years.  Like many gamers, there are certain designers I really like and others I avoid.  But what’s interesting is that this changes quite a bit over time.  Part of that may be alterations in my tastes.  But I think a lot of it is that it’s hard for creative people to consistently maintain a high quality of work over an extended period.  In addition, they may switch from creating one type of game (a type I like) to another class of titles that I’m less fond of.  Whatever the reasons are, I find that when people ask me who my favorite designer is, one of the questions I have for them is “from when?”.

Something else I’ve noticed when I look back at my years in the hobby is a phenomenon I call the “Hot Designer”.  There are short, 2-4 year periods when certain designers are exceedingly productive and produce a huge number of games I love.  Knizia had a period like this in the late nineties; Wallace did something similar ten years later, and there are other examples.  It’s as if they’re amazingly inspired over those years.  The thing is, no human being can continue that level of quality for too long.  So the hot periods aren’t extended, but they sure are great while they last.

Anyway, I was thinking about this and I thought it might be interesting to examine the ebbs and flows of various game designers over the years.  I’d love to do an objective study of something like this, based on some Geek data or something similar, but I haven’t figured out how that would be possible.  So instead, what you’re getting is a list of my favorites from 1990 to the present.  That’s less universal, but still should be of interest to folks with tastes similar to mine.  More to the point, I think it illustrates how much the gaming landscape changes through time, probably much more so than those new to the hobby realize.

Here’s the methodology of the study.  I listed all the games from the past 30 years to receive at least an “I Like It” rating on the OG scale from me and assigned them to their designer(s).  I then put a point value on each one; the more I liked the game, the higher the value.  I didn’t include games I didn’t care for; there were no negative points assigned to designers for creating stinkers, as I didn’t see the point in penalizing someone for being prolific.  I decided to group the games into five year slices, based on the year they were released.  Then I summed up the point values for each designer’s games in each period, to determine who my favorite designers were during each 5-year chunk.

I found I played more games in some periods than in others, just due to changing life situations.  As a result, the raw point totals across multiple periods weren’t particularly meaningful for the purposes of comparisons.  To normalize things, I assigned my favorite designer in each time period a “rating” of 100.  Each other designer got a rating proportional to their point total.  So if Designer X had a point total that was half the point total of my favorite designer’s, they got a score of 50, and so on.

So let’s look at some results.  Here are my top 5 (or so) favorite designers for the five-year periods from 1990 to 2020.  I give the rating for each designer, together with their number of “I Like It” games from the period, and also provide some commentary at the end.

1990-1995

uncaptioned image

I wasn’t active in the hobby during the years these games came out, so they were all older games at the time I first played them.  This period was prior to the explosion of more involved titles (what we called “gamer’s games” back then) that we saw during the late nineties.  Consequently, there are only a handful of games that appealed to me during this time.  As you can see, Knizia was responsible for most of them, including favorites like Medici, Res Publica, and Quo Vadis.  Sackson’s and Cornett’s high ratings come mostly from I’m the Boss and The Bottle Imp, respectively.  Not a particularly bountiful period for me, but Reiner was clearly my favorite designer during it.

1996-2000

Stephensons Rocket - German edition by Pegasus (1999) [high resolution, cropped, rotated]

Knizia’s productivity during this period was remarkable and unprecedented for me.  14 favorites in five years!  And great games as well, including not only terrific big box titles like Stephenson’s Rocket, Traumfabrik, Taj Mahal, and Tigris & Euphrates, but also excellent card games, like Schotten Totten and Katzenjammer Blues.  Now that’s a Hot Designer!  Kramer was almost as good, with brilliant designs like Tikal, Princes of Florence, and Tycoon.  This was when he first started working with co-designers and two of his favorite partners (Kiesling and Ulrich) both make the list.  Rosenberg is represented as well, but as most older gamers know, this is the pre-Agricola Uwe, who specialized almost exclusively in innovative card games like Schnappchen Jagd, Babel, and the uber-popular Bohnanza.  These were the titles that were getting played when I began playing with my first games group and what a wonderful introduction to Eurogaming they were!

Klaus Teuber and Alan Moon just missed the top 5.  I’ve played a reasonable number of Teuber’s designs over the years and enjoyed some of them (Lowenherz is in my all time top 10), but for the most part, his design style doesn’t particularly match my tastes and he never appeared in any of these lists for any period.

2001-2005

uncaptioned image

There were so many designers with collections of games I loved during this period that I had to expand the list to include 9 of them.  These days, Dorn is better known for creating Istanbul (2014), but back in the day, he was definitely the Hot Designer for a couple of years, with terrific games like Goa, Jambo, and Louis XIV getting plenty of play.  The partnership between Moon and Weissblum began (and pretty much ended) during this period, and they teamed to create some great designs, like San Marco and Capitol.  Alan had some fine solo titles as well, such as Clippers and Ticket to Ride.  Wallace really came of age at this time, thanks to wonderful rail and historical games like Age of Steam, Pampas Railroads, and Struggle of Empires.  Kramer was still going strong, with Maharaja and Wildlife being the highlights for me.  Knizia slipped out of the top 5 and his move towards lighter designs was not a positive one as far as my tastes were concerned, but Amun-Re is still one of my favorites.  Friese and Seyfarth both made the list with a small number of great games (Funkenschlag and Power Grid for the Man in Green, and Puerto Rico—my all-time favorite game for a long time—and San Juan for Andreas).  And Schacht burst upon the scene, with Industria and Hansa being the highlights.

Designers missing from the previous period’s top 5 include Rosenberg, who was preparing for his reinvention as a designer of big box games; Kiesling, who just missed making the list; and Ulrich, who pretty much vanished from the scene after he stopped co-designing games with Kramer in 2000.

2006-2010

Box Cover (good definition)

Wallace dominated this period more than any other designer has done for me, before or since.  He did it with a huge output and also some great games, including the brilliant Automobile (one of my 10 favorite games of all time), Brass, Steel Driver, and London.  He was unquestionably the Hot Designer of the time.  Chvatil came out of nowhere (actually, the Czech Republic, which at the time we thought was nowhere, but which has turned out to be quite the gaming hotbed) to contribute Through the Ages—my all-time favorite game—as well as a few other delights like Space Alert and Dungeon Lords.  Feld began his marriage-made-in-heaven with Alea and the result was fabulous titles like Macao, In the Year of the Dragon, and Notre Dame.  Knizia had one last burst of creativity before disappearing from these lists; the biggie for me was Medici vs. Strozzi, a very intense, highly underrated 2-player affair, although I also enjoyed Blue Moon City.  Gerdts invented the concept of the “rondel” and we were all the richer for it; I loved Navegador and had fun with Imperial as well.  Rosenberg began his reinvention and Agricola, Le Havre, and Gates of Loyang were all top notch creations.  And Lehmann, a designer I’d followed since the early 90’s, finally hit the big time, but while the rest of the gaming world was smitten with Race for the Galaxy, the game of his I truly loved was Phoenicia.

The turnover from the previous period was pretty high.  After his hot period, Dorn basically fell off the map for several years.  Weissblum’s post-Moon career was limited and not of much interest to me.  Moon and Kiesling both made my top 10 for the period, but neither was high enough to make the list.  Friese and Kramer just missed the top 10.  Seyfarth had a couple of designs in this period, but hasn’t released anything since.  Schacht has remained active, but I’ve grown less interested in his work, and he’s produced nothing I’ve cared for in the last 10 years.

2011-2015

Ora et Labora German Second Edition Box Cover

It’s the Uwe and Stefan show, as those two veteran designers dominated my ratings.  Neither could be characterized as a Hot Designer; instead, they just continued the solid work they had done earlier (and would do in the future).  The big hit with me from Rosenberg was Ora et Labora (one of my all-time top 10 games), but I also enjoyed Fields of Arle, Caverna, and a bunch of his lighter stuff.  Feld scored with the terrific Castles of Burgundy, as well as with Trajan and Bora Bora.  Luciani was a newcomer, heralding the new breed of Italian designers, and I fell in love with The Voyages of Marco Polo, Grand Austria Hotel, and Tzolk’in.  Tascini was Luciani’s principal design partner during this period.  Cramer was another new name and was kind of a mini-Hot Designer for me; after his first published game (Glen More) was released in 2010, he followed that up in rapid succession with favorites like Lancaster, Helvetia, and Rococo, marking him as a designer to follow.

Moon and Kramer just missed the top 5, Moon doing so with the last design of his that’s really clicked with me, Airlines Europe.  Chvatil and Gerdts also made the top 10, as did a couple of new designers, Alexander Pfister and Hisashi Hayashi.

Wallace dropped down pretty far; his hot period seemed to end with A Few Acres of Snow (2011) and after that, his games just didn’t appeal to me for quite a while.  Dorn had a bit of a comeback, but it wasn’t quite enough to get him into the top 10.  Knizia cratered and he stopped being a designer I paid attention to, which, given how brilliant his earlier games were, was a totally shocking development.

2016-2020

Barrage front cover

Luciani is the dominant figure over the last 5-year period we’ll look at.  He is my current Hot Designer, although that’s based more on steady brilliance over the past decade, rather than a 2 or 3 year burst.  His big titles this period were Barrage, Lorenzo, and Marco Polo II.  Rosenberg and Feld just keep rolling along, although both did so by releasing fine games every year, rather than producing any blockbusters.  Uwe’s highlights were A Feast for Odin and the 2-player Caverna: Cave vs. Cave, while Feld favorites included Oracle of Delphi and Forum Trajanum.  Pfister blossomed into greatness; his excellent work this period included Blackout: Hong Kong, Great Western Trail, and Maracaibo.  And Wallace returned to form, thanks to games like Anno 1800, A Handful of Stars, and the second edition of London.

Kiesling just missed the top 5.  The rest of my top 10 for the period featured several of Luciani’s co-designers (including Tascini, Virginio Gigli, and Flaminia Brasini) and the New Zealand design team of Shem Phillips and SJ Macdonald.  Friese, Lehmann, and Chvatil also provided some highlights.

Cramer pretty much dried up for me, after his nice run during the previous period.  Kramer, Gerdts, and Dorn were largely invisible.  Knizia began producing more notable games, but few of them interest me; my previous favorite designer is still not one who does much for me.

As for what the third decade of this century will bring, who knows?  By all appearances, Luciani and his co-designers will continue to be strong for me, but it remains to be seen which other designers will rise in my rankings, including, I’m sure, some new ones.  This steady infusion of new blood is the great thing about gaming and one of the reasons this is such a terrific hobby.

Designer Timelines

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, although if it’s one I’ve drawn, you might be lucky to get a couple of dozen out of it.  Still, I thought a pair of graphs might do a good job of illustrating how some of my favorite designers have fared over time.  Each of the graphs shows the designers’ rating over the six periods of this study (each period is identified by its last year on the x-axis).  Each graph summarizes the ratings of four designers over time.

First, let’s look at some of the earlier designers:  Knizia, Moon, Kramer, and Rosenberg.

Knizia’s plummet from the heights of the 90’s is well illustrated here.  Kramer’s decline is almost as dramatic.  Moon has his peak during the third period, but eventually drops off.  Rosenberg doesn’t start out until the second period, is representative early on, and then comes on strong during the last two periods.  Even including his pre-Agricola slump in Period 3, he’s probably the most consistent of the four displayed designers.

Next, here are the trends for Wallace, Dorn, Feld, and Luciani, who made their impact during the later periods.

Wallace has been strong for much of the last 20 years, but he definitely slumped during Period 5.  Dorn’s peak in Period 3, so out of line with the rest of his output, labels him as the quintessential Hot Designer.  Once Feld hit his stride in Period 4, he’s been consistently excellent.  And Luciani didn’t make his mark until 2012, but he’s been brilliant since then.

I assume that this variability of which designers work best for me isn’t unique and that many of you have noticed something similar with your own favorites.  It’s true that the rise and fall of different designers over the years can make tracking my anticipated games a greater challenge than if things were more static.  But it’s well worth the effort, as the joy I get from discovering a new title is the same whether it comes from an established designer who has delivered in the past or from a new name.  And it’s that enjoyment that’s important, not the name on the box.  After all, as the old song tells us, “the fundamental things apply…as time goes by.”

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26 Responses to As Time Goes By:  My Favorite Designers Through the Years

  1. Brian says:

    Nice piece and a great idea.

    I totally agree with Knizia. When I first started back in the hobby, he was the rage and a couple of games were interesting (Battle Line, Amun Re and Palazzo) but the rest to me was nonsense and rehash (abstracts in different skins). My City and to a smaller degree the co-design Prosperity have been the only Knizias to hit my radar and the latter do to its price point.

    As far a Feld goes, nothing flashy but very consistent. With his games you have a good idea what you are going to get and on that level, they do not disappoint. He does not appear to water down his ideas (which is what I mention frequently with regards to Knizia) and challenges the gamer to stay in step with the times. The games are new designs using common mechanisms but not feeling old and tired (like K). Bonfire was as big a spark as you can expect out of Feld although Forum Trajanum did take me by surprise in a good way.

    Totally agree with Luciani, Barrage is a masterpiece. That one alone is worthy of making a best list, not to knock any of the co-designers. Heavy interaction within Euro mechanisms? Yes, please.

    Where do you stand with David Turzi? Anachrony, Excavation Earth, Imperium Classics/Medieval etc.

  2. huzonfirst says:

    Glad you enjoyed the article, Brian. As for Turczi, his output so far hasn’t really suited me. Anachrony is decent, but didn’t particularly grab me. I found Imperium disappointing. And the “T” games feel overly complex to me, which isn’t an easy thing to do, but he managed it. He’s obviously talented and extremely productive, so I’ll continue to keep an eye on his stuff. But at this time, I have no reason to think he’ll show up in my 2021-2025 table when I redo this article in 5 years! 😄

  3. Chris Brandt says:

    Superb article, possibly because Larry and I share many of the same tastes in games. One thing Larry does that appeals to me in his articles is to bring a quantitative measure to something that appears so difficult to quantify in the first place. However, Larry caveats the “measurements” with the fact that they are HIS opinions and valuations, negating the need for some strict valuation system. My immersion into designer/strategy games spans about the same time as Larry’s so I’ve had the opportunity to play most all of them. That makes it especially interesting to compare his picks to what mine might have been… if I were not too lazy to put together such a list. Thanks for doing this, Larry!

  4. huzonfirst says:

    You’re more than welcome, Chris. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Bart says:

    Too bad that the Reinerssance doesn’t show on your Knizia graph (El Dorado, Yellow & Yangtze, Blue Lagoon, Babylonia, My City…). That’s definitely a sign that your taste has changed. El Dorado is as good as Blue Moon City, as a game that’s fun with both gamers and family. And the new tile-layers are as good as the classic ones (apart from Tigris which still stands out for me), maybe not as innovative as they were back in the day but you don’t seem to mind about lack of innovation when it comes to Feld, Rosenberg…

    As for his 2000s vs 90s, the reception will depend on the audience. Lots of his lighter family games worked great for me when my kids were younger. We’re shifting more to the classics now, but that also includes the likes of Beowulf and Blue Moon City for us. I tend to agree there was a slump in his early 2010s as it seemed he was busier looking for new markets in this period (with still some nice family games like Indigo). But the Reinerssance since 2017 is real :)

  6. Per Johan Lysberg says:

    + 2. :)
    So glad to see someone mention Mille Fiori. It was firmly on my “to buy” list when I went to last years Essen, turns out to be a blast to play. Long term/short term decisions are so agonizing, as we would expect from Knizia.

    Btw, to use the word “nonsense” about a Knizia game is bordering disrespectful.

  7. huzonfirst says:

    Wow, lots of Reiner fans with lots to say! That isn’t surprising; I’ve noticed his biggest fans have always shown extreme loyalty, even during his less productive periods. Nothing wrong with that.

    In response to Bart, yes, I absolutely believe the Reinerssance is a real thing; his efforts have made him much more relevant over the past 5 years than during the previous decade. And part of me not climbing aboard the recent Knizia bandwagon almost certainly is due to a change in my gaming tastes. But it’s probably not as big a factor as you’d think. Many of the newer RK games are similar to older titles of his that didn’t really click with me back in the day. For example, I was never that enthused about Through the Desert or Samurai; that may be heresy, but it’s true. The games of his I loved back then were his longer, more complex, and more interactive ones. I’m not seeing that in the latest designs.

    Another thing was that 25 years ago, Reiner was leading the pack in terms of innovation. While I’m sure these new games are extremely well crafted, most fans characterize them as him catching up to the latest trends. So that also makes me less excited about them.

    At the end of the day, it naturally comes down to personal preferences. I’m not saying Knizia’s latest games are in any way lacking. I can’t, since the only one I’ve played is El Dorado (which was solid). But none of them have inspired me to seek them out, either, as they’re just not the kinds of games I play these days. If someone brought one to a game day, I’d be happy to try it out, but that hasn’t happened (with my game time curtailed recently, there’s less opportunity for that as well). So while I’m very happy about the Reinerssance, particularly for his many fans, it just hasn’t reached me yet. If RK was in front of me right now, I’d tell him, “It isn’t you, it’s me!” Although that statement rarely turns out well, does it? :-)

  8. huzonfirst says:

    Oh, and Johan, I have no problem with applying the word “nonsense” to some of Knizia’s work, or to the work of any other creative individual, for that matter. Reiner has produced a lot of brilliant games, but also a few that were crap, both in my opinion and based on their Geek ratings. It happens. It was particularly true with RK during the period where so much of his output was just rethemes and rehashes of his earlier games. So it’s just someone’s opinion and in no way disrespectful. He’s a talented man, but he’s not God and I hope we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re not allowed to criticize someone due to their status in the hobby. If that’s the case, there’s a whole lot less I’ll be able to say! :-)

    • Per Johan Lysberg says:

      Hi Larry, no problem with that – all good!
      I probably should have included a smiley after that sentence, I did not imply in any way that some game designers should be regarded as Gods, and so be excluded from critics or opinions.
      But, what I tried to do was to give a hint to; when we are engaged in discussions and even rantings around games, we should all try to articulate our opinions in more concrete arguments – WHY we think a game is crap or not. In that way we can all engage, if we want, in a discussion that probably will be more fruitful than just making emotional statements without any real context.
      Btw, I have followed your articles and thoughts on games for more than 15 years now I think, always interested in getting your perspectives, info and impressions on both new and old games. Keep up the good work, appreciated!

  9. I tried to post this earlier, but it seems to not have gone through. There was some problem with my login.

    If you go to Knizia’s website, there is a list of his games listed by year. He lists various international edition of his games, so I had to remove a bunch of duplicates, but I think I caught all of them. I have then grouped them into games in the BGG top 1000 and games outside BGG top 1000. Here is the distribution.
    BGG 1000 Outside BGG 1000
    1999 3 15
    1998 2 12
    1997 1 2
    1996 1 6
    1995 2 7

    This table show very clearly that during what you consider his golden years, he produced tons of games that were children’s games, mass market games, or games that only hardcore Knizia fanboys have even heard about. You seem to believe that he produced fabulous games during the late 90’s, and then started making lighter games. Maybe it was just that you only played the ones that became big? Maybe most of his games were hard to get in the US?

    But everybody knows that Knizia only produced crap after 2000, right? Well, he has 24 games in BGG 1000. If I exclude Battle Line, since Schotten Totten is also on the list, and the second version of the LotR Confrontation, it turns out that only 9 of those 22 games were from before 2000, while 13 of are from 2000 or later.

    However, if you set the cutoff to 2005, you will get that 16 of his top games are from before, and only 6 are later. And of those 6, none are from the year 2007-2016. So you could say that these were 10 weak years. But if you look at the listings, you will see that he produced a lot of games that many of us consider to be excellent games, and that I’m very happy to play.

    So why are they not ranked highly? I think there are two reasons. One is that many people on BGG started favoring more complex games. In addition, it became easier to get hold of more of his games, so people were suddenly confronted with his non-gamers games. Many people did not realize that he produced a broad range of games, so they were surprised and disappointed when they came across games that were different from his top ranked games.

    My point is that I believe that this is more complex that you make it sound. It could be that what you observe has much to do with changes in the availability of his games, your expectations of his games, and changes in your taste, and not just changes in the way he designs games.

    I am also puzzled when you say “The games of his I loved back then were his longer, more complex … “. In my view, Knizia is know for short, simple games. You have a picture of Medici. Do you consider that long or complex? Or does this comment reflect a change in your taste, which is projected backwards onto your memory?

    We all have our different tastes, and I have no problem with you not liking Knizia any more. But when you try to explain it statistically, you must accept that people question your use of statistics.

  10. huzonfirst says:

    Helmer, I’m very sorry that you missed the point of my article. As I stated up front, everything in it is based solely on MY opinions and MY ratings. I used statistics (if you want to call it that; the math is pretty elementary) simply because that was the best way of summarizing my personal trends. It has nothing to do with how the hobby as a whole viewed the games of the periods I covered.

    That being said, I’m quite aware of how many different kinds of games Knizia produced during the late 90s (and during every other period he was active). As I said in the article, I didn’t consider games I didn’t like or didn’t try, because I didn’t want to penalize designers for being prolific. Reiner was one of the principal people I was thinking of when I made this decision! So no, not every game he designed during that period was amazing for me. But a huge number of them were and it’s easily the best 5 year period (for ME) any designer has ever had. At the time, I hoped that trend would continue forever, but that wasn’t realistic. No one (not even the immensely talented RK) could have kept up such quality indefinitely. So that’s part of what happened.

    But there was more than that. During the late 90s, German gaming began to embrace more complex designs than it ever had before. The reason was the astonishing success of Settlers, which, at the time, was considered quite complex. Knizia, as always, was at the forefront of this trend. So he gave us games like T&E, Taj Mahal, Stephenson’s, and quite a few others. *These* are the games of his that I loved (although I also loved quite a few of his simpler card games as well). (You mention Medici, which is an excellent game, but it came from the previous 5 year period, before Reiner started giving us more complex fare). This overall trend toward more complex games came to a crashing halt in 2000, when SdJ winner Torres sold poorly, the SdJ jury changed its membership toward those favoring lighter designs, and Carcassonne swept the hobby. Knizia, once again, had his finger on the pulse and moved away from more complex games at this time. With only a few exceptions, he really hasn’t returned. Although there are some other reasons (which I’ve covered in my other comments), that’s the main reason Knizia is not a favorite designer of mine any more.

    So yes, this is all about me and I never intended it to be anything but that. But it’s also true that the games I truly love are the more complex ones, just as I always have. For a brief period of time (maybe 10 years at the most), Reiner, in addition to the excellent lighter stuff he’s always featured, also gave me some of the most complex games released at that time. And they were fantastic! As a result, he was far and away my favorite designer. He no longer produces those games, so he’s no longer my favorite (even though many, MANY other gamers continue to love him). It’s as simple as that.

    • My main objection to what you write is the way you present a statistical analysis of your personal opinions as having objective value. You try give a historical description of the development of Knizia’s work, which is not based on looking at his list of design, but on your personal opinions of the games you played/liked/remembered. It sounds to me like you claim that in the late 90’s there was an overall trend in his work towards more complex games. That might be a totally correct statement from your point of view, where your sample space is the games you played/liked/remembered. But if I want to make a statement about his work, I prefer to instead look at all his published games. Let us take for example 1995 and 1998. It is not obvious how we should measure a trend towards more complex games, but just looking at the titles, the trend you describe is not obvious to me. His 1998 list does not look to me like the output of a man at the height of a golden period of longer and complex games.

      1995
      Am Fuß des Kilimandscharo, Ferkelei, Formula Motor Racing, High Society, Medici, Nuba, Stonehenge, Tor, Turf Horse Racing.

      1998
      Benjamin Blümchen – Krimskrams, Exxtra, Grand Prix, Honey Bears,
      Intermezzo, It’s Mine, Katzenjammer Blues, Kopf & Zahl – Ibis Hotel,
      Kurre, Ohio, Res Publica, Samurai, Through the Desert, Zirkus Flohcati

      I also challenged you about your statement about longer and complex games. You mention three, TE, SR and TM. They together with Yellow and Yangtze and Amun-Re are the only Knizia games with weight over 3 on BGG. So I doubt whether your list of long and complex Knizia games can be made much longer. However, you list 34 of his games in your tables. To me it seems that you actually liked many simpler and shorter Knizia games!

      I have read and enjoyed your writing in the past, so I was very disappointed with this article. I totally respect your opinions, but presenting a statistical analysis based on your opinions may not fare so well with confronted with real data.

      • huzonfirst says:

        First of all, Helmer, thank you for the kind words about my earlier stuff. I’m sorry this article didn’t work for you. I don’t think I could have been clearer that it wasn’t a statistical analysis and merely a summary of my opinions, but you obviously still found it lacking and I wish that wasn’t the case.

        I do think there was a little cherry picking in your latest objection. 1998 was really the only year in Knizia’s Golden Period of 1997-2000 where there wasn’t any truly heavy game. It was also my least favorite year of his from that period, although you couldn’t have discerned that from my data. But in ’97, there was T&E. In ’99, there was Stephenson’s. And in 2000, there was Taj Mahal, Lord of the Rings, Traumfabrik, and Merchants of Amsterdam. Is that a huge amount? I think it was for Reiner, although you may not agree. Were there also lighter games published during this time? Of course, but I’m not commenting on his *average* complexity, but merely on the appearance of *any* heavier games in his output. Were all the games I cited heavyweights? Maybe not in the modern sense, but I’d say even Traum is considerably heavier than most Knizia games before or after that. Can I prove this objectively? No, and I never intended to. It’s all based on my opinions, although I don’t think anything I’ve said is bizarrely crazy. But I’m not the first person to comment that Knizia, in this 4 year period, was creating more complex games compared to the rest of his career. In fact, people writing about games during those years commented on it quite freely, and also noted his return to lighter fare starting in 2001. That may not mean much to you, but it’s not like I’m alone in this observation.

        As far as my liking 34 of Reiner’s games, you forgot that in my analysis, I give greater weight to the games I really enjoy. In the 1996-2000 period, two thirds of the points I assigned to Knizia came from just 4 of his games, all of them (in my opinion) heavyweights. Overall, for the entire period of the study, half of his points are due to just 6 of his games, all of them much meatier (again, in my opinion) than the vast majority of his work. So I really do stand by what I said in the article.

        However, all of this is a matter of opinion, so I can’t be wrong and you can’t be wrong. You’d prefer an objective analysis and I’d love to see one on this question as well. But I have no idea how such a thing could be done (I think the game weights on the Geek are of questionable value), which is why I took the unusual step (for me) of basing this analysis on my opinions. If someone states their assumptions up front, then I think any conclusions drawn are valid ones. You may not agree with them, and that’s fine, but it’s how I feel and, therefore, it can’t really be wrong. I’m sorry if this approach didn’t work for you.

        • I teach statistics, and I get really sad when I see things like “If someone states their assumptions up front, then I think any conclusions drawn are valid ones.” My point is that if you want to do draw conclusions, you need to either look at the whole population, or do a random sample. If all you want to do is to reminisce about gaming history, and simply point out that the Knizia games you like the most came out in the late 90’s, then you might want to avoid talking about “his move towards lighter designs” and other statements that sound like you’re drawing conclusions.

          I would also like to respond to your accusation of cherry picking. I picked 98 because it was in the middle of the period. However, since you were looking at trends, I admit that was not an optimal choice. You seem to like 2000, so let us pick that one instead. Which games should we look at from 2000? You pick four games: Taj Mahal, Lord of the Rings, Traumfabrik, and Merchants of Amsterdam from that year and see a trend. I look at all the 16 games from that year, and honestly do not see a clear trend.

          As I said before, I have in the past always enjoyed your writing. You know a lot about the history, and I’ve learned a lot from your articles. But Knizia’s output is so diverse that it is hard to make general statements about it.

  11. Jacob Lee says:

    Really interesting article, Larry! Reading it felt like travelling through a time tunnel. I felt a lot of what you said at the same time (i.e. Wallace’s games just did not appeal to me at one point). I remember all those games from those generations having owned many of them, but what bothers me is that I don’t think many of them stand up well. Except for a tiny few, I wouldn’t recommend any of those older games to anyone who has gotten into board gaming recently. Newer games really are that much better in my opinion. I don’t want to sound like a snob because I used to love those games and respect the designers, but I predict those games will be forgotten in time. Not everyone can reinvent themselves the way Knizia and Wallace have.
    The career I find most impressive is Rosenberg. He puts out some small titles in the beginning, gets his name out there, develops his craft, and then one day sets the world on fire with Agricola and then drops a deluge of top tier games that’s been going non-stop for a decade? I’m not his biggest fan, but I recognize his talent.
    A lot of my favourite games in the past few years have come from first-time designers. What this tells me then is that the name is not going to indicate a good game, but maybe the publisher will. Publishers need to recognize what will be popular and mine through a lot of prototypes to invest in those. I hope the day never comes when publishers dry up and every creator turns to kickstarter to make a game.

  12. huzonfirst says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jacob. Although there are a bunch of older games I still love (even going back as far as the 90s–I’ll still play Stephenson’s, Tikal, or Lowenherz anytime, anywhere), overall, I agree that as a whole, games have gotten better. But it’s important to realize that not everyone agrees and a bunch of folks still love the less involved, but far more interactive games that were the norm before the turn of the century. And it’s great that there’s room in years hobby for all kinds of tastes and that so many different kinds of games are being produced today.

    I also agree about the high quality of games coming from first-time designers. It makes me very optimistic that the future of gaming is in such good hands.

  13. Craig Massey says:

    Wow Larry, you sure do know how to strike a chord. I enjoyed reading this. Well done. It made me think about my tastes and preferences and have me wondering how much they have changed or not. I probably have a similar arc to yours except that the pendulum is swinging back towards the games of the early 2000’s for me. I’m fully on board with digging into Knizia’s newest games and finding myself thinking “meh” more and more with the latest designs of Feld and others that represent a more complex type of game that has come to dominate the market. Babylonia, Quest of El Dorado, and possibly Mille Fiori all seem to hold up with his best earlier work. Though you are right in in thinking that if you aren’t a fan of either Through the Desert or Samurai, Babylonia will not be your cup of tea.

  14. huzonfirst says:

    Thanks, Craig. And yes, that was kind of the whole point of the article–not that my tastes are particularly meaningful, but that, most likely, everyone’s tastes in designers, whatever they may be, probably change over time in a way similar to mine. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  15. Koi says:

    I am quite late to the party, just started this hobby 4 or 5 years ago but man what an impressive article to read. You have provided me a lot of insights about top tier designers through the time. However, I notice you didn’t mention anything about Vital Lacerda around 2010-2020 so I would like to hear your views about him since he is also a big name in this decade. Thank you for reading this.

  16. huzonfirst says:

    Thanks, Koi, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. As it turns out, Lacerda didn’t get mentioned because he’s never been one of my favorites. I played Vinhos a couple of times and enjoyed it, but after that, I played four of his other titles and none of them really worked for me. It’s a little surprising, because he creates game of the weight that I usually like, but his design style just doesn’t meet my tastes. Oh well, no designer appeals to everyone. He’s been extremely successful and has a huge fan base that loves his stuff, so he’s obviously doing something right. But at this point in time, I’ve pretty much given up on even trying his games.

  17. abdul adams says:

    amazing post thamk per share , this help me in get more info about this theme

  18. huzonfirst says:

    You’re very welcome, Abdul. Thanks for the kind words!

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