Topic of the Week: Kramer and Kiesling

Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.

Maybe not Batman and Robin here. But it’s rare to hear one of these names without the other. Here’s an (abridged) list of their publications.

Year Game Rank Kramer Kiesling
1994 6 Nimmt 645 K
1995 El Grande 92 K
1996 Expedition 3086 K
1999 Tikal 337 K K
1999 Torres 724 K K
2000 Princes of Florence 259 K
2000 Java 1366 K K
2002 Mexica 732 K
2002 Pueblo 1591 K K
2004 Maharaja 982 K K
2005 Hacienda 1333 K
2005 Australia 3552 K K
2007 Colosseum 615 K
2007 Vikings 596 K
2010 Asara 1490 K K
2012 Palaces of Carrara 960 K K
2013 Coal Baron 796 K K
2013 Sanssouci 1780 K
2013 Nauticus 2575 K K
2014 Linko 1106 K K
2015 Porta Nigra 1471 K K
2015 Adventure Land 1706 K
2017 Downforce 417 K
2017 Azul 74 K
2017 Heaven & Ale 344 K
2017 Riverboat 1044 K
2018 Cuzco 2318 K K
2018 Azul: Sintra 432 K
2019 Azul: Summer Pavilion 188 K
2020 Paris 1275 K K
2020 Renature 1504 K K
2021 Azul: Queen’s Garden 673 K
2021 Savannah Park 1936 K
2022 Wandering Towers 1405 K K
2022 Azul: Master Chocolatier 1050 K
2023 Terra Pyramides 10957 K K

I wish we had a bit more formatting options to work with, to make that more easily digestible.

Some things that I noticed:

  • Wolfgang did most of his independent work at the start of his career. Michael did most of his at the end.
  • They’ve collaborated far more exclusively than I realized. It looks like in 2007 they kind of agreed to each try their own thing. Apart from that, from 2002 to 2015 they only worked together with very few exceptions.
  • Michael really hasn’t done much on his own, once you account for 5 of his independent projects all being Azul.
  • All of their best games are ones they did alone…
  • They have a lot of higher ranked (and older) games I’ve never heard of - Torres, Colosseum, Vikings, Coal Baron) and a lot of poorly ranked (but newer) games I have - Renagure, Paris, Cuzco, Porta Nigra

So, discussion:

  1. What have you played? High points and low points of this portfolio?
  2. Better together or better apart? Do you have a sense of what Kramer and Kiesling each bring to the table? (I thought I would but they’ve done so little apart…)

The topic should be Kramer and/or Kiesling!

Sansoucci (recently reprinted) has a secret Azul DNA in it. It’s quite good fun

Wandering tower is a game that I think appeals because everyone can get lost which is funny.



  • Sintra, Hex-Azul, Basic Azul, Princes of Florence, 6 nimmt, El Grande, Renature. The rest I don’t really have valid opinions about due to lack of play.

I have played

  • 6 nimmt–own a copy, good silly game for larger groups
  • El Grande–no longer own a copy, friends do, I would play but I don’t quite get the hype? Probably haven’t played enough. I am sure all those people saying it’s the best game ever are right.
  • Tikal–played once long ago
  • Torres–played once long ago
  • Princes of Florence–one of my first SPIEL buys, used to love it. Played a lot. Sold on during a big reduction. Still considering the new edition. But friends still have their copy. On the other hand it has a solo mode now. This is the first big multiplayer solitaire I ever played and probably kicked off the whole avalanche.The new edition looks much nicer. I think I should really get a copy and blame this topic :stuck_out_tongue:
  • Azul–played own a copy. Also Hex-Azul. I have played all 4 basic Azuls (chocolate is just a reskin right?). My favorite being Church Window Azul. My least favorite being the Pavilion. Great game. Not one of my personal favorites but a favorite to bring to the table if that makes any sense.
  • Renature–pretty good, still have my copy but couldn’t get it to the table again over all those other games I have. My partner didn’t like the cuthroat nature

Games I would like to play:

  • Wandering Towers–I am curious about this one, definitely would like to play
  • Terra Pyramides–would definitely like to play this if I get a chance. I saw some cheap copies the other day… might jump (I got a quick rules teach but no opportunity to play last SPIEL)

There’s a lot of games in between I didn’t play and have no interest in playing. I am not sure their style always gels perfectly with me. But I didn’t dislike any of the games I played either (yeah well maybe except the Pavillion Azul?). So that’s good?


I really enjoy the so-called Mask Trilogy (Mexica, Tikal, Java/Cuzco). Super Meeple’s execution is excellent. @pillbox even question: “Do you really need all 3 of those?” (paraphrasing). I would put Renature, El Grande, and Torres there as well. But as I keep chipping on my collection, I end up selling all of these.

6 Nimmt remains a perennial party game in the club. Azul: Master Chocolatiers is more for the choco theme and a “comfy” game in my collection.

The rest I’ve played are mid to downright bad.


6 Nimmt is my pick of all the games there, didn’t realise all those games were by one (or two) of two designers. Azul is just in that state where it would be fine in small bursts, but its so popular I’m kind of sick of it, through no fault of its own.


I did not expect El Grande, Downforce and Azul to come from the same team… and then saw that none of those were done as the team!

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Own: 6 Nimmt!, El Grande, Princes of Florence, Maharaja, Downforce, Azul, and Renature.
Played: 6 Nimmt!, El Grande, Princes of Florence, Downforce, and Azul.

So I have not played a game made by the two of them as a team yet, but have definitely enjoyed the solo works of theirs that I have played.

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I own
6 nimmt
El Grande
Palaces of Carrara

Have also played
Heaven and Ale

I think all of these are good, with the exception of El Grande which I adore. 6 nimmt is a great pub game. I think Azul is an excellent game and one of the best gateway drug games.

One of my favourite mechanisms is variable turn order and I think El Grande and Azul do that very well.

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I only have played Azul. Which I like a lot, has been for a long time on my “may buy one day” list.

Also, living in NZ and generally nearly every time being the only person in the room that has been to Portugal, always gives me the first turn, which I like.


I’ve been pretty impressed by most of the games by these two that I’ve played. I am used to seeing their names together, but they seem to be just as great rolling solo. Tikal and Mexica are excellent, El Grande is great and Azul a proven winner (even if Summer Pavilion is my clear favourite over the original). I’d like to try Cuzco and Renature, and I’ve heard good things about Colosseum and Coal Baron - so I’m hopeful those two will see a wider re-release at some point.

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Owned: 6 Nimmt

Played: Princes of Florence, Vikings, Downforce, Heaven & Ale, Azul (original Opal Fruits/Starburst and Sintra Boiled Sweets)

Downforce drifts in and out of my notional shopping basket. I’ve enjoyed playing it with friends, but found it extremely dull on BGA, If I ever find it cheaply…

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I think I can sum up their collaborations with a similar line as Wehrle - though for different reasons. I find them interesting and unique, but rarely great.

6 Nimmt and El Grande have been in my collection over 20 years. El Grande is 10/10. 6 Nimmt delivers for what it does.

Azul is great, if rationed. I find if I play it too much I really don’t want to play it.

That’s kind of it for the highest points.

  • Expedition was recently republished and also loaded onto BGA. It’s fine. Super light. I don’t think I’d play it on a table due to the number of cities you have to keep track of in your head.
  • Tikal I bounced off of, though that may be the old app implementation. There were either bugs or omissions in the in-game rules, and you couldn’t tell how high a pyramid’s value would get until you tried to uncover it and the game told you you couldn’t. But it was more menu and 10 point action system. 1 point for this, 3 points for this. 4.7 points for this action, 7/3 points for this one… it just felt clumsy.
  • Hacienda was another early IOS app. Mildly interesting.
  • Palaces of Carrara is an interesting beast. I bought it, though maybe I shouldn’t have. It’s one of those games that is too good to sell, once you have it, but only good enough that you might not need it if you don’t already have it. It is unique, though, and meaner and more interactive than the current offerings and I do enjoy it.
  • Heaven and Ale I haven’t played but researched heavily before declining. Concerns that it was too solitaire, too samey, and solvable.

Other ones I’ve heard of, and generally would like to know more about, include Torres, Princes of Florence, Mexica, Australia, Porta Nigra, Paris, and Renature.

Interesting to see that I do (rightly) think of them as Kramer & Kiesling, but my exposure is almost entirely to Kramer OR Kiesling (just light Tikal and Carrara outside that).

Looking down the list I see Kiesling as diving into the spatial puzzle. Azul and Heaven and Ale do this. Then I see Kramer with a specific flavor of player sparring, which I’m struggling to articulate. It’s like a cartoon where two people are fighting over a purse, and one keeps getting the upper hand and shouting Aha! And then the other pulls the rug out and grabs the purse, and shouts Aha! Like a “turn the tables” sort of thing that is somewhere between direct and incidental confrontation.

Tikal I know has player maneuvering, snatching things out from each other, as well as the spatial puzzle. Carrara (esp 2e) has the wheel, creating a bit of a market puzzle as things move and refill, but also exclusive scoring and a sudden game end that might be more Kramer.

What’s interesting to me is that those are my jam. I really like those two things, and you see them concentrated in my favorite games. So I’m watching this thread to see where I should dive in. However, you all (and the BGG ratings) suggest that the sum never really capitalized on its parts?

Can someone help me understand the Mexica/Renature dyad? Those sound good, and people say they are similar, but Reddit hasn’t really clarified the space.

Otherwise I might just put their highest rated collaborations on a spreadsheet to look into later. Torres, Maharaja, Coal Baron…? Any other sleepers in here that hit above their BGG rank?