Topic of the Week: Reiner Knizia

  • What was your first Knizia?
  • What is your favorite Knizia?
  • What is the worst Knizia you’ve ever played? Most obscure?
  • Is Knizia the best designer? Top 10? “Also ran?”
  • Why are there zero Knizia’s in the BGG top 100?
  • Should Knizia just retire?

Knizia (8 pages of results…)

Abridged List of Notables:

  • Tigris & Euphrates (2003)
  • Quest for El Dorado (2017)
  • Ra (1999)
  • Modern Art (1992)
  • My City (2020)
  • Samurai (1998)
  • Battle Line (2000) / Schotten Totten (1999)
  • Lost Cities (1999)
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (2002 / 2005 Deluxe)
  • Amun-Re (2003)
  • Ingenious (2004)
  • Through the Desert (1998)
  • Babylonia (2019)
  • Mille Fiori (2021)
  • The Lord of the Rings (2000) (Original Co-op game?)
  • Stephenson’s Rocket (1999)
  • Quo Vadis (1992)
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There’s probably a Knizia that is The Game For Me but I haven’t met it yet.

I quite enjoy Ingenious but if my copy got destroyed in a fire or something I wouldn’t rush to re-buy it.

Modern Art I like, but it has big table order effects; the winner usually seems to be the player just after the worst player. This should be fixable with some sort of permuter.

I like thematic integration more than is really compatible with most of RK’s games.

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First Knizia - Lost Cities

Favorite - I have not played all that many in the grand scheme of things, and some only digitally. I think I’m going to have to say Quest for El Dorado, though I think T&E would win out if I played it more, and in person.

Worst - Again, haven’t played many. Worst would probably be Lost Cities, and I say this when it was our most played game last year and I enjoy it very much. Out of the games I have played, it is the one most subject to randomness of the card draw, IMO.

Best designer? - He is certainly one of the most prolific, and many of his designs are very good. I feel comfortable putting him in the top 10 best game designers. It feels like there are lots of designers that have one or two hits that resonate with the gaming community and as such those games are in the top 100. Knizia may not have games in the top 100, but he has well over a dozen games that are very well regarded, and many others that have plenty of fans as well.

Why zero in the top 100? - criminal negligence?

Retire? - Why? He’s still making good games, and despite it being his career, I’m willing to bet it is a hobby for him as well. If he’s doing something he loves, it is really work?


GeekGroup suggests I own 23 games by Doktor Knizia (not including 13 expansions! What? Knizia expansions? I would, of course, be talking about Blue Moon decks, and also the extra maps for Stephenson’s Rocket). I would call it 21 due to having 2 copies of Ra (haven’t decided which one I’m going to keep, Windrider or 25th Century Deluxe), and The Quest for El Dorado: The Golden Temples feeling a bit like an expansion to The Quest for El Dorado.

But, gasp, I’ve only actually played ONE: Ra!

Because Knizia doesn’t tend to make games that are soloable (there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere about game design and/or game thoery itself)

First Played? Ra
First owned? Battle Line (the organizer of my local convention gave me a copy because I was hovering around the area when the silent auction ended and nobody had bid on it) EDIT: if I recall, I think I offered $10 for it because I had a $10 bill handy



Very likely.

Because he dilutes his fanbase with hundreds of different games; they can squabble endlessly about which ones are the best. Remake the same game 12 times, each time slightly different? You just took the fanbase of that one game and split it into 12 different sub-fanbases.

No. Instead, he should create a metagame that strings together, aggregates or otherwise combines all (ALL OF THEM) his existing games into one, huge megagame.

EDIT: ah! Forget about half of what I wrote above. I played Lost Cities once! Probably the weaker of the two games I’ve played, so I’ll go with that being the worst Knizia game I’ve played.


He seems to have largely passed me by, which is remarkable, considering how ubiquitous he is!

I do have - and quite like - Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.

Used to have Lost Cities, but we didn’t enjoy it and moved it on.

I was tempted by My City, but didn’t get it and probably won’t now I’m being waaaay more discerning with my purchases (I used to buy loads of games because they looked interesting, or were popular, or they were a bit like another game I Iiked; now if I’m not 99% confident that I’ll absolutely love it, I don’t get it).


I’ve only played Quest for El Dorado once, and Through the Desert once. Both impressed me by being simple but giving you something to aim for immediately.

The only one I own is Lost Cities, which I might like more than anyone else on here, and that was a battered 2nd hand version from a gift shop 15 years ago when I was travelling with my girlfriend. I think Lost Cities is genius. The stakes are obvious: look at what’s in your hand, take a risk on the odds of completing a run, take a bigger risk if you go for a Wager card for a bigger payoff. Then: don’t give your opponent any cards they want. That “I don’t want to give this card away but I have to” can lead to groans of dismay ON TURN ONE. It’s so elegant, so easy to understand and fun to get stuck into right away. Amazing game design.

Having said that, I do want to try the other end of his work, like Tigris & Euphrates.
And Ra, and Mille Fiori (even though I know it’s not very good).

EDIT: Oh, I own High Society too! That is probably one of the most brutal, cutthroat games in my collection. Pure carnage auctions right from the start. Beautiful latest edition.


Who is this guy? lmao


Looks like I own 15, previously owned 2 additional. Of those 17 I’ve played 14, which is a high hit rate. This speaks both to the age of the games and the teachability (which is usually the highest barrier for me playing a game with the people in my house).

First Knizia is actually hard to remember? I assume it was Tigris & Euphrates but as I go down the list I’m wondering was it Ingenious? The Confrontation? Samurai? Lost Cities? One of those.

My favorite is Tigris & Euphrates, which is also my favorite game. It’s also a game where I’ve gotten past the macro effects and started noticing all the little bits and levers under the hood, and I’m so over-focused on them that I’ve lost sight of the forest and lost 10 straight games. Like last place lost. Sometimes it’s like that.

I’ve sold Ingenious and Lost Cities. Both are fine games. Lost Cities felt like good - bad - good, another level opened up - ok bad, solved that one too. I kind of want it back to play with kids and non-gamers, but I haven’t regretted it too much.

Ingenious was also good but not good enough. I like the way you can’t help yourself without creating opportunity for your opponent, and you can’t hurt your opponent without also hurting yourself. But I just described Jaipur as well as Ingenious, and Ingenious is also best at 2, so I decided I would be playing Jaipur instead.

With both of those I probably couldn’t have sold them without the presence of an app to scratch the itch when it comes.

But the worst? At some point some poor company bought his entire backlog of unwanted games and was churning out 0.99 apps. I tried Qin, Kingdoms, and Decathlon. I think Decathlon was the worst, I actually wanted it to stop. But it was still interesting from a design perspective, 10 push-your-luck dice subgames that did reflect the underlying athletic events. Qin and Kingdoms were both serviceable but uninspired. I appreciate that you need to design 300 games to make 30 classics, but you don’t need to publish 300 games.

I won’t stick a pin on best designers. What I say is that, if you are going to have a conversation about the “best designer,” Knizia and Rosenberg are the only names that must be included in every discussion. The eventual conclusion may be neither, depending on whether you are talking about pinnacle of achievement, innovation, breadth, depth, consistency, units sold, etc, but those two are the only ones out there who would have to come up every time.

As for his lower ratings:

  • His older work is his best, and ratings inflation between .03 and .05 per year is working against him
  • Many Knizias have emergent gameplay that doesn’t level out until 5 or 10 games in, and many ratings are based off of first impressions.

But if you ask me, which modern games may still be played 300 years from now? T&E. T&E is the first and only game that comes to me.

I’ll probably come back and ramble about the rest of the Knizia’s I know at some point…


Truly, it seems, Tigers & Pots will become the game that survives this era of gaming. I imagine in the future, if big box stores still exist (or, perhaps, big box stores are all that still exists, a la WALL-E), you’ll find sat next to the chess sets and the packs of standard playing cards, a travel edition of T&E.

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And yet we can’t get a reprint…

I just noticed Pollen and Samurai: The Card Game, which are identical apart from production, and the new one (2023) sits at 7.2 while the old one (2009) sits at 6.3 (similar ratings count). So that’s 0.9 over 14 years for the same (prettier) product.

…maybe a topic for another week… Obviously Gloomhaven and Isle of Cats, but apart from those…

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I think his games are pretty good!

Modern Art (the way I play it anyway) makes me laugh more than any game. Lost Cities makes me swear more than any game.

I bounced off Through the Desert and Stephenson’s Rocket (maybe @lalunaverde sell me on that at Aire Con?

I’m rubbish at Quest for El Dorado but I think it’s great and is one of the games my parents understand.

I love Yellow and Yangtze and Ra but don’t get to play them enough (especially Y&Y to understand how to play them well).

Babylonia is cool but the constant scoring annoys me.

I didn’t enjoy Voodoo Prince, but need to try it with 5 players.

I think the ability to make so much of ‘do 2 actions’ I’d pretty incredible. His best games are incredibly simple to learn, but very hard to play well and with lots of player interaction.


Knizia and other old school designers like Kramer (El Grande fame) and Kiesling (Azul) allows me to bring games that are interesting to play and they are very easy to teach and internalised. The club that I go to had a lot of hits from him including Samurai and Ra. His games made my hobby much more lively to be in. Otherwise, I would be focusing solely on heavy games and almost insular to the wider board gaming world - and I am already out of touch with a lot of the current hotness.

Yeah. S-Rocket is weird. But that’s why I like it. One should approach the game like Acquire, if you have played that one before.


I find it incredibly opaque. Absolutely no idea what playing well would look like.

The Top 100 thing I think is also down to newness. The algorithm is weighted towards new releases (apparently) and while Knizia has released a lot of good games (or re-released great ones) recently, he has had a great, totally new design for a good while.

I’d suggest El Dorado and My City were both new territory for him and sufficiently distinct from contemporary releases. (and, to be fair, I think El Dorado was top 100 a year or two back).

Wasn’t a fan of My City. Agree about El Dorado but it doesn’t strike me as the kind of game that is going to be highly rated on BGG.


What was your first Knizia?

I don’t remember. My log shows it was Modern Art Huh? Interesting. I still own this, and I used to own 3 editions of this. Because I’m lame.

What is your favorite Knizia?

Stephenson’s Rocket, which I’m sure the forum is aware of. Shared incentives are really good. It is always tense. Vetos andthe threat of vetos keeps everyone at check, constantly nibbling at our shares. Mergers are always a big deal and changes the game significantly.

What is the worst Knizia you’ve ever played? Most obscure?

He made a lot of crap… a lot…

Is Knizia the best designer? Top 10? “Also ran?”

Might be a good time to talk about this. Knizia is in my Top 10 but he isn’t the top! my criteria for top designers have become a practical one where I look at their “batting average” and then try to gauge on their chance of landing a hit when they make a new game. Knizia is at 7. he is prolific, but I have played a lot of his low tier ones.

Why are there zero Knizia’s in the BGG top 100?

the BGG crowd overall has a certain taste in games. And it’s definitely not Knizian in style.


I currently own something like 16 of his games. Some of those alas unplayed, some even unplayed for quite a while. Modern Art, Stephenson‘s Rocket, Mille Fiori and Equinox being the embarrassing ones. Yes I also have trouble with those not being solo-able. I have probably played 25ish of his games maybe even 30. He‘s ubiquitious.

First: The first one I played was maybe Ingenious or Carcassonne: The Castle a pretty good 2 player iteration on Carcassonne. Maybe it was Keltis. None of these are in my collection anymore.

Favorites: My highest rated ones are T&E and MLEM. The first is an appreciation of the design rating. The second a how much fun it was to play rating. Without looking at ratings I would say Quest for El Dorado. Most played is probably Ingenious which very likely beats My City.

Worst: Highscore and Medici the Dice Game tie for worst (well I rated Lost Cities: To Go even lower but that is due to the appalling edition—not that I rate Lost Cities much higher but still…).

Top 100: His most acclaimed work is older. Ratings decay. There used to be a bunch of his games in the Top100 and I remember the moment the last game fell out, people noticed. But he iterates on certain themes again and again and Knizia-philes have a huge variety to choose from so it is unlikely that one of this games will return to the Top 100. Also for a good while the classic Knizia-interactive style was not much in favor. Rosenberg‘s multiplayer solitaire‘s are much easier to stomach in the age of coops.

There is no best designer. Knizia is very good at what Knizia does. Is he my favorite? No. But the boardgame world would be much much poorer in designs and ideas without him. And therefore I conclude he should only retire when bow-ties become uncool.


Despite years working for the Dept of Defense and developing quite a nose for acronyms, I’m missing this one. What is MLEM?

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Glad you asked!

MLEM Space Agency. Played at this year‘s SPIEL. It‘s a push your luck dice game about cats in space. I didn‘t buy it because they had enough copies or so it seemed and now it turns out it will only be widely available in January over here… MLEM: Space Agency | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

edit: Mlem should be familiar to anyone who has seen a lot of cat pictures online. Just google „mlem cat“