Weeks and Barnes Talk to Reiner Knizia!!!

Weeks and Barnes Talk to Reiner Knizia!!! Hot

The*Mad*Gamer     
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Reiner Knizia

I did not expect to be enlightened so much in this interview. Knizia is truly no game hack, a brilliant man who was also super nice. Michael Barnes was also brilliant here and what a great time we had with this project.

Weeks and Barnes Talk to Reiner Knizia!!! There Will Be Games
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Posted: 27 Jun 2015 19:29 by ubarose #205042
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Great interview.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 20:49 by Secret Satan #205046
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My work here is done
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:14 by Michael Barnes #205048
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This was absolutely the high point of my career as a games writer and commentator. To hear someone that I deeply admire and respect say "you got it right" just completely blew me away. For the first five minutes, I was literally thunderstruck and couldn't even think of anything to say. But once we got talking- and Weeks' gift of gab kicked in- I was really surprised at how conversational, charitable and easy going Dr. Knizia was. Yet also very wise and very assured. This is a man that I think still has a lot to teach game designers, game players and the games business. And we all should listen.

Weeks and I both failed to bring up Beowulf, which was one of our main agendas. But Weeks did bring up Clash of the Gladiators, which may be the first time anyone's asked him about that.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:24 by The*Mad*Gamer #205049
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You did a great job Michael , your points were brilliant. I was nervous at first also, I had to laugh when my voice cracked at the beginning, that's the first time that has ever happened. The fact that he posted your article on his website was a total surprise, people will think we planned to talk about that but we didn't. I had no idea about it.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:32 by KingPut #205050
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Player elimination is the Anti-Christ of games. Brilliant stuff. Love it.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:55 by Michael Barnes #205052
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That was really kind of the ice breaker moment...I'm pretty sure he meant "antithesis", but he rolled with it.

I honestly had no idea that he had read that article...let alone put it on his website.

Can we get this on the front page?
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:58 by The*Mad*Gamer #205053
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DW Tripp just sent me a text and said the Kickstarter discussion was excellent.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 21:58 by Sevej #205054
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It's back to Knizia golden age again with both T&E and Samurai reprinted!
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 22:20 by ubarose #205055
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Michael Barnes wrote:

Can we get this on the front page?

Is that a rhetorical question or a request for assistance?
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 22:52 by Michael Barnes #205056
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Assistance! I won't be back on a desktop until Monday, can't post it up front.
Posted: 27 Jun 2015 23:36 by ubarose #205059
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Done
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 01:20 by Hex Sinister #205060
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That was pretty cool. Thanks, guys.
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 06:24 by Pug #205061
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What a great interview, thank you for sharing. Does anyone else want to just go out and by all the good doctor's games?
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 06:31 by MattDP #205063
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Fantastic job guys, but still think he's overrated as a designer. A few absolute gems like T&E, Ra, a slew of very forgettable medium weight euros and a handful of vastly overrated games including Samurai and LotR.

That said, I suspect most designers are overrated if you judge them over their whole careers. Almost all of them are remebered for a few high points amidst a sea of briefly popular games. So perhaps I'm being uncharitable.
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 14:40 by repoman #205069
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The man who designed Pikomino is not over rated at least in my mind. I love that game.
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 15:06 by The*Mad*Gamer #205070
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Yes, you are right. The real challenge with this interview was to decide what to talk about he's done over 600 games. I had Pikomino and Beowulf sitting right in front of me but didn't get to them. Just no enough time.
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 18:34 by KingPut #205072
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MattDP wrote:
Fantastic job guys, but still think he's overrated as a designer. A few absolute gems like T&E, Ra, a slew of very forgettable medium weight euros and a handful of vastly overrated games including Samurai and LotR.

That said, I suspect most designers are overrated if you judge them over their whole careers. Almost all of them are remebered for a few high points amidst a sea of briefly popular games. So perhaps I'm being uncharitable.

I don't have a Reiner Knizia game in my favorite top 20 games. But Knizia would be one of the first game designer I'd put in the game designer hall of fame. Sorry for the baseball reference but Knizia is more of a Cal Ripkin or Derick Jeter who got into the baseball hall of fame because of consistency and longevity rather than putting up crazy home run numbers over a couple of seasons.
Posted: 28 Jun 2015 20:56 by Gary Sax #205080
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Wow! What a coup!
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 06:50 by Josh Look #205087
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Bullshit on him being overrated. I may not love most of what he's done, but it's impossible to not be impressed by what he's trying to communicate and how he's doing it in any one of his games. The fact that his games read so dryly on paper but do tend register some sort of emotional response (granted, some more than others) is all the proof one needs to make the claim that he designs with feelings and themes in mind. Add the fact that he's responsible for so many games that have proven to have staying power, yeah, he's first in the designer hall of fame. We're always saying that some game has replaced another one for us...You never hear some one say they're replacing Ra/T&E/Lost Cities/LOTR:TC/etc. Hell, as much as I love Omen, I still think Battle Line is top dog due to how pure of an experience it is.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 08:41 by Mr. White #205098
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This is fantastic! Great job, fellas, and Steve, awesome song at the beginning!

Wow. This was unexpected. Gave me a warm feeling towards boardgaming that I hadn't had in awhile. Thinking about it, I have more Knizia games than I do from any other designer. Though his titles may not be my absolute favorites, I like them a lot. A whole lot. I would totally put him in first ballot. My favorites are:

Battle Line
Kingdoms
Colossal Arena
LotR: Confrontation
Lost Cities
Beowulf
Lord of the Rings

I've never played T&E and am interested in Blue Moon Legends (can I get a recommendation? I don't hear much about it.)

One thing I've come to learn about myself the past few years boardgaming is that I actually prefer, what some would call, slightly abstract boardgames. TITAN, Manoeuvre, Neuroshima Hex those sorts of games. And well, A lot of Knizia's are like that as well which may be why I have and enjoy so many. For pure AT, I like to create my own characters and such (Blood Bowl, RPGs, etc), but for boardgaming I find I like the more chess-like, maybe even euro-style of play.

Again, great job here!
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 09:04 by VonTush #205100
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It is hard to talk in generalities when the man's designed hundreds of games...But the element that I most admire about many of the games of his that I have played is that they are so focused and efficient. He has a restraint that puts just enough into the game to deliver the theme and/or setting but avoids any sort of heavy-handedness. And that restraint is something that I feel has been sorely lacking from game design for a while, though there has been a bit of a resurgence of it as of late.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 09:40 by engelstein #205105
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Really looking forward to listening to this!
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 09:49 by The*Mad*Gamer #205108
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Gave me a warm feeling towards boardgaming that I hadn't had in awhile.

That's a great compliment and exactly what I was going for and in fact I told Michael that I didn't want this to sound like an insurance seminar or a corporate thing , more a fireside chat.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 09:55 by Ska_baron #205110
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Amazing song, great interview and obviously a great subject. Thanks for putting the effort in, guys - great listen.

EDIT - to be honest, when I saw the headline pop up on Facebook, I actually assumed it was going to be a comedy bit of yours Weeks. Very pleasantly surprised.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:06 by Ken B. #205114
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As someone who seemed to have the most run-ins with Weeks, I'll say that the reason for that was that I knew he was talented and capable of really doing great things for this site and the AT cause, but always wanted to piss that away trolling the shit out of everyone and biting every had that dared to feed him.

This podcast is proof of what he is capable of doing--being entertaining and actually a positive force for the hobby.

Excellent work, Steve.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:17 by Josh Look #205119
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.....aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand he's back. Hide teh cock.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:28 by Motorik #205122
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I love a lot of Knizia's work and dislike a lot of it, too, but Ra is a staggering accomplishment in purely mechanical terms. I think Adel Verpflichtet is still my favorite Euro auction game, but the mechanical "engine" of Ra's gameplay is truly some next-level genius. It's also a great three-player game (I find it challenging finding games where playing with three doesn't result in some weird imbalance)

Mr. White wrote:
Battle Line
I've never played T&E and am interested in Blue Moon Legends (can I get a recommendation? I don't hear much about it.)

Blue Moon Legends is absolutely worth a purchase if you like the other Knizia card games you mentioned. I also like its two (out-of-print, but easy to find and usually cheap) antecedents, Scarab Lords and Minotaur Lords.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:49 by Michael Barnes #205125
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It makes sense that Ken is back (at least for the next ten minutes) given the renaissance that F:AT is undergoing.

Calling Knizia "overrated" is...weird to me. You may or may not like X or Y number of his games...but ultimately if criticism of the games medium stops at "do I like/don't like this game", then that's a pretty low bar. What Knizia did and now does is really very much unlike what anyone else is doing in games design. He is one of the very few game designers that I would regard as an artist in the same sense that someone like Warhol or Bowie are artists. The intent is very clear, the creative objective might shift but is always consistent, motifs might return but are iterative rather than repetitive and there is always a drive to innovate some aspect of what has come before.

There is also a commercial side to Knizia that isn't anything like what anyone is doing or is, quite frankly, capable of doing. You can grouse all you want about the minor releases, the licensed contract work he's done, the reskins...but there is likely no games designer in the business that has been as successful at creating a brand name and parleying that into financial and criticial success at the scale he has. He can do very commercial and even workmanlike designs, but the he can turn around and do something like Tower of Babel or Amun-Re. There is a versatility in his work, across the catalog, that you just don't see in other designers. And yet, everything has his authorial stamps. Given the volume of his work, not everything can be on the level of T&E or Ra. Dr. Knizia would be the first to tell you that, I believe.

It doesn't matter if you don't like LOTR or Through the Desert. Those games are phenomenal pieces of design. There isn't anything "bad" about them, at least if you care about design qualities above petty genre or dogmatic expectations.

Rediscovering Knizia last year was one of the things that kept me from completely burning out on games...after so much Kickstarter garbage and all of these designers straining to recreate childhood memories of playing certain kinds of games or simply bundling mechanics and applying a "theme" that amounts to nothing more than pictures, it was so rejuvenating to play things like Modern Art again with fresh eyes...and finally getting that the kinds of meaningful theme, subtext, economy and artful qualities I always want in games were always there in his work.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:57 by Ken B. #205129
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Michael Barnes wrote:
It makes sense that Ken is back (at least for the next ten minutes) given the renaissance that F:AT is undergoing.


I guess I'd better use my ten minutes wisely.

Agree with everything Barnes said. I have always been a fan of Knizia's work. Yeah, his old stuff was "better" to most of us gamers. But still, even if he never made another game, the depth and breadth of his offerings are almost incomprehensible.

I did this geeklist years ago about Knizia, and my feelings really haven't changed any.

boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/19669/ameriga...theme-and-why-do-his
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 10:59 by Jackwraith #205130
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Motorik wrote:
Blue Moon Legends is absolutely worth a purchase if you like the other Knizia card games you mentioned. I also like its two (out-of-print, but easy to find and usually cheap) antecedents, Scarab Lords and Minotaur Lords.

Second this. Blue Moon is one of those games that I will never part with and I was excited to see FFG reprinting it as Legends (I have the original decks.) Like many Knizia designs, it's one that seems simple at face value but has inordinate depth and even allows for competitive deck building (like MTG, not Dominion), if you're interested in that. I'd rank it as one of the best games he's ever designed.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 11:12 by Sagrilarus #205133
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You don't sell one million units (literally) by being overrated. Like it or not, anyone ranking your few hundred designs is going to put half of them below the median. Comes with the territory.

The thing about Knizia is that you don't even realize the games you like were written by him. Adel Verpflichtet eh? Learn something new everyday.

S.
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 12:33 by Gary Sax #205140
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Michael Barnes wrote:
Rediscovering Knizia last year was one of the things that kept me from completely burning out on games...after so much Kickstarter garbage and all of these designers straining to recreate childhood memories of playing certain kinds of games or simply bundling mechanics and applying a "theme" that amounts to nothing more than pictures, it was so rejuvenating to play things like Modern Art again with fresh eyes...and finally getting that the kinds of meaningful theme, subtext, economy and artful qualities I always want in games were always there in his work.

IMHO, our site could make a name for itself by having consistent content about older games. Like, something that someone has been playing a few times over the past year or so and has specific thoughts about. Not a review but not some sort of after action report either. If people in the board games played thread would transition some of that to front page site content, not even necessarily long form...

I think the audience would come for stuff like that. My perception is that people around the net re: board games are exhausted with the kickstarter treadmill dominating the discussion of games.

I'll get right on doing that as well. ;)
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 13:32 by Gary Sax #205141
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Alright, I just listened to this podcast in full. I'll have more thoughts later, but... Weeks, I'll be honest, you're not my favorite dude in forum form. But there is NO ONE I have heard in the board game community who has the chops at moderating a podcast that you do. You are an amazing host---you can tell that you're thinking about the hosting task/process, not just sort of hanging out in front of a microphone like almost every other board game podcast person.

Edit: My main substantive comment was listening to Knizia talking about his process. What it really reminded me of was Richard Hamblen. That's the impression I've always gotten from his games. What makes them brilliant is he didn't know, for example, how D+D would approach fantasy games. So he just thought up his own game system that does not resemble D+D. No HP. Instantly fatal strikes. Highly plannable, non-random results of individual battles. I wonder this process of making yourself almost an outsider from the scene is common to the most creative designers?
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 14:35 by Disgustipater #205143
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Is there a podcast version (non-YouTube) of this somewhere?
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 20:11 by The*Mad*Gamer #205158
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Excellent work, Steve.

Glad you liked it Ken, good to see you again! You still in the Huntsville area?
Weeks, I'll be honest, you're not my favorite dude in forum form. But there is NO ONE I have heard in the board game community who has the chops at moderating a podcast that you do. You are an amazing host---you can tell that you're thinking about the hosting task/process, not just sort of hanging out in front of a microphone like almost every other board game podcast person.

Wow, thanks a lot. To be honest I haven't kept up with boardgame podcasts so I really don't know what is out there.
Is there a podcast version (non-YouTube) of this somewhere?

No, I only put it on YouTube. If there is a demand for that I can do that but I haven't done a podcast in so long I forgot how to do it! HAHA
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 22:44 by craniac #205160
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I used this Firefox plugin to create an mp3 from the Youtube video:

www.glimmersoft.com/podcaster/

Who wrote and performed that intro song about Knizia? That was hilarious!
Posted: 29 Jun 2015 22:54 by JonJacob #205161
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Great job you guys. The talk was enjoyable and easy to listen to. It managed to go through some of the more high ended concepts of board game design without ever getting bogged down in pretension or becoming boring. No easy task to be sure.

I really want to go out and play some of his games now.
Posted: 30 Jun 2015 02:54 by Sevej #205163
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It's kind of amazing with "pasted on themes" and all about that "math professor", that he actually design and explain games based on how he want players to feel!
Posted: 30 Jun 2015 07:01 by stoic #205167
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I enjoyed that interview. Great job! I am a fan of Knizia. I absolutely love Battleline, Ingenious, and Tigris & Euphrates. He isn't overrated. HIs games are subtle. They set the hook and reel you in.
Posted: 30 Jun 2015 07:36 by craniac #205169
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Jackwraith wrote:
Motorik wrote:
Blue Moon Legends is absolutely worth a purchase if you like the other Knizia card games you mentioned. I also like its two (out-of-print, but easy to find and usually cheap) antecedents, Scarab Lords and Minotaur Lords.

Second this. Blue Moon is one of those games that I will never part with and I was excited to see FFG reprinting it as Legends (I have the original decks.) Like many Knizia designs, it's one that seems simple at face value but has inordinate depth and even allows for competitive deck building (like MTG, not Dominion), if you're interested in that. I'd rank it as one of the best games he's ever designed.

I recall there being a number of small glitches involving unclear effects, etc. Were those every cleared up in Legends?
Posted: 30 Jun 2015 20:41 by edroz #205206
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Audio only please. I only have time on my commute to listen to things. I tried the YouTube to MP3 plugin but it didn't work for me.
Posted: 01 Jul 2015 08:43 by schlupp #205224
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Congrats on enjoyable and entertaining podcast (in video form)! Catchy song, likeable guest and surprise twists (Knizia linking to Michael's Nohighscores article). Well done! You guys sound superexited and nerdy at the beginning, but manage to get a nice converstational tone shortly after. I normally don't listen to podcasts, but listened the whole hour.

Some other observations:
+ it sounded as if Michael first called the doctor Ronald and Raimund before he settled on Reiner.
+ Knizia sounds so German that I first thought that it was a parody, but the more I heard the more it became clear that he was the real deal.
+ I know you had one million questions and wanted to get them all in, but it would have been great, if you would have had more time to explore some of the topics you asked. But then I guess you'd have no problem to talk a few hours more to the doctor, if you had the opportunity.
+ I'm wondering whether 'Knizia, master of theme' was the door-opener to get the interview. I'm under the impression that it is not easy to get an interview like this, correct?

(+ Not directly connected to your podcast, but I'm flabbergasted that the first or second reaction over at BGG is a guy accusing you - without listening to the show!! - of being disrespectful in general, for which you were, back then, (it's pretty clear, in his opinion rightfully) banned. I mean, come on! That has been almost 10 years ago! Unbelievable!)

Next please: Wolfgang Kramer. or Klaus Teuber. You owe it to your listeners. ;)
Posted: 01 Jul 2015 08:52 by The*Mad*Gamer #205226
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+ I'm wondering whether 'Knizia, master of theme' was the door-opener to get the interview. I'm under the impression that it is not easy to get an interview like this, correct?

No, this could not be the reason I got the interview because Michael was a surprise guest for the doctor. I did not tell Knizia that Michael would be joining us. In fact, until the last minute I thought i was going to have to do this solo, Michael gave me his skype name at the last minute. HAHAHA!

I knew nothing about Michael's article. I had not read it and certainly did not know the article was posted on his website.It was a huge surprise for both of us and no doubt a lot of the game community.
Posted: 03 Jul 2015 17:49 by Hatchling #205369
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This is such an excellent interview!

Steve, your interviewing style has all the characteristics of the best jazz players: you are extremely prepared and well researched, but in your playing you swing in a way that pulls the other players into their groove, and you manage to round the right corners and sharpen the right edges to draw people into the mix and let them make surprises. Respect.