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The "Great" Debate

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06 Jul 2015 17:44 #205518 by scissors
Replied by scissors on topic The "Great" Debate
sorry, I haven't got anything more to add that if knizia isn't a great designer, I don't know who is. :/ i don't even want to take issue with the article. So you think he's merely good... Who was greater Marc Chagall or Pablo Picasso? Gauguin or Van Gogh? Warhol or Basquiat? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? beckett or ionesco? Cindy Sherman or Nan Goldin?

knizia belongs in pretty serious company, albeit in the gaming world, so it is a matter of appreciation, understanding, preference, even what point you are at personally. He belongs in the Taschen who's who of game designers if they were to ever publish such a thing. Pretty sure chvatil belongs there too and wallace obviously though I personally would choose knizia over either. but that's just me. luckily for dr knizia, there are a lot of people who feel the same way. I'm sure he can't be arsed about the rest. i certainly din't think he is overrated or being showered with unfair praise.

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06 Jul 2015 18:45 #205520 by Motorik
Replied by Motorik on topic The "Great" Debate
I was doing a little Thought Experiment, trying to imagine the first five classes of inductees for an imaginary Game Designers Hall of Fame in my head. Based not just on quality of output, but also on overall impact or influence.

So, yeah. Totally subjective but Knizia makes my first class of inductees. Wallace? Fifth class, although admittedly I only like one game he's ever designed. Chvatil and Daviau would probably be sixth class, mostly because I feel they both have a lot more great games ahead of them.

To echo something Barnes was getting at, the thing about Knizia is he's somehow managed to build a marketable brand out of his name and design style without it coming across as obnoxious or tacky. I mean, there are dozens of iOS games with his name plastered in the title: original puzzle games that aren't even based on existing table top games. That's pretty amazing to me. While "CATAN" will always be a bigger brand than Klaus Teuber, Knizia's name is somehow bigger than any game he's ever designed. Yet he comes across in that YT interview as remarkably humble.

First Class (alphabetical):
Richard Garfield, Reiner Knizia, Charles Roberts, Sid Sackson, Klaus Teuber

2nd Class:
Don Greenwood, Richard Hamblen, Wolfgang Kramer, Alan R. Moon, Uwe Rosenberg

3rd Class:
Richard Berg, Richard Borg, Bruno Faidutti, Larry Harris, Richard Launius

4th Class:
Leo Colovini, Eric Lang, Ted Raicer, Andreas Seyfarth, Mark Simonitch

5th Class:
Stefan Dorra, Dirk Henn, Francis Tresham, Martin Wallace, Kevin Wilson
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06 Jul 2015 20:00 #205521 by Michael Barnes
Replied by Michael Barnes on topic The "Great" Debate
That's not a bad breakdown there- but I would be inclined to possibly move Kramer to the first round. The man invented the victory point track, FFS. And really, Alex Randolph has more provenance than Kevin Wilson, Launius, or any of the more modern guys on there.

It's hard to not include Berg. What that man does is so singular, and he's a great example of a designer who doesn't always make "great" games but is usually worth watching.

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06 Jul 2015 20:21 #205525 by DukeofChutney
Replied by DukeofChutney on topic The "Great" Debate
Good article, though i probably think Knizia is greater than Chvaatil, I enjoy his games more. I would suggest that greatness is a bit too nebulous to tie down to one attribute. Whilst half of his output are really auction games i think the greatness of Knizia is that he has a good number of life style games under his belt. Most designers put out reams of play it 5 times and then done games, the Knizia games I have played all warrant a lot more than this and are really games to keep playing through life. He does draw on traditional games a lot, but that's why his games have the durability.


In a weird way i think his dependence on traditional style games is actually what makes Knizia unique and refreshing. In a world where most euro style games seem to fit into a cookie cutter set of design principles i find Knizias auction and tile games more interesting and in some respects more creative, although this is my modern eyes looking back, rather than an accurate reflection of the mid 90s.

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06 Jul 2015 20:35 #205526 by Motorik
Replied by Motorik on topic The "Great" Debate
Aw man, yeah, I totally forgot about Randolph. I'll blame it on residual brain cell loss from playing too much Ricochet Robot back in the day.

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06 Jul 2015 21:21 #205528 by Michael Barnes
Replied by Michael Barnes on topic The "Great" Debate

DukeofChutney wrote: In a weird way i think his dependence on traditional style games is actually what makes Knizia unique and refreshing. In a world where most euro style games seem to fit into a cookie cutter set of design principles i find Knizias auction and tile games more interesting and in some respects more creative, although this is my modern eyes looking back, rather than an accurate reflection of the mid 90s.


This is very significant, I think. One of the "great" things about Knizia's best games is that they tie back to these timeless kinds of mechanics.

Waaaay back in 1995 or so when I first got Settlers, a friend of mine said "this is basically Craps meets Civilization". I had not thought about it, but the basic underlying mechanic of rolling two dice with the 6/7/8 easy bets down down the 2 and 12 longshots is actually the same. That is a very different kind of bedrock for a design than deckbuilding, dungeoncrawling or worker placement.

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06 Jul 2015 21:48 #205532 by Motorik
Replied by Motorik on topic The "Great" Debate
Can't Stop uses the same basic 'two dice, high/low probability' premise and it's both my favorite Sackson game and inarguably one of the top five beer 'n' pretzels games of all time. You can get so much mileage out of those kinds of enduring old-school mechanics, and I think that's something that's been lost in the hybrid era.
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07 Jul 2015 00:21 #205541 by daveroswell
Replied by daveroswell on topic The "Great" Debate
Sid Sackson is one of my absolute favorite designers, with Can't Stop actually being one of my favorite games of all time.

That being said, I think it is humorous when people state the "Kinizia pastes on theme" when Kinizia produced a brilliant innovative game in Ingenious. (I always did think it had a little bit TOO much ego with the name, but still a great game and innovative scoring.)

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07 Jul 2015 12:05 #205560 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic The "Great" Debate

daveroswell wrote: That being said, I think it is humorous when people state the "Kinizia pastes on theme" when Kinizia produced a brilliant innovative game in Ingenious. (I always did think it had a little bit TOO much ego with the name, but still a great game and innovative scoring.)


Knizia totally pasted on the theme in Cthulhu Rising. He totally phoned that game in.

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07 Jul 2015 12:50 #205563 by Michael Barnes
Replied by Michael Barnes on topic The "Great" Debate
No. Twilight Creations pasted that theme onto a Knizia design that they purchased to sucker in geeks that will buy anything with Cthulhu on it. Knizia did not set out to make a Cthulhu game with that. You're blaming the wrong part of the equation here.

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07 Jul 2015 13:18 #205565 by Motorik
Replied by Motorik on topic The "Great" Debate


sigh

also known by the alternate title Reiner Knizia's Jesus Fucking Christ Geeks Are Literally A Fucking Pox On Humanity
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07 Jul 2015 21:16 #205612 by Sevej
Replied by Sevej on topic The "Great" Debate
I have this strange aversion with Chvaatil's designs. Not sure why. In a way, he should be my favorite designer, because he translates my favorite computer games to a board game format. But the thing is, he often translates the wrong part, or the parts I don't like. Marcussen probably took off that mantle from him for me. I guess I'm just looking for something different in board games.

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08 Jul 2015 10:47 #205680 by Ken B.
Replied by Ken B. on topic The "Great" Debate
We played LOTR Confrontation yesterday, hadn't played it in awhile. It's funny, it's actually one of the earliest games I bought when I started "collecting." We played it for months until the cards were dirty and worn--so I sleeved it so we could keep playing. (Sorry "no sleever" purists, that's just how I roll.)

And it was just as fun as I'd remembered. It told a small story in both games we played (flipped sides.) It told the story in large significant beats that were devoid of flavor text or other artificial augmentation.

We played Lord of the Rings earlier this year. Again, one that had been on the shelf for a bit. We all were consumed at Mount Doom, but what a hell of a game it was. Again, it told a perfect narrative in a series of important story beats without beating you over the head with flavor text or artificial augmentation of any kind. See those die rolls on the Shelob board? That's where you fight Shelob. And the game encourages you to use Sam to beat her--just like the book. It doesn't hold your hand or force the issue. It just is. You're actually rewarded for following the story.

I have a vague selection of "untradable" titles in my collection, ones that if I sold would mean I was leaving the hobby (or in dire financial straits, god forbid.) Among those would be Confrontation. Lord of the Rings. Tigris & Euprhates. Ra.

Has he designed some 'paycheck drek?' Yep. But tell me that there aren't days at your job where you're tired or otherwise just phoning it in--you collect that paycheck all the same. And his best stuff? That's the kind of stuff that will stand the test of time.
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08 Jul 2015 13:55 - 08 Jul 2015 14:04 #205721 by OldHippy
Replied by OldHippy on topic The "Great" Debate
I don't know for sure what it is but I find this whole conversation really off putting. Something about ranking designers in this way really turns me off and feels like the antithesis of gaming. Never mind player elimination, this kind of ranking is anti-fun.

They are actually a similar generation of designers but that's not totally fair, yes Knizia did become a full time designer in 1997 and technically Chvaatil's first game came out that same year. But honestly no one knew who the fuck he was till Through the Ages (2002) came out and even then... did we really know who he was yet? I'd argue that wasn't until Galaxy Trucker that he really showed his true colours. Chvaatil is a video game designer who couldn't keep working in that field for one reason or another and made the jump to board games. Reiner is a money man, a math guy. It feels to me that Chvatil, as a designer, created his best games in a post Knizia world.

It is my belief that, partly for this reason, they are not even comparable. The boardgame world was in the midst of a Knizia lovefest when Chvaatil was cutting his teeth, his best designs came onto the market after Knizia was already a star and could not be designed with the same principles or even in the same way. He instead tried to come up with new ways to represent idea's from the video games he worked on. He is a total anomaly really and also changed the way we look at game design. Just like Knizia did. But they did it very differently.

See, I'm ok with someone telling me that Mozart was better than Saleri, that's fine, two classical era composers and one that is incredible and the other is clearly mediocre. But it's kind of dumb to say he's better than Beethoven since they are both hugely important and Beethoven as a composer existed in a post Mozart world. One doesn't really happen without the other in quite the same way nor is there someone who is clearer 'better' once you get to that level. Admittedly I feel pretty stupid comparing game designer to composers but it's what I know... I don't see them on that level personally. Despite my love for this hobby.

Knizia loves math and Chaavatil loves machine language. It's pretty clear that their designs work with different principles and at their root come from very different places. Chaavitl is more baroque and Knizia more spartan but, that's easy, that's obvious.... still, it puts them in different worlds all together. Right now Barnes has managed to turn F:AT into a Knizia love fest and while I like and respect the guy I'm totally against the idea of putting him on some kind of pedestal. Are his 'family' of games equivalent to something like Picasso's blue period as Barnes argues? Representing gaming concepts being pushed in many different directions..? Maybe, maybe he rips himself off a bit... who knows. All I can judge by are the games, his goal going into them is irrelevant if they don't work for me. Mostly they have worked for me and I like Knizia just fine. But I've probably had more laughs, more fun with Chvaatil's titles. Even if they weren't as slickly designed, even if they did have more unnecessary detail. In such a frivolous hobby I like unnecessary detail. The whole damn hobby is unnecessary if you get right down to it. So what? Knizia's titles haven't brought me laughs like Chvaatil's have, they've been brain burning at times, they've been more like gambling for me. Which is fine too, but not my favourite thing about gaming. Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert alone have probably given me more laughs than most games I've played.

On top of all of this even if they were the same time period of designers and even if they didn't have such different design goals, aesthetics and styles of finding logic in game design it would still be difficult to compare them as we're attempting to do here. I think it's a great disservice to both designers to put them back to back so seriously like this. A trashdome would make more sense because then at least the silliness of the debate would be undercut by the extraordinary silliness of a trashdome.

Here's a quick point that I have to make though.. after all that rambling you may not have time to hear any more of my shit but... just because you don't like Knizia or Chvaatil doesn't mean they are bad designers. If you think that... you're simply wrong. There are dozens of great designers and it is very difficult to judge them with any kind of objectiveness... at the level that most of these people reach it honestly just comes down to taste. It's not like we're talking about a hack vs. a pro here, it's two giants from different schools.

Let's try this one next... who's better - Chopin or Johnny Rotten? That's what this argument feels like to me.
Last edit: 08 Jul 2015 14:04 by OldHippy.
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08 Jul 2015 14:23 #205729 by Michael Barnes
Replied by Michael Barnes on topic The "Great" Debate
Nobody was really ranking anybody...Motorik's post was suggesting a hypothetical "Hall of Fame" order of induction. You are absolutely correct- each auteur-level designer has something different to offer, and there are a wide range of qualities and signatures that are worth looking at. When I call Knizia the "best" or "greatest", it's like when I talk about Bowie being those things...it doesn't mean that I don't love Prince just as much or Joy Division or whatever...because those artists have something different to offer.

I think this is a gross misunderstanding about how Knizia designs and sells his games. There's this assumption that he "slaps a theme on colored, numbered cards" which is almost always not the case. He might work up a design (and he's got drawers full of them, like Prince's mythical vaults) and apply some setting to it to prototype. He takes that prototype- which is really almost just a mechanical proof of concept- to Essen or Nuremburg, wherever and interested parties offer to buy it. They may have zero interest in the proxy setting and fully intend for a simple auction/drafting game to be illustrated with a media license or another setting.

For example. I played an actual Knizia-made prototype of the game that would be come Municipium about ten years ago. At the time, the game was called Magistrate (I think that's right) and the mechanics were almost exactly the same as what got published with a Roman theme eight years later. But when I played it, the design was at a publisher that wanted to do a pulp adventure (think Doc Savage) setting and it was going to be called Adventure League. Knizia wasn't pasting the theme on, as people say. He was selling a mutable design for the PUBLISHER to DEVELOP as they saw fit.

So you get Knizia games about donuts, fleas, zombies, relationships, whatever. And at this tier of his work, almost never are those games purpose-built to express a specific setting.

When people talk about him cranking out copycat games or whatever, they miss the simple fact that Knizia wants his role to be the designer. The person that makes the mechanics. He firmly believes in the publisher-as-gatekeeper (which is where he agreed with me on Kickstarter) and respects that when he sells a design, they may develop it in a way that they feel is more viable or saleable on the marketplace. So sure, Twilight Creations isn't going to (unfortunately) do Jager und Sammler with the prehistoric theme. They're going to do Zombiegeddon. It's not Knizia's fault.

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