Thursday, September 21, 2006

Michael Schacht

The best games of designer Michael Schacht...

Also nominated:

There are no comparison results, as we did not have this category in 2002.

The Apple Pickers wildly preferred Web of Power to China (though there were a few who liked China better) - but I listed China first because that's the version of the game that is readily available.

When given a choice between Richileu (a two-player version from Ravensburger) or Kardinal & Konig das Kartenspiel (a multi-player version from Timbuktu), the Pickers leaned towards K&K DKS. If you're interested, you can download & print the game



Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

Yuck. Hansa, people? Paris Paris (better known as random random or boring boring?) What were you thinking?

And not nominating two of Schacht's best games? Affenraffen & Tohu Wabohu are both splendid "gateway" games (they are speed games, though, which somewhat limits their audience.)

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Erik Arneson said...

Affenraffen is a delightful game, one of the best speed games I've played. I wish it had scored a recommendation.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

I'll add my voice to the chorus of praise for Affenraffen and Tohu Wabohu (okay, the latter is just a duet between Mark and myself). I'd gladly play either of them over almost any other Schacht game I've played so far.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous nick danger said...

Sheeesh. Call me Mr. Joe Q. Public of the picker's group. All five games I voted for made the final list.

I'm left with nothing to complain about. Well, except for the fact that there's no room for beer in the AP fridge because of all this damn Snapple crap.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

My recommendations matched exactly the first five games on the list, and I've never played Paris Paris. So I'm pleased with the result. I'm especially pleased that Magna Grecia got the exposure it deserves - I just never hear people talk about this terrific game.

Magna Grecia, which was co-designed by Leo Colovini, seems like more of a Wolfgang Kramer game than one by its true designers. It is definitely a gamer's game, a tile-laying with complex and subtle choices. It is far meatier than any Schacht game I can think of, but is not as cold as Colovini games I know.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

As with others, the first 5 were my 5 votes, and there were also 5 of my 7 nominees.

I've never played Paris Paris because I've heard such bad things about its solvability, thus I'm pretty surprised to see it on the final list. I guess I should give it a shot.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Yes, this was my "no vote" category. I haven't played a single Michael Schacht game that I thought was worth giving an award, even a "Best of Michael Schacht" award. Admittedly, I haven't played Affenraffen or Tohu Wabohu, but when you play 10 games by a designer and EVERY SINGLE ONE of those games is totally boring, one doesn't readily progress to the 11th.

Coloretto and Web of Power seem well put together, at least. But they're still boring.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paris Paris??? You have got to be kidding.

I've not had good experiences with Schacht games. Mostly they appear to be clever mechanisms in search of a game. My personal best of Schacht list would include four games: Magna Grecia, Mogul, Coloretto and California (which didn't make it past the nominations). Magna Grecia is the only one that rises above the "eh, pretty good I guess" level. And even Magna Grecia isn't good enough to actually hit the table with any regularity.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous josh miller said...

The above comment is from me, Josh Miller. Sorry.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Nick Sauer said...

I knew I wasn't a Bruno fan but, I was less a fan of Schacht than even I had fully appreciated. My vote matched Chris with the one exception of China, which I feel is a much superior version of Web of Power. Other than this my experience with Schacht's games pretty much dovetails with Chris's.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

I find it ironic that on the front page we list 6 games that won, and then we start the comments section with "Yuck".

I think the issue here is that we aren't really comparing apples to apples yet. Rating the best games of different designers doesn't necessarily carry similar weights. As an example, for me, the best games of Klaus Teuber are much more meaningful than the best games of Alex Randolph. So the final list for some designers represent MUCH better games. Of course this is a moving target for each different Apple Picker.

I dislike poking our honorees in the eye while we list their "winning" games. Of course, I'm not saying anyone shouldn't post whatever they want, but I personally will mostly stick to posting what I like about the games that won. I will (mostly) omit comment on those I am ambivilant about. There are very few games likely to win that I truely hate.

Web of Power is my favorite from Herr Schacht. When I first played it, I thought it was merely OK. But it was short, and this gave it additional plays. Over time I noticed that my ability was improving. I also noticed that while new players would sometimes do well, that the experienced players often did better. Knowing when to open countries, place advisors, or when to block opponents seems to be more important than being lucky enough to get the cards you want.

Web of Power is long out of print, but fortunately an updated version, CHINA, is currently available. So go for it!

5:52 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Well, my Big Three from Schacht made the list, so no complaints. Hansa, Industria, and Web of Power are the three Schacht titles I really look forward to. The first two really stretch your brain while you try to figure out how to battle the system as well as your opponents; the latter is the quintessential "short game that plays like a long one".

My other votes went for Dschunke, which is just as opaque as Hansa and Industria, and Mogul, which is a very nice little auction game, as long as you keep the numbers of players down.

Magna Grecia probably deserves to be there. It's very dry (and very yellow), but there's lots of scope for skillful play. It really doesn't engage me, due to it being so abstract, but it still provides some nice gaming puzzles. I won't turn a game down. I find Coloretto very chaotic with its usual numbers, but it's quite a nice three-player game. Paris Paris doesn't really excite me for any number, but it's a pleasant enough game.

Richelieu is an interesting, thoughtful two-player, and one of my nominated games. I almost included Don, which is another nice little auction game, although it's a bit fragile. The only game I nominated that didn't make the list is California, which reminds me a bit of Web of Power, in that it packs a nice punch in a short duration. Not as good, of course, but it features meaningful decisions within its nice, light gameplay.

Schacht has yet to create a great game, IMO, but he's got plenty of good second-tier games and most of them are represented here.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

So far the best of Michael Schacht's game designs, at least for my tastes, has been the superbly polished Kardinal & König. In its mere 45 minutes there is juicy goodness galore for three or four players (and for five players, there are other games). The card play is interesting and just forcing enough to spread the competition around the board, and the multiple simultaneous contests for first, second and third generates a steady supply of now-or-never decision points to keep a sense of urgency in the game. And then comes the brilliant part, the contests for advisors, placed via the same card play, which can deliver big points and need to be set up during the first half but don't score until the game's second half. That's the tension that makes this game great.

And that's why China is not the same game. It omits that crucial element of Kardinal & König's charm. While some people like China on its own merits, which include the province scoring system and a more forgiving version of the card play from Kardinal & König -- and they're welcome to it -- they are not playing Kardinal & König. Just as Domaine and Löwenherz were made separate entries in the Teuber voting, China and Kardinal & König should have been made separate entries here.

I also don't like that the name of the game, Kardinal & König, was replaced by a flavorless American name that could have been applied equally to dozens of other games. King & Cardinal would have been a perfectly decent English rendition.

I suppose I'd have liked it even less if the game had been called "Hoity Toity." Tough to be sure.

The other topnotch Schacht design, for my money, is Hansa. Where Kardinal & König is a sort of distillation of area majority game ideas, Hansa's building blocks are unfamiliar and rather unexpected. It is partly a pickup and delivery game, but everybody uses the same boat and has to resume from the spot on the board where the previous player left the boat. Really a very nice weaving of fresh ideas into a balanced and engrossing game. Oh, and let's give extra points for the striking graphic design of Hansa, also supplied by Schacht personally.

None of his other designs are huge favorites of mine, but I do want to mention Rat Hot, a nifty two-player design; Mogul, an interesting small auction game; and California, which I found enjoyable even though I wasn't sure there was a handle you could grab to make the strategy work for you. Hey, I've only played it twice! Maybe the moment of illumination is yet to come.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Windopaene said...

Yea Magna Grecia!

I'd say this feels far more like a Colovini game than a Schacht game, and far more than a Kramer game. Only the connection aspect feels Schacht-like. Still, a great game.

9:04 AM  

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