Monday, September 18, 2006

Reiner Knizia (heavier games)

19 Comments:

Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

A couple of comments:

1. The voting was not close... the fifth place game was nearly 10 votes away from the sixth place game. Which means that you're looking at the unequivocal Heavy Metal Top Five of Dr. K.

2. Traumfabrik (which is about to be re-published in English) was the first game I put on the final voting list even through it didn't quite have the votes. The votes for Traumfabrik were split between "lite" & "heavy", leaning towards "heavy." When those two numbers were combined, it was more than enough to qualify on either side.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Chris Brooks said...

I voted for Lord of the Rings and Amun Re over Ra and Medici. Why? I like them better than Ra and haven't played Medici. I know I need to play it, and perhaps my opinion will change. I consider Amun Re a heavier game than Ra and one of my top 2 from Reiner.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Patrick Korner said...

I voted for Taj Mahal and Traumfabrik instead of Modern Art and Through the Desert, but the other three I'm in solid agreement with.

Why not MA? Because I don't want all auction games, and I'd already given three slots to Ra, Medici and Traum, games I'll play over MA most of the time.

Why not Through the Desert? Because Traum has it beat in terms of fun factor.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

That strikes me as a very conservative list. I think a lot of Knizia's more recent work doesn't have quite the heft of his older stuff, but is a lot better polished.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

Hard to argue with that list. The only difference I had was to sub Samurai for Modern Art. I enjoy Modern Art just fine but I find Samurai a killer game for three.

The entire nominated list are must own games. And I do.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

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1:34 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

This was the first category which for which I was pretty unsatisfied with how it worked out, because of both the process and the results.

I think the heavy/light distinction was arbitrary, poorly-defined, and squeezed many of Knizia's top-flight "medium-weight" games, a category of stuff which is intellectually rewarding but still fun, a category I associate distinctly with him. So Blue Moon City, Beowulf, Blue Moon, Samurai, Tower of Babel, Quo Vadis, Titan: The Arena, and Palazzo (to name just a few top-flight games) all got squeezed, with only Samurai and Colossal Arena even getting nominated. Two games I think of as "medium-weight" made the lists, Through the Desert and Einfach Genial (Ingenious). Really, can anyone explain to me why Einfach is light and Through the Desert is heavy? Even if you go by box weight they are indistinct. Many of Knizia's best games are neither clearly heavy (like T&E or the brain-crunching Taj Mahal) nor light (like Trendy), and I think trying to pound them into those two categories was bound to produce potentially misleading results.

I am also with Shannon in being very disappointed in the lack of more modern games on either list. Only two games published this century made it, Royal Turf (a good game, but a marginal winner to say the least) and Ingenious. No Lord of the Rings, no Amun-Re, no Blue Moon or Blue Moon City, no Beowulf, no Palazzo ... I think the jury unduly favored older stuff that is certainly very good by any other designer's standards but I think Knizia's newer games are even more polished and interesting while being more streamlined, as Shannon notes. And you say none of his newer games were even close? Certainly I would not have included High Society, Quandry, or Medici, and the fact that Stephenson's Rocket was even nominated is totally mystifying to me, and would seem to indicate that the folks need to get a few more of his recent games on the table a little more often :).

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

While I lament the lack of Lord of the Rings, I don't at all miss Amun-Re being on the list. I played it twice and it did nothing for me. LotR is always a thoroughly engaging experience for me, but I realize that some people can't wrap their head around the idea that they can't win the game on their own (no, I don't ascribe to the tacked-on scoring system).

I don't know that I can agree with the generalization that the newer games are somehow better than the older games. I find that Knizia has been hit or miss for me along his whole career. It's just a matter of him putting out so many games that even if a small percentage stick, it will be a decent number of games.

I think Ra is just as good a game for three as Samurai is (and is in fact more fun than Samurai - which is a game I like, but don't necessarily think stacks up as far as fun factor is concerned).

Chris Farrell's point about the buckets is a good one. I found it very difficult to slot games into one or the other category. If there's another go 'round, I might slip Beowulf into my list. I certainly would have nominated it, but I hadn't had a chance to play it until after the nominations happened.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

I think Chris hit the nail square on the head. It's Knizia's medium-weight games that got squeezed out, and that just happens to also be most of his recent gamers' games.

In particular I think that Blue Moon, Blue Moon City, Beowulf, and Quo Vadis have hit my tabletop more in the last year than anything that actually won other than Through the Desert.

And to have what I suspect is Knizia's _most_ innovative game, Lord of the Rings, not make any list is a travesty.

2:03 PM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

There's an interesting problem inherent in The Apples Project:

1. I try to recruit people who've played a LOT of games, in order to get the most informed opinions during the voting.

2. People who fit that criteria are much more likely to have been in the hobby a number of years.

3. People who've been in the hobby for a long time are more likely to vote for the games that caught their fancy in the early stages of their obsession - in other words, "older" games.

I say this not to condemn the Apple Pickers - I fit right into the problem I described. But it's going to show up more than once in the Project.

3:12 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Well, these results, for me, were a travesty. I'm not surprised that the brilliant Stephenson's Rocket didn't make it, because it surely isn't for everyone. But no Amun-Re? Taj Mahal kicked out? No Traumfabrik? Amazing!

My picks for this category were one of the easiest selections of the exercise for me. I went with the four games mentioned above, along with E&T. The only other title that I considered was Medici, but frankly I just have more fun with Traum. The result, though, was that only one of my five selections made the final list, and only two of my nominated games (my other two nominations were Medici and Rheinlander).

I can't really criticize the choices too much, since these games are so well regarded. But there's a reasonably large gap for me between my choices and the group's. Through the Desert is a perfectly good game, but it never particularly caught on with us, probably due to its abstract nature. I'll gladly play it, but would never seek it out. Modern Art is also good, but I've yet to play a game of it I thought was great. I prefer quite a few other Knizia auction games. And I tend to avoid Ra because I find the luck factor with the way the Ra tiles comes out dominates the game.

With regard to the discussion about the vintage of these games, I do feel that Knizia's Golden Age was 1997-2000. But he's still created plenty of games subsequent to this period that I'd play over the "other" three selected games. These include the wonderful Amun-Re, of course, as well as Palazzo, Pickomino, Beowulf, Blue Moon City, and Scarab Lords. The only reason I think some of these fine games weren't chosen is the brilliance of the ones that came before. But for me, those brilliant games are a bit different than the group's.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Aaron D. Fuegi said...

Well, I have to say I wasn't at all surprised by the results and am surprised by the complaints a bit. Some of the games mentioned like Chris's baby Beowulf I think just aren't generally well enough liked - by me included. The only ones you guys have mentioned I would have given even a prayer are Traumfabrik, Amun-Re and Lord of the Rings. However, I really can't argue for Traumfabrik or Amun-Re over any of the 5 selected and Lord of the Rings is too polarizing to win here, against such strong competition. I give it a much better chance in the innovation and beautiful games categories.

On the lightness issue, I also had no problem. Yes, I think that Einfach Genial is definitely lighter than Durch die Wuste. Rules and setup are both much simpler and it just doesn't feel nearly as complex in any way to me. Not sure how long each takes to play, but Einfach at least feels meaningfully shorter to me.

12:47 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Well, the biggest problem may be that Knizia is just too good for only five games! If you look at the Geek, he has seven of these nominated games ranked in the Top 40. No other designer has more than three represented. Here they are, along with their Bayesian rating and (in parentheses), their raw rating:

2. Tigris - 8.24 (8.30)
8. Ra - 7.94 (8.02)
22. Modern Art - 7.69 (7.78)
23. Taj Mahal - 7.65 (7.78)
26. Samurai - 7.64 (7.73)
32. Amun-Re - 7.57 (7.67)
38. TtD - 7.52 (7.59)

Outside of the top two (maybe one of these days I'll figure out what I'm missing with Ra), there really isn't much to separate the next group of five games. Traumfabrik is also rated highly, with a raw rating of 7.60 (it's ranked 52nd, due to a relatively low number of raters). Medici, by the way, is down in 84th place.

So even though the results don't show it, Knizia has 7, 8, or 9 games which really deserve Top Five status.

Given all that, I'm still puzzled that Taj Mahal didn't come closer to making the final list. It's popular, widely played, and critically praised. I would have thought it a lock. Oh, well.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Aaron, the question is not "is Through the Desert heaver than Ingenious", which I agree it does feel slightly so, but "Why does Through the Desert qualify as heavy while Ingenious does not?" What's the balancing test here? What features does Through the Desert have that Ingenious does not that make it heavy? They both have simple rules, easy scoring, a mix of open and constrained play ... Through the Desert does feel a touch heavier, but not very much so, so by what logic did the line between heavy and light just happen to get drawn right between them?

To be honest, I like Taj Mahal a lot and I personally consider it Knizia's top "heavy" game, but the more I play it the more I realize it is in fact as heavy as German games come. If I had to guess, I imagine the main reason it didn't make the list is because, somewhat unsually for a Knizia game, it's very intolerant of different skill levels. New players will be very hard-pressed to even feel competitive with experienced players, while the veterans are likely to feel like the newbies are upsetting the game and introducing a big random factor when they over- or under-bid, or when they stay in a bidding round when they clearly should drop (in my opinion it's still not as bad as Puerto Rico on this count, though).

Again, I think Taj Mahal is a brilliant game, but I see it as having a smaller niche than the more accessible Tigris & Euphrates.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Doug Adams said...

Medici... please. Such a difficult category, but I went for this as the master's best and most diverse work.

Amun-Re
Euphrat & Tigris
Lord of the Rings
Ra
Taj Mahal

5:45 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

The question of why Through the Desert "feels" heavier than Einfach Genial is one I'd like to take a guess at. Might the salient difference be that in Through the Desert there are several ways to score, and thus more of a balancing act amongst the various choices?

At our tables Medici and Taj Mahal both suffered downtime issues that dampened their popularity. Not only is that "to turn a card or not to turn a card" decision one that can be subtle enough to slow an individual down, there's the fact that once somebody is out of a round (having filled his hold in Medici or withdrawn from the visit in Taj), there's nothing to do except wait for the other players to finish, and those end-of-round decisions tend to be among the subtlest and slowest.

My own favorites from the heavier end of the Knizia spectrum are Amun-Re, Euphrat & Tigris, Fabrik der Träume, Modern Art, Ra, Royal Turf, Samurai, and Stephenson's Rocket.

I've also enjoyed a couple of playings of the recent Blue Moon City and have been told that my fondness for Marco Polo Expedition suggests I might like Beowulf.

Enjoy,
Stven Carlberg

4:16 AM  
Anonymous josh miller said...

I'm disappointed that Lord of the Rings didn't make the list, but not surprised.

Other than that, it seems like a good list. I think Medici (a very good game) is a notch below the others, and I would have been happier with something like Taj Mahal.

Most of all, I'm pleased to see Samurai drop off the list. I personally dislike it, but beyond that, it's the lone highly-regarded Knizia that I think is a poorly-designed game.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Aaron D. Fuegi said...

Hmm, Chris, well if we agree Einfach is lighter than TtD, why can't the line be drawn between them? Has to go somewhere. I think the only good reason to object to the division is if a game in the lighter category is actually heavier than a game in the heavy category and I at least certainly don't think that happened.

As for Taj, I really dislike the Chicken aspect and think some others share that or have other dislikes. Basically, I think it is more polarizing than most of the others and that cost it votes.

2:52 PM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

Regarding Taj Mahal...

While much lauded when it was released, some of us (yes, including me) soured on the game over time. Each playing featured less fun & more chances to get sucked into a bidding war with someone that decimated your chances at winning the game. Esp. in the late game, you often had no choice, hoping simply that the other person ran out of cards first.

Meanwhile, the player(s) who didn't go head-to-head with others won the game.

Blech.

2:58 PM  

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