Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reiner Knizia (lighter games)

The best of the "lighter" games of Dr. Reiner Knizia...
Also nominated:

For comparison, the top five games from 2002:
This category was the site of one of my biggest mistakes last time. I divided the games myself into "lite" & "heavy" and ended up leaving Lost Cities with no nomination. That was corrected this time around by allowing the Apple Pickers to assign their nominations to either "lite" or "heavy." (They had 7 slots to use in each category.)

When it came to multiple editions (and Knizia has plenty of those), the Apple Pickers preferred the older versions of the games. Royal Turf won out over Winner's Circle, Schotten-Totten over Battleline, and Quandary over any other version of the game.

I also need to mention that the rules of two of the nominated games have undergone some odd tweaks in their most recent American editions: Circus Flohcati & Colossal Arena are both better played by the rules from their earlier counterparts.

Please note: the results for the "heavier" games of Dr. K. will be released tomorrow morning.



Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

Reiner Knizia has been a mind-bogglingly prolific designer since 1990 and Digging, with 287 titles listed under his name at BoardGameGeek... as of this morning. And at the geek they like to list multiple games, even if not exactly identical, under the same title, so there's no showing for Quandary or Revolution or Zirkus Flohcati or any number of other designs.

"Lighter" and "heavier" is not the easiest distinction to make with Knizia's games, either, since even the shortest ones can be very demanding. How a game that takes an hour and a half to play and rewards mental gymnastics we never before even realized existed can wind up on a "lighter games" list is puzzling, to say the least... but I love Royal Turf and am always happy to find other players who appreciate it.

I doubt there's anybody in the world who knows the entire Knizia catalog, and that certainly includes me, but here are a few of the gems I've picked out over the years from among his shorter games:

Jumbo Grand Prix
Katzenjammer Blues
Marco Polo Expedition
Res Publica
Too Many Cooks
Zirkus Flohcati

We'll get to some of the longer games tomorrow, I guess.

Stven Carlberg

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Dave Arnott said...

This was the first hard category for me, the guy has so many good light games. You try it, initially picking just seven.

Pre-final voting, these were my seven nominations:

Schotten Totten
Circus Flohcati
En Garde
Great Wall of China (only a few plays, but I like it)
Lost Cities

And any one of these could have been number eight, as they're all great, but...

Exxtra (can really suck for you)
High Society (have cooled on it lately)
Honeybears (only good every once in a while)
Katzenjammer Blues (over too fast)
Money! (the last cut - was between this and Circus Flohcati)
Royal Turf (the betting is wonky for me)
Times Square (still not sure about it)

Yeah, I didn't think Great Wall had a chance, and maybe I did throw it in there because it's new. Even if it had made the final list, I probably wouldn't have picked it. But I wasn't too worried about my number eights - I figured most of them would make the cut without my help.

What I realized here, though, is that I definitely prefer the lighter stuff more and more these days. And, man, Reiner is so good in that genre. Of course, putting out a new game every six seconds, you're bound to hit every once in a while.

And speaking of time... Royal Turf in 90 minutes?!? Stven, that's nuts! Are you playing with actual horses or something

12:56 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

We play Royal Turf with actual people (six of them) and run all three races with all four betting chips. If you find the betting "wonky," Dave, we find it fascinating, the battleground where the game is won and lost, prime time for mental gymnastics galore. You've got to play the numbers, but you've got to play the players, too.

Oh, and I like Katzenjammer Blues exactly as incisive as written. There's no time to waste in a game that practically starts in the endgame. But I do think its magic number is three players.

I'm looking foward to giving Times Square (Reeperbahn) a try. Opinions vary wildly on this one, but it seems to be liked better by those who've played it more than once or twice. Likewise Great Wall.

2:51 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Here's a category where my fellow voters and I are not on the same track. It began with my nominations. I went with Schotten Totten (never Battle Line!), Palazzo, Pickomino, Katzenjammer Blues, Ohio, Res Publica, and Money. I agree with Stven that it's difficult to divide Knizia's games into light and heavy (it's much easier with Kramer). For example, Ohio looks like a filler, but it can be a very intense game, while Medici, though a longer design, has a fairly light feel. I decided to go with what I thought the perception would be, meaning that shorter usually meant lighter. Thus Ohio and Katzenjammer Blues (which with 2 or 3 players is a REAL brainburner) were included in the lighter designs. I wouldn't have minded a few more selections, so I could have included favorites like Tabula Rasa, Too Many Cooks, or Titan: the Arena. Knizia really is the master of the meaty filler.

Then the nominated results come in and they include only two of my Top Seven and only three of my Top Ten. I'm disappointed, but not particularly shocked. My tastes with the lighter Knizias are clearly not mainstream. For some reason, Palazzo has been met with mostly indifference, a very puzzling reaction for an Alea Knizia. I think it works just fine as an enjoyable, fast playing middleweight. Pickomino is usually viewed as either a dicefest or as overly long (due mostly to Zoch's poor decision to say it can accomodate up to 7 players--it really shouldn't be played with more than 4). I feel both are incorrect, but I'm beginning to accept the fact that there aren't many gamers out there who enjoy probability management as much as I do. Katzenjammer Blues is another game that gets a bad rap because it's usually played with too many--with two or three, it's a very intense struggle and a superb test of hand evaluation. You can probably count the number of gamers familiar with Ohio on your fingers and toes, but it's a remarkably simple game that's a wonderful exercise in judging groupthink. So the only game that I was somewhat surprised didn't get nominated was Res Publica. This is another niche game, but it has a reasonable fan base; I guess there just aren't enough of them in our group.

So filling out my ballot was surprisingly difficult. There were still games I enjoy, but I was getting down to the marginal ones. In addition to the three I've already mentioned, I added Africa (which seems like a pleasant family game with a bit of meat) and High Society (a fine filler that seems to end too quickly for my tastes).

The final vote brings more disappointment: only one of my nominated games and one other of my voted games (my least favorite) makes the list. In fact, Schotten Totten is the only one of the group I have any enthusiasm for--it's a perfect filler that plays quickly, but is full of tough choices. Lost Cities is nice, but hardly taxing; I can usually play my cards about as quickly as I can pick them. The claims about its slowly revealed depth baffle me. In fact, it's a good game to choose when I'm tired, as I can play quite well even while on autopilot. Einfach also seems nice, but not terribly deep, at least not with four, which is the only way I've played it. I've been told it's much better with two, but I rarely play two-player abstracts. Quandary is pleasant, but kind of chaotic; it rarely gets played around here. And Royal Turf is one of the few Knizia games I actively dislike. To me, it's a pure dice rolling exercise and a highly tedious one at that.

So I'm disappointed in the final results, but not all that surprised. I think both Titan and Money had a decent chance of making the final group, but I'm not shocked at the exclusion of either. The list we arrived at is a perfectly reasonable one, it's just not the one I would have chosen.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

Thoughts on the winners:

-Battle Line/Schotten Totten
I might be one of the few that really has no preference to these two and enjoy them both equally.

-High Society
This game never came close to living up to its status as a great filler for me.

-Ingenious/Einfach Genial
On the other hand this game was a lot more fun and deeper than I expected it to be. One where the obvious looking move is not always the best move.

-Loco!/Quandary/Thor/Flinke Pinke
This is just like High Society in that for me it's just an okay game.

-Lost Cities
And this one deserves its classic status. Simple to teach, beautifully over produced, with a nice blend of luck and skill that keeps me coming back to it long after it should have burned out.

A couple I thought should be there:

A game that suffered quite a bit from preconceived ideas of what players wanted it to be. It is a fun exploration style game with room for subtle strategies. One I think playes great with 2 or 3 players.

A game that when played with three can be the epitome of cutthroat. This is one of my favorite Knizia designs and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a game that packs more hard decisions into 30 minutes.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

I'm so saddened over En Garde being left out after the nominations that I can't comment any further. :(

1:58 PM  

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