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Reiner Knizia vs. his own design principles
Laszlo Molnar
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Based on an old Antoine de Saint Exupéry quote, Reiner Knizia has said several times that "Many people think that a game is finished when there is nothing more to be added. I believe a game is finished when there is nothing more that can be taken away and still leave a good game."

He has also said "The art of game design is simplicity - not complexity!"

But as he is making games for different kind of target groups, it seems it became inevitable to turn against these design principles quite many times.

In the examples below he (or the publishers, with Knizia agreeing) did this to many of his simpler games: added random events, various character or action cards or tiles spice up the game that could have remained (or was even published before) more simple, more elegant without them. The results are various - let's have a look at them!
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1. Board Game: Schotten-Totten [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:383]
Laszlo Molnar
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So let's start with some clear examples where a few or more special action cards are added to the games (quite often already card games). Let's see the (probably) most well-known one of them all first.

Original:
Schotten-Totten (1999)

New version:
Battle Line (2000)

Changes (added material) :
The most important changes are the 10 "tactic" cards (special action cards) added (these also appeared in later editions of Schotten-Totten). These cards can be drawn instead of regular cards; however, their use is limiting and limited. It's limiting because they take away space from regular cards in your hand and it's limited as you can't play more tactic cards than the number of tactic cards your opponent plays+1.

Reiner_Knizia wrote:
In America you're constantly looking for new themes and if you use the same underlying systems it doesn't really matter. Whereas in Germany if you take the same system in two different games it's a "crime" because you've published the same game. That's a very strong difference. Take Schotten-Totten in Germany, which became Battle Line in America. The base game is the same except for the latter's tactical cards, which gave more of a wargame flavor and more possibilities to plunge into the theme. In Schotten-Totten the game is relatively abstract. That was very nice for the German market but I felt we needed more for the American market.



image by Daniel Indru

Result:
The ratings and rankings suggest the average geek prefers Battle Line over Schotten-Totten. However, Schotten-Totten players did not like the changes. The tactics cards certainly take away from the tension; on the other hand, they make the game a bit more varied, more thematic (well, it's still not heavy on theme). I like both versions - for different reasons.

Verdict: GOOD/IT DEPENDS


Note: there is another ST update:
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian The Shield of Courage Card Game has mostly the ST rules with only one special power added: once per game, instead of your normal draw from the top of the deck you may EITHER a) take any card from the deck into your hand and then reshuffle the deck OR b) take a random card from your opponent's hand into your hand. Seems to be a fun variant, although - see comments below - it was not designed by Knizia.
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2. Board Game: Wildlife Safari [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:943]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original:
Flinke Pinke (1994), Quandary (1994) - and later editions Loco! (2003) and Botswana (2010) that feature the original rules

New version:
Thor (2002)

Changes (added material) :
It accommodates up to 6 players (by adding an additional stock), and it includes a set of 14 action cards which can be used to affect play.

image by Katie Harris

Result:
I couldn't even figure it out from the comments if the game gets better or not with the special cards. I guess I'll have to play my copy of Thor both ways to know. Right now I can see the two (...) games have virtually the same rating.

Verdict: ?
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3. Board Game: Circus Flohcati [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1163]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original:
Circus Flohcati (1998)

New version:
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Card Game (2002)

Changes (added material) :
The game changes the special action cards (the cards with instructions to be followed immediately) and adds missions to be completed. At the end of a turn, players are free to carry out one or more missions like "Protect Senator Amidala" or "Uncover the Course of Count Dooku".

image by George Van Voorn

Result:
It seems BGG users are divided over this one. Those who don't know Circus Flohcati but know Star Wars didn't necessarily fall in love with this not too thematic set collection game. Many of those who know Circus Flohcati seem to appreciate the changes made (while, of course, some CF fans like their game left alone).

ReinerKnizia wrote:
So we're looking at potential madness here -- we have a license and only four months to get the game in place. When we discussed it, I told them there was no way anybody could create a good, new design in that time frame. So we had to look at something which already existed which we could adapt to the new theme. We came to the conclusion that Zirkus Flohcati was the right type of game. It was out-of-print, and people liked it very much. We thought we could reach a very different audience with it and so I looked at the thematic side. While working on it, I actually had a copy of the screenplay (under the threat of death if I passed it on). We looked at it and came up with missions. We actually added things to the game but we kept the core mechanics there just to be on the safe side. If you change too many things you could introduce problems. At the same time Ravensburger worked on getting the pictures together and getting the product schedules together so that everything could be done by May. This was a very challenging project from a time-frame point of view.


I also quote a user comment here - even though I don't know how good the game actually is, it's really funny:
JasonMatthews wrote:
Does to the original Circus Flohcati what the prequels did to the original Star Wars films.


Verdict: IT DEPENDS
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4. Board Game: Vegas [Average Rating:4.93 Overall Rank:10250]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original:
Vegas (1996)

New version:
Maginor (2007)

Changes (added material) :
Maginor adds some cards, spells, and a different "dueling" mechanism. The theme is that players are trying to gain votes from various oracles while in Vegas players they tried to gain control of the best tables.
Maybe I'm going to go into more detail when I actually get to play at least one of these games.

image by Crypt Keeper

Result:
Both games are rated low as it's BGG and these are ultra-light luck-heavy dice games, but one thing is visible: Maginor with its current 5.52 rating (from a lot more voters) is still more respected than Vegas with 4.82

Verdict: GOOD

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5. Board Game: Grand National Derby [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:5380]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original:
Grand National Derby (1996)

New version:
Titan: The Arena (1997)
(You can find Colossal Arena some entries below in this list.)

Changes (added material) :
Besides the strong theme change, the most important changes are:
There are special powers and special cards added. There are secret bets.

image by Chris Norwood

Result:
The only thing I can see is it's rated a lot higher than the original. Probably the changes weren't that good for horse race fans; maybe for others it was the right thing to do.

Verdict: GOOD
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6. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:540]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original:
Titan: The Arena (1997)

New version:
Galaxy: The Dark Ages (2000)

Changes (added material) :
So after the success of the Grand National Derby to Titan:The Arena change by Avalon Hill, GMT might have found it was the good direction the game was heading so additional complexity might be great. There is another theme change here (fantasy to sci-fi) but what matters in this list is that there is added complexity in most rule details and cards. In detail, the most important changes are (quoted from this excellent site, highlighting by myself) :
Quote:
In TtA, strength cards carry no additional powers beyond their value (...).
In Galaxy, ship cards have their own powers. (...) So in Galaxy, playing a ship on a world in which you are Governor allows you to use both the ship's power and the world's power. Playing a card on a world where you're not Governor still allows you to use the ship's power.

In TtA, once a bet is placed it remains there until the creature is eliminated or the game ends. In Galaxy, a base can move up or down (increase or decrease in value). This can happen through the actions of certain ship powers, through combat versus an undefended base, and through the Spoils of Victory.

In TtA, once a round ends, only the lowest-value card is considered. In Galaxy, once a round ends, the highest value card(s) receives "Spoils of Victory." The controlling player may increase the influence of one base on that world, or decrease the influence of one base on that world.

In TtA combat is abstracted and represented by playing the strength cards. "Combat" as such is only resolved at the end of the round, with the lowest strength creature being removed. In Galaxy (...) Fleet ships (cards with values of 6 through 10) may be used to fight other ship cards in the same row, or an undefended base (a base is undefended if its world has no ship card in the current row). You can only attack if you earn one or more "attack opportunities": that is, if you cover a card with your Fleet ship, or match the value of another Fleet ship, or control the Imperials world and play an Imperials Fleet ship. Attacks are resolved with dice, included in the game.


image by c 5

Result:
The ratings strongly suggest the game is not as good as Titan: The Arena. It seems the target group might be different from the usual BGG crowd. Some forum/review quotes might show you the result of the changes:
CortexBomb wrote:
Galaxy is basically a buy only if:

1) You want a more heavily themed game.
2) You don't mind the game being more random.
3) You don't mind the game being much longer.
4) You don't mind having the game be harder to teach.

gschloesser wrote:
I've come to understand just why these changes were made. GMT has a tradition as a "war game" company. The bulk of their customers are traditional war gamers. In order to make the game more appealing to their main customer base, it was felt that more combat and 'attack' features were needed. Perhaps this is a wise business decision, but, in my eyes, the game just doesn't measure up to Titan: The Arena.


Verdict: IT DEPENDS/BAD
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7. Board Game: Vampire [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:3844]
Laszlo Molnar
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New item added later, making the originally 1-page geeeklist longer...


Original:
Vampire (2000)

New version:
Invasion of the Garden Gnomes (2012)

Changes (added material) :
Quote:
Invasion of the Garden Gnomes introduces special powers for each color and more vicious competition within each color of meld. The game includes "junior rules" that allow you to play a simpler game, more similar to Vampire, and the "full rules" are notably different from the the game's predecessor and involve deeper strategy.


Result:
The game isn't published yet.

Verdict: ???
 
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8. Board Game: Ferkelei [Average Rating:5.56 Unranked]
Laszlo Molnar
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Original: Ferkelei (1995)

New version:
Merchants (2007)
(Well, it's listed as a re-implementation of Ferkelei although there are significant differences in the basic mechanism - the way the cards are placed and the scoring is done seems to be inspired by Rüdiger Dorn's Arkadia (2006))

Changes (added material) :
There are 4 types of special cards that you can buy. These make some special actions possible but as money is the VP here, buying them takes away from your VP.

image by Trond Meistad

Result:
I don't know Ferkelei but the special cards make Merchants work as fine as it does. Because of these cards and the need to find the right timing (when is it time to focus on collecting points and not buying another special card?) the game almost feels like a light board game while without them it would feel like a very light filler. It seems the ratings suggest the same: Ferkelei (5.52) vs Merchants (6.65).

Verdict: GOOD
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9. Board Game: Res Publica [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:3240]
Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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Well, after the game that was rather different from the original so I'm not even sure it should be listed here, let's go to the opposite direction: two games released under the same title - with some cards added. Well, the the original version of the second one wasn't even released at all.

Original:
Res Publica (1991)

New version:
Res Publica (2011)

Changes (added material) :
There are some minor rule differences between the 1991 and 1998 editions of the game, but the 2011 edition is what added extra cards and stuff.
Dearlove wrote:
Reiner Knizia's design for the latest Queen edition added sixteen cards. This included six each of monks and books, requiring a meld of three monks to get a church, or three books to get a library. (Two churches and libraries are included.)

However Queen chose, without consultation, to include only five each of monks and books, and require melds of just two each.



Result:
Res Publica is one of the earliest Knizias from the time when he was a beginner so maybe it's no wonder it doesn't have very high ratings. I'm pretty sure the changes for the new edition were made based on 20 years of experience so I guess they make the game better - but I can get no information on this at all (only an issue reported by Christian Dearlove (see quote above) who claims the publisher changed a rule for the worse).

Verdict: ?GOOD?
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10. Board Game: Tower of Babel [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:905]
Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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Original:
Tower of Babel - prototype

New version:
Tower of Babel (2005)

Changes (added material) :
It is obviously not "Knizia vs. his own design principles": this time it was the publisher that added 8 special bonus cards (that have different powers that can be played during further rounds) to the game. This bonus card goes to the person who completes the final stage of a wonder.


image by Elijah Lau

Result:
It is known that Reiner Knizia prefers the game without these cards. Was it the reason why his very long collaboration with Hans im Glück ended? (They published 12 Knizia games but none since 2005.) I don't know but I know that many geeks prefer the game without these bonus cards as they make the game unbalanced. I can understand this concern and yes, the wonderful structure of the mechanism is certainly hurt by these cards. At the same time these can make the game more fun. Do you prefer pure elegance in games? Don't use the bonus cards. Do you prefer some fun "take that" element added, some unpredictability making things more exciting? Use the bonus cards. It's up to you.
(and it seems there are more players playing with these cards than those who play it without.)

Verdict: IT DEPENDS/BAD
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11. Board Game: Neue Spiele im alten Rom [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:3112]
Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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Now let's see two games with only smaller additions that add only a little more variety.

Original:
Neue Spiele im alten Rom (1994)
It's a game compendium; Imperium and Hannibal versus Rome are two titles mentioned below.

New version:
Rome (2002)
(This is a compendium of 3 games reworked from the old game compendium)

Changes (added material) :
Hannibal versus Rome - both sides get one more playing piece.

Imperium - there are three types of special cards instead of the one in the original. The "Can chose the same number twice" card was already included in the original; the new version has a card that allows scoring one more area and another one that allows reselecting cards to play.
There are also "proconsuls" added (they weren't present in the 1994 original at all). Quote from Ken Shoda's excellent geeklist:
no_where_dense wrote:
A player with single highest influence leaves one of his markers on the capital as a proconsul. It counts as one influence when the province be scored again. When a player places a Proconsul, he scores one bonus point for his capital and one additional bonus point for each adjacent Province where he has a proconsul. Score for directly-neighboring Proconsuls as long as the chain of Proconsuls is uninterrupted.



Result:
As the original game is one that was published only in German when Knizia wasn't even well-known and the other one was published in English by American publisher GMT games (and both versions have been OOP for long), it's hard to find users who did actually compare the two. So I can only refer to Ken Shoda's list again, and even this won't bee too informative:
Hannibal versus Rome:
no_where_dense wrote:
GMT edition adds one more piece and it feels unnecessary. However, I haven't played GMT edition enough to judge.

Imperium
no_where_dense wrote:
I tried GMT edition only few times and I am not sure if it is an improvement or not.


Verdict: IT DEPENDS (seemingly UNNECESSARY)
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12. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:540]
Laszlo Molnar
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Budapest
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Original:
Titan: The Arena (1997)

New version:
Colossal Arena (2004)
(The two games are both listed under the same entry. Still, their differences make them fit this list fine.)

Changes (added material) :
Colossus, Daimon, Gorgon, and Seraphim are new creatures. The Titan and Troll have similar but slightly twisted powers. Luckily the Galaxy: The Dark Ages changes didn't make it to the 2004 version.


image by Program Terminated

Result:
It seems those who owned/played both have problems with production design/quality (e.g. color problems) of the FFG edition. But what about the gameplay itself? Long-time Titan fans found the new version has balance issues while those who aren't long-time Titan fans are happy as the "choose 8 monster out of 12" rule provides nice variability and replayability. Overall it seems the game got probably better (not counting the production issues).

Verdict: GOOD
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13. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:270]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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The following three games are games with a board and without cards (okay, almost); here it's the characters/pawns/tiles that are placed/moved on the board are made more varied with different special action possibilities/abilities added.

Original: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (2002)

New version:
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition) (2006)
Note: it's another case where it's clear it wasn't Knizia who designed the additional material (but great FFG designers Christian T. Petersen and Eric M. Lang) and Knizia only playtested the already playtested changes, suggested changes etc. - he was involved in the whole project but he isn't the designer of the additional material.

Changes (added material) :
The deluxe edition is not only bigger, it has 18 additional characters with their powers and 4 new special cards. (The original game can be played too.)


Result:
I haven't tried the deluxe version yet, but the ratings suggest the game is even better than the original - at least it adds variety, different strategies to try etc. Most players say it's as good or better than the original (only the box is oversized and the components overproduced).

Verdict: GOOD/IT DEPENDS
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14. Board Game: Tiku [Average Rating:6.73 Unranked]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Original:
Clinch (1993), Tiku (2008)

New version:
Battle for Olympus (2009)

Changes (added material) :
The 2008 version (Tiku) already added one special power to the player pieces (each of them could move diagonally once in the game). (Also both sides have one more piece as the board is also larger.)
The new version adds 8-8 different powers to the player pieces (assymmetrical powers just like in Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation) and each piece can use this power once during the game.


image by Calvin Daniels

Result:
As these games aren't that well-known I try to put it this way: the changes in the new version are like giving different "once-in-a-game" special powers to all the 10 rings in YINSH. Does that sound like a good idea to you? Well, I quite like the sound of it but I just can't tell. I know these work in Battle for Olympos and even though the two sides are assymmetrical, there is even one special power on both sides that says you can use any special powers from the other side and that helps making stuff balanced.
The question is, is the game better with the special powers? Ratings strongly suggest "no", but I'm not sure. Lovers of simple abstract games (like Tiku) aren't really the crowd that would enjoy learning 16 special powers; for them, the game just gets too chaotic and unpredictable. And others wouldn't bother playing a game of this abstract nature. What's more, the published edition (maybe for playtesting, the game was playable online before it was published!) has rather small pieces so you need good eyes to see the artwork, be able to recognize the characters and/or see the special character ability also shown on the tiles.
While the current rating of Battle for Olympus is below 6 I believe it's a good game. It's just a game that is struggling to find the players who are willing to really learn and play it.

Verdict: IT DEPENDS
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15. Board Game: Kingdoms [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:819]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Original:
Auf Heller und Pfennig (1994)
(rethemed as
Kingdoms in 2002)

New version:
Beowulf: The Movie Board Game (2007)
Note: you can find only Knizia's name on the cover but at the game entry you can also find Jeff Tidball's name and it's also suspected that the design (flaws?) were implemented more by Tidball - who has more rpg items to his credit than board games - than Knizia himself.

Changes (added material) :
besides some small but important rule changes, there are two significant rule changes in an attempt to make the game more thematic and fitting the Beowulf theme.
1. The three rounds have three different boards, including a large board for round 3.

image by Nate Walker

2. The three rounds have different tilesets with lots of different special powered tiles (10 different symbols like temptation, valor, treasure, royal dragon horn etc.) and 3 different tile sets for the 3 different boards.
 
 

images by gamephotos

Result:
The game became more thematic - but not thematic enough: even though the three rounds (three "acts") really refer to the three most important acts of the movie with lots of story references, graphic design etc., the game is still showing its very abstract nature, as noted by players who played Beowulf, not knowing it's an adaptation of the Kingdoms system.
But those who have played and loved Kingdoms before mostly prefer the original's elegance. The new tiles are a bit unbalanced (there is at least one very strong tile which, as players can take a tile from one act to another, can be game-breakingly strong) so the game is quite often played with some house rules. But even with house rules, while you knew the tile distribution in the original, it's a lot harder to remember what kind of tiles remain in the drawing pile so the variety of tile powers make it feel rather chaotic compared to the original.
Beowulf is rated lower than Kingdoms; however, the difference is not too high. Even I like playing both, although I prefer Kingdoms over Beowulf.

Verdict: BAD/IT DEPENDS


Note: the 2012 edition of Kingdoms also has the Kingdoms: The Wizard promotional tile included. According to already posted opinions, it's a quite useless tile that can be used for variety, but at least it does not break anything.
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16. Board Game: Pickomino [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:920]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Original:
Pickomino (2005)

New version:
Heckmeck Barbecue (2010)

Changes (added material) :
Add a board where the distribution of worms is not as linear as in the original (it's trickier), wooden worms, snails (worth 3 worms and have some special rules connected to them), player markers, some rule changes and +1 different value on the dice (the original had "5"s and worms that were worth 5, this one has "6"s and worms).


Result:
It loses the pub game appeal and some of its elegance. On the other hand, it offers more interesting decisions!

Verdict: GOOD/NEUTRAL
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17. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:357]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Following his game design principles, it's really rare that Reiner Knizia creates expansions to games that already work (well, or he publishes the games with expansions under a different title, different theme...). (And by "rare" I mean there are only 8 of his several hundred games that have an expansion listed in the database.) But the following few items are examples for this.

Original:
Blue Moon City (2006)

New version (expansion) :
Blue Moon City: Expansion Tile Sets 1 & 2 (2006)

Changes (added material) :
4 special building tiles that are added to the "map" of the city to be built. These tiles have special powers (well, 3 of them does; the fourth one only needs unusual cards - green 'wild cards' - to be built) - if your pawn ends its move on a special tile you can draw two cards, pay a diamond for the obelisk or jump anywhere else in the city.


Result:
Blue Moon City is a very good family game but it's so balanced (even with its 20 different card types!) that it feels a bit bland, especially as most of the time the game ends in an almost-tie: "I would have finished the game right now if you hadn't finished it before me" is a usual situation in the end.
The special tiles add a much-needed spice to this already fine food; they make it richer, the strategy more interesting: it feels the game is more "complete" with them. One might wonder if these were part of the original design or not (after all, they fill the 4 missing corners of the city layout and were published in the same year as Blue Moon City itself). Maybe they weren't; BMC was released in the first half of the year while the expansions were published in the end of the year (months after the game was nominated for Spiel des Jahres). But they really feel like organic parts of the game; once they are added, you'll never play the game without them.

Verdict: GOOD
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18. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:497]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Original:
Lord of the Rings (2000)

New version (expansions) :
Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes (2001)
Lord of the Rings: Sauron (2002)
Lord of the Rings: Battlefields (2007)

Changes (added material) :
Friends and Foes: 2 new scenario boards, lots of foe cards (a new feature in the game) and special ability cards for each character

images by Raiko Puust

Sauron: As one player becomes the bad guy, they get a range of bad guy cards (Sauron and nazgul cards) to use. Also included: dark events - an alternative, harder-to-master set of event tiles.

images by Raiko Puust

Battlefields: Each of the boards from the main game has a corresponding battlefield where battles must be fought while the mission is underway. Also included: reward cards with special actions for winning these battles.



Result:
I hope no one expects me to go into detail about this complex system - especially as I haven't played the games yet. What's sure is that the original Lord of the Rings, being a theme-driven design, already had lots of special action cards, event tiles, event dice and events to make it fun, replayable and make it work at all against a non-human opponent.
Friends & Foes came so organic that many guessed it was already a part of the game before it was published. The Foe cards and the accompanying rules made the alternative winning conditions too easy though, so an extra rule&card had to be added to solve this problem.
Sauron is the least loved one of the expansions (still it has a rating a bit above the original); the idea of making a player the enemy instead of the game itself obviously makes a big difference that players might or might not like. However, as for the theme, it does make sense: from now open discussion of the strategies is harder as Sauron is always watching and listening - just like in the book.
Battlefields is, on one hand, an expansion that adds 6 flowcharts to the game instead of real battles, but on the other hand it adds the previously missing aspect to the game that is rather strongly present in the book (and in the movies) - the battles.

Each one of the expansions make the game more complex - you might say richer -, and this time, as it's based on a rather complex book, that is probably right. These also make the game more challenging. As far as I know one of the main criticism the original game gets is it's too easy to win, so making the game more challenging is, once again, probably right.

Now I should try to play the game as I have owned all the boxes for a year now...


Verdict: GOOD
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19. Board Game: Bucket Brigade [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:3038]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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(Well, this one is actually two items in one.)

Original:
Honeybears (1998) (later re-released as Bucket Brigade (2007))

New version:
Tal der Abenteuer: Die Schatzsuche im Himalaja (2006)

Changes (added material) :
The board game version of the simple card game adds not only a double-sided board with a few different ways and crossroads but also 15 rendomly distributed tiles that are special action tiles with a benefit to the player who picks them up (take coins, jewels, draw cards or move another adventurer as many spaces as the number of footprints).

The special edition of the game also features 8 special action cards (that are currently downloadable from Knizia's website as a freebie). Each player receives and can play a special card in the first half of the game and another one in the second half of the game. With these cards you can move an adventurer backwards - or forward 4 spaces, do what the special tile says twice, take back a card from the discard pile or swap 2 face-up tiles.

image by PvdR

Result:
If you check the ratings you can see that Honeybears is rated relatively low (6.29) at BGG and Tal der Abenteuer is rated even lower (5.92). It just shows how you should not take BGG ratings seriously. Tal der Abenteuer won the Family Game of the Year award in Austria and is really a fine family game (to be played with 8-12-year-old children) - and had it been published by some good publisher like Kosmos or Hans im Glück instead of Parker, Knizia might have won the Spiel des Jahres award two years earlier (he won the award with Keltis which was another card game to board game adaptation with the same approach in design). The tiles really spice up the game - well, it's not the very elegant, small and fast card game anymore but it got more interesting - and more thematic - than that.
I haven't tried the extra cards yet; although I don't think the are really necessary for the game but might add some additional flavor and fun to the experience.
On the negative side, of course the basic mechanism (already featured in Honeybears) is rather luck-dependent: a lot depends on the cards you got. To make a lengthier and more complex game out of it might not be a gamer's idea of fun.

Verdict: IT DEPENDS/GOOD
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20. Board Game: Keltis: Das Orakel [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1432]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Now as a card game to board game adaptation was mentioned, let's have a look at another one. This entry and the games that follow are not clear examples as they offer a (more or less) original basic mechanism but they are the most complex games in some (unofficial and non-existent) Knizia game "families" (where "family" means a group of games that use the same very basic mechanism concept), each of them trying to spice up stuff with added characters, action cards and/or tiles.
Also note that as these are not simply versions of one given game but a "family" the entries show the complex versions here.


Original:
Keltis (2008)
(I know "the" original is Lost Cities... But now I'm more inclined to talk about the development inside the Keltis family.)

New version:
Keltis: Das Orakel (2010)

Changes (added material) :
- Of course there are already changes (randomly distributed, but face-up tiles) in Keltis compared to Lost Cities
- And of course there is an important change in the basic mechanism here (1 common path for each colors instead of 5 colored paths).
But what's added here is
- a wider array of special action tiles (especially as there are tiles on each path stone this time) that are more thematic than before (e.g. mirror, leprechaun, spiral) - In comparison, Keltis had 5 different tiles (with 3 different power types), the expansion had 9 (4) and the Oracle has 11 (6)
- further - and once again, more thematic - scoring possibilities (the once-in-the-game "leprechaun scoring"; scoring with the Oracle miniature)
- further ability shown on the playing cards (now the cards can also be used to move the Oracle and the cards show how many steps the Oracle can move).



Result:
It is mostly good. The game is interesting, multi-layered, has many different ways to win and is probably the least luck-dependent game in the series. From a gamer's point of view it's just what needed to be done with this game to fly.
At the same time, I have played this game with non-gamers who enjoy Keltis and they thought it feels like three games in one (and they prefer playing one game at once).
As for me, this is my second favorite game of the series. The favorite one is the game that's in-between: the expansion, which, as noted above, had more special power tiles but not as much as Orakel does. The expansion also isn't really more complex than the original; it's just a lot more interesting. The reason why Orakel isn't my favorite is exactly the fact that it offers so many different scoring options, so many ways to win that as a result the tension level might be the lowest one of the whole franchise here: whatever you do you score points and you'll be able to move forward however bad cards you have in hand.
So, in a way the extra powers, abilities and scoring possibilities add a lot to the game and the theme gets stronger as well; on the other hand they feel a tiny bit too much for the underlying mechanism.

Verdict: GOOD/IT DEPENDS
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21. Board Game: Scarab Lords [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:2162]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Originals:
The real Schotten-Totten family: Reiner Knizia’s variations on a great idea

New version:
Scarab Lords (2002)
Minotaur Lords (2004)

Changes (added material) :
Unlike in practically any other game in the series, here both players' decks are full of special cards with different characters/buildings/events and different abilities. These games are really about the interaction of these special abilities.

image by Nate Walker

Result:
I agree with the quote below: different players need different game styles. Scarab/Minotaur Lords are fine games on their own although I prefer the more elegant (and dry), simpler games in this "family".

Reiner_Knizia wrote:
There's a game called Scarab Lords, by Fantasy Flight, which is not a CCG, but something that is close to that. I worked on the system and I showed it to Fantasy Flight. They liked the game very much, but informed me that it was too balanced to be a CCG. I was rather taken aback by that but essentially that was a learning curve for me. After a time I came to realize what that meant. So we have now found a very nice form for it. It is an expandable card game where you have a deck in there and you can combine the cards in the base game. There are no boosters, and so forth, so you have no extra cards coming in. We found something where you have a self-contained and balanced universe in which you can use the cards, but again it brought it home to me that people see games on very different levels. I do certain types of games but I need to learn about other types of games and explore paths there as well. It's not a static world. Games move on and people find different aspects of gaming over time. You either stay in your old world or you move with them.


Verdict: IT DEPENDS
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22. Board Game: King's Gate [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:2226]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Originals:
Reiner Knizia's 'surrounding scoring items with majority' games

New versions:
Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten – Das Kartenspiel (2001)
King's Gate (2002)
(Well, it seems the two games are exactly the same.)

Changes (added material) :
- Each player has one special Nazgúl/Dragon tile that has special rules.
- The 10 Places/Locations provide 2 different ways to play: they can be safe or dangerous. Also 3 of these Places/Locations has special rules (e.g. you can't play more than 2 cards/tiles at the Ford/Graveyard; the player with the smallest total in Moria/Tourney Grounds loses 3 VP etc.).
- 5 Places/Locations provide 6 Ring tokens/Character counters that can be used as special action cards during the game; each location's token has a different ability.

images by Antony Hemme and Ketty

Result:
These games don't have really high ratings but from the comments it seems one of the main reasons might be the theme doesn't really have any connection to the mechanism. That's bad only because the game has clearly been made more fiddly with all the special rules/special action tokens stuff in order to make it more thematic.

Verdict: BAD
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23. Board Game: En Garde [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1381]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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After King's Gate where the 10 key locations already provided special rules for the way current 'rounds' should be played, I list two more games in this special category: here the added randomizer is used to determine how the different rounds are played.

Original:
En Garde (1993)

New version:
Duell (2004)

Changes (added material) :
8 special cards added. At the start of a duel you draw one of these cards. This card will change the rules for this duel only (examples: you have to play with open cards; you have to play with less cards; you are not allowed to retreat).

image by A Morris

Result:
It seems the ratings for the original are a bit better than the ones for Duell. It seems telling that many comments from those who rate Duell high are like "I almost always play this game using the En Garde rules" or "Didn't try the event cards, and I dont think they would add anything."

Verdict: BAD/NEUTRAL

Note: Flash Duel: Second Edition by David Sirlin takes the core gameplay of the original and adds 10 20 Fantasy Strike characters with special abilities also 7 different ways to play. The update has nothing to do with Reiner Knizia who clearly doesn't like what happened to his design.
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24. Board Game: Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games [Average Rating:6.55 Unranked]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Original:
East-West (1995)
The card game was first published in Reiner Knizia's book Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Games.

New version:
Head-to-Head Poker (2005)

Changes (added material) :
A basic d6 die is added to determine which way the current round should be played - it is a tool to choose from 6 rule variants.

image by Christian Leonhard

Result:
Blazing Aces! already had a handful of variants for the basic game explained. This 2005 edition feels like the designer (or the publisher) could not decide which one is best so they added the die to determine instead of them. I guess players find out sooner or later which version they really like and they are going to play the game with those rules. Or not.

Verdict: NEUTRAL
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25. Family: Carcassonne
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Finally three games based on others' games. They are not simply updates; these are original designs based strongly on other designers' originals.


Originals:
Carcassonne (2000), Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals (2002), Carcassonne: Traders & Builders (2003), Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (2002)

New version:
Carcassonne: The Castle (2003)

Changes (added material) :
Besides several important changes, there is one that works just like the other changes mentioned in this list: the wall tiles. These are special action tokens distributed randomly that can be won from the Castle wall. These provide special actions that are more or less like the actions the expansions and the second stand-alone Carc game adds: there are tiles that double the scoring of a feature (Inns & Cathedrals), tiles that make it possible to score an unfinished feature (Hunters & Gatherers), tiles that make it possible to draw and place another tile (Hunters and Gatherers, Traders and Builders), tiles that add one point to the scoring of each item in a farm/court (Traders and Builders) or simply give you extra points.

image by Simon

Result:
This is the best game in the Carcassonne series, period. As for the wall tiles, they add some fun randomness but also the way you can get them adds some exciting race element and an interesting decision layer to the game.

Verdict: GOOD
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