My Favorite Designers - Strive for Five!
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I thoroughly enjoyed Josh Miller's Geeklist where he rates his favorite designers by their three best games (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...). I thought I would do something similar. I decided to use a designer's *five* best games, to give a more rounded view of their work. For comparison purposes, I also list the average rating for my three favorite games, along with that of my *ten* favorite games (as long as I've played at least ten of their games), just for fun. Other than that, I follow the same format Josh used. By the way, you'll notice if you compare the two lists that I tend to have fewer games at very high ratings than Josh does; this is probably more a matter of style and rating interpretation than anything else. I love just about all the games on this list.

In order to qualify, a designer must have created at least five games that I've played. That leaves out such luminaries as Andreas Seyfarth and Richard Breese. I've listed the 16 designers whose top five games have an average rating of at least 7. Just missing the list are the Eon designers and the Splotter crew.
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1. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:116]
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Wolfgang Kramer (8.80)

#1 Tikal (10)
#2 Princes of Florence (10)
#3 Maharaja (8)
#4 Tycoon (8)
#5 Wildlife (8)

Top 3: 9.33
Top 10: 8.15

2 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
5 Great Games (rated 8+)
15 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

I really don't consider Kramer to be my favorite designer (that would be Knizia), but there's no question that he has designed more games I consider "great" than anyone else. Tikal and Princes are two of my all-time favorite games. Tycoon is an under-rated classic and, with the addition of two other fairly recent favorites (Maharaja and Wildlife), you have a formidable quintet. If you forced me to play nothing but this fivesome of games, I'd probably be content for quite a while. By the way, Princes is pictured, so that I can use Tikal's entry for Michael Kiesling a bit later.
 
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2. Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1021]
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Reiner Knizia (8.40)

#1 Stephenson's Rocket (9)
#2 Euphrat & Tigris (9)
#3 Amun-Re (8)
#4 Taj Mahal (8)
#5 Traumfabrik (8)

Top 3: 8.67
Top 10: 8.00

2 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
6 Great Games (rated 8+)
34 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Knizia may not match Kramer at the very top, but he's without peer as a designer of the great and the near great. He's the only designer who has as many as SIX games that I rate an 8 or higher (Medici is the sixth game) and his 34 games with a 7 or higher is just amazing--I haven't even PLAYED 34 games of ANY rating of any other designer! Stephenson's is one of the truly underappreciated classics of all time; it's just a brilliant design. Knizia continues to crank out good games, but in this century, only Amun-Re has been truly indispensible for me. Still, he could retire tomorrow and he'd still probably be my favorite designer for decades!
 
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3. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:107]
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Rüdiger Dorn (8.10)

#1 Goa (9)
#2 Louis XIV (9)
#3 Jambo(8)
#4 Traders of Genoa (8)
#5 Emerald (6.5)

Top 3: 8.67
Top 10: N/A

2 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
4 Great Games (rated 8+)
4 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Over the past couple of years, there's no question that my favorite *current* designer has been Dorn--three fabulous games over the last 18 months will do that! Goa is really my kind of game and rapidly climbed into my all-time Top Ten; DSP winner Louis XIV isn't far behind. Dorn's recent output is obviously a tough act to follow, but I look forward to seeing just how good his next few releases will be. By the way, his rating will probably rise even higher soon, as game #5 on the list is pretty much a place-holder, as I've only played six of his games. Emerald is a nice little family game, but not up to the standard of the other four.
 
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4. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
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Michael Kiesling (8.10)

#1 Tikal (10)
#2 Maharaja (8)
#3 Haste Worte (7.5)
#4 Mexica (7.5)
#5 Australia (7.5)

Top 3: 8.50
Top 10: 7.35

1 All-Time Classic (rated 9+)
2 Great Games (rated 8+)
7 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Kiesling is obvoiusly sharing the glory with his longtime partner Kramer, but when the games are this good, there's plenty of glory to go around. Haste Worte is a party-type word game that's a real hoot to play, as long as you can get a translation of the cards! Torres, on the other hand, is too dry and abstract for my tastes and doesn't make my Top Five. Kiesling's lowish Top Ten rating shows that the quality drops off rather quickly, but he still has a very enviable portfolio.
 
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5. Board Game: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:512]
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Alan Moon (8.00)

#1 San Marco (8)
#2 Capitol (8)
#3 New England (8)
#4 Get the Goods (8)
#5 Union Pacific/Airlines (8)

Top 3: 8.00
Top 10: 7.65

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
5 Great Games (rated 8+)
13 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Talk about consistancy! That's five straight 8's at the top. Even without any all-time greats to his credit, Moon is one of my favorite designers and his work is as strong today as it has ever been. Get the Goods is probably my favorite middleweight card game and one that deserves to get more play. Moon's two SdJ winners, Elfenland and Ticket to Ride, are both fine games, but I prefer his meatier designs.
 
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6. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:114]
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Martin Wallace (7.90)

#1 Age of Steam (9)
#2 Pampas Railroads (8)
#3 Struggle of Empires (8)
#4 Princes of the Renaissance (7.5)
#5 Liberte (7)

Top 3: 8.33
Top 10: 7.40

1 All-Time Classic (rated 9+)
3 Great Games (rated 8+)
9 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

You get the impression that Wallace's best designs may yet be ahead of him, which, given the games on this list, bodes very well for the future. Age of Steam is acknowledged as an all-time classic. Pampas Railroads, on the other hand, suffers from the usual Winsome graphics, but if you can get past those, there's an excellent game lurking beneath. If Wallace's latest, Tempus, is as good as they say it is, his rating could rise even higher very shortly.
 
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7. Board Game: Capitol [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1374]
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Aaron Weissblum (7.80)

#1 San Marco (8)
#2 Capitol (8)
#3 New England (8)
#4 Oasis (7.5)
#5 Canal Grande (7.5)

Top 3: 8.00
Top 10: 7.20

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
3 Great Games (rated 8+)
6 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Weissblum is as inexorably linked with his former partner as Kiesling is with Kramer, but that's hardly a problem, as the team of "Alan and Aaron" is probably the most successful partnership in gaming history. I'm a big fan of Oasis, which I've found plays well with mixed groups, and Canal Grande is a superb two-player adaptation of the classic San Marco. So far, none of Weissblum's solo efforts matches his work with Moon, but he's a talented designer, so I have hope for the future.
 
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8. Board Game: Babel [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1040]
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Uwe Rosenberg (7.80)

#1 Babel (8)
#2 Schnappchen Jagd (8)
#3 Bohnanza (8)
#4 Bali (7.5)
#5 Bohn Hansa (7.5)

Top 3: 8.00
Top 10: 7.20

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
3 Great Games (rated 8+)
6 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

At one time, Rosenberg was easily one of my all-time favorite designers. He has produced distressingly little of late, however, with his only notable design since 2001 being the much maligned Bohn Hansa. His record from 1997-2001 is pretty remarkable, though, particularly for those of us who appreciate quirky and innovative designs. Babel remains either my first or second favorite two-player game (Jambo is the other contender). Schnappchen Jagd is a fabulous design and one of the best three-player card games around. Bali is downright strange and very hard to get your head around, but the effort is worth it. I don't care what anybody says--I think Bohn Hansa is a hoot, particularly when played with the right crowd. And I suspect you've heard of Bohnanza. Rosenberg's Top Ten rating is pretty low, because I've only played ten of his games, so we're scooping up the bottom of the barrel. One of my dearest gaming wishes is that we'll see at least one more great design from Rosenberg in the next few years.
 
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9. Board Game: Funkenschlag [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:1209]
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Friedemann Friese (7.70)

#1 Funkenschlag/Power Grid (9)
#2 Fresh Fish (8)
#3 Fische Fluppen Frikadellen (7.5)
#4 Finstere Flure (7)
#5 Fiese Freunde Fette Feten (7)

Top 3: 8.17
Top 10: 7.10

1 All-Time Classic (rated 9+)
2 Great Games (rated 8+)
5 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

There's more to Friese than green hair and the letter F. His designs are strange and other-worldly and always push the envelope. Sometimes, the games as a whole don't live up to their innovative ideas, but when he's on his game, there's nobody like him in the world. Funk is just a tremendous design; I prefer it slightly to Power Grid, which is also great. (They're so similar, I thought it wouldn't be fair to list them separately.) Fresh Fish is one of the true brain-melters; there still isn't another game that effectively uses the idea of negative space. And how will Rio Grande handle the shocking, but hilarious FFFF (which hides a fine game behind its racy images)? We'll just have to see.
 
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10. Board Game: Kanaloa [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:7912]
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Günter Cornett (7.70)

#1 Kanaloa (8)
#2 Flaschenteufel (8)
#3 Kahuna (7.5)
#4 Arabana Opodopo (7.5)
#5 Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs (7.5)

Top 3: 7.83
Top 10: N/A

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
2 Great Games (rated 8+)
5 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Cornett has been one of my favorites ever since I first played Arabana-Ikibiti back in 1998. His work is always innovative, sometimes startlingly so, and he remains one of the best of the "smaller" designers. Kanaloa (the game with the Polynesian gods and the fish you flip) is mind-achingly innovative and is a great gaming experience, even if the learning curve is steep. Flaschenteufel is not only one of the best and most unusual trick-taking games around, it is perhaps the only game of its type to have a truly great theme. Arabana Opodopo is Cornett's successful attempt to convert Kahuna into a multi-player game (confusingly, Tilset's edition of this is also called Kanaloa). And Sonnenkönigs is a bizarre auction game where the amount of the winning bid determines which item gets auctioned next; it's based on earlier designs of his called Canaletto and Le Jardin.
 
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11. Board Game: Intrigue [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1805]
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Stefan Dorra (7.70)

#1 Intrige (8)
#2 For Sale (8)
#3 Kreta (7.5)
#4 Amazonas (7.5)
#5 Marracash (7.5)

Top 3: 7.83
Top 10: 7.15

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
2 Great Games (rated 8+)
7 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Dorra is one of the best of the second tier designers and has been considered such for over a decade. He just keeps churning out a steady supply of interesting games and, as the list above shows, he is still very much in his prime. Intrige is roundly, and deservedly, considered to be the nastiest German game there is. It is also completely atypical of the rest of Dorra's work, perhaps more so than any game/designer pair I can think of. For Sale remains the best super-short filler around. Marracash is one of those games that, paradoxically, is well-known for being underrated. I haven't been able to play his latest two releases, Kreta and Amazonas, enough to really decide where they fit into his work, but the early returns are encouraging.
 
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12. Board Game: Löwenherz [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:803]
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Klaus Teuber (7.50)

#1 Lowenherz (9)
#2 Barbarossa (7.5)
#3 Domaine (7.5)
#4 Anno 1503 (7)
#5 Settlers of Catan (6.5)

Top 3: 8.00
Top 10: 6.95

1 All-Time Classic (rated 9+)
1 Great Game (rated 8+)
4 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Most people rank Teuber higher than I do. I tend to admire his designs more than I like them. His specialty, the challenging family game, is just not a genre I'm terribly fond of. And I'm sure you're shocked by my relatively low rating of Settlers. I have no such reservations of Lowenherz, however, and consider it one of the great game creations; not surprisingly, it is easily the most "gamerly" of Teuber's designs. Domaine (also very good, but not as good as the original) is sufficiently different from Lowenherz for me to give it it's own slot; besides, I give the games different ratings. Teuber used to feature loads of interaction in his games, but lately he's been favoring the multi-player solitaire style more. I'm anxious to see his latest effort, Elasund, which has gotten some good early reviews.
 
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13. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:709]
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Michael Schacht (7.50)

#1 Hansa (7.5)
#2 Web of Power (7.5)
#3 Industria (7.5)
#4 Dschunke (7.5)
#5 Mogul (7.5)

Top 3: 7.50
Top 10: 7.20

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
0 Great Games (rated 8+)
9 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Schacht is the master of the good, but not great game. One of these days, he'll knock our socks off, but in the meantime, he keeps cranking out solid designs, many of which I'm happy to play. My opinion of which Schacht design is my favorite keeps revolving between Hansa, Web of Power, and Industria; today, it feels like Hansa is on top. Mogul is a very nice, tense little auction game that plays best with fewer players. It's the best example of one of Schacht's specialties, the well-designed "small" game. I haven't played China yet, so I have no opinion if it supplants Web of Power or if the original is superior.
 
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14. Board Game: I'm the Boss! [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:930]
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Sid Sackson (7.40)

#1 Kohle, Kies und Knete (8)
#2 Can't Stop (8)
#3 Gold Connection (7)
#4 Samarkand (7)
#5 Metropolis (7)

Top 3: 7.67
Top 10: 7.15

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
2 Great Games (rated 8+)
6 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Sackson was the father of modern gaming, the man who began showing us the way over 40 years ago. I'm sure some will be shocked that I've ranked him this low, but though I've played and loved a lot of his stuff over the years, much of it is just a little bit dated today. Besides, his designs were always a bit on the abstract side. But you can't say that about KKK (I'm the Boss), which is always a rollicking hoot for six. Can't Stop is still my favorite dice game and is an all-time classic. And no mention of Sackson would be complete without talking about A Gamut of Games, which I still feel is the greatest book of, or about, games ever written.
 
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15. Board Game: Ricochet Robots [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:569] [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Alex Randolph (7.20)

#1 Ricochet Robot (8)
#2 Code 777 (7.5)
#3 Big Shot (7.5)
#4 Oh Wah Ree (7)
#5 Venice Connection (6)

Top 3: 7.67
Top 10: 6.60

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
1 Great Game (rated 8+)
4 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Randolph was the other Grand Old Man of gaming and his effect on the early days of independent game design in Germany was tremendous. To be honest, his specialty was abstract games and I'm just not a big fan of those. But he was a versatile designer and I do enjoy some of his games. Ricochet Robot and Code 777 are great examples of puzzle and deductive games, respectively. Big Shot was one of his last designs, but it's a very enjoyable auction game that shows Randolph's mind was sharp right up to the end. Venice Connection is a nice little two-player tile laying game with charmingly simple components
 
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16. Board Game: Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1910]
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Mike Fitzgerald (7.00)

#1 Mystery Rummy 4: Al Capone (7.5)
#2 Mystery Rummy 5: Bonnie and Clyde (7.5)
#3 Mystery Rummy 1: Jack the Ripper (7.5)
#4 Mystery Rummy 3: Jeckly & Hyde (6.5)
#5 Wyatt Earp (6)

Top 3: 7.50
Top 10: N/A

0 All-Time Classics (rated 9+)
0 Great Games (rated 8+)
3 Games Worth Owning (rated 7+)

Fitzgerald is the ultimate specialist: almost all of his work has been of CCG's and Rummy games. His work with the latter has been innovative and remarkably consistent and I expect his next five Mystery Rummy games to be just as good as the first bunch. In fact, the Mystery Rummy series has to rank as one of the greatest in gaming history, and it still isn't finished yet. Al Capone plays great with two and even better with partners. Normally, I wouldn't include a prototype, but I've played Bonnie and Clyde several times and always enjoy it; I'm sure we'll be seeing it shortly, either from US Games or another publisher. The reason I rank Wyatt Earp lower than most gamers isn't the base "reward" mechanism, which I like a lot, but my disatisfaction over the "bullet hole" mechanic, which introduces too much luck for my tastes.
 
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