Most Admired Game Designers
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
This list is in appreciation of my favorite game creators. I could certainly expand the list to cover more--or even all--of my favorite games. Instead I thought I would sort out the "first tier" for special accolade. See my last entry for "Honorable Mentions."

A few characteristics that (most of) the designers' games share are:
a) creativity
b) thematic integration
c) player interaction

These are valued assets in great games.

Please add your own! This is not meant as an exclusive list. All opinions dissenting, concurring, or irrelevant are welcome.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Civilization [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:229] [Average Rating:7.51 Unranked]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Francis Tresham

Innovative mechanics and simple gameplay distill a historical theme to a playable, strategic, engrossing game.

--Using a single counter for population and treasury, which must be kept balanced, in Civilization. (Reused in Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.)
--The alternating stock-trading and company-operating rounds of 18xx.
--Playing cards to the top of the draw pile in Spanish Main.

Although Civ is my single favorite of his games, Tresham's greatest creation must be 18xx. Like Arneson & Gygax with D&D, Tresham created an entire branch of gaming.

I got to play a 5p game of Civ last month using the Western Exp. board. I pulled out a close win as Thrace. A friend commented that the board play was just a distraction; the real game is trading commodities. I agree. That's something I struggled with as a teenager playing Civ. If you look at it as a wargame and set out to conquer territory, you are going to lose.

This is somewhat true also of the 18xx series. The game is won in the stock-trading rounds, not in the board play.

I own but have not played Revolution (except solo to learn the rules). I'd sure like to have a run at Tresham's take on an area majority game.

Drawbacks: games are long with many turns of the same actions.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:968]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Richard Hamblen

Hamblen is the avatar of Whiz-Bang, Lightning-Strike, Brain-Blowing creativity genius.

--the action pre-programming of Magic Realm and Gunslinger(and to some extent Merchant of Venus) make for wild, tense turns
--the intimate marriage of mechanics and theme; I am still amazed at how a single action chit or card difference in Magic Realm or Gunslinger makes characters play entirely differently
--wide open options for play in any of his games; you can imagine the Avalon Hill staff saying, "Richard, enough! You have to stop putting in more options." Of course, now, we wish they hadn't stopped him.

Gunslinger was my first Hamblen design. I have yet to encounter another game that gives as vivid a narrative sense. It truly is like participating in a spaghetti western. The game accomplishes this through thematically congruous mechanics, not card text or minis.

Drawbacks: thematic focus results in complex rulesets; games can be lengthy to set up with brutally quick player elimination
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: The Guns of Gettysburg [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:1429]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Rachel Simmons

Elegance of components plus elegance of mechanics equal accessible, rich strategy.

When I was a kid, I went through a map phase. Every inch of the walls in my bedroom and portions of the ceiling were covered with pinned-up maps (mostly the ones that came as insets in Nat'l Georgraphic). I also loved those scenes in movies where generals would push big blocky armies around a map using croupier sticks. I would sometimes doodle great big arrows across maps to represent army invasions (a la the great British documentary The World at War).

So Bonaparte at Marengo was love at first sight This was precisely what I had imagined a war game should be about! Imagine my further delight when the beauty of the map and components was matched by intuitive mechanics that resulted in relatively quick-playing and low-complexity games that nevertheless present dramatic narrative and wide-open strategy. One person had upended the assumptions of decades of war simulation.

I have Napoleon's Triumph sitting sadly unplayed on the shelf. I know this is recognized as Simmons's pinnacle (so far). I have thoroughly enjoyed The Guns of Gettysburg and desire more plays. I don't say this lightly, but any Simmons game is an insta-buy.

Drawbacks: ?? (Maybe if you don't care for conflict simulations, then there isn't anything here for you.)

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:839]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The Future Pastimes team
Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Bill Norton, Peter Olotka

Asymmetric player interaction above all else.

The Future Pastimes crew designed games that encourage people to take on roles, negotiate, backstab, fight, and laugh at the chaotic whims of fate. All within a science-fictional realm. For the games to work, players really need to buy into the theme and roles.

--Cosmic Encounter is justifiably regarded as a classic. Plays best quickly. I find that games lasting over an hour can outstay their welcome.
--Darkover finds the team pursuing theme way down the rabbit hole. The game is based on a series of sci-fi books set on a planet of telepathic humans. In order for society to function, people must control their emotions at all times except when engaging in psychic combat. How to simulate emotion control and psychic combat in a game? How about staring contests and a player-role who gets to punish players who show negative emotions? Crazy, goofy, chaos.

Part of me realizes that many, maybe even most, of their games are a little silly and don't work that well. Only, I can't help but admire their foundational design philosophy that games are simply a platform for players to interact upon. If you lose at the whim of fate, there's always another play.

Drawbacks: games dependent on player interaction can fall flat with the wrong group; chaotic gameplay can also lead to occasional lame plays; some mechanics are clunky by modern standards
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Renier Knizia

With enough sharpening, a game's theme becomes sharpness.

Knizia is the odd man out on my list. But he deserves a place for his classic designs.

--Tigris & Euphrates is a most unusual specimen: a confrontational abstract. (This may be Knizia's most thematic game anyway.) The game requires careful planning and immediate pouncing on exposed weaknesses. A great design.
--In Ra and Modern Art a player may occasionally wonder, what are we supposed to be doing here again? You are supposed to be winning the game through the mechanic of auctions. This is enough.

Knizia is the most prolific of any designer on this list, and one of the few whose name wouldn't necessarily incline me towards a purchase. I would buy Samurai if I saw it in a shop, and I would like to try both Taj Mahal and Amun-Re.

Drawbacks: May have to separate the wheat from the chaff with so many designs; themeless: why are we doing this again?
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Indonesia [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:191]
Andy K.
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Way-whu-nuh-now?!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Honorable Mentions
Ed Beach - Virgin Queen has given me some of my best hours of gaming. On that strength alone, he makes my list. (I haven't tried Here I Stand.)

Jeroen Douman & Joris Wiersinga - The Splotter team design beautifully baroque games in the Euro/economic sphere. Indonesia and Antiquity earn their accolades; Roads & Boats makes my head hurt (yet I hold onto it hoping to have a breakthrough moment). Any Splotter release earns my attention. I'd love to try out The Great Zimbabwe.

Phil Eklund - The original version of American Megafauna is among my top games of all time, although it could be debated whether it is a game, group activity, or educational tool. I thought Lords of the Spanish Main was worth a couple plays. And I absolutely hated Origins: How We Became Human. Wow, what a stinker! I'd like to try High Frontier and Pax Porfiriana, because I read so many good things about them. Overall, though, I have found Eklund's designs to be uneven.

Friedemann Friese - makes the list on the energy of Power Grid alone, which is my overall favorite Euro for having strong player interaction. The upcoming 504 is an interesting concept, but is actually the opposite of what I usually like. That is, 504 seems to be about mechanics entirely divorced from theme.

Nate Hayden - For small-run self-publishing interesting gameplay on surprising themes. Cave Evil and The Mushroom Eaters are terrific.

Tom Lehmann - I've played his breakout hit, Race for the Galaxy, only a couple times and wasn't that impressed. But Tom's older designs as TimJim games are terrific: Time Agent, 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt (an exploration of the 18xx potential), and Fast Food Franchise.

Sid Sackson - Acquire is a perfect game. The only game on this list that I would say, "If you have not played it, you are not a board gamer."
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Ubergeek
United States
Washougal
Washington
flag msg tools
Be Happy in your Game!
badge
I spent 100 Geek Gold and all I got was this lousy overtext message!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Although I should probably update my list, I can't imagine any designer's games grace my collection more than those by RK. Still, I have mine rank listed by the number of games of theirs in my collection.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.