All-Time Designer Ranking: 2017
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This is a ranking of the top designers in the board game hobby, based on the bgg rankings today (or last week). A designer’s rating is determined by a magical formula. It is based on how well a designer’s games are ranked on bgg. An extra work can never hurt a designer’s rating, because the formula gives positive credit for games ranked in the top ~1000, and ignores anything worse than that. The formula probably favors prolific designers over designers with a focused number of hits. The specific formula is:

Sum(i=1 to N) [100/(1+0.00003*Ri^1.8)]*[1/(1+0.002*i^2)]

While compiling these ratings, I noticed many new designers and games have risen in the rankings since I last did this list ten years ago. Back then, Reiner Knizia and Wolfgang Kramer topped the chart, Agricola would come out at the end of the year, and Stefan Feld had only Roma, Year of the Dragon, and Notre Dame to his name. Today, we have two legacy games in the top ten!

This is not a comprehensive list. If you’d like to see a designer added, post in the comments and I will run the formula for his/her rating. Lastly, if you like this list, please give it a thumb!
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1. Board Game Designer: Corey Konieczka
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Corey Konieczka et al.
1000

Top Games
Star Wars: Rebellion
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Eldritch Horror


Personal Favorite
Rex

Personal Take
This might be more of a Fantasy Flight team than just one individual, as Corey Konieczka tend to work with a lot of other designers. They do work on a lot of reimplementations though. My favorite game of theirs, Rex, is a reimplementation of Dune.
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2. Board Game Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
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Uwe Rosenberg
857

Top Games
Caverna/Agricola
Le Havre
A Feast for Odin


Personal Favorite
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Patchwork


Personal Take
Rosenberg is not my style of game, but I appreciate his designs. I think he was the first designer to use immediate execution in worker placement games. Prior to Agricola, all significant worker placement games had separate placement and execution phases. In fact, I think Rosenberg is still the only designer putting out immediate execution worker placement games that are highly ranked.
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3. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
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Reiner Knizia
851

Top Games
Tigris & Euphrates
Ra
Samurai


Personal Favorite
Stephensons Rocket
Tower of Babel
Modern Art


Personal Take
Two player games are generally more interactive than multiplayer games in my opinion. But Knizia is special at creating nuanced interaction in multiplayer games, without devolving into king-making, hate-blocking, or take-that moves. Instead, the incentives for the interaction are often given in the form of a scoring method, which creates conflicts and maybe even cooperation. The driving force is scripted into a diverse scoring system, while the actions themselves are kept as simple and free as possible. He allows the players to interact in a very open and freeform setting.
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4. Board Game Designer: Stefan Feld
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Stefan Feld
820

Top Games
Castles of Burgundy
Trajan
Bora Bora


Personal Favorite
In the Year of the Dragon
Speicherstadt


Personal Take
Stefan Feld has a distinct way of designing games: come up with a restrictive mechanism for selecting an action, and assign a victory point salad for the respective actions. The restrictive mechanism may be drafting, dice rolling, a Mancala wheel, etc. The victory point salad part of his games might seem bland per se, but they have to be simple so they don’t overwhelm when combined with a complicated mechanism for triggering an action.
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5. Board Game Designer: Bruno Cathala
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Bruno Cathala
742

Top Games
7 Wonders Duel
Five Tribes
Cyclades


Personal Favorite
Cleopatra and the Society of Architects
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet


Personal Take
Bruno Cathala is on a roll in recent years, and he does something completely different in each of his games. I don’t see a pattern, a consistent design philosophy, a go to trick, just smart design after smart design. The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet is a masterpiece in my opinion. I also like the “twist” in Cleopatra, although it really needs to be played with 3 to highlight that aspect of the game.
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6. Board Game Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
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Vlaada Chvatil
691

Top Games
Through the Ages
Mage Knight
Codenames


Personal Favorite
Dungeon Lords

Personal Take
I remember back in 2006 playing Prophecy by this relatively unknown Czech designer. Since then, Chvatil has turned out hit after hit, and is now solidly in the game designer hall of fame. To me, Chvatil games are basically Chvatilesque takes on existing games or genres. Through the Ages is his take on Sid Meier’s Civilization. Codenames is his take on a party word game. Dungeon Lords is his take on a worker placement game. Space Alert is his take on a coop. Even Prophecy is a take on RPGs.
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7. Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
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Martin Wallace
670

Top Games
Brass
Steam
A Few Acres of Snow


Personal Favorite
Automobile
Discworld


Personal Take
Many of Martin Wallace’s games are economic, and more thematic than one would think. For me, Automobile is his best game, which models the car sales industry superbly well. It’s like the Craftsman and Captain phases of Puerto Rico made into a two hour game. While all of his games are superbly designed, not all are well developed or playtested. Rise of Empires, for example, is a fantastic game with tons of potential, but flawed due to a lack of development, and even so it is still a fun game to play.
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8. Board Game Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
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Wolfgang Kramer
578

Top Games
El Grande
The Princes of Florence
Tikal


Personal Favorite
Maharaja
Cavum


Personal Take
Wolfgang Kramer paved the way for a lot of the current designs. El Grande and The Princes of Florence are still one of the best games ever. They are simple and without any fluff.
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9. Board Game Designer: Eric M. Lang
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Eric Lang
560

Top Games
Blood Rage
Arcadia Quest
Chaos in the Old World


Personal Favorite
Star Wars: The Card Game

Personal Take
To me, Lang is the present-day Knizia. Hear me out. Knizia used to design games with simple actions that are open ended and with very little restrictions. If the action is to move a train, you can move any train anywhere. If the action is to place a tile, you can place any tile anywhere (subject only to some minimal placement rules). And then, Knizia would create a scoring system that drives the tough decisions. The action system gives freedom, the scoring system creates tough choices. This coupling of systems is as characteristic of Reiner Knizia as the restrictive action mechanism and the victory point salad is characteristic of Stefan Feld. Now, I’ve only played a couple of Lang’s games, but so far his games’ action systems have that same freedom found in Knizia’s games, except that instead of a scoring system, the tough decisions are created by timing dilemmas. There is always a pro and con to doing something early, and to doing it late. I backed Rising Sun on Kickstarter, and am really looking forward to it.
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10. Board Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
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Antoine Bauza
435

Top Games
7 Wonders
Ghost Stories
Takenoko


Personal Favorite
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet

Personal Take
A lot of Antoine Bauza’s games are fillers for me. Three-player 7 Wonders can be very strategic if you game the drafting mechanism, but still light overall. As a filler, Takenoko somehow manages to be stressful while lacking in strategic tension. For a pleasant filler, I’d much rather play Tokaido. For a strategic filler with nuanced decision making, The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet is an absolute masterpiece.
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11. Board Game Designer: Christian T. Petersen
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Christian T. Petersen
413

Top Games
Twilight Imperium (3ed)
A Game of Thrones (2ed)
Star Wars Armada


Personal Favorite
Starcraft: The Board Game
Rex


Personal Take
Christian T. Petersen is great at making big games. They tend to be on the complicated side, but they are worth it because the strategical nuance is also there. The action token stack mechanism in Starcraft makes for some really tense gameplay. A Game of Thrones with a similar action token mechanism also creates some very rich emergent gameplay.
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12. Board Game Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
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Rudiger Dorn
389

Top Games
Istanbul
Goa
Karuba


Personal Favorite
Arkadia

Personal Take
Rudiger Dorn is one of my favorite designers. I actually think Istanbul is kind of bland, but Goa and Arkadia are great games. Arkadia in particular is a brilliant design. The spatial and timing elements, and the fluctuating market for the seals in Arkadia remind me of Reef Encounter, except simpler while being just as tense.
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13. Board Game Designer: Michael Kiesling
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Michael Kiesling
375

Top Games
Tikal
Vikings
Torres


Personal Favorite
Maharaja
Cavum


Personal Take
Cavum is my favorite of Kiesling’s games. Like Automobile, there are benefits to going first in turn order, and benefits to going last. How to balance and take advantage of your turn orders is an agonizing task in good way. Vikings is also a classic in terms of blending simplicity with interesting gameplay.
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14. Board Game Designer: Alexander Pfister
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Alexander Pfister
369

Top Games
Great Western Trail
Mombasa
Isle of Skye


Personal Take
I am really behind on my gaming. I did not even know there was a new designer with three new-to-me games in the top 150, none of which I have played.
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15. Board Game Designer: Richard Borg
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Richard Borg
368

Top Games
Commands and Colors: Ancients
Memoir 44
Battlelore


Personal Take
Richard Borg’s rating is probably a little inflated because his games actually all use one system, but I counted them separately when summing the scores. Still a good designer nevertheless.
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16. Board Game Designer: Jeroen Doumen
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Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
346

Top Games
Food Chain Magnate
Indonesia
Antiquity


Personal Take
I’ve only played Indonesia and Antiquity, and want to try out every other game in their series. I tend to dislike games with a lot of fiddly resource conversions (like Agricola), but this is different. I actually enjoy these.
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17. Board Game Designer: Mac Gerdts
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Mac Gerdts
330

Top Games
Concordia
Imperial
Navegador


Personal Take
Mac Gerdts was known for his Rondels, which he implemented to varying degrees of success. The use of Rondel in Imperial is brilliant. The use of Rondel in The Princes of Macchu Picchu is a little contrived. The use of Rondel in Antike is effective, but a little too technical for my taste.
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18. Board Game Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
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Ignacy Trzewiczek
324
Top Games
Robinson Crusoe
Imperial Settlers
51st State


Personal Take
I thought Imperial Settlers and Stronghold were neat and okay. Need to try Robinson Crusoe.
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19. Board Game Designer: Richard Garfield
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Richard Garfield
315

Top Games
Android: Netrunner
Magic: The Gathering
King of Tokyo


Personal Favorite
Roborally (caveat: team capture the flag mode)

Personal Take
I don’t like getting into CCGs, so I have not gotten to play his best games. King of Tokyo and Roborally are so-so. However, 3v3 or 4v4 capture the flag Roborally is a hundred times better than free for all race Roborally.
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20. Board Game Designer: Simone Luciani
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Simone Luciani, Daniele Tascini
305

Top Games
Tzolkin
The Voyages of Marco Polo
Grand Austria Hotel


Personal Take
I’ve played Tzolkin but none of his other games.
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21. Board Game Designer: Bruno Faidutti
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Bruno Faidutti
258

Top Games
Mission Red Planet (2ed)
Citadels
Raptor


Personal Take
Citadels and Mascarade are both good games.
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22. Board Game Designer: Vital Lacerda
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Vital Lacerda
258

Top Games
The Gallerist
Kanban
Vinhos


Personal Take
Three games in the top 300 and I haven’t played any of them!
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23. Board Game Designer: Kris Burm
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Kris Burm
256

Top Games
Yinsh
Dvonn
Tzaar


Personal Favorite
Gipf
Tamsk
Quads


Personal Take
Yinsh is actually the reason I got into designer board gaming (I used to play only abstract strategy games like Othello, Gomoku, Pylos, etc.). I was looking for information online for Yinsh, and that search lead me to BGG. Abstract strategy games are probably the hardest things to design in board games, and Kris Burm is one of the best and most prolific at it. He is like the Reiner Knizia of abstract strategy.
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24. Board Game Designer: Friedemann Friese
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Friedemann Friese
256

Top Games
Power Grid
Friday
Fauna


Personal Favorite
Factory Manager

Personal Take
I thought Friedemann Friese would be higher on the list. One of the old and great designers. I do think his games take longer to appreciate, which may be a problem today because games don’t get that much play times. Power Grid and Factory Manager are brilliant games in my opinion.
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25. Board Game Designer: Ted Alspach
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Ted Alspach
255

Top Games
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Suburbia
One Night Werewolf


Personal Take
One Night Werewolf is one of the best secret identity games, originally designed by Akihisa Okui and further developed by Ted Alspach.
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