All-Time Designer Ranking: 2018
Tony Chen
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Welcome to year two of my annual All-Time Designer Ranking! The main purpose of this list is less for drawing conclusions from the rankings, and more for welcoming in-depth discussions on the differences in style and technique between the most popular designers.

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 game 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 the ratings this year, I noticed that game rankings fluctuate a lot from year to year. It seems that games’ stay at the top of the rankings are nowadays more short lived than ever. However, the designer ratings generally do not fluctuate as much as individual games' do. Perhaps this is a testament to the strength of my formula!

Feel free to comment, discuss, and debate on the different styles of each designer, or propose a designer you'd like to see added. Lastly, if you enjoy this list, please give it a thumb!
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1. Board Game Designer: Corey Konieczka
Board Game Designer: Corey Konieczka
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Corey Konieczka et al.
1036 1000

Top Games
Star Wars: Rebellion
Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition (new)
Star Wars: Imperial Assault


Personal Favorite
Rex

Personal Take
One of the few designers who got a bump from last year, mainly due to the release of Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition. This rating might be more of a Fantasy Flight team than just one individual, as Corey Konieczka tends to work with a lot of other designers, often on re-implementations of much older games. My favorite game of theirs, Rex, is a reimplementation of Dune.
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2. Board Game Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Board Game: Agricola
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Uwe Rosenberg
936 857

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. The bump is fake, and is due to my separating Caverna and Agricola as two entries this year.
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3. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
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Reiner Knizia
821 851

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 great at creating nuanced interaction in multiplayer games, without devolving into king-making or take-that moves. Instead, the incentives for the interaction are often given in the form of a scoring method, and results in 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.

I am really looking forward to Yellow and Yangtze, a hexagonal reimplementation of T&E. I also need to try El Dorado from last year.
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4. Board Game Designer: Bruno Cathala
Board Game Designer: Bruno Cathala
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Bruno Cathala
781 742

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. It doesn’t show in the top three, but Kingdomino gave Cathala a bump from last year.
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5. Board Game Designer: Stefan Feld
Board Game Designer: Stefan Feld
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Stefan Feld
748 820

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 are simple so they don’t overwhelm in combination with a complicated mechanism for triggering an action.
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6. Board Game Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Board Game Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
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Vlaada Chvatil
665 691

Top Games
Through the Ages
Mage Knight
Codenames


Personal Favorite
Dungeon Lords
Dungeon Petz


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: Eric M. Lang
Board Game Designer: Eric M. Lang
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Eric Lang
637 560

Top Games
Blood Rage
Rising Sun (new)
Arcadia Quest


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 actions that are very simple and open ended. 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, in Eric Lang’s games.

I played Rising Sun last month and it didn’t seem to have that tense timing dilemma characteristic of Eric Lang’s games. Seems like The Godfather has more of that from the rules videos I’ve seen.
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8. Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
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Martin Wallace
600 670

Top Games
Brass
Steam
A Few Acres of Snow


Personal Favorite
Automobile
Discworld
A Handful of Stars


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, albeit flawed due to a lack of development, but even so it is still a fun game to play. A Handful of Stars, which we acquired last year at Essen, is also an imperfect game that I love anyways because its core idea is brilliant.
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9. Board Game Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Board Game Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
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Wolfgang Kramer
559 578

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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10. Board Game Designer: Michael Kiesling
Board Game Designer: Michael Kiesling
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Michael Kiesling
473 375

Top Games
Azul (new)
Tikal
Vikings


Personal Favorite
Maharaja
Cavum
Riverboat (new)


Personal Take
Cavum is my favorite of Kiesling’s games. 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 a good way. Vikings is also a classic in terms of blending simplicity with interesting gameplay. Having played Riverboat and Azul, I seem to notice a trend in his games: implementing drafting in a really nice way. In Cavum and Riverboat, players draft for turn order. In Vikings, bidding for tiles is kind of like drafting, and Azul is pure drafting.
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11. Board Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
Board Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
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Antoine Bauza
416 435

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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12. Board Game Designer: Christian T. Petersen
Board Game Designer: Christian T. Petersen
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Christian T. Petersen
388 413

Top Games
Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition
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.

Now that he is no longer the CEO for Asmodee North America, maybe he’ll have more time to design some awesome games?
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13. Board Game Designer: Alexander Pfister
Board Game Designer: Alexander Pfister
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Alexander Pfister
372 369

Top Games
Great Western Trail
Mombasa
Isle of Skye


Personal Take
I tried Isle of Skye with two and it didn’t work well in my opinion.
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14. Board Game Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Board Game Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
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Rudiger Dorn
363 389

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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15. Board Game Designer: Simone Luciani
Board Game Designer: Simone Luciani
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Taiwan
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Simone Luciani, Daniele Tascini
361 305

Top Games
Tzolkin
The Voyages of Marco Polo
Grand Austria Hotel


Personal Take
I’ve now played all of their games. This team is focused on dice action (placement/drafting) games. I found the dice action mechanisms of Marco Polo and Grand Austria Hotel to be much more interesting and interactive in a meaningful way than Lorenzo.
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16. Board Game Designer: Vital Lacerda
Board Game Designer: Vital Lacerda
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Taiwan
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Vital Lacerda
347 258

Top Games
The Gallerist
Lisboa
Vinhos


Personal Take
Vital Lacerda’s games are complicated and heavy. I quite enjoyed Lisboa.

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17. Board Game Designer: Jeroen Doumen
Board Game Designer: Jeroen Doumen
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Taiwan
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Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
346 346

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 these are different. I actually enjoy these.
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18. Board Game Designer: Richard Borg
Board Game Designer: Richard Borg
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Taiwan
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Richard Borg
345 368

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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19. Board Game Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Board Game Publisher: Stonemaier Games
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Taiwan
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Jamey Stegmaier
336 252

Top Games
Scythe
Viticulture
Charterstone (new)


Personal Take
The rating bump comes from Charterstone. Jamey’s games are very clean and streamlined, but I feel that Scythe and Euphoria are exactly the sum of their parts, not more not less. They are still good games, but the “twist” in Euphoria didn’t really do it for me, and the sleek 4X system in Scythe seems better suited for a lighter game (like The Island of El Dorado for example which I prefer). I am quite interested in My Little Scythe actually.
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20. Board Game Designer: Richard Garfield
Board Game Designer: Richard Garfield
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Taiwan
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Richard Garfield
325 315

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, 2v2 or 3v3 capture the flag Roborally is a hundred times better than free-for-all-race Roborally. Interested in Bunny Kingdom.
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21. Board Game Designer: Mac Gerdts
Board Game Designer: Mac Gerdts
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Mac Gerdts
317 330

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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22. Board Game Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Board Game Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Ignacy Trzewiczek
294 324

Top Games
Robinson Crusoe
Imperial Settlers
51st State


Personal Take
I liked Imperial Settlers and Stronghold. Need to try Robinson Crusoe. Ignacy seems to design games with complicated engines.
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23. Board Game Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Board Game Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Phil Walker-Harding
262

Top Games
Sushi Go Party!
Barenparck
Sushi Go!


Personal Take
NA
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24. Board Game Designer: Jason Matthews
Board Game Designer: Jason Matthews
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Jason Matthews
253 253

Top Games
Twilight Struggle
1960: The Making of the President
1989: Dawn of Freedom


Personal Take
This designer focuses on card driven political games. Ten years ago, I thought Twilight Struggle would be his one hit-and-done, but he has since put out four more solid political games, and one of them even for more than two players. Twilight Struggle, however, is still his magnum opus.
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25. Board Game Designer: Friedemann Friese
Board Game Designer: Friedemann Friese
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Friedemann Friese
248 256

Top Games
Power Grid
Friday
Fabled Fruit


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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