Knizia-like games that aren't by Knizia
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Reiner Knizia is my favourite designer. I've explained some of the reasons why in another GeekList. But having played a lot of Knizia's own classics, I'm interested in games by other designers that share the same qualities; games that make you think "this feels like a Knizia".

The most important of those qualities is elegance: Knizia's best games have difficult decisions arising from simple rules, often because they are based on some underlying mathematical structure. Another is interactivity: Knizia's games don't tend to feel like multi-player solitaire (forget about FITS for now...) A third is risk management: there's often randomness but controlling it to your advantage is an important part of the game. And finally, the theme is used more as a prop for the mechanics rather than the other way round.

I've added a few games I've played that feel Knizian to start things off but I'd love to discover some more.
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1. Board Game: China [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:906]
Board Game: China
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Michael Schacht is the designer who feels most Knizian to me. In China, I find the scoring system for houses beautifully elegant in the way it ties each player's score to the other players rather than printing 1st, 2nd and 3rd place values on the map. And then there's the whole extra, coupled, layer of the emissary scoring. Genius.
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2. Board Game: König von Siam [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1405]
Board Game: König von Siam
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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This one does Knizia's "less is more" thing superbly. You only get 8 actions in the whole game, but there's so much tension about when and where to deploy them. And the scoring system is very Knizian too - it reminds me of Samurai.
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3. Board Game: Biblios [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:386]
Board Game: Biblios
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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The Knizia-like trick here is that you must assign your batch of cards to yourself, to other players and to a later auction, but you only get to look at them one at a time, not a batch at once. A brilliant, simple idea that gives the game its tension.
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4. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:722]
Board Game: Santiago
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I knew I was going to love this one just by reading the rules, and I wasn't wrong. It has a mathematical heart, but it's the kind of maths that drives interaction between the players rather than solo optimisation.
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5. Board Game: Traders of Osaka [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1248]
Board Game: Traders of Osaka
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Does that common Knizia trick of giving players lots of quick decisions from limited options but which nevertheless manage to be difficult and interesting.
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6. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:303]
Board Game: For Sale
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Samurai, Tigris, Yellow, Babylonia. Through the Desert, Ingenious, Stephensons Rocket also rock!
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Knizia tile laying rules! Samurai is #1, closely followed by the three games with two rivers
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With two types of auctions, very simple rules, hand management and risk management, a healthy dose of fun, I always thought it's a game Knizia would be proud of.
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7. Board Game: Byzanz [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:2641]
Board Game: Byzanz
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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A balanced gameplay, collecting colored sets of numbers, this one looks like a Knizia... but ultimately fails as it's so over-balanced it lacks tension.
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8. Board Game: Titania [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:5178]
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Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Well, it might be a little(!) bit more complex than a usual Knizia. But this one really reminds you Knizia's tile-laying trilogy (especially Samurai and Through the Desert) with its rules and its tactical gameplay. Movement rules are a bit like in Through the Desert, and a round is over when you run out of one of the colors. There are also some face-down tiles to be discovered in an Africa-ish way. Also just like other Knizias, it gets better and better with repeated play. I'm a Knizia fan and that might be the reason why I liked this game a lot more than the average geek.
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9. Board Game: Balloon Cup [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1193]
Board Game: Balloon Cup
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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A game that feels like Battle Line or Schotten Totten: it's also a 2-player game where you have cards in hand and can play them to four different 'tricks'. It's a bit lighter than those already light Knizias, unless you play by the designer's original rules (playing cards to your opponents side only where your side is full) combined with the publisher's added rules (cube exchange) and the necessary color limitations (see all the variations articles at the game entry).
Board Game: Balloon Cup
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10. Board Game: Terra Nova [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:2684]
Board Game: Terra Nova
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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A fine and interesting game in the vein of Through the Desert, I didn't buy it only because I found it doesn't offer a too different experience from that.
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11. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:435]
Board Game: Egizia
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Okay, one more and I stop
This one is a medium light but complex worker placement game, and this genre is nothing Knizia-ish. But I have explained (in a 'creative' way) in my review below why I think it has a lot in common with Knizia games and why it even has the tension I love in Knizia games.
Egypt + Knizia? (A creative day at the Acchitocca headquarters)
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12. Board Game: Mahjong [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:793]
Board Game: Mahjong
Moisés Solé
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OK, this is a light rap at the complex scoring systems that some Knizia games have. Here you have additive fu, and multiplicative han, and rounding, and what-not.
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13. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:138]
Board Game: Jaipur
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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This excellent game reminds me of the wonderful two-player games Knizia used to create with great regularity back in the day. It's fairly simple, but a few plays reveal hidden depths, one of the hallmarks of a great Knizia design.
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14. Board Game: No Thanks! [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:462]
Board Game: No Thanks!
Joe Gola
United States
Connecticut
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You could almost fit the rules on the back of a matchbook, and yet the game is extremely fun and interesting. It's sometimes hard for me to remember it's not by Knizia.
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15. Board Game: Nefertiti [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1432]
Board Game: Nefertiti
Bruce Bridges
United States
Los Altos
CA
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I am big fan of Knizia games too, especially his games with auctions.

Nefertiti has a definite Knizia feel to it. Clever auctions (8 different types), twist on set collection (the point values of each good is dependent on the number of players possessing that kind) and easy game play gave me the impression at first blush that this was a Knizia game. Excellent auction game by the way.
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16. Board Game: Banque Fatale [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:13756]
Board Game: Banque Fatale
From the entry description:
'An amusing mechanism that draws you to brinkmanship. Simple and smart, you'd reckon this was a Knizia game, but it's not!'

Although it is some years since I played and enjoyed playing this, I seem recall that there is some validity in that view.
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17. Board Game: The major four of Heizei [Average Rating:6.29 Unranked]
Board Game: The major four of Heizei
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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This recent game by Kenichi Tanabe is a card game for 3 to 5 players. You play as politicians seeking influence among four brothers by playing and collecting a number of cards that moves cubes representing the four along a track. The game plays in two rounds with different scoring in each round. The Knizia like trick in the second round is that while the cards represent the brothers score 4, 3, 2, and 1 points respectively according to the positions on the track, for each player the most cards they have of one brother are counted negatively rather than positively.
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18. Board Game: Industrial Waste [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:2176]
Board Game: Industrial Waste
Richard Irving
United States
Harrisburg
Pennsylvania
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Knizia has never done a pure business game, but if he did, something like this under appreciated gem would be the result.
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19. Board Game: Pecking Order [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:3671]
Board Game: Pecking Order
The most knizian game ever written by Richard Garfield.
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20. Board Game: The major four of Heizei [Average Rating:6.29 Unranked]
Board Game: The major four of Heizei

Eugene
Oregon
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Hints of Knizia's Bucket Brigade in this card-driven speculation game, where advancing your favorite comes at the cost of giving away a stake to your opponents.
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21. Board Game: Zaubercocktail [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:16652]
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Dave Lartigue
United States
Springfield
Massachusetts
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I consider this Knizia's take on "Pit", although Knizia didn't do it.
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22. Board Game: Enemy Chocolatier [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:5110]
Board Game: Enemy Chocolatier
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Simple and streamlines, balance of income versus VP, two ways to win.
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23. Board Game: Metropolys [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:892]
Board Game: Metropolys
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I found another one - the excellent Metropolys. It has the same feeling as Ra, where you choose your bids not just by how much you want something, but to force a difficult choice on your opponent. Simple rules, deep strategy, quick play - a classic Knizian combination.
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24. Board Game: Artus [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:3715]
Board Game: Artus
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Knizia tile laying rules! Samurai is #1, closely followed by the three games with two rivers
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I'm not sure you will agree... But I don't think I have ever played any Kramer-Kiesling games so Knizian...

Simple rules - check, difficult decisions that hurt you - check. Interactivity - check (constantly changing the position of the board for others). Risk management - check. Controlled randomness - check. Theme is used as a prop for the mechanics - check, it's a numbers game - check.

(I'm talking about the advanced version, suggested for age 12 and up.) Also, it's a hand management game. Everyone has the same set of 22 cards, holding 6 in hand, using some and drawing other cards to have 6 again in the end (a feature found in lots of Knizia games, not even only the card games - see Samurai). When it's your turn you play 2 cards (still very Knizian, e.g. see many of his tile-laying games). However chaotic the game feels - and it's certainly more chaotic with four and less chaotic with two (see Samurai) and however tactical it is (Knizia) you still can learn how to control things, especially as the game ends only when everyone has used all their cards (after 11 rounds).

The 6 special cards (advanced version) add a strong risk management aspect and some tricky hard decisions that I love in the best Knizias. These cards give you special "missions": when you play them - and you'll have to play them - they just give you points according to the position of your pawns and the board. There are some really tricky ones as e.g. one asks you to score 3 of your pawns standing at negative numbers (that can be -1 to -15, together -6 to -42 points) or if you don't have 3 pawns standing at negative numbers you score -50 points. So when your 3 pawnsa are at -5, -7 and -10 and you would score -22 points it's not an easy decision: should I accept this low score? Or should I hope for better numbers, risking -50 points?

I really enjoy the game, even though it's rated so low because it's not... "alean" enough, I guess
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25. Board Game: Strasbourg [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:999]
Board Game: Strasbourg
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Samurai, Tigris, Yellow, Babylonia. Through the Desert, Ingenious, Stephensons Rocket also rock!
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Knizia tile laying rules! Samurai is #1, closely followed by the three games with two rivers
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I'm not sure it's really Knizian but it's more Knizian than any other Stefan Feld games I have ever played. And it's got lots of stuff that is Knizian.

So what is Knizian?
THis game is full of auctions - and these auctions are more or less Ra-like.
Instead of sun tiles you have an interesting randomizer that is actually also a kind of push your luck element (common in many Knizias). It's a set of 24 cards (value 1 to 6, 4 times each). There are 5 rounds in the game and in the beginning of each round you draw cards from your deck in a push-your-luck way until you say stop. Then you divide these cards into piles of 1-... cards; these (amounts) will be your "sun tiles" in the voting rounds. You have the deck for the whole 5 rounds so you have to count and know when to stop - e.g. in my first game I thought 'It's just a bit lower than what I need' I always drew a 6...
Interestingly some of the auctions are held in a way that even 2nd and 3rd place winners get something (of their choice) and you don't even have to bid higher than the ones before you so risk is not as strong as it seems first, still it's present. Also a clever mechanism (not winning anything with your cards you can place one card of this pile in the bottom of your drawing deck) allows some forward planning and controlling luck.
Secret goals are not present in most Knizias but still in some, and some of these goals are even about set collection.
Also when you win (1st, 2nd or 3rd place) in an auction for some goods you can choose to take the goods OR place a meeple on a board (it could be a tile as well); later the winner of the first auction in the round gets to place a building tile as well. So it has a strong tile-laying element as well.

So does Strasbourg fit this list?
Quote:
Knizia's best games have difficult decisions arising from simple rules, often because they are based on some underlying mathematical structure.
Difficult decisions - I'd say the decisions are difficult; not very difficult but not very simple either and it's no because of rules complexity.
This game is simple compared to other Felds: it's not as simple as most Knizias but it's simpler than the heaviest Knizias - I'd say it's not much more complex than Ra, for example.

Quote:
Another is interactivity: Knizia's games don't tend to feel like multi-player solitaire.
Auctions, kicking others from the main positions, a common 'tile-laying' board part - check.

Quote:
A third is risk management: there's often randomness but controlling it to your advantage is an important part of the game.
Push your luck with a given set of cards (everyone has the same), also holding hidden goals known from the beginning of the game - check.

Quote:
And finally, the theme is used more as a prop for the mechanics rather than the other way round.
Check, check.
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