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Top 5 Games From Reiner Knizia

Games By Reiner Knizia Modern Art

Welcome to a new series here at Zatu. We’ve gone on and on about publishers (and we will continue to do so) but let’s be honest. They wouldn’t be able to publish their games without the designer and I think it’s time to give the designer some time in the spotlight.

This month, we’re starting with one of the big names of board gaming. Doctor Reiner Knizia is probably a name you’ll have heard of at least once in the gaming spheres as one of the most prolific game designers in the world. His website boasts over 700 published games, of which there are around a dozen nominated for Spiel Des Jahres, and many which have won other awards. There’s a whole 15 page document tracking the history of his award winning on his website and it’s an interesting read. For now though, let’s have a bit of a dive into the good doctor’s top five games.

Modern ArtCraig Smith

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Modern Art is a Knizia classic. Each player takes on the role of a museum trying to curate the most lucrative art collection. The game is centred around the works of five artists. Over four rounds, each player takes it in turns to auction off a piece of art from their hand in one of five ways. It could be a traditional auction, a one-offer auction, a hidden auction, or a fixed price auction. Finally, you may be auctioning two pieces of work by the same artist in a double auction. The winning bidder adds the work to their collection, face up for everyone to see.

The round ends immediately as soon as the fifth piece of art by one artist is played. Then, the value of each artist’s work depends on their popularity, with only the art from the three most popular artists that round being worth anything. This is where the beauty of Modern Art lies. One artist could have been popular in the first three rounds of the game, so you buy one of their collection hoping to rake the money in. The problem is if none of their other work sells in the last round, and they’re not amongst the three most popular, that art you’ve pinned your hopes on is worth nothing!

There are several Knizia games I could wax lyrical about, but none of them have the same highs and lows as Modern Art. The rulebook also doubles up as an artbook, profiling each artist and demonstrating their portfolio. Modern Art is set collection, logic, deduction and bidding in one heady mix.

My CityHannah Blacknell

City is by far and away one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had. I got this game as my first legacy game as well as being my first polyominal game as well. We were hooked from day dot. It was a struggle not to just play 5 or six games in a row. We ended up rationing our plays to make sure the journey lasted as long as possible.

In My City, you are building out a city using red, blue and yellow building tiles. The order these are placed is determined by the shuffled card deck. Everyone places tiles at the same time so there is no down time, and without spoilers I cannot tell you what happens as time goes on but believe me now when I tell you the game is SO MUCH MORE than it first appears.

I love legacy games, I enjoy the build of never really knowing what is coming next. My City is what I would call an entry level legacy game. It is an amazing starting point to build from as it guides you from straight forward to relatively complex in easy bite size chunks. The building up is split into 24 episodes with 8 envelopes with new rule sheets and pieces and stickers to permanently alter the game boards.

Lost Cities - Neil Proctor

Lost Cities is easily my favourite two player only game and in my top 20 games of all time. Still in print 23 years after it’s original release (1999) it has spawned numerous spin offs such as Lost Cities The Board Game, The Rivals and The Roll and Write, but you still can’t beat the perfection that is Lost Cities The Original Card Game.

The concept is so simple but with amazing depth (a speciality of Reiner Knizia) shuffle the cards and deal eight to each player and then take it in turns to play a card and then pick up a card. There are five suits (six as a variant) and you can either place the card on your side of the board in ascending order for each suit or on the board as a discard pile for each suit. Play a card too early on your side and you show your opponent what you are trying to collect and they will withhold these cards for as long as possible. Hold on too long and the game could be over before you know it because as soon as the draw pile is empty it is game over.

For each suit you try to score there is a twenty points penalty so you have to score at least twenty points with your cards face value. There are also multipliers which have to be played before any numbered cards in that particular suit, these can result in an amazing range of scores and I have won with 208 points and lost with -48.

Regardless of the result you will always shuffle the cards and play again. I have never taught an easier game where someone new can be finding their own way within a few turns.
Reiner Knizia is one of my favourite designers of all time and this is easily one of his best. If you haven’t played this yet what are you waiting for!

High SocietyLooks Complicated

High Society is one of our favourite Reiner Knizia games and we have played it a tonne. The simple bidding mechanism is easy to teach, and it works well with players new to the hobby as well as your more established gaming group. In High Society you have a stack of money, and you want to amass needless possessions to improve your status, such as perfume or jewellery. Each round, a card is flipped over with a different possession on it and an associated cost. The higher the cost, the more valuable the card is to you. The decisions you face during this game are delightful, and cause plenty of belly laughs – is it worth holding tight and letting your opponent pay extortionate amounts of money for a high value card, hoping they have less money to spend in future rounds?

Or should you go all in, but risk the same? Add in the misfortune cards which you must bid on in order to not take them into your hand, and multipliers which everyone will want, and you have a mix of torturous decisions to make. The winner is the person at game end who has the most points, however the player with the least amount of money is automatically eliminated, so if you’ve spent all your cash on a luxurious piece of jewellery and have nothing left over, you lose, and it was all for nothing. It’s a double-edged sword and it’s brilliantly done – a high value card can put you closer to winning, but also to losing as you run out of money.

There’s no change either in this game as you must play whole banknotes, and you can’t take a previously played banknote back into your hand. The game ends when the fourth blue card comes out of the deck, so it could go on for six rounds or sixteen, and each additional round will change who wins or loses. This randomness can be off-putting, however it does mean that no two games are the same. High Society is an excellent filler game to start or end your games nights, mixing card management, decision making and bidding. It plays best at a higher player count, 4-5 ideally, and the replayability is enormous as you’ll want to re-set and go again after each play.

WitchstoneLuke Pickles

I love a game with a whole bunch of combos. I also love when these combos can escalate rapidly and has a wonderful puzzle built in. Witchstone has that in spades! In Witchstone, you are selecting hexomino tiles with any two of six symbols on them to place into your cauldron. You’re aiming to match symbols to create clusters because, the more of the symbol you have, the more powerful the action is. Of those actions, you’re either: moving crystals; connecting places together with energy; flying witches around the crystal ball; advancing up the wand track; dancing through a pentagram to get bonuses or; picking from the scrolls available.

I played this for the first time last month after seeing it played and I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to look up the expansion due later this year. Combining a variety of powers together and the randomly chosen tiles makes the game very replayable. I went heavily into the pentagram track, whereas my partner focused on building connections and setting out her witches and our scores were incredibly close. Sure, there’s some instances of analysis paralysis as you try to calculate the very best move to make, but once you get over the hump of what you can do, it’s very easy to play.

Definitely something to seek more out of and no wonder it was recommended for the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year! Nice work Doctor. Also shout out to co-designer Martino Chiacchiera!