Reiner Knizia is, without a doubt, the most prolific boardgame designer of modern times, having designed over 500 published games in the past fifteen years. Although he hasn’t had a big hit in quite some time, his output has significantly influenced the direction of the modern boardgame movement.
Long before Settlers of Catan came to America, Dr. Knizia’s designs were taking hold of the European boardgame world and bringing important mechanisms like tile-laying, bidding and auctioning into modern boardgame design apart from any particularly thematic elements.
His games span a wide variety of genres and degrees of complexity, but one of the most distinctive stylistic elements of his designs are a focus on streamlined mechanisms. Knizia’s games often revolve around just a few simple actions that players can take, but play out in ways that allow for many different strategies. So to celebrate fifteen years of monumental boardgame designing, here’s a ranking of the fifteen best Reiner Knizia games of all time.
1 of 15
15. Pickomino (2005): This is the only party-style game on the list, but it sure is a good one. With just a handful of dice and some domino tiles, Knizia manages to pull together a fun time of push your luck and dice chucking. At its heart, it's still a Yahtzee variant. But with the ability to steal tiles from each other and push your luck further and further, it's a fun one for the whole family.
2 of 15
14. Lord of the Rings: The Boardgame (2000): Reiner Knizia has done a lot of work with the Lord of the Rings property over the years, but the Lord of the Rings boardgame was his very first. Furthermore, Lord of the Rings is considered to be one of the first cooperative boardgames, laying the path for games like Shadows Over Camelot and Pandemic. It's not a perfect game, but it's hard to deny the influence it had on the work of future designers at its time.
3 of 15
13. Carcassonne: The Castle (2003): Reiner Knizia is known for his masterful use of the tile-laying mechanism, so when he took on a variation of the most famous tile-laying game of all time, it was a for-sure win. The Castle doesn't deviate too far from the base mechanisms of the original Carcassonne, but instead pares down the open-ended nature of the game for a tighter, more tactical game for only two players.
4 of 15
12. Winner's Circle (2001): This horse-racing and betting game was originally published as Turf Horse Racing back in 1995, making it an excellent spin on the roll-and-move mechanism that was so prevalent at the time. Winner's Circle is still one of the most exciting racing games ever made with its fair share of stand up and cheer moments.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisbrooks/171072580/
5 of 15
11. Modern Art (1992): One of Knizia's earlier designs, it's an understatement to say that Modern Art was ahead of its time in terms of both theme and mechanisms. Players take on the role of connoisseurs of modern art, looking to make the most money on the auctions that happen in each turn. Pro tip: If you're looking for a similar game that's even lighter, check out Master's Gallery (also published as Modern Art: The Card Game), also by Reiner Knizia.
6 of 15
10. Keltis / Lost Cities: The Boardgame (2008): Themed as Lost Cities: The Boardgame in the States, Keltis was the only Knizia game to win the prestigious Spiel des Jahres game award for Game of the Year—and deservedly so. It's a retooling of some of the mechanisms in the classic Lost Cities two-player game. Like the two player game, Keltis is a great gateway game that teaches players the basics of hand management and set collection.
7 of 15
9. Blue Moon Legends (2014): In the way that he has often done, Knizia basically invented the genre of the living card game with the original release of Blue Moon back in 2004. As the forefather of games such as Warhammer: Invasion and Android: Netrunner. It was essentially a collectible card game in the vein of Magic: The Gathering, except that it was completely contained in a single box. Legends collects all of the decks released in the ten years since 2004, making for the ultimate Blue Moon package.
8 of 15
8. Ingenious (2004): As you'll notice on this list, not many Reiner Knizia games do much in terms of theme, but Ingenious just drops the facade altogether. The lack of theme has actually helped this Spiel des Jahres nominee though, proven by the fact that it's been translated to over 20 languages. The brainbuster plays up to four, but is really best with two, making for an intense game of back-and-forth tile placement where the lowest score wins. Abstract strategy games aren't everyone's cup of tea, but this one is definitely worth a shot.
9 of 15
7. Colossal Arena (1997): This one is another "push your luck" bidding game, but don't write it off quite yet if that sounds boring to you. As one of Knizia's only games published with a traditional fantasy theme, it's quite a unique one where players simultaneously bid on monsters fighting it out in the pit and control how well those monsters do against each other.
10 of 15
6. Lost Cities (1999): Of all the games on this list, Lost Cities might be the simplest and lightest. It's similar to Battle Line in that you will be building stacks of cards that you play, although in Lost Cities it's not nearly as contentious. Instead, the tension comes in the careful tactical choices you must make between playing cards and discarding cards that might help your opponent. It makes for an excellent two player game that is perfect for couples.