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Lessons from Reiner Knizia

June 4, 2008

During the course of this recent crunch – which is over, thank goodness – I’ve spent a few half-hours reading interviews and articles written by Reiner Knizia. I regularly pick someone to study, and then read and play all I can from that particular designer in an effort to learn from them. Knizia is a paper game designer, and more prolific than Miyamoto. His original designs number over 200, and he is the designer from beginning to end, too (i.e. there is no “that’s my IP so I get credit for it” stuff in his ludography).

If you are a designer or want to be, you must read this article: The Design and Testing of the Lord of the Rings Board Game. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve actually played the game, though both the game and the article are brilliant.

I’ve made an aware decision not to become a specialist in one particular area but to look at all possible aspects of gaming, because I think they inspire each other.

I suggest following up with these two: Reiner Knizia By the Numbers and The ProtoSpiel Dream Panel. These two start a little slower than the piece by Knizia himself, but they’re good interviews that do a great job of getting into his design process instead of fanboying over his present designs.

I think you will be delightfully surprised at how much of his knowledge translates 1-to-1 to video game design. After all, at their core, they’re all games.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2008 8:34 am

    Let’s hope Reiner picks up his first Spiel des Jahres this year!

  2. June 5, 2008 10:03 pm

    I found an interesting Knizia quote regarding whether he got many chances to play other designers’ games:

    “No, but there’s an advantage to that. An advantage of not knowing what other designers are doing. If I have to solve a challenging game problem I need to be very creative. If my mind already knows of a solution from a different designer of course I don’t want to use that. That gets in the way of creativity. Your mind concludes that that’s the only way to get over this and it becomes much harder.” (interview with Stephen Glenn, 2002)

    I would have thought knowing existing solutions would propel Knizia into other directions, helping his creativity — not hampering it. Apparently he doesn’t see it that way. Knizia relies on playtesters to let him know when one of his designs are too close to another one already on the market.

  3. June 7, 2008 8:08 am

    Jason – that’s an interesting quote. Another designer who doesn’t play a lot of games is Miyamoto. I wonder if there’s a pattern here.

    Can you post a link to that article?

  4. June 9, 2008 12:01 am

    Brenda, I wish I had a link to share. I originally found this interview on (along with other designer interviews such as Wolfgang Kramer, Alan Moon, and Klaus Teuber) but for some reason they have since been removed. As it turned out, I printed some of these interviews so if you’re interested I can look into getting you the content.

    Also, I was wondering: how do you integrate what you learn from other designers into your own approach to game design? I suppose a big obstacle would be what Knizia talked about in that quote I referenced — being influenced by how another designer arrived at a solution. In that sense, perhaps the best sources of inspiration would be from other creative individuals in other fields; where you can borrow their ingenuity and be able to apply it in a new context (game design) and get credit for the innovation. 🙂

  5. June 9, 2008 12:14 am

    Sorry — should have read your June 7th post before responding… I think your elaboration answered my question!

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