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I've often seen references to the various styles of the better-known German games designers, but rarely an explanation of what those styles are. This article is an attempt to remedy that. Much of it will be old hat to many Sumo readers, but newcomers to the German games scene may find it useful, and older hands may enjoy demolishing my arguments. Obviously all opinions are very subjective, any complaints, (and anyone who has ever discussed a game with its designer will know how sensitive some designers are to even minor criticism), should be addressed to me rather than the Sumo team. The entries are are grouped roughly in two groups, Firstly the freelance designers whose work is published by several games companies, and then the ``one man bands'' who mostly produce and sell their own games, although many of them have also had games produced by other companies.

Dr Reiner Knizia: Surely the most prolific designer in the market at present, Reiner Knizia has had at least 50 games published since his first, Goldrausch, in 1989. Some of the best known Knizia games are Modern Art, Quo Vadis, Tutankhamun, Das Letzte Paradis, Auf Heller und Pfennig, but there are many many more. His doctorate is in mathematics and many of his games reflect that. If one must criticise it would be that he produces a great many one idea games, one games mechanism developed into a short light game. His more developed games though, are a delight, simple game ideas developed into a seamless whole. It is an axiom of a good game that the player should always want to do two mutually exclusive things in the same turn and Knizia's better games develop this to perfection.

Klaus Teuber: In many ways Rainer Knizia's antithesis, Klaus Teuber has only produced a small number of games, Timberland, Barbarossa, Adel Verpflichtet, Drunter und Drüber, Flying Dutchman, Vernissage, Die Siedler von Catan, Galopp Royal. Not many games, but 3 of them have won Spiel des Jahres and each of the later ones is a thing of beauty. Teuber is a master dental technician, and this skill in making small intricate objects is perhaps mirrored in his games, which always remind me of Swiss clocks, multiple minor mechanisms slotting perfectly together, The themes are always strong and unusual, and each and every one has been a winner.

Wolfgang Kramer: Here I have a problem. Kramer has been designing games for years, and seemed to have the same hold on the Spiel des Jahres prize in the mid 80's as did Teuber at the start of the 90s. But he seems to be able to produce any and every type of game to order. For an example his two major '94 releases. One, Big Boss, an abstract business game, best described as two dimensional Acquire, the other 6 Nimmt, a simple but very clever card game that couldn't be more different in style. He's also released bluffing games (Heimlich & Co.), resource management games (Auf Achse), deduction games (Spuren im Busch), any style you want. The games mechanisms are rarely innovative, but there's always a new twist, and his games are always playable, and often of the highest quality.

Rudi Hoffmann: A games designer with a split personality. One the one hand he is probably best known for his lighter, card-based games featuring his own, amusing art-work, (Cafe International, Maestro, Der Ausreisser, Ogallalla). but he has also produced several highly abstract games that belong firmly in the dry end of the market, (Spiel des Turmes, Janus). I personally prefer him in lighter mode, where the games are never quite as simple as they seem, especially Cafe International which I rate as one of the most underrated games around. The abstract games are too much so for my taste, and have been accused of failing to stand up to ``system-bashing'' styles of play.

Reinhold Wittig: A Reinhold Wittig game, whether produced by his Perlhuhn company in the 80s or nowadays produced by other companies, notably Kosmos Frankh, will always look good, but the game itself will vary from good to absolutely dreadful. At his best he has produced several quite playable games, but to find them you may have to wade through any number of beautifully produced, strongly themed, roll the dice and move games of about the same level of complexity and interest as Ludo. Perhaps the archetypal Wittig game is simply called Das Spiel (The game). Here he came up with the idea of a huge pyramid of dice in three colours, turned out a few variations on building games and then released it with a plea that players supply their own games ideas for the pyramid, subsequently releasing the best of them as a second edition of the game. A man whose enthusiasm for producing games perhaps exceeds his stock of new ideas.

Roland Siegers: Mostly a designer of abstract games, only loosely linked to a theme. His games include Abilene, Missisippi and Skyline. An ability to look several moves ahead is a distinct advantage with a Siegers game, but not everyone can take the accompanying headaches.

Urs Hosteddtler: A Swiss designer who isn't as well known internationally as he should be. The reason for this is simple, his great talent is for games which work around clever, funny writing and word games. Naturally enough, this isn't easy to translate, and the only game of his to have crossed over is Kremlin, which typically relies heavily on the funny names and descriptions for its appeal. Hotel Life, Schraumeln and Die Wahre Walter are all good games but aren't much use for English speakers until someone does a commercial version of them in English.

Stefan Dorra: A speech therapist, who started by designing games for his child patients and went on from there, he is relatively new in the field, I think that Razzia (1992) was his first published game and since then he has had several more. So far, his games have tended towards the light side, using clever, if not terribly original ideas, and mainstream themes to produce good ``opener or closer'' games for a games evening. None of his published games to date could be described as outstanding but he's definitely one to watch.

Hartmut Witt. Best known amongst gamers for Koalition, but this seems to be a bit of an exception for him since his other games that I've seen all seem to have a vaguely fantasy theme. Not my cup of tea, so I'm not the best person to comment further.

Klaus Palesch: A games-shop owner who has only brought out two games as far as I know but who nevertheless has a style of his own. Sticheln and Hattrick are both simple card games but with completely novel twists that set them apart. If he can keep coming up with ideas like these then he's well set.

The ``One Man Bands''

Karl-Heinz Schmiel: Another man with a split personality, Herr Schmiel is Moskito games and as such produces one new game every year for Essen. Until recently these had settled into a steady pattern, one year a very heavy ``gamers'' game, full of clever mechanisms but strictly for those who have 3 or 4 hours spare. (Die Macher, Tyranno Ex, Lieber Bayerisch Sterben, Extrablatt). Then, the next year, came the opposite, a simple ``family'' game, involving such oddities as shaking ``spices'' out of plastic bottles into a frying pan (A La Carte), or manoeuvering plastic dolls-house furniture with lolly sticks, (Packen wir es). The last two years have seen a move into somewhat shorter, but still adult games, with Was Sticht, a card game that I first thought highly original, but now as I learn more about German card games, and particularly Skat, seems less so, and then a metagame, Das Regeln Wir Schon, involving rules manipulation, putting an extra level above the basic game of points gathering. It will be interesting to see where he goes next.

Jean de Poel: His games are almost all hand produced, are very tactile, and almost always have a historical theme. Most suffer though, from either too simple, or incompletely thought out rules, which make them less satisfying for serious games players. However, Mare Mediterraneum has however its fans, although they mostly play using their own house rules and modifications.

Doris and Frank: I think that Frank Nestel actually designs the games with Doris Matthäus providing the distinctive artwork, but I may be wrong. They started with simple games pitched at a child/family level. Then they moved on to lighter adult games and produced one gem, Banana Republic, and now they've produced a mega game, at least as regards playing length, Fugger, Welser, Medici. Their earlier game Dicke Kartoffeln looked fabulous when first produced but broke down when played by gamers, and Fugger seems to be going the same way. If the games testing were on the same level as the graphics and production, then there'd be none to touch them.

Valentin Herrmann: Another designer who produces one game per year for Essen. The games are always heavily themed, very well produced albeit on a ``limited run'' level, but rarely feature anything radical in the way of new twists.

Walter Müller: All Walter Müller games are instantly recognisable owing to their unique art style, once seen, never forgotten. The games themselves are all fairly light, family style games, simple rules, mostly dice driven, good fun without any great strategy. The latest (and best?), game from his range Rette Sich Wer Kann, is ironically the only one that isn't actually by Müller himself.

Friedemann Friese: Another new name, with two and a half games to his credit so far, Wucherer, Falsche Fuffziger and Papparazzi. Friese's forte seems to be auctions, since both of the last two games feature auction techniques that were new, at least to me. Another name to watch out for.

Dirk Henn, also known as the man with the Rucksack. Perhaps the ultimate in the self produced games market, since even the boxes are home made. Nevertheless the games are interesting, but probably need a bit more development if they are to produced by a major company.

A complete list of games authors with games currently available on the German market would of course be far longer. Two American authors, Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph rank with Kramer and Knizia as the commonest names seen, but I thought their styles, especially Sackson's, too well known to comment on. Alan Moon is probably the best of the Essen ``One man Bands'' (yes I know that there are lots of other people involved), but I shied clear of commenting on an author when I know for certain that he will read this, while other authors that I might have included are Tom Schoeps, Dan Glimne, Gerhard Kodys and Jean de Vanaise but they're not German. No doubt there are others that I have missed out. Whatever, I hope that readers find this list of use; and I will be interested in any comments on these or other authors. If you don't want to write via Stuart then I can be contacted direct at Töpferreihe 4, 38259 Salzgitter-Bad or on 0049 5341 39735 or 31169 (fax).

John Webley

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Stuart Dagger