Games I Haven’t Played: Reiner Knizia Edition

It’s never been a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Reiner Knizia. But maybe it’s just because I haven’t played the right games. So, I’m going to do a Games I Haven’t Played list for him, and we’ll see if any of these have the potential to raise my opinion at all. If you haven’t seen these lists before, I’ll basically just be covering the Top 11 rated games by Dr. Knizia at BGG that I haven’t played.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Ra (1999, #179) is probably my biggest blind spot when it comes to Knizia games. It has three things going against it for me – it’s a Knizia game, it’s set in Egypt, and it’s an auction game. All three of these alone are enough to turn me off, and to have three of them in the same game – that’s like a perfect storm of stuff I don’t particularly care for. I have played the other Knizia Egyptian auction game (Amun-Re), and didn’t hate it, but this one is basically the gold standard for a lot of auction games. So it’s one I think I should play at some point, if just to check it off my list.

image by BGG user russ

Samurai (1998, #212) is one of the so-called Knizia tile laying trilogy, along with Tigris & Euphrates and Through the Desert, so this is the only one of those I haven’t played. It’s set in medieval Japan and you’re trying to gain the favor of three different factions – samurai, peasants, and priests. It looks very abstract (I mean, it is a Knizia game after all), but it gets a lot of praise and is the fourth highest ranked of all his games, so it’s another one I should try to seek out at some point. I’m less interested in this than some of the others on this list, however.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Modern Art (1992, #224) is a pure auction game, with several different types of auctions getting used. You’re basically bidding on different pieces of modern art to make them more valuable, and each piece of art has its own auction that you have to do. I used to own a copy of Modern Art: The Card Game that I won in a contest, and I hated it. Granted, the auction mechanism was removed for that game, but it’s made me not want to play this one at all ever. Maybe I should anyway, see if it’s any better for me.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (2005, #374) first came out in 2002, and is also ranked #544. This is the deluxe version that first came out in 2005. The Confrontation is a Stratego-like game where players are advancing their forces, whose identities are hidden, against those of their opponents. It’s very different from Knizia’s first LOTR game, which was a cooperative game that came out in 2000. I like the theme a lot, but I’ve never played Stratego, and I really didn’t like the 2000 game, so that’s soured me on trying this. Again, though, I’d be willing if the opportunity arose.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Schotten Totten (1999, #396) is a two-player card game where players are trying to win control of different stones that are lined up between the players. This is basically done by playing cards into three card poker hands. I have played the GMT reprint of this one, Battle Line, and really did not like it. However, this one gets a lot of praise from people who enjoy two-player only games, so maybe I should give this a shot.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Taj Mahal (2000, #455) is an auction game set in India in the early 18th century. You’re working to build palaces and acquire commodities. To be perfectly honest, this is probably the game on this list I am LEAST interested in. It has never sounded appealing to me in the slightest, and while my perception could very well be off, I’ll probably avoid this one.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

My City (2020, #486) is Reiner Knizia’s take on the legacy genre. It’s a city-building polyomino game that you can customize from session to session. This one was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres last year, and was even the game that I thought would win. It’s one that I am interested in trying sometime, partly because I like polyomino games, and partly because I think it’s one my family would enjoy as well.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

High Society (1995, #564) is another auction game, though this is a smaller card game than some of the others. Players are trying to outbid each other to get lots of cool stuff that will up their prestige, while not trying to spend all their money. The thing about this game that would draw me in and make me want to try it is that it has a “being fed to the crocodiles” mechanism – in other words, if you have the least money at the end, you cannot win. Which is one of my favorite mechanisms in games.

image by BGG user Gambiteer

Carcassonne: The Castle (2003, #605) is Knizia’s take on the Carcassonne system, which had only been around for three years when this was published. It’s specifically for two players, and there’s a wall that surrounds the play area, so you can’t really get those sprawling Carcassonne landscapes that make the game so visually appealing. I don’t know, this might be interesting, but I think I might rather play the original.

image by BGG user LudiGaume

Dream Factory (2000, #766) has also been known as Traumfabrik and Hollywood Blockbuster over the years. Dream Factory is the most recent English version, and it hasn’t been published in over ten years. It’s another auction game (surprise!), but this one is set in Hollywood and is about making movies. This is a game that I think I would like to try out. I’ve heard good things, and I like the theme. I guess it needs a reprint for that to happen.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Winner’s Circle (2001, #858) is a horse racing game where you are betting on the horses you want to win, and then trying to help them along. It was originally published in 1995 as Turf Horse Racing. Horse racing is not my favorite sport, but I’ll watch the Kentucky Derby when it happens. I don’t know, this one might be fun, but I don’t particularly like betting games either.


For comparison, here are the ones from this range that I have played: Tigris & Euphrates (#94), The Quest for El Dorado (#159), Battle Line (#230), Lost Cities (#324), Amun-Re (#376), Ingenious (#436), Through the Desert (#503), Medici (#547), and Blue Moon City (#647). Of those, I’m a big fan of Blue Moon City, and I like Ingenious well enough. The rest, I can take or leave (though in the case of at least two, I’ll just leave them).

So, yeah. That’s Reiner Knizia. He’s clearly had a major impact on our hobby, and there are a lot of big fans of his work out there. I’m kind of an outlier in that his games just don’t appeal to me, but if you’ve never played anything by him, do try some things out. He’s very good at making relatively simple mechanisms that offer complex decisions. For one reason or another, however, I’m very rarely excited by one of his titles.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

6 comments

  1. I haven’t played too many Knizia games but the ones I have, have been excellent. High Society, Shotten Totten, and Medici – I surprised you didn’t love it. I believe there’s a reprint of Ra scheduled for some time this year, I am more than keen to check that one out.

    Which one do you think you’ll take on next?

    • I’ve only played Medici once, and I hated it. I know people like it, and I just couldn’t. Granted, it’s been a really long time since I played (over a decade), but I haven’t wanted to try again.

      As to which one I’ll try next, who knows. Someone will probably pull one of his games out at a game day I go to at some nebulous point in the future, and I’ll play. I’ll report back here when it happens.

  2. Ra is definitely an excellent game, though as one of my friends can attest, you have to not play with assholes.

    But I really enjoyed my plays of it a few years ago. And the app is pretty good too!

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