I came across a very interesting article on BoardGameGeek (BGG) the other day: the All-Time Designer Ranking (2018). Tony Chen (who himself is a designer) has come up with a formula that looks at the top 1000 games by rank on BGG and effectively assigns points to the designers according to how high up each of their games is.
So the more games a designer has designed, the more points they get, but if none of their games has been rated very highly, they won’t get many points. The article then ranks all of the designers according to this magic formula. It reads like a “who’s who” of boardgame designers.
So I thought it would be interesting today to take a look at the top 10. Which designers made it to the list? How many could you guess before seeing the list? Which are their highest ranked games? Let’s take a look…
10. Michael Kiesling
Most people would struggle to name a game by Michael Kiesling, but when you mention Azul (his highest ranked game), everyone goes, “Ahhh!” He also designed a couple of older classics like Tikal and Torres, but my favourite is Heaven & Ale, which was nominated for the Kennerspiel earlier this year. If you like Euros, Heaven & Ale gives you plenty to think about.
Wolfgang Kramer has a lot of old classics to his name, most notably El Grande. He often collaborates with Michael Kiesling interestingly enough (on Tikal for example), but my favourite is Colosseum, which had a revamped version on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.
Known for economic Euros and area-control, Martin Wallace has nevertheless covered many genres and is one of the most prolific designers on the list. He has done lots of train games (eg. Steam), the classic two-player war game A Few Acres of Snow, but my favourite is his highest ranked game, which had a sparkly new version earlier this year: Brass.
7. Eric M. Lang
The king of “Dudes on a Map” games, Eric M. Lang has made great strides bringing thematic, Ameritrash games into the new millennium by injecting lots of Euro mechanisms. His highest ranked game is Blood Rage, but my favourite is the rapidly climbing Rising Sun (which is in my Top 10 Games of All Time).
An incredibly versatile designer and possibly my favourite, Vlaada Chvátil is known for games such as Through the Ages, Mage Knight and Codenames, which are very different from each other! Mage Knight was my number 1 game for many years.
5. Stefan Feld
The master of the Euro, Stefan Feld is known for innovative use of dice and point salads. They sometimes lack theme, but the mechanisms are usually top-notch. Classics include Castles of Burgundy and Bora Bora, but my favourite (also in my Top 10) is The Oracle of Delphi.
Another versatile designer with many feathers to his cap, Bruno Cathala often collaborates with other designers and designs mid-weight or family-weight games. Known for games like Five Tribes and Kingdomino (winner of the Spiel last year), but my personal pick is the classic dudes-on-a-map game: Cyclades.
Surely the most prolific designer ever, Reiner Knizia pumps out games like there’s no tomorrow. He’s designed many classics such as Ra and Tigris & Euphrates, but I love playing his two-player Lord of the Rings game: The Confrontation.
No surprise here, Uwe Rosenberg is virtually a household name in boardgaming families. He has designed so many classic Euros such as Agricola and Le Havre, but I think the small two-player Patchwork is his best and continues to be a favourite in my family.
Much more of a surprise, Corey Konieczka is less well-known, but is one of Fantasy Flights lead designers and has an impressive list of big-box, thematic, combat games to his name. Examples include Descent and Eldritch Horror, but my favourite (and his highest ranked game) is Star Wars: Rebellion.
If you’re interested, I recommend you have a look at the full list to see who just missed out on being in the top 10. There are several newer designers who are steadily climbing the list. Which designer is your favourite?