Reiner Knizia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Reiner Knizia
Knizia at Essen 2008
BornNovember 16, 1957
Nationality (legal)German
Known forGame designer

Reiner Knizia (German pronunciation: [ˈʁaɪnɐ ˈknɪtsi̯a]) is a prolific German-style board game designer. He was born in West Germany in 1957 and earned a doctorate in Mathematics from the University of Ulm before designing games full time. He is frequently included on lists of the greatest game designers of all time.[1][2][3] Many of his hundreds of designs are considered modern classics, and many have won or been nominated for significant gaming awards, including the Spiel des Jahres and the Deutscher Spiele Preis. His notable designs include Amun-Re, Blue Moon City, Ingenious, Keltis, Lord of the Rings, Medici, Modern Art, Ra, Taj Mahal, Tigris and Euphrates, and Through the Desert. Many of his designs incorporate mathematical principles, such as his repeated use of auction mechanics.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Knizia was born in Illertissen, West Germany, in 1957.[5][6] During his childhood, the small town of Illertissen offered only limited access to boardgames (the only place that sold games was the local barbershop, which had a limited selection).[6] He played Monopoly, which had an impact mainly because the paper money allowed other forms of creativity, such as game design.[7] Because of the limited selection of games in his hometown, at age 8 or 9 he began designing games of his own based on themes he found interesting, such as racing and castles, to play with friends.[8][9] In one childhood design, a board used a fantasy map of spaces on which knights moved to attack pieces of the other player and occupy their castle.[7] As a teenager, he developed an international-themed wargame,[7] and in his 20s he self-published a play-by-mail magazine where readers would send moves which would be announced in new issues.[7]

He later gained a Master of Science degree from Syracuse University in the United States and a doctorate in Mathematics from the University of Ulm in Germany.[10] He went on to manage a two-billion-dollar mortgage services company in the United Kingdom,[10][11] from which he was able to retire at age 40.[7] He published many magazine-based games while writing for Spielbox (a German games magazine),[6] and began having success publishing boxed games in the 1990s, with two games themed around digging for gold. Goldrausch was centered around the California Gold Rush, and Digging was themed about avoiding bandits while mining for gold.[12]


Knizia has been a full-time game designer since 1997, when he quit his job from the board of a large international bank.[vague] Knizia has been living in England since 1993.

In addition to having designed over 700 published games, Knizia is highly acclaimed as a designer, having won the Deutscher Spiele Preis four times, a Spiel des Jahres (in addition to a Kinderspiel des Jahres and a special award), and numerous other national and international awards. At the Origins Game Fair in 2002 he was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. His games frequently make appearances on various "top games" lists, including the GAMES 100 list, the BoardGameGeek top 100, and the Internet Top 100 Games List. Several gaming conventions host "Kniziathons", which are tournaments dedicated to celebrating Knizia-designed games.[13]

Reiner Knizia started developing games for his play-by-mail game zine Postspillion, founded in 1985. The zine still exists, and the game Bretton Woods (also a Reiner Knizia design), which was started in 1987, is still going.

One of Knizia's best selling games is Lord of the Rings, published in 17 languages with over one million copies sold. His dice game Pickomino has also reached 1 million copies sold and his Keltis sold over 600,000 copies. His game Ingenious has been published in over 20 languages. In 2011, Knizia designed a Star Trek-themed game for NECA/WizKids, based on the 2009 film that 'reset' the Star Trek universe.[14] In 2015 Ravensburger released Star Wars VII - Galaxy Rebellion based on the popular movie franchise.

A number of Knizia designs have been redeveloped for the electronic gaming & console markets. Ingenious (aka Einfach Genial) and Keltis have both appeared in CD-ROM versions; Lost Cities was adapted for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. An original game for the Nintendo DS, Dr. Reiner Knizia's Brainbenders was published in 2008; Keltis for the NDS followed in 2009. Other mobile implementations of Knizia titles include Lost Cities, Battle Line, Kingdoms, Medici, Ra, Through the Desert, Samurai and Tigris and Euphrates. Knizia has also designed various game applications specifically for the iPhone, including Robot Master, Dice Monster, Labyrinth and Pipes.

Over several years Knizia has developed a number of hybrid boardgames with electronic components, most notably with German publisher Ravensburger. The first of these was the King Arthur adventure game in 2003, later updated for use with the iPhone in 2014. Other titles include Die Insel, the award-winning Wer War's?, Der Drei ??? and in 2015 Captain Black (notable for a talking ghost pirate captain and a 90 cm – 3 foot – 3D ship).

Game characteristics[edit]

Knizia's games cover many board game genres. He has designed small two-player card games, children's games, and even a live-action roleplaying game.

One element of modern game design that Reiner Knizia has pioneered is abstract theme. Older themed games like Monopoly have traditionally developed their themes by trying to model or emulate the environment or situation they are thematically tied to. So Monopoly has players buying and developing properties as a real estate developer might. Knizia's thematic game designs tend not to try to model a specific environment, but instead try to invoke the thought and decision-making processes that are key to the theme. For example, Knizia's game Medici has a fairly abstract game system of drawing and buying cards that does not try to model any particular environment, but in the game-world, the players are always attempting to price risk, the key success factor in the investment banking business in which the Medicis made their fortune. A further example of this can be found in Knizia's game, Tigris and Euphrates. The players each take control of one of four different dynasties of Mesopotamia around 3,000 B.C. Each dynasty has priests, farmers, traders, and kings who are placed strategically on the board. The players take turns expanding their dynasties, controlling rivers, building temples, and attacking the other players' dynasties. Instead of Tigris and Euphrates having many complicated rules, the game is relatively simple and has very streamlined rules that does not attempt to emulate the real-life conflicts but rather abstracts this out, allowing for the players to focus on strategic decision making. This approach has allowed Knizia to develop games that are comparatively simple but require thoughtful game-play, while still retaining strongly thematic elements.

Using his understanding of principles in mathematics to full effect, pricing and evaluating risk are frequently recurring elements in Reiner Knizia games. Many of his most successful designs use auctions as a vehicle to price risk, as in Ra, Medici, and Modern Art.


Some of Knizia's games are:

This is by no means a complete list of his work. He has been designing games since at least the 1990’s. For a complete list of his work, please visit his website at:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ huzonfirst (2021-02-01). "15 Great Designers". The Opinionated Gamers. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  2. ^ "All-Time Designer Ranking: 2021". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  3. ^ "List of designers with Top 100 games". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  4. ^ "Knizia auction trilogy". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  5. ^ "Reiner Knizia | Board Game Designer | BoardGameGeek". Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  6. ^ a b c Staff, Motley Fool (2021-02-14). "Reiner Knizia Fact-Checks His Wikipedia Page". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  7. ^ a b c d e Darden, Chris (2002). "Funagain Knizia interview".
  8. ^ Staff, Motley Fool (2021-02-14). "Reiner Knizia Fact-Checks His Wikipedia Page". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 2024-03-06.
  9. ^ "Meet Reiner Knizia: The man who's designed over 700 board games". Yahoo News. 2023-12-03. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  10. ^ a b Knizia, Reiner (2007). "Foreword". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. xi. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  11. ^ Bloomsbury.Domain.Store.Site. "Reiner Knizia: Bloomsbury Publishing (US)". Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  12. ^ "What you need to know and what people think about Knizia's Desperados (formerly Digging) | Desperados". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  13. ^ "Reiner Knizia Kniziathon". Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Coming Soon - Star Trek Expeditions!". NECA/WizKids. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  15. ^ Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.

External links[edit]