I love how nowadays, board games are like books. You grab it off the shelf, and see a designer’s name and go “Oh he did that game, I love it”, so you have an idea already if it’s going to be a game for you or not. There’s so many designers already, but I narrowed it down to my top 5 favourites. I’m going to include duo’s as one here, because while some of them have designed games by themselves, together they create even better magic. So enjoy the list, maybe you’ll find some of your favourites or even find some new ones that you’ll want to discover as well!
5) Inka & Markus Brand
This couple not only designed my daughter and I’s all time favourite kids game & kids game of the year The Enchanted Tower, they’ve designed 2 Kennerspiel des Jahres (connoisseur game of the year) winners in Village and the Exit series. But I think some of their greatest accomplishments are Murano, an excellent tile laying rondel game and Rajas of the Ganges, a worker placement game in which you score no points, but have 2 tracks in which you must be the first one to make them meet up in order to win. With a balanced output of younger kids and family and adult-level games, they show no signs go slowing down and I can’t wait to see what they keep creating, and love watching my kids grow up with their games and knowing that they can enjoy their designs all their life.
4) Simone Luciani & Daniele Tascini
These 2 Italian designers lit the gaming world on fire with T’Zolkin, also known as the gear game. It’s a worker placement game in which you place workers on a gear which turns each turn, and then have to decide when to take them off later was a huge hit. They followed it up with the even more impressive Voyages of Marco Polo, perhaps the definitve dice-worker placement game. Followed soon by Council of Four (which was on my list of Top 5 Games like Ticket to Ride… but better!) in 2015… but they haven’t collaborated since. Their output has been mixed apart (although they collaborate with others), their star burned the brightest but perhaps too quick. Who knows if they will ever make another game together, but 3 of their 5 designs are true classics and make them worthy of being at number 4.
3) Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling
These 2 designers could have both been up here by themselves. Kramer has been designing games since the 1980’s and has numerous Spiel des Jahres (game of the year) awards to his name, including my favourite El Grande (co-designed with Richard Ulrich). Kiesling has been collaborating with him since the 90’s, and has a Spiel des Jahres award on his own with the excellent Azul. However, together they have won 2 Spiel awards (Tikal & Torres) and been nominated for many more. With amazing games like Coal Baron, Linko, Adventureland and my favourite of theirs, Palaces of Carrara, together they are even more powerful than apart. Quite possibly the best design duo of all time!
2) Alexander Pfister
Alexander Pfister has 2 Kennerspiel des Jahres awards shared with Andreas Pelikan (Broom Service and the excellent Isle of Skye), but his solo output is far different. Yes, Port Royal is an excellent lighter push your luck card game… but then we have Mombasa, the epic game of trading shares of companies in Africa. And if that wasn’t enough… then Great Western Trail is just about one of the best games you can ever play. Part deck builder, part rondel, part optimizing, like many of Pfister’s games, it seamlessly blends numerous mechanics and creates an epic experience unlike any other. His newest game, Blackout: Hong Kong is due out here soon and I can’t wait to see what it has to offer.
1) Bruno Cathala
Here we have the King (he did create Kingdomino after all). Bruno Cathala is undisputedly my favourite board game designer. He is the master of 2 player only games (heck, 3 of the 5 Top 5 2-player only Games were designed or co-designed by him), and he seamlessly blends strategy and tactics to create the ultimate gaming experience. While he mostly co-designs with others (7 Wonders Duel, Scarabya, Raptor, Yamatai, Abyss, Mr. Jack and sooo many more), he has designed numerous amazing games on his own (Longhorn, Five Tribes, The Kingdomino series). While there’s been a lot of duos on this list, it’s hard to pair Bruno Cathala with just one designer, because he works with so many and it’s almost like he’s Steven Spielberg in the 80’s and 90’s: his hands are in everything and sometimes it feels like other designers lay out the games, and he helps out by polishing up the designs and adding his signature touches. Nevertheless, he is my all time favourite designer, and if his name is on the box, it’s usually a no brainer for me.
There you are, my top 5 (well… if we count duos, top 8) designers, who create the amazing games I just love to play. If you have any designers that you love, or agree with my list, sound off in the comments below.