Reiner Knizia: Criando um jogo de sucesso

A navegar pela net encontrei algumas ideias que o conhecido designer Reiner Knizia disse numa palestra em 2008…

O link é este aqui, mas coloco o conteúdo do mesmo em baixo:

Reiner Knizia: “Creation of a Successful Game”

July 3, 2008 by Dave

Dr. Reiner Knizia, one of the best known and most successful boardgame designers, was one of the Guests of Honor at Origins this year. I showed up to one of his panels, entitled “Creation of a Successful Game”, a few minutes late due to late night D&D the evening before. When I arrived, he had already gone past his introduction and started into his powerpoint presentation. That’s OK, because I already knew who he was!

Here’s a transcription from my notes. As before, this is not verbatim, just my notes on his session. Taking notes proved more tricky than I expected since I had to do them on my PDA (my laptop deciding not to work that morning), the door to the event was quite loud, and there was a very loud demo shouting every few minutes downstairs.

All that out of the way, how do you create a successful game?


Knizia first showed his chart depicting the process of game creation. It went Idea > Briefing/Concept > Prototype & Testing > Master > Licensing. He stated that like any creator, he has customers, and they are the publishers. Eventually, near the end of the process, the publisher takes over. The entire process can take anywhere from weeks to years.

Game creation is art, not science. He showed his diagram of the Triangle: start a game from Theme, Mechanics, or Components. He often gets asked the “best” way to start a game, which he says is the wrong question. If you start developing a methodology for beginning games, you lose out on innovation, which is something that he prizes quite highly in games.

He recommends trying to find new entry points into game creation. Looking at the triangle again, you only need to start with one, but all games need all three, and they should meld together into a good design.

From there, he started listing examples from his own games of how they began.


Ingenious started as a brief: “can we make an abstract math game that’s popular?” He said there’s enormous freedom in mechanics for abstracts. He wanted to have a game where you built colored lines and scored them. However, this didn’t work with single-colored pieces being played. Each score builds on one another, which is boring. So then he added limitations: make two-color pieces. From there, he needed to decide on the number of colors in the game. Six colors came out from the topology of the board itself. A chessboard wasn’t interesting enough, so they tried eight sided and six sided pieces for the board. Six was the clearest to see, and went together with the other sixes in the game (six colors, six tiles in hand, six sided spaces on board).

The next question to address was how to score. He decided to score each color individually instead of one big score, and then only count your lowest score. This forces balance, which introduces tension into the game. He says a good scoring system is essential for a game, since it drives the behavior of the players, in both thematic and abstract games. The theme should also work with the score: he said “Am I acting like a pharaoh, or am I just playing a game with Egyptian graphics?”

The game was very quick, and took about three months total to develop.

Lord of the Rings

Knizia wanted to stay true to the spirit of the book. Since the book was from the viewpoint of the Fellowship, the players should be members of the Fellowship. And the cooperative came out of the idea that it wasn’t thematic to do anything else: “Frodo cannot ram Sting into Sam’s neck.”

The idea of a cooperative game was controversial, but he made sure to build evil parts into the game itself. You can’t just write in the rules “work together”, the game has to cause it, so that the players are naturally driven to work together. The license drove him to explore new systems. However, it was also a long development process: 1.5 years. A cooperative game can be more satisfying than a competitive zero sum game.

Side point of how he was offered the license: The director of a documentary for the BBC about Tolkien approached the Tolkien estate about gaining the boardgame license for the book. Thus, they were able to work on a Lord of the Rings game before the movie came out (because it was based on the book, and not the movie: Knizia said movie licenses can be really difficult to obtain.) They also were able to hire John Howe to do the art, who was an art director for the movies. Because of the head start, the game was already in stores when the movies were released. The game has now sold more than a million copies.

Secrets of the Sea

This game is not available in the US yet. This game’s creation was driven by components. It contains a lamp with a UV light, which are now very cheap to produce. The tiles in the game are printed with UV ink. This allowed the tiles to go from two-sided to “three-sided.” Because the lamp looks like a diving bell, they went with a diving theme. Diving further down gives more info for each tile. The tiles are shuffled and placed face down to start.


Creating and testing games is the longest part of the process. It’s important to brainstorm and generate a lot of ideas, and to actually set aside time for creating, and not just between phone calls. That part is freeform, which then becomes much more structured during testing. Testing is the process of continuous revision. The designer needs to watch the playtesters carefully for points where there are question marks. The designer needs to be both creative when designing and a businessman to understand company needs. When to go to prototype has a sweet spot: do it too early, you don’t know what to analyze in playtest. If you spend too long before playtesting, you’ve wasted a lot of work if it crashes. However, sometimes partial prototypes are made to test specific parts of a game. And pieces of games can move between different prototypes.


Ra is a very strong title,” Knizia said. It’s a good example of starting with a concept that drives everything. It started with a board, cards, and the setting of Egypt. It was a card game where you were trying to win certain cards, which were then applied to a board. Then once you’ve built, you go back to playing more cards. The first test took over 3 hours, and the parts didn’t work together at all. So when discussing what was next, it was decided that the card game was the strongest part. He took that, and made just a card game about building an Egyptian empire. It worked fine, but the cards took up too much space, so they  switched to tiles. Tiles worked, but they needed to add a board back in to organize everything.

In the future, he said to maybe expect a Ra card game, a Ra dice game, and a new Ra game, maybe within a year.

Modern Art

Knizia referred to this as a “strong brand.” It was an auction game at the beginning, very small with only 25 cards, all dealt out. It lasted 10 minutes. It was too small, so he experimented with making it bigger. They could play multiple rounds, but how to tie those rounds together? He said he wanted a bigger game, not just a game that lasted longer. So he added scoring at the end of each round, but with some risk built in.

There have now been 5 editions. The Finnish editions uses real Finnish artists and their art. More is expected to be sold with the Modern Art brand, and a new game might be out within a year- he had just negotiated a contract that morning.


Knizia said that thinking about marketing before game design does not work. That should be after the game is done, and that publishers are going to be better at it anyway. There are some concerns about what type of game to design, however. Abstracts didn’t used to work until Ingenious and Blokus, but now are more widespread. Sports games are still not popular; according to Knizia, this is because it’s tough to bring enough action into a boardgame to go with the experience.

Knizia listed several “Quality Success Criteria”:

  • Commercial Feasibility (Publishers)
  • Appealing Presentation (Price)
  • Accessible Rules (Innovation)
  • Robust and Universal Design (Box Design)
  • High Replayability (Platform)
  • Market Opportunity (Media)

To explain some of these, he made the following points:

  • The market changes, try to follow it.
  • Don’t touch technology that isn’t cheap- otherwise, there’s no way to publish a game with it.
  • A marketer can look back and explain why a game wasn’t successful, but can’t tell the future of a game.
  • A game needs to grab from the shelf.
  • The theme can influence the experience of the game.
  • A good box design helps the initial sales, but the long term sales are dependant on good game design.
  • And even if you get both right, it may not be a big seller.
  • The designer is not an expert on presentation, and should rely on a publisher.
  • Big rules frighten players away (and they frighten Knizia too.) People want to play right away.
  • The rules should be explainable in 5 minutes.
  • Innovation is very important. Hitting the spot between innovation and simplicity is important: game critics want innovation, but too much innovation loses accessibility.

He went on to explain the two biggest amateur mistakes. One, being afraid of your idea being stolen. Two, the game only works in a limited audience (“like your grandmother.”) A game should be available to a broad range of people. He considers himself to be a member of the entertainment industry. He packs entertainment in a box, then entertainment should come out. You shouldn’t just test with one group, because then you’ll be telling people later the way they “should” play.

Market Opportunities Examples

Once again, Knizia showed examples of his games, and how they fit into the category of market opportunities.

Risk & Battleship Express

Hasbro is important as a customer, but very bad to work with. (He says he can say this because he’s friends with Mike Gray, the VP in charge of game acquisitions.) There are no ideal publishers. The bigger companies are harder to pitch to. You have to try match their lines. Hasbro is mainly interested in milking their lines. Knizia sold dice games to go with their brands. Offer a publisher the right product, because once it’s sold, you can’t sell it elsewhere.


A friend of Knizia’s, Kevin Jacklin, kept telling him to do something with Sudoku. During a long phone conversation where Knizia was explaining why it can’t be done, it occurred to him how it could be done, and he had convinced himself by the time he was off the phone. It was a few months to get the design working. he contacted Kosmos about buying his Sudoku game, and sent out a list of newspapers that carried Sudoku. The very next morning, Kosmos called back and said they wanted it. 100k were sold in the first week of availability. The marketing manager called him up and said they wanted more.

Nintendo DS Games (Brain Benders/Brain Voyage)

Video games are becoming more interesting and important. There’s plenty of power to make good games, and price them well. Video games are now the mass market. The DS is ideally set up for the gaming market. It’s important to look at different publishers and trends in the gaming market. Plus, new areas enlighten a designer.

Ingenious Brand

Making your own brand can be very helpful. Ingenious is branching out into puzzles and downloadable games.

Medici/Strozzi Brand

Medici was the first game, then came Medici/Strozzi, so now he’s going to release Strozzi which has the other half of the Medici/Strozzi game in a game more like Medici.


Many things come down to luck when publishing games, but you can make your own luck. Pickomino is an example of a little game that took off. It comes in many different languages, and has sold over 100k. A good game that grabs people is more important than anything else… but you can never tell what’s going to grab people.

Monkey Madness

Monkey Madness is another example. A small children’s game that has no marketing or advertising, but keeps selling. It was done quickly. There’s no recognition from it, but it steadily provides sales. The designer market is a small but loud group, whereas the mass market is bigger but quieter.

Knizia Game Facts

  • 12 Million Games Sold
  • 700 Different Editions
  • 40 Different Languages
  • 80 New Publications Each Year
  • $40 Million Retail Turnover Each Year

Now, Knizia has an assistant that handles the business end.

Afterwards came the Question & Answer portion.

Q: What can be done about being too innovative?
A: Think about it early in the process. Do not go too far out.

Q: What’s your favorite design, and why?
A: Don’t have a favorite, since each game is not an absolute. Each game is dependant on your mood and the group you’re playing with. It’s different when playing games against your parents than with your friends. His favorite games are the ones that he’s currently designing.

Q: A question from Blood & Cardstock games- any more advice on effective marketing?
A: He’s not a marketer, and doesn’t do it. He relies on publishers. The only advice he had was to offer support as much as possible. A big brand is worth money developing by throwing money at it. Even if it doesn’t succeed, it enriches the culture of gaming.

Q: When designing a kid’s game, what if it’s tough to get them to play by the rules?
A: Kids are very honest. The rules are bad if they’re too easily distracted. That’s all part of the design process.

Q: How do you get to work with different publishers?
A: It’s easier for him because he’s known, and works in many markets. Some companies really look after their games. Different companies are good in different areas: a small company is more likely to look after your game, but won’t sell as much as a big company.

Thanks to Dr. Knizia for his seminar, and congratulations to him again on his double SDJ win!

Texto copiado de outros lados pode vir com código que desformata a página principal do abreojogo desta forma:

Neste caso, era uma tag <div> deixada aberta. Editei o texto para que isso não acontecesse. A forma mais fácil de evitarem isto é primeiro copiarem o texto para o notepad e depois para o site.

… tinha visto isso e tinha corrigido e verificado que já estava tudo OK.

Devemos ter estado a fazer isso em simultaneo yes

Também notei que isso estava a acontecer :slight_smile: Comentei mais para os novos utilizadores terem conhecimento, pois penso que isto já não acontecia há algum tempo.