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Reiner Knizia designs seven board games at once

We spoke to Reiner Knizia about his board game design process, the importance of testing, and why he juggles five to seven projects at once.

A bunch of board games designed by reiner knizia

How has Reiner Knizia created over 700 board games, from Ra to Lord of the Rings? It might be because he’s been in the industry since the 80s, and designing board games full time since 1997, but it could also have something to do with the way he works.

Rather than focusing on just a single board game, taking it all the way from ideation to completion, Knizia says he has around five to seven projects on the go at a time.

Partly, the reason for this, Knizia says, is due to his belief in the importance of testing. “Testing is the lifeblood of game design,” he says. He tests his games with different groups of people, from students to retirees, “almost every day”, and says: “We have an afternoon or an evening to play. We cannot just play one game, right? We cannot stand it”.

Reiner Knizia headshot

Knizia has an office room filled with filing cabinets, and into each drawer of these cabinets goes a separate design for a game. The drawers are labeled with the name of the project (which is why we’re not allowed to show them), and color-coded, for clear organization. Strategy board games get a red mark, for instance.

Knizia tells us that another benefit of having multiple games on the go is that the best ideas naturally float to the top. “It’s a natural selection process, which avoids this, this fallacy of falling in love with your design, and then – this sunk cost fallacy – putting even more time and more time in, it has to work, it has to work. And here, the most successful ones, the most exciting ones come to the foreground.”

“I’m not proud of filling these drawers, I’m proud of emptying them,” says Knizia, “and hopefully emptying them into a proper prototype. Then they get a green mark and now they’re ready.”

“It is much harder to empty a drawer than to fill one,” he adds.

For more of our discussion with Reiner Knizia, check out why he may be done with auction board games now, and how he once told Magic: The Gathering’s inventor that the idea didn’t have legs – oops!