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3 Board Game Designers Who Will Totally Rock Your Socks

When you’ve been an avid gamer for a long time, certain people start to draw your attention. Like professional athletes or actors, board game designers are the celebrities in this beautiful hobby of ours, and it is only natural that (over time) you gain a heartfelt respect for a few people in the industry. Today I thought we would look at three board game designers who have proven to be true masters in the field. These are guys who have not only designed beautiful games, but they have also done so consistently. Lots of designers create one off hits – but these three – these three create hit after hit after hit after hit. Look at your shelves and I am sure you will spot one or two of their games amongst your own collection.

So, today we are going to look at three dudes who deserve all the admiration we can send their way as gamers. They have helped pioneer this beautiful renaissance of ours, and today deserve to be brought into the spotlight for the gaming heroes they are. Yes, today we are going to look at (in alphabetical order):

  1. Antoine Bauza
  2. Bruno Cathala
  3. Jamey Stegmair

Let’s not faff about with too much of an introduction in this here article, but instead let’s talk about these guys and what makes them masters in their industry.

Best Board Game Designers - 7 Wonders

7 Wonders

Antoine Bauza

Hail to the king! Antoine Bauza has swiftly made his way up the list of my all time favourite designers for just being so consistently great. His work varies a lot, although it does often have a Japanese theme. We personally own around five of his games on our shelves, and around another handful as our gaming group. Each is well worth playing for different reasons and we just think he is fantastic.

Born in France in 1978, Bauza’s ludography has fantastic games on it, mostly focusing around a historical or oriental setting. His games include names such as HanabiTakenoki, Tokaido, 7 Wonders, 7 Wonders: Duel, Ghost Stories, and Welcome to the Dungeon. His games focus on mechanics, blending in a kind of mathematical strategy along with beautiful gameplay.

According to Wikipedia.de, there is a brilliant comment by Bruno Cathala (another name on this list) that says that Antoine Bauza is the only French board game designer to this day who can make a full living off designing games. I’m not sure how true that is, but it makes a good quote.

Bauza is one of those names now that we have associated with a good time. His themes are fun and engaging. The way he approaches each game and the way he always ensures there are around 30 different routes to victory, ensures they have longevity on the shelves. Whenever we hear that Antoine Bauza is releasing a new game, we immediately get excited and can’t wait for it to come out.

So, if you haven’t heard of Antoine Bauza, or if you haven’t played any of his games, I sincerely urge you to. To get you started, his top 4 ranked games in BGG (out of all 108,372 games at time of writing) are:

  1. 7 Wonders: Duel (Rank 17) (Co-designed with Bruno Cathala)
  2. 7 Wonders (Rank 46)
  3. Ghost Stories (Rank 220)
  4. Takenoko (Rank 237)

We recommend starting with: 7 Wonders. It lays the foundation for 7 Wonders: Duel and it really is one of the best loved games of the modern era. We adore it in our gaming group.

Best Board Game Designers - Yamatai

Yamatai

Bruno Cathala

Bruno Cathala has a ludography so impressive that there was no way, when deciding on these three board game designers, he wouldn’t be on the list. In fact, when I told my partner we were putting this list together she said “let me guess who is included – Bruno Cathala, Antoine Bauza, and Jamey Stegmaier.”

She was right on all three accounts.

Bruno Cathala is another French designer who has designed or co-designed over 60 games over the course of his career. Amongst those are some of the best known board games of this gaming renaissance, designed for all ages and using all kinds of awesome mechanics. Cathala is a master of the Eurogame, and can be considered one of the most influential board game designers of all time.

Cathala has collaborated with all kinds of fantastic names in the industry, including Antoine Bauza but also including designers such as Bruno Faidutti, Charles Chevallier, and Ludovic Maublac. His games include names like Mr JackKanagawaKingdominoCycladesYamatai, and Abyss.

When I personally think of Bruno Cathala’s ludography it immediately brings to mind beautifully fluid gameplay, superb turn management (especially with Cyclades and Yamatai) and excellent use of resources in unique ways.

In accordance with BGG, Bruno Cathala’s top 5 games are:

  1. 7 Wonders: Duel (Rank 17) (Co-designed with Antoine Bauza)
  2. Five Tribes (Rank 56)
  3. Cyclades (Rank 151)
  4. Kingdomino (Rank 202)

We recommend starting with: YamataiYamatai is a beautifully smooth and fluid game that, in our humble opinion, is superb.

Best Board Game Designers Scythe

Scythe – Invaders from Afar Expansion

Jamey Stegmaier

There are many times on this blog where I have firmly expressed that I am a Jamey Stegmaier fanboy. In my opinion, his games and his publishing company (Stonemaier Games) deserve to be held up as a designer just getting it right. He releases game after game, both designed by him and designed by others but published by Stonemair, to critical acclaim. To make a point of this, Jamey Stegmaier has designed four individual games and all four are within the top 350 games of all time on BGG.

Those games, for your reference, are ScytheViticulture (co-designed with Alan Stone), Charterstone, and Euphoria (also co-designed with Alan Stone). Three of those four games are worker placement games, making Stegmaier a true master of the genre. Two either are, or have become, legacy games, making him one of the best known Legacy game producers on the market as well.

I actually owe quite a lot to Stegmaier as a board game blogger. Scythe was not only one of the games that helped solidify my own interest in board games as a hobby, but writing faction strategies is one of the things that kick started this blog (as in the actual term…not Kickstarted like involving Kickstarter).

Jamey Stegmaier is one of the best known faces in the modern gaming industry. He quite literally wrote the handbook on how to Kickstart games (this  time involving Kickstarter) called A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community. As well as that Stonemaier Games is also responsible for bringing games like Between Two Cities and Wingspan to the table.

There is no doubt that Jamey Stegmaier has been a positive force in the board games industry. His top 4 games according to BGG are –

  1. Scythe (Rank 8)
  2. Viticulture: Essential Edition (Rank 144)
  3. Charterstone (Rank 174)
  4. Euphoria (Rank 343)

We recommend starting with: Scythe. It’s simply incredible. I envy anyone who is yet to discover Scythe for the first time.

You know, I was writing this and talking to Beth about it last night, when she began naming names for me to add to the list. This was actually a list that was really hard to keep to three awesome designers. Names that also came up included the likes of Vlaada Chvatil, Richard Garfield, Matt Leacock, Eric M. Lang, and Stefan Feld. I guess that just means there are going to have to be more articles like this moving forward.

The biggest question though, dear reader, is who do you think should be on the next list? Which designers do you absolutely love the work of?

10 Comments »

  1. I’ve been enjoying the works of Rudiger Dorn. Las Vegas, Luxor, and most recently Montana. Those seem pretty streamline and have some unique mechanics. I mean, Montana has a spinner in it, and last game I played with a spinner was Candy Land. He makes it work in a worker placement game that makes players race to build settlements.

    Then another favorite in the house hold is Phil Walker-Harding. Imhotep, Sushi Go, and more recently Gizmos.

    When I first got into board games, I just looked at the covers and picked games that looked fun. Then, I started looking more at the designers I liked. I really like articles like this that showcase great designers. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers mate 🙂 and thanks for mentioning a few designers and games I’m now really going to have to check out. You know, I never knew Sushi Go and Imhotep were the same designer.

      I can see I’m definitely going to need to look out for Montana – how new is it?

      Like

      • It was a Kickstarter that was funded Dec 2017. I believe it just recently came out/fullfilled orders. I picked my copy up second hand on a board game group.

        Yeah, it took me a while to realize Sushi Go and Imhotep were the same designer too. He also did Barenpark, Cacao, and Gingerbread House too. I like it when the designers have such very different games in terms of themes and mechanics.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the rundown. Ironically I have only played one game – 7 Wonders – by the first designer you list and none by the second. Clearly, I should. Five Tribes I recently heard about and want to try at a board game cafe. Ironically you don’t mention Uwe Rosenberg or Reiner Knizia, two prolific designers who have also made some excellent games. (Not saying you should have by the way.) I think that may be a result of being new to the board game hobby for you whereas I’ve got a bit more time in.

    PS Wingspan, which I have yet to play, is #34 on BGG as of today. Jamey Stegmaier, who I really, really like as a designer, gets even more successful when you look at the games his company has in the top rankings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure I would agree with aal of your top three designers although Jamey Stegmaier is in my top three.
    I like some games by Cathala and Bauza (and own several) but of that list, Five Tribes is the only one I love.
    I would add Shem Phillips of Garphil Games. I love everything he’s designed (North Sea trilogy and Architects of the West Kingdom).
    Yes also to Stefan Feld but for me, he is inconsistent (love Castles of Burgundy, meh on Aquasphere).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh I’m not sure I’ve played any Shem Phillips, but I have a few of his games on my list. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out now!

      Stegmaier and Phillips – who would be the third? 🙂

      Like

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