What’s the world’s most prolific tabletop game designer been up to lately? My guess is…designing more games, but since I don’t have a window into Reiner Knizia‘s studio, I can only go with what’s been announced publicly, starting with a title that was revealed in August 2022 while I was busy with Gen Con prep: Zoo Vadis from Bitewing Games.
Zoo Vadis is a new version of one of Knizia’s oldest published titles — 1992’s Quo Vadis?, in which you’re trying to move politicians through various committees to land a spot in the Roman Senate. Only those in the Senate have a chance to win, but to get anywhere in the system, you need to make deals with others to support your advancement — and those deals will place laurels in their hands, and whoever ends up with the most laurels (along with a Senate seat) wins the game.
1992 Hans im Glück releaseZoo Vadis moves the game’s action to the zoo, with each player now controlling an animal species and trying to win support to land the position of zoo mascot. The design will include a separate game board for play with 6-7 people, whereas Quo Vadis? was for only 3-5 players. The three-player game will now include neutral, bribable figures — roaming peacocks — because the game with three could be a tad odd. (With fewer players, you have fewer targets for negotiation and deals.) The game will include asymmetric animal abilities and special laurel tokens that sometimes sound like “Yanny” when you listen to them.
On this BGG thread, Bitewing Games’ Nick Murray explains the reasoning behind these changes, and he’ll go into more detail in a publisher diary on BGG News on January 10, 2023.
1994 Milton Bradley edition• Another early Knizia title seeing print in a new edition — well, two new editions — is Botswana, which has been released over the years as Quandary, Flinke Pinke, Loco!, and Wildlife Safari. This design, like Quo Vadis?, highlights Knizia’s skill at creating a game with minimal rules that is all about the interplay of those at the table, with your decisions impacting everyone else.
In September 2022, Polish publisher Muduko released that design as
Ryki Afryki (“Roars of Africa”)
And in December 2022, Japanese publisher New Games Order released its own version with chunky wooden animals.
Gameplay remains roughly the same across all versions. The game includes five colors and six cards (or tokens) in those five colors numbered 0-5. Each player gets a hand of cards, and on a turn, you play a card face up, then take a stock token for one of the five colors. When the sixth card is played for a color, the round ends, and each stock is worth points equal to the last played card for that color. Play a number of rounds, then whoever has the highest score wins.
I always find this game delightfully tense as you’re trying to time the playing of your cards so that you boost your stock colors and harm others, but you have little control on your own, so you’re effectively trying to partner with others while speaking only through your card plays and stock choices.
• Another Knizia game being reissued in Japan is コード破り (“Codebreaking”) from 数寄ゲームズ (Suki Games), which was first released in 2007 by Ravensburger as Code Cracker.
In the game, three safe cards that show numeric combinations are revealed from the deck. On a turn, you roll five dice that are numbered 1-5, with a microchip on the sixth side. If you roll numbers that can be covered on the safe cards, you can set those dice aside and cover them; if you roll a microchip, you can set that aside. If you’ve set aside at least one die, you can roll the remaining dice; if not, your turn ends, with any covered spots remaining covered.
If you end your turn voluntarily and have covered all spaces on a safe, thereby cracking it, you claim that safe card, then reveal a new one. If you set aside all five dice and at least two are microchips, you can roll all five dice again, ideally getting to set more aside. Once the display can’t be refilled, whoever has claimed the most safe points wins.
• In November 2022, French publisher Oya released a “reverse poker” design from Knizia called Demigods.
Here’s an overview of this 3-8 player game:
A starting pot of 1 Aischune (meaning “dishonor”) is created, then in turn players take one of three actions:
—Add more Aischune to the pot up to a maximum of 10.
—Knock on the table to stay in without raising.
—Discard their cards to fold the hand, with the first folder gaining 3 Aischune and each other folder gaining 2 Aischune.
Once the maximum pot has been reached or all players have passed, players reveal their totals, with the weakest player “winning” the pot. In ties, the pot is split between those with the lowest score.
Continue playing rounds until someone has collected at least 30 Aischune at which time the game ends and whoever has the fewest Aischune wins. In the event of a tie, keep playing rounds until one player has the lowest score.