Wielding bibliometrics we will access and list the most notable board game designers, artists, and publishers of history and of the last five years.
Please be sure to reference the first part of this series to understand what bibliometrics is and how it will be adapted to our purposes. And to reiterate the inherent biases of this analysis it important to understand that the bibliometric indexes and the data itself have certain characteristics which will influence these results. These biases are explained in great detail in the previous article, along with the definitions of each index and metric.
Part One: Bibliometrics: An Overview
Before diving in the results, it is important to address the lack of diversity at the upper echelons of the hobby. Most board game contributors are white men, and this bias is reflected in our analysis. There is however a growing movement to make the hobby more inclusive. Designer Elizabeth Hargrave kindly hosts a thorough, though still growing, list of female, non-binary, and black voices in the board gaming community. In our result set, we have created a view to highlight these individuals and encourage you to seek them out and support their work. Our source data and full result set are available for view or download at the bottom of this article.
Below is a collection of board game designers, artists, and publishers. While there are a wide array of talented and noteworthy creators, we have called out those with the highest bibliometric indexes. Each graphic contains major index values, the creator's citation chart, and list of games within their h-core. The h-index is represented as an orange point; where higher values will move the marker toward the upper-right. The g-index is shown as a green point; with higher values moving the marker to the right (irrespective of height).
Working closely with Czech Games Edition, Chvátil has proven himself a jack-of-all genres. His diverse design portfolio spans party games like Codenames, through cooperative and real-time games, all the way to complex strategy games like Through the Ages. He has also utilized his video game background to create premier digital board game adaptations of his designs.
Dr. Knizia designed his first game at the age of 8, making it come as little to surprise that he is the most prolific game designer in history, holding twice as many design credits as any other game designer. He has a doctorate in mathematics, but in 1997 quit his job to pursue game design fulltime and has now accumulated nearly half a million ratings in the BGG database: the most by a significant margin.
Brand designs all her games alongside her husband Marcus, however only Inka designs full time. She first found success with the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Village. Most recently, Brand is known for the Exit: The Game series, which is nearing its twentieth entry, along with more traditional games Rajas of the Ganges and Encore.
Rosenberg, co-founder of Lookout Spiel, is known for creating economic strategy games, and often implements a core idea through multiple different games, making him one of the preeminent iterators in game design. His 2006 release, Agricola, was a major shaping force in the industry, and was a central impetus behind the creating of the Kennerspiel award.
Cathala is the figurehead of French game design and one of the most practiced modern designers, a with three-quarters of this games sharing credits with other designers, he is a leader in collaborative design. His ethos is "one good for one evil", where strong moves must open weaknesses in other areas of the game and implementing a precise balance of richness of choice and simplicity of rules.
Most of their design credits were earned at Fantasy Flight game, but Valens has since ventured into freelance work and continues to refine their skill in producing story-driven games with tightly woven theme and mechanics. Valens is a major industry advocate for inclusivity in gaming; both analog and digital.
Leacock's popular game system, first developed for Pandemic in 2008, has been adapted into a dozen unique designs, including the Pandemic and Forgotten series of games. In 2014 is began designing full-time and has facilitated the expansion of the cooperative game genre and popularization of legacy-style games.
Sporting the largest impact factor over the last half decade, Stegmaier has risen from Kickstarter beginnings to become one of the most influential designers in the industry. His role as president of Stonemaier Games has expanded this influence and cemented him as a major board gaming entity.
As a founding member of Acchittocca, an Italian design troupe, Flaminia has become a prominent Euro-style game designer. Their design philosophy is, "games must be uncomfortable" meaning that in-game choices must cost the players in some permanent way, which creates their signature sense of tension. Brasini has partnered with ConUnGioco to facilitate education and communication through play.
Having served as Director of Game Design as CMON (2016-20), Lang has collaborated on many designs, though is best known for Blood Rage. He describes himself as an inspiration-driven designer who find inspiration in metaphors and behavioral psychology. Lang has since become a freelance designer and hobby activist.
Hargrave's first design Wingspan won the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres which instantly made her one of the most influential newcomers in the industry. With two other designs to her credit Hargrave is continuing to solidify herself as a strong designer and advocate of increased industry inclusivity.
For nearly a decade Walker-Harding was playing role of both designer and publishers. However, as his career has gained steam, he dropped the publisher hat and is now a freelance game developer best known for Sushi Go! and Imhotep series.
After an extended tenure as VP of Research and Design at Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Konieczka has founded Unexpected Games which is due to publish its debut title in 2021. At FFG, Konieczka became one of the premier designers of the American style, contributing to several blockbuster games such as Twilight Imperium, Star Wars: Rebellion, and Battlestar Galactica.
Originally released in 1981, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was an early adopter of cooperative play mechanics. It went on to receive the 1985 Spiel des Jahres and gained modern popularity in its 2017 reprinting.
Warsch had a rookie year for the ages in 2018, releasing six games, half of which were nominated for Spiel des Jahres awards, including Quacks of Quedlinburg which won the Kennerspiel. He has since continued his rapid design throughput and in just three years has amassed 14 credited titles.
Bauza is a prominent French designer who catapulted to fame in 2010 with 7 Wonders and Hanabi. Bauza took to design around the same time he was introduced to the hobby, which seems to have freed him from traditional gaming sensibilities, allowing him to more easily create games with a varied and unique flair.
Falco's most famous design, SET, was born out of her epilepsy research as a population geneticist. Her research required the tracking of traits, which were drawn as symbols. Falco found the search for different symbol combinations a fun exercise, which she ultimately refined into SET in 1990.
Kiesling has gained recent acclaim with Azul, but began his career 25 years ago, designing games with Wolfgang Kramer over telephone and fax. The duo won back-to-back Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis awards for Torres and Tikal in 2000 and have been industry stalwarts ever since.
Childres is the founder of Cephalofair Games, a game design and publishing company, and the designer of Gloomhaven, which has quickly soared to the top of the BoardGameGeek ratings and has already inspired several spin off games which continue to expand its world. Childres has other design credits as well and is committed to continue designing thematic Eurogames.
Due to the structure of our data source, art attribution is a bit trickier than with designers. For example, if a game is released in a new version, the designer credit will be retained by the original designer. But new versions generally utilize new art and thus yield new artist credits. Differentiating between artists and versions is not possible given our source data set, which may influence certain time-dependent metrics.
Matthäus's 30+ year industry tenure began with her husband Frank Nestel, when together they formed the Doris & Frank design studio. She has worked as both designer and artist for the company and has since contributed to numerous external projects. She has an easily recognizable style and the one of first women to exert a major influence in the industry.
Vohwinkel specializes in science fiction and fantasy material and has helped bring Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons to life. And with over 300 hundred credits to his name and 30 years’ experience, Vohwinkel has been a long-term influence on Euro and German game illustration.
Franz is the acting Art Director for Lookout Games, where he has been working since 2006. His style is perhaps the most recognizable in the industry, as he has illustrated classics such as Agricola, La Havre, and Isle of Skye, which have heavily influenced the Eurogame art aesthetic.
Kienle is the owner of Fine Tuning, a German design studio, where she specializes in graphic and UI design. She has become a mainstay illustrator for Kosmos, and best known for her contributions to The Legends of Andor, the Exit: The Game series, and several Catan projects.
Quilliams has been a stalwart in board game illustration for several years, currently serving as a staff artist for Plan B Games and previously with Z-Man Games. Quilliams is most notably responsible for the graphic design of the Pandemic series of games.
Sobel earned a Master in Fine Arts for oil painting, but has since shifted her expertise to illustration. Sobel names Viticulture (2013) as her steppingstone into the industry and is quickly approaching one hundred artist credits. She is not tied to any one publisher, but has since become a recurring contributor for Stonemaier Games and Foxtrot Games among others.
Lohausen began his career with a portfolio in hand as he visited Essen Spiel. He began with began at Argentum and one project at a time slowly expanded his network. In 2011 he delivered the art for Village, which won the Kennerspiel and Lohausen's career hasn't slowed since. His artwork draws inspiration from heavy metal record covers, skateboard graphics, and 1980s D&D.
Villeneuve is a self-taught artist who specializes in fantasy illustrations. She began her board game career with Fantasy Flight Games, but is most highly regarded for her contributions to Magic: The Gathering. She has since worked with several other publishing companies, spanning board games, RPGs, and videogames.
As half of the husband-wife duo known as Mr. Cuddington, Cossette has been creating visuals for board games since 2014. She is mostly associated with the Roxley game design studio, but has become a major contributor for Druid City Games and is continuing to branch out to new publishers.
While his board game portfolio is vast, Ludvigsen works full-time as Art Director at Rock Pocket Games, a Norwegian PC/mobile game development studio, making freelance board game illustration more of a side gig. Nonetheless, Ludvigsen has become a premier board game artist, and considers himself a 'professional geek' who is privileged to bring some his favorite IPs to the tabletop.
Lieske prides himself on his ability to implement various styles into his work, so to distill his illustrative voice is intentionally challenging. His multi-style approach is often employed by publishers 2F-Speile and Stronghold Games.
Elichev began as an artist at FFG, contributing mainly to the Android: Netrunner, and The Lord of the Rings card games. More recently, Elichev has collaborated on each game in the Gloomhaven collective universe. He was responsible for the cover art and character art of the original game, and his influence can be felt throughout the series.
Menzel is best known for designing game boards and has helped shape the traditional Eurogame board aesthetic; think Stone Age or Pillars of the Earth. He has a few design credits as well, most notably Legends of Andor which won the Kennerspiel award.
While working as a Project Manager and Graphic Designer at Z-Man Games and later Asmodee Canada, Guérin has collaborated on Azul, and helped shape the revised graphic design of the Pandemic series of games.
Lazcano is a concept artist and freelance illustrator. He has worked with Fantasy Flight Games for over a decade and has contributed to the Arkham Horror and MERCS line of games. He also works at Creative Assembly as a concept artist for Total War: Warhammer III.
Certain bibliometric indexes breakdown when applied to publishers. Since publishers will license their designs to one another, game attribution gets pretty wonky. For example, The Settlers of Catan was first published by Kosmos, but the game has since been licensed to over forty times. As such, several different publishers gain the bibliometric advantage of Settlers of Catan. For this, and other reasons, the resulting analysis does not yield strong differentiation or as many useful insights as when applied to designers and artists. In lieu of a detailed analysis, we have listed the top 10 publisher based on h-index (though these hold for most other indexes as well). If you would like to explore the full publisher-based results, they are available in our final result set.
Kaissa Chess & Games
Korea Boardgames Co.
Gém Klub Kft.
Rebel Sp. z o.o.