If you play a variety of boardgames then there is likely to be one style of game you prefer over others – whether this be “economic”, “worker placement”, “card drafting”, etc. Similarly there is likely to be games designers you prefer over others, usually by the fact that you have played one of their previous creations. It goes along the line “Oh they did _________ that I love to play, so I’ll probably like this new one by them”. It doesn’t always follow true and you will get a game designer trying something completely different that might just not be “your cup of tea” but more often than not you’ll like the new game if you like their previous ones.
There are several Games Designers who’s games I enjoy playing and would pull an unknown game from a pile if I saw their name on it, but for now I’m briefly discussing Tom Lehmann. Tom wasn’t one of those designers (oh that sounds bad after “bigging it up”, so I’d best elaborate). The game, or family of games, that Tom is mainly known for is Race for the Galaxy and its expansions – his other games are not as well known. I’m a RftG fan, but hadn’t played any of his other games until 2010 when I pulled Phoenicia out of a pile of mostly unplayed games at a club to give a try and liked it. It was only after the first play (where we actually got the rules wrong!) that I twigged the designer was the same as that for RftG. I was then keen to give it another go, to get the rules correct, and ended up getting my own copy so I didn’t have to rely on the club’s.
Another of Tom’s games is To Court the King, which was published in 2006 the year before both RftG and Phoenicia. I discovered this in 2009, though not as you may have thought from playing it, but because I was into re-theming games. One day browsing on BoardGameGeek I discovered a forum thread saying the theme was “pretty pasted on” and wondering if anyone had considered a retheme. There were a few suggestions but after reading the games theme background where “the players are petitioners at the royal court, trying to gain the King’s favor” it occurred to me that The Godfather might be a choice for a retheme. I’m not saying that my theme suited the game any better, just thought it was a good alternative. I got screenshots from the computer game (and got permission from the publisher for non-commercial use – I was just doing it for fun) did the graphics for a full deck of cards, including new iconography to make them relatively language independent. I made my own copy (via Artscow) put it away before moving on to something else. Did I play it? No, not at that time – lots of reviews said it was Yahtzee with added cards, and whilst I like dice rolling games wasn’t sure, there was much of a game. I have played it since and its a good short game that plays differently depending on the number of players. It has recently been implemented on Yucata board gaming site and become very popular there, so I’ll post about that later.
Finally, to come full circle, I bought another game a few months ago, Starship Merchants, because (a) it was on offer (half price) on Amazon, (b) it sounded like a game I’d like, and last but not least (c) because Tom was a designer for it. So whilst I wasn’t initially aware of many of Tom’s games it does seem that he does design games I like, so in future it will be one of the names that may sway me towards trying an unknown game.