Discussing games like Samurai, Through the Desert, Lost Cities, Ra, Modern Art, Ingenious, High Society.... These are all very fundamentally simple games, games that are easy to non-gamers or at least casual gamers. At the same time, they have enough teeth for ‘serious’ gamers. The sample rule structures contain complex decision trees.
(The seven games I listed are certainly not all the classic Knizia designs that fit the description I gave. I have to admit I haven’t seen his newer designs, although my friend’s description of My City sounds fascinating. And Tigress and Euphrates was intentionally left off because it is such a head cracker. I feel that the initial learning curve is much harder than the other games. Or I’m an idiot)
Look, you are locked in and have a limited collection of games to work with, Knizia is a treasure trove. There is a vast amount of replay value in these games. I think there are different kinds of mental processes and stresses between games that have complex rules and ones that simply have complex decisions. His rules sets are intuitive enough that they can slip into your subconscious.
Many years ago (oh, Lordy, I feel old), I used to play Ingenious all the time. I reached the point where I saw the board as a pattern as opposed to a serious of individual moves. It was a very zen place to be.
You can make a compelling argument that all games can be seen as patterns. Go is the platonic ideal of board games in my world and Go is all about developing patterns. However, I am going to argue that so many of Knizia’s designs make the pattern easy to see.
Believe it or not, I’m not arguing that Knizia is the greatest game designer of all time. There’s too many different kinds of games and audiences for anyone to be that. But his designs are great for a family audience, even if that family has serious gamers in it.
And family games are perfect when family is the center of your gaming.