Board game publisher Z-Man Games will soon end support for its Euro Classics titles and has halted further work on the upcoming board game Princes of Florence, according to a blog post from studio head Steve Kimball.
The Euro Classics was composed of five currently available boxes, billed as the “pinnacle of board game design”, revitalised for a contemporary audience. Taj Mahal, Samurai, Ra, Through the Desert and Tigris & Euphrates had all been out of print for a number of years before Fantasy Flight Games brought in original designer Reiner Knizia to help modernise the designs to accompany a fresh artwork pass. Acquisitions and company conglomerations eventually led to the Euro Classics falling under the care of Z-Man.
According to Kimball, Princes of Florence would have been the first non-Knizia game in the Euro Classics line - designer Wolfgang Kramer reportedly wanted to expand the original to include a co-op board game mode, so a remake was well-timed. Kimball eventually states such a project won’t be finished at Z-Man Games.
He cites a number of factors that led to the decision, among them the fact that his studio has become something larger and different in the past few years. “Z-Man is no longer an indie publisher. We have many existing obligations, like supporting our four major game brands of Pandemic, Carcassonne, Love Letter, and Citadels.”
The success of the Pandemic Legacy series likely helped push the studio beyond any claim of “indie” status, not to mention its 2016 purchase by publishing giant Asmodee. Z-Man announced a new worker-placement board game, Cryo, last month.
Kimball’s arguably largest concern was with the changing board game industry and how that has affected the decisions made internally. He says board game publishers have one of two routes to travel when reimagining older games: the crowdfunding pipeline largely dominated by Kickstarter is studded with successes - Kimball specifically mentions studios suchs as Roxley (Brass: Birmingham) and Burnt Island Games (Endeavor: Age of Sail) as paramounts of this cadre.
That same company could instead choose the more traditional release model, but Kimball mentions the apparent need to “pray that any number of witty UK board game influencers take notice and give you coverage”.
“Those folks hold massive sway over the current industry’s focus, and without a ringing endorsement poshly articulated in the Queen’s English (“Best Euro Ever” anyone?), your revised labor of love is headed for a Miniature Market fire sale,” he said.
It’s fairly clear that Kimball’s reference is to Shut Up & Sit Down’s recent review of Hansa Teutonica. SU&SD is a widely popular board game review channel on YouTube that has expanded to podcasts, articles and even conventions since its inception. The team behind one of the largest enthusiast reviewers of board games fired back on Twitter, mentioning the prohibitive price point of the Euro Classic series.
Kimball also mentioned the BoardGameGeek Top 10 list and how exclusive that club - implied as more an aggregate of popularity than mark of quality - feels in 2021. “Nowadays there is so much noise that it is nearly impossible to ensure that your wares are seen, heard, and given a fair chance to succeed in the market,” Kimball said. “Amazing what a difference 50,000 games in 15 years has on the communal perception of GOAT.”
The licences for Knizia’s games have reportedly been returned, so Z-Man Games will no longer be reprinting any of the titles in its current Euro Classics line, nor will any future titles be added. Likewise, ownership of Princes of Florence’s licence has returned to Kramer.