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Alex Randolph Lives

RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .

30 Apr 2004 . . . There are various reports of the death of game inventor Alex Randolph on April 27th. An American who migrated to Europe, it's just a shame that he is probably better known there than here. Born May 4, 1922 and just two years younger than Sid Sackson, he was certainly one of the great pioneers and innovators who raised board games to a new level of quality and magnitude.

These days his games are sometimes looked down on as a bit simple, but this is clearly not a correct view of his genius. What's easy to accomplish is to make a complicated game that adds rule after rule, each one attempting to balance the excesses of the last. But to make something that's easily explained in less than five minutes and yet holds not just the attention, but the excitement of the players, that is mastery. And that is just what Alex accomplished so many times.

His game TwixT is probably his most famous. It has no doubt been played millions of times and has even been featured and discussed in books from The Games & Puzzles Book of Modern Board Games to Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games and you know you've got something when even Hugh Hefner is interested.

But he created a number of other wonderful games as well, of which I've unfortunately only played a few. Of these, however, there are some great ones like Code 777, Inkognito, Ricochet Robot, and Würmeln. And each is great in its own different way. Not every inventor can boast of so many different kinds of successes. And in his very good game Raj, he created a mechanism – maybe it should now be called the Randolph mechanism – that is used in games over and over, appearing in at least one new game pretty much every year in fact. If this is not influential, I don't know what is.

This site has a list which spotlights the games sporting the best titles, but such a list could be made from the Alex Randolph oeuvre alone. You may find others you like on the list below, but some of the best are Die Drei (The Three), Drachenfels (Dragon Rock), Halunken & Spelunken (Rascals and Dive Frequenters), Die Heisse Schlacht am Kalten Buffet (Hot Battle on a Cold Buffet – my very favorite of all), In Teufels Kuche (In the Devil's Kitchen), Nach dem Regen (After the Rain), Sisimizi, Snail's Pace Race, and Die Verbotene Stadt (The Forbidden City). If an inventor has only one or two such good titles, these might be attributable to publishers, but with so many, it must be that the inventor himself has played a very large role.

By all accounts, Alex Randolph was not merely a great inventor, but a great human being. He is well known for the generosity of his time, patience and willingness to listen, especially to new, would-be designers. It was entirely appropriate that the Game Designer's Guild (Spiele Autoren Zunft) elected him their honorary Guild Master. Condolences are rolling in on a special page at the Venice Connection website. It seems we have lost not just a great game inventor, but a generous and magnificent human being.

Thank you Alex Randolph for all the great games. You live ... on our game tables, forever.

Here is a no doubt incomplete list of the rest of Alex's many games:
  • African Queen
  • Ali Baba
  • Die Augen der Kali (Eyes of Kali)
  • Baggage Claim
  • Banda
  • Big Shot
  • Blazing Camels
  • Breakthru
  • Brontos
  • Buffalo
  • Caramba
  • Casablanca
  • Check the Ripper
  • Ciao Ciao...
  • Claim/Die Wikinger kommen (Vikings are Coming)
  • Clever Kiddo
  • Corona
  • Defi
  • Dilemma
  • Dozo
  • Dr. Futsch
  • Enchanted Forest
  • Evade
  • Fantasto
  • Felsberber TwixT
  • Fermate Colombo
  • Foxy
  • Ghosts!
  • Generalowsky
  • Gobble Up
  • Gute Freunde (Good Friends)
  • Gute Nachbarn (Good Neighbors)
  • Heisse Ofen (Hot Oven)
  • Indiscretion
  • Jagd der Vampire (Vampire Hunt)
  • Jago
  • Jetzt farh'n wir übern See (Now We Sail the Seas)
  • Kameltreiber (Camel Driver)
  • Krabbel kleiner Käfer
  • Kummituspeli
  • Känguruh (Kangaroo)
  • Leinen Los!
  • Linop
  • Mad Mate
  • Magic 7
  • Mäusefieber
  • Milliardending
  • Mini Inkognito
  • Monsterfressen
  • Moonstar
  • Nachbarn (Neighbors)
  • Neo Chess
  • Oh-Wah-Ree
  • One More
  • Orbit
  • Die Oster Insel (Easter Island)
  • Overboard (Über Bord)
  • Pan-Kai
  • Paradox
  • Parallelslalom
  • Peggino
  • Das Pferd von Troja (The Trojan Horse)
  • Pferdeaeppel (Horse Apple)
  • Quaro
  • Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (The Rat Catcher of Hamelin)
  • Robin Hood
  • Rüsselbande
  • Sagaland
  • Schachjagd
  • Schatzinsel (Treasure Island)
  • Spøkelser
  • Spy vs Spy
  • Square Off
  • Stop!
  • Tempo kleine Schnecke
  • Ting Tong
  • Top Secret
  • Trimmel
  • Turnier
  • Twiddeldum
  • Uagga Uagga
  • Veleno
  • Venice Connection
  • Victory
  • Wettflug
  • Wörterklauer
  • Zauber-Lesen
  • Xe Queo!


by Rick Heli