Notable Notables: 1997-2000

Welcome back for Day 4 of Notable Notables week here at the OG.  Today we’re picking the most notable titles from 1997 to 2000.  We’ll kick things off today with the fairly obvious Carcassonne, but by the time we get back to 1997, there’s some definite disagreement over the most significant game of the year.  You’ll have to cast the deciding vote and tell us where your loyalties lie for 1997 and all the other years covered today while you’re at it.

2000-01

Tom’s Picks

1) Carcassonne – The first masterful gateway game released since Settlers half a decade earlier.

2) Lord of the Rings – Launched cooperative games as a real, viable thing and presumably an inspiration for the many that have followed.

3) Traumfabrik – Knizia blends in theme impressively, leading to a game with many reprints under different titles and still played to this day.

4) Traders of Genoa – The king of negotiation games.

5) San Marco – Moon’s memorable masterpiece.

Bonus Theme for the Year: Tom is sad he can’t come up with a good justification for putting personal favorite Java on the list for this year, but Larry made the rules for this exercise so he must be to blame.

Larry’s Picks

1) Carcassonne – SdJ and DSP winner that took the gaming world by storm; still very popular

2) San Marco – IGA and Meeples Choice winner; pie-dividing rule is hugely admired

3) Lord of the Rings – The game that single-handedly brought cooperative gaming to serious gamers

4) The Traders of Genoa – Got 3 major mentions; one of the most popular negotiation games ever

5) Traumfabrik – One of Knizia’s most thematic games; gamers loved casting Karloff in Bambi

Larry says – The year marked the end of one incredible design period and the beginning of another one.  Knizia’s remarkable 4-year run of terrific gamer’s games and superior fillers came to a close with LotR and Traumfabrik.  The end was signaled with the release of Africa, a perfectly fine family game, but not what Reiner’s fans were expecting of him.  At the same time, the new partnership of Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum had a sensational debut, with San Marco, Capitol, and Das Amulett all getting SdJ and DSP mentions.

Overlap Picks

1) Carcassonne

2) Lord of the Rings

3) San Marco

4) The Traders of Genoa

5) Traumfabrik

13 years in to the process and this is our second year in which our double-blind selection method happened to result in a full five game consensus.

1999-00

Tom

1) Apples to Apples – An incredible break-through success story.

2) Vinci – Earns its place on the list in large part due to the immense resurgence in the form of Small World years later.

3) Web of Power – This may just be in my little corner of the world, but this seems to be one of the most played and popular older games still alive and kicking (including China).

4) Princes of Florence – A real Alea classic, although of course sometimes overlooked due perhaps to Puerto Rico.

5) Citadels – Faidutti’s legacy.

Bonus Theme for the Year: SdJ winner Torres fails to capture a spot on the list because it has dropped off the map and is probably to blame for the SdJ’s abrupt shift in course in subsequent years.  I think Larry leaving off Apples to Apples might be his biggest omission of the week.  It would probably be in the top 5 for most notable of the decade in my book.

Larry

1) The Princes of Florence – IGA winner, top 50 game, and one of the most admired titles of all time

2) Taj Mahal – DSP winner; one of Knizia’s most complex and ingenious designs

3) Torres – SdJ and Games Magazine winner; gamers loved it, despite underachieving overall sales

4) Citadels – a la carte and Meeples Choice winner; huge amount of buzz for this one

5) Web of Power – Three major mentions; one of the earliest “lot of game in a short duration” designs

Larry says – I did consider Apples to Apples and Vinci, along with La Citta and Battle Cry.  But it was a strong year and I couldn’t find room for them on my list of five.

Overlap

1) The Princes of Florence

2) Web of Power

3) Citadels

1998-99

Tom

1) Lost Cities – The two-player card game.

2) Tichu – The four-player card game.

3) Tikal – The quintessential “action point” game.

4) Big City – A fantastic part of Franz Benno-Delonge’s legacy.

5) Ta Yu – A beautiful abstract with a much-maligned reprint and innovative three-player rules.

Larry

1) Tikal – Swept all three major awards and was easily the most discussed game of the year

2) Ra – Alea’s debut game won a Meeples Choice and made the Hall of Fame; it’s still very popular

3) Union Pacific – Moon’s redesign of Airlines was an SdJ finalist and got a lot of play

4) Lost Cities – IGA and Meeples Choice winner; much praised for its “hidden” depth

5) Samurai – Last of Knizia’s tile-laying trilogy, best known for its controversial victory conditions

Larry says – Yes, that’s three Knizia games in the top 5.  It’s hard to overstate how dominant a designer he was at this time and he was at the height of his powers during this year.  Despite that, Tikal was the game everyone was excited about (the whispers that it might be prone to analysis paralysis came later).  7 Wonders is the only other game to win all three major awards in the same year.

By the way, I left Tichu off my list because I don’t really consider it a ‘98-’99 game.  It was first published in 1991 by Fata Morgana (designer Urs Hostettler’s small publishing company).  It’s true that it didn’t reach world-wide attention until its re-release by Abacus in ‘98, but it did win the a la carte award in 1992 and as far as I can tell, had a solid following in Europe well before the Abacus version was published.  So while there’s some justification for Tom stating it was one of the year’s major titles, my judgment call is to consider it a ‘91 game.

Overlap

1) Lost Cities

2) Tikal

1997-98

Tom

1) GIPF – Launched the ambitious Project GIPF and the idea of a modern classic abstract.

2) Tigris & Euphrates – Prolific Knizia’s masterpiece.

3) Twilight Imperium – Launched the TI series, which is widely played to this day.

4) Zendo – Bringing together a rare induction game and the popularity of icehouse pieces.

5) Through the Desert – One of the most iconic game pieces to this day.

Larry

1) Tigris & Euphrates – DSP winner; probably the closest we’ll ever get to a truly timeless Euro

2) Die Macher – One of the most celebrated games of all time; didn’t truly take off until the redesign

3) Through the Desert – Hugely popular semi-abstract, still widely played today; Hall of Famer

4) Elfenland – SdJ winner; probably most widely played game of the year

5) For Sale – One of the best known and most widely played fillers ever designed

Larry says – So yes, the GIPF games are a great achievement by Kris Burm.  But Tom, how can you not pick T&E as your most notable of the year?  It was hugely anticipated (as Knizia’s first true “gamer’s game”), widely played, extravagantly praised, endlessly analyzed, and has without question stood the test of time.  It was hailed as a classic upon its release and continues to be considered as such today.  Picking it as my #1 game of the year was one of my easiest choices in this exercise.

Overlap

1) Tigris & Euphrates

2) Through the Desert

GIPF or Tigris & Euphrates or something else entirely?  You make the call!

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6 Responses to Notable Notables: 1997-2000

  1. I am flabbergasted by Tom not only putting T&E at no. 2 but also leaving out Ra! And a bit puzzled by Larry’s inclusion of Die Macher, given his reasoning for excluding Tichu :)

    Other than that I don’t have much to complain about. It seems that the ‘notable’ games aligned much better with my preferences in the 1990s than they do in recent years. Wonder why?

    • huzonfirst says:

      Reasonable issue with my picking Die Macher, Martin. But there are significant differences between the earlier and later versions of the Schmiel game. Just as important, while the ’86 game had some notoriety as one of the great monster games, it was more admired than played and was not readily available. Die Macher doesn’t become an all-time classic until its re-release, so I don’t view this as inconsistent. (Not that I would, of course!) :-)

  2. This has been a really wonderful series of posts to read & reflect upon. Thanks, guys!

  3. jared Scarborough says:

    Will be looking forward to your 30-year retrospective in ’24 to see if your opinions have changed.

    Blind choosing worked well; is it right brain, left brain?

    BTW, did you consider a floating quota for each year, so that one year might have more than 5 and another less? Like a max. of 8 and a min. of 3.

    Where’s the ‘like’ button on this site, anyway?

  4. huzonfirst says:

    Jared, I view the exercise more like My right (as in, correct) brain, vs. Tom’s left-out (as in, lack of) brain.

    When I first started going through the years, I noticed that some years, I had a large number of possibilities for the top 5 and it was painful to leave some out, while for other years, it was a real struggle to come up with as many as 5 titles worth talking about. Despite that, we felt it made more sense to stick with a hard limit of 5 games per year. I think it worked out well.

    I’m glad you liked the series.

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