Notable Notables: 2001-2004

The Notable Notables series rolls on today with games from 2001 to 2004.  The introduction from Monday’s initial post explains all you need to know about the criteria and the selection process.  We kick things off today with a tough year with a lot of different opinions on the most significant titles, but working backwards, the next few years have more consensus with some fairly clear-cut notable games.  It doesn’t hurt to have blockbuster games like Ticket to Ride and Puerto Rico fall in this date range.  Tomorrow we’ll be back as we continue on into the previous decade with a bit older games.


Tom’s Picks

a) Around the World in 80 Days – This year has no clear choice, so I’ve declared it a five-way tie.  I have lettered rather than numbered my selections because they’re tied and have put them in alphabetical order this time since there is no order.  This game was the SdJ fake-out game of the year.

b) Downfall of Pompeii – Jurgen-Wrede breaks out of the Carcassonne world briefly and successfully.

c) Fairy Tale – The Japanese card game.

d) Reef Encounter – The world falls in love with Juliet Breese’s art style and Richard Breese’s design style.

e) War of the Ring – People can finally live out the Lord of the Rings books (and movies for you late adopters out there).

Bonus Theme for the Year: I love Antiquity and Louis XIV, but it never occurred to me to add them to the list here despite a relatively weak year of choices.  Shadows over Camelot would have made the list as the cooperative game predecessor except for that whole Knizia Lord of the Rings thing.

Larry’s Picks

1) War of the Ring – IGA Award and #25 ranking; very enthusiastic reception from gamers

2) Shadows over Camelot – SdJ special award; traitor mechanism is much admired

3) Louis XIV – Dorn finally wins a major award as this takes the DSP

4) Antiquity – Top 100 game; one of the most admired Splotter designs

5) Jambo – 3 major mentions (unusual for a card game); wins a la carte award

Larry says – Some close decisions this year, but I don’t think it was nearly as tight as Tom makes it out to be.  Lots of people really liked the Traitor mechanic in Shadows, so I gave it strong consideration for the top spot, but I think War of the Ring has held up better over the years.  Reef Encounter and 80 Days both had a shot at making my list.

Overlap Picks

1) War of the Ring



1) Ticket to Ride – Now we’re back to an easy #1 pick.

2) Power Grid – Friese’s masterpiece.

3) Goa – The year of the Euro with Ticket to Ride, Power Grid, and Dorn’s masterpiece.

4) Gulo Gulo – One of the most sought after and more expensive children’s game.

5) Saint Petersburg – The launching of the illustrious “Michael Tummelhofer” career.  I still think BGG should use the pen name.


1) Power Grid – Top 10 game and about a billion expansions keep this one going strong

2) Ticket to Ride – SdJ winner and universally considered the greatest gateway game ever

3) Goa – Top 50 game plus a Meeples Choice winner; recent reprint gave it a new lease on life

4) Saint Petersburg – Most honored game of the year, with DSP and IGA awards

5) Memoir ‘44 – IGA award; most played of the Commands & Colors designs

Larry says – This might be the greatest game year ever, with terrific designs of every kind. The choice between Power Grid and Ticket to Ride was a very close one; in the end, I decided that TtR had been eclipsed by many of its expansions, while PG seemed to be enhanced by its.


1) Ticket to Ride

2) Power Grid

3) Goa

4) Saint Petersburg



1) Age of Steam – Wallace’s real legacy.

2) Amun-Re – Often hailed as Knizia last gamer’s game… although I think 2006’s Blue Moon City disproves that theory.

3) Hive – John Yianni proves that Kris Burm isn’t the only great abstract designer in town.

4) Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation – Knizia proves that a licensed tie-in game can actually be good.

5) Jungle Speed – Long before speed pattern recognition was all the rage, Jungle Speed was there.


1) Age of Steam – IGA winner; this and 18xx are what serious gamers consider to be “train games”

2) Amun-Re – Won DSP and Meeples Choice; considered by many to be Knizia’s last great game

3) LotR: The Confrontation – IGA and Meeples Choice winner; adored by fans of 2-player gaming

4) Coloretto – a la carte winner; very popular filler, which many consider to be Schacht’s best

5) Alhambra – This SdJ winner (and DSP runner-up) has shown it has staying power

Larry says – Many of the year’s most successful games were redesigns of existing titles. These include Alhambra (Stimmt So!), Domaine (Lowenherz), Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers (Carcassonne), Setters of the Stone Age (Settlers), I’m the Boss! (Kohle, Kies & Knete), Edel, Stein & Reich (Basari), and Canal Grande (San Marco).  Of course, the year’s biggest hit was also a redesign of sorts–Age of Steam can trace its lineage to earlier Wallace titles like Lancashire Railways and Volldampf.


1) Age of Steam

2) Amun-Re

3) Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation



1) Puerto Rico – Maybe the easiest #1 pick of all-time.

2) Blokus – Particularly notable for its incredible penetration into the mass market.

3) Hammer of the Scots – The wargame for non-wargamers to try.

4) Wallenstein – Henn’s masterpiece elevates his profile and that of the cube tower.

5) Villa Paletti – Notable and memorable mostly for robbing Puerto Rico of the SdJ.


1) Puerto Rico – DSP and IGA winner; for many years, held title of “the greatest Euro”

2) Wallenstein – One of the earliest Euro/wargame hybrids, with a large fan base

3) DVONN – The most honored of Kris Burm’s GIPF games, with IGA and Games Magazine awards

4) Liberte – Wallace’s first hit game; the variable victory conditions got a lot of attention

5) Hammer of the Scots – IGA winner; top wargame of the year, with considerable crossover appeal

Larry says – Tom’s pick of Blokus is a good one.  I should have included it in my list (although the fact that the Geek lists it as a 2000 design is a reasonable excuse).  However, including Villa Paletti because of what it deprived ANOTHER game from doing is a clear sign of impending insanity.


1) Puerto Rico

2) Wallenstein

3) Hammer of the Scots

Are these the right picks?  What do you think about 2004 and whether it’s a tough year to pick for or not?  Are you ready for 1997 to 2000 tomorrow?  Would you rather compose a different question to yourself and then answer it?  Why are there so many questions?

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17 Responses to Notable Notables: 2001-2004

  1. Jimmy (BGG: Butterfly0038) says:

    i’d say Knizia’s Blue Moon is as much a gamer’s game as Amun-Re. It’s also (I believe) the first “special powers” card game. That said, 2003 – 2004 was such a strong year, I don’t know that it’d make my top 5.

    • Isn’t Magic the first “special powers” card game? Or in the non-collectible field, maybe the Catan card game in 1996?

      • Jimmy (BGG: Butterfly0038) says:

        I was thinking non-collectible. I wasn’t aware of Catan Card game. I’ll check it out.

    • huzonfirst says:

      I agree with you about Blue Moon, Jimmy (although that agreement is by reputation only, as I’ve never played it). But it only came out one year later than Amun-Re, so the time period is still pretty close. Personally, I think Knizia’s last great game is Medici vs. Strozzi, from ’06-’07, which I think is very much a gamer’s game. It’s one of his best, IMO, but its mediocre rating makes me think that most folks view it as much lighter than I do.

    • Doug says:

      Blue Moon is in my top 10 of all time – wonderful game that just gets better with repeated play (and the Pillar still suck!)

  2. 2004-5 does seem like slim pickings. Any of the options I thought of turned out to belong the year before or after.

  3. Oh wait, No Thanks! One of the all-time great fillers, still in regular rotation and I’m pretty sure played a hell of a lot more than any of the other nominations for that year.

    • huzonfirst says:

      No Thanks was certainly considered, Martin, as its elegance was very much admired at the time. But, probably because it’s a filler, its award performance didn’t stack up to the five games I listed. Note that it did NOT win the a la carte–it finished second behind Jambo. And the games I mentioned weren’t exactly chopped liver. But it wouldn’t have been a terrible choice as a top 5 game.

  4. …and it won A La Carte and got an SdJ recommendation. How did you miss this one guys?! :)

  5. Craig says:

    Again, lots to chew on here. Some general thoughts. I think Tom really missed the boat on ’04-05 which admittedly feels like a weak year overall. War of the Ring in terms of its notability stands head and shoulders above pretty much any thing else in Tom’s 5 with Shadows Over Camelot the glaring omission feeling significantly more notable Tom’s other four. I think Larry was much closer to getting this one right.

    ’03-04 – Can’t really argue about the choices too much, although I think Ticket is the clear runaway #1 game that year with an impact much far reaching and greater than Power Grid which is the clear runaway #2.

    ’01-02 – Have to agree that Villa Paletti is worth of being considered notable like it was worthy of the SdJ.

    • Eric Brosius says:

      So Villa Paletti is the Rosie Ruiz of boardgames?

    • Tom Rosen says:

      I actually rate War of the Ring a 10 and have played it 39 times. I love that game. I think it’s certainly notable, but I’ve taught it to almost a dozen different people in the last couple years, both at home and at conventions. I rarely seem to meet people that already know the rules and have played. This is obviously a factor of its length and complexity, but if not so many people are actually taking the time to play it regularly, besides me, then that would detract from its notability. Then again, I have a small sample size of personal experience and it is ranked very highly, so ultimately this may have been a result of me trying not to give preference to personal favorites. I didn’t want to give Larry any ammunition for saying I made biased selections for the games I personally happened to enjoy the most :-)

      I intentionally left off Shadows Over Camelot because: (a) Knizia’s Lord of the Rings got the nod instead; and (b) Shadows Over Camelot has almost all but disappeared from the world as far as I can tell.

      Re: Ticket to Ride vs. Power Grid — glad you agree. I was shocked Larry gave the nod to Power Grid. It’s obviously notable, but I didn’t think it was much of a contest since it was up against juggernaut Ticket to Ride.

      • Craig Massey says:

        Good point about War of the Ring, but it just feels like it has more presence than any of the others from that year.

        Re: Shadows – if we are looking at games that have figuratively disappeared, I’m not seeing any Around the World In 80… or Fairy Tale being played and only occasionally Reef Encounter.

        This project certainly gives plenty of to debate….again great job!

  6. Marc Gilutin says:

    I agree with Larry re: 2004. All four overlap games are still in my collection, with multiple plays every year.

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