All good things must come to an end and so it is with the Notable Notables series. 20 years seemed like a good round number so that’s how far we decided to go back, plus it brought us back to the foundational games of Magic: The Gathering and Settlers of Catan. That lets us close the series with some consensus over the most notable titles for most of the years covered here. For previous parts of this series check out: Monday (2009-2013), Tuesday (2005-2008), Wednesday (2001-2004), and Thursday (1997-2000).
1) Netrunner – This would have been my pick regardless, but it’s obviously reaffirmed by the tremendous popularity of the recent re-release.
2) Bohnanza – Uwe will forever be known for his both bean card game and his more recent farming board game.
3) Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage – A classic wargame that everyone ought to try.
4) Showmanager – Another one of those older games that is still so remarkably prevalent today (like Web of Power mentioned previously).
5) Kill Dr. Lucky – The paragon of Cheapass Games.
1) Bohnanza – One of the most original and iconic cardgames of all time; still popular; Hall of Famer
2) Lowenherz – DSP award winner; famous for being so underrated, if that makes any sense
3) Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage – Top 50 game on the Geek; popularized card-driven wargaming
4) Settlers of Catan Card Game – Very popular (and distinct) spinoff of Settlers; still hanging around
5) Showmanager – Meeples Choice winner; well rated; introduced sliding cost drafting mechanism
Larry says – Bohnanza was a phenomenon, not quite up to the level of Settlers or Carcassonne, but close; it probably got more buzz (and was more widely played) in its day than either 7 Wonders or Caylus. It wouldn’t surprise me if the “common wisdom” that the SdJ couldn’t go to a small box game began with Bohnanza’s failure to win the award, since many gamers viewed its loss as a major injustice. It seemed like the game topped the Funagain bestseller list every week for a solid decade. The central notion that cards couldn’t be rearranged in your hand was so brilliantly simple and yet so audacious that it earned almost universal praise. That, and the delightful theming, made it a required purchase for gamers of all kinds and that really hasn’t changed very much today, 16 years after its release. It is, quite simply, one of the most notable games of all time.
2) Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
1) El Grande – An easy #1 pick and the king of Kramer games.
2) Carabande – A relatively close second given the continued popularity of PitchCar. There’s always a huge board setup at BGG.CON with lots of players involved in a big match.
3) Flaschenteufel – An impressive melding of theme into a trick-taking game and a three-player one at that.
4) Entdecker – Introduced the world to the other parts of the disaggregated “Settlers trilogy.”
5) MarraCash – A Dorra game has to make the list somewhere… might as well be this one.
1) El Grande – SdJ and DSP winner; top 20 game; held its popularity better than any game of its time
2) Age of Renaissance – The “sequel” to Civilization had gamers on both sides of the Atlantic buzzing
3) Entdecker – Considerably lighter than Settlers, but still very widely played
4) Carabande – Won special SdJ award; one of the most popular gaming “toys” of the last 20 years
5) Mu & More – SdJ nominee and a la carte winner; widely considered best 5-player trick taker ever
Larry says – The brief SdJ dalliance with heavier titles (take a look at some of the nominees during the late 90’s and try to imagine them being nominated today) began with El Grande’s win in ‘96. Settlers’ victory the year before was a given, even though the game was considerably more complex than any other SdJ winner up to that time–it was just too staggeringly popular. But many thought it would end there and most assumed that El Grande, an even heavier game, had no chance. Its win opened the floodgates and made complex games more mainstream than ever before. It all came crashing down following Torres’ relatively poor sales following its 2000 selection (which led to a reshuffling of the SdJ jury), but for the small number of years in between, it was a mighty cool time to be a dedicated gamer.
1) El Grande
1) Settlers of Catan – I think I’d be within my rights just writing Settlers over and over again for all of the top five spots here, right?
2) We the People – The forefather of card-driven wargames.
3) Catch Phrase – A break-through popular party game.
4) RoboRally – Proving that Richard Garfield can do so much more than just Magic. Garfield makes the list four times overall for King of Tokyo, Netrunner, RoboRally, and Magic!
5) Medici – Launching the Knizia auction trilogy.
Bonus Theme for the Year: Tom has a soft spot for and wishes he could choose Colonial Diplomacy (for showing the breadth of the Diplomacy system) as well as Set (for being an inspiration for many of today’s speed pattern recognition games).
1) Settlers of Catan – Stupendously popular; probably the most important game of the last 50 years
2) Medici – Highly regarded HoF auction game that has maintained its popularity through the years
3) RoboRally – Garfield’s “other” hit; widely played, thanks to its innovative programmed turns
4) Linie 1 – Innovative race game that finished second in the DSP; redesigned by Mayfair as Streetcar
5) High Society – One of the first of the ultra-fast fillers; much admired in its day
Larry says – The importance of Settlers simply cannot be overstated. It was responsible for exposing so many different segments of the population to gaming, people who had no idea that games like this existed. It significantly raised the number of women playing games. It was Germany’s leading gaming export to the rest of the world, proving beyond a doubt that something special was happening in Deutschland. And it was the game that finally cracked the borders of a heretofore indifferent America, a sleeping giant if ever there was one. Every gamer who has ever pushed a cube or moved a meeple owes an enormous debt to thanks to Klaus Teuber and his wonderful creation.
1) Settlers of Catan
1) Magic: The Gathering – The longevity of this game over the past two decades has been incredible.
2) Loopin’ Louie – The continued popularity of this children’s dexterity game is impressive.
3) I’m the Boss – A classic Sid Sackson game and a great part of his legacy, if slightly less well known than Acquire (1962) and Can’t Stop (1980).
4) Blood Bowl (Third Edition) – One of many Games Workshop Blood Bowl games that blends fantasy and football in a way that is still popular today, as shown in part by FFG’s recent Team Manager spin-off.
5) Manhattan – Seyfarth’s first big success, although dwarfed by Puerto Rico of course.
Bonus Theme for the Year: I’ve never understood what the deal is with 6 Nimmt!
1) Magic: The Gathering – Created an entirely new genre; as popular as ever 20 years later
2) 6 Nimmt! – For many years, was only card game to win major award (DSP); many rethemings
3) Kohle, Kies & Knete – SdJ nominee; better known as I’m the Boss!; Sackson’s last great game
4) Manhattan – SdJ winner; very widely played in its day; Godzilla variant maintained popularity
5) Was Sticht? – SdJ nominee; another popular and innovative creation from Karl-Heinz Schmiel
Larry says – The effect of Magic on gaming was incredible. FLGS’s that were struggling were suddenly prosperous, their aisles teeming with teens and young adults who swaggered about like so many gunfighters, itching to prove the worth of their deck against the next challenger. I knew several friends who gave up their regular jobs, since they were making so much money trading Magic cards. It had all the earmarks of a classic shortlived fad and indeed, most of the CCGs were gone within a couple of years. Remarkably, Magic has not only survived, it has thrived. But the mania it inspired during those first few years was unprecedented and otherworldly; we may never see its like again.
1) Magic: The Gathering
2) I’m the Boss!
What do you think? Were these the most notable games of the past 20 years? And most importantly, who got it right more often, Larry or Tom? We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and perhaps been reminded of a game that you’ve been meaning to get back to the table. Whether we’re debating expansions, cooperative games, designers, favorites, or notoriety, we have fun and hope you do to.