The definitive 2020 ranked list of the best industry milestone board games. So many titles over the years have contributed to the hobby. It is very arbitrary to say that these are the best influential games that changed modern board gaming but its less about counting anyone out and more about shining a light on some special things that contributed a whole bunch. Sure there are games like Go, Chess, Mahjong, and more, but this about seeing what modern civilization was able to do with the hobby. This list spans from the turn of the 20th century until now. These are our top 10 best industry milestone board games.
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#10 | Codenames
Codenames makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because it brought party games to a stratospheric level. Party games were always a fun time but they were generally simple “party starters”. A very obtainable goal or a tweak to communication. Codenames brought in thoughtful strategy and complex clue giving to create a magical experience that is challenging but oh so exciting,
The group is split into two teams. You are spies and you need to get your fellow operatives out of the field before your opponent does the same. This is represented by a grid of many words that secretly each have a blue operative, red operative, bystander or evil assassin under them. Each round, one member from each team gets to look at a decoder card showing all the locations and they need to communicate this to their team by giving 1-word answers. The key is that you need to give clues that apply to multiple spots to win. For 2 – 8 players, games run about 15 minutes per round.
FOR MORE: Codenames Guide | How To Play Codenames: Pictures | Codenames: Pictures Review | Games Like Codenames | Buy Codenames
#09 | Monopoly
Yes, Monopoly is one of the most hated games of all time, but everyone wants to hate on a champion. Monopoly makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because of what it did for the industry. The story of Monopoly is actually quite sad, with the original creator basically not getting money and not getting the anti-capitalism message she wanted to portray, but no one can deny what the game did. Something so simple blew minds in 1933.
You are a landowner attempting to buy and then develop your land. Being represented by one of the iconic tokens, you roll two dice and move that many spaces forward around the board. Along the way you spend money to pick up property. If you are able to get a set of properties, either by landing on them or trading with a player, you have a monopoly and can build up structures that earn you big bucks and hopefully bankrupt all other players that land there. For 2 – 8 players, games last 1 – 3 hours.
FOR MORE: How To Play Monopoly | Games Like Monopoly | Buy Monopoly
#08 | Risk
Risk makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because it set the stage for the accessible war game. Games such as Axis & Allies all the way to the war games of today own it a debt of gratitude. Risk also was able to show that you could boil a game down to a very simple mechanic, add some exciting stakes, and make s beautiful gaming experience. It was so pure that it still holds up today.
You are looking at a map of the world split up into many countries and continents. You start with many of these and get to split up your army of soldiers across them. During the game, you start by getting new reinforcements, then you place them and then you attack other territories with dice rolling to take them over. The key is to take every territory over while managing your troops and making sure your opponent doesn’t do the same first. For 2 – 8, games last 2 – 4 hours.
FOR MORE: Risk Guide | How To Play Risk | Risk Review | Games Like Risk | Buy Risk
#07 | Dominion
Dominion makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because it invented the deck building genre. Deck building is a genre that is basically just a glorified gaming mechanic, but people hold it in such esteem because of all the greatness that has come from it. Adventure, cooperative, cutthroat, cartoonish, series, light, heavy; there is a flavor for so many different walks of life and play styles. Also, not really related, but respect to Dominion for remaining relevant for over a decade by consistently pumping out different expansions.
A new set of 10 action cards each game and the standard treasure/victory cards are available for purchase. Everyone starts with the same basically nothing and has to buy cards and build up a deck to draw more and more powerful cards to get to big victory points. The game ends once any three piles are gone and whoever has the most points in their deck wins. For 2 – 4 players, games last about 30 minutes.
FOR MORE: Dominion Guide | How To Play Dominion | Dominion Review | Games Like Dominion | Buy Dominion
#06 | Acquire
Acquire makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because with its 1964 release it kicked off the 3M series which would inevitably kick off very deep, strategic, math driven board games. It had a robust set of rules and gameplay needs in a time when people thought gamers would be lost if a game took too long or had too much to learn. It wasn’t full on intense like some games that came after it, but it took a risk and cleared paths for what came after it.
You are going to get six letter and number tiles that correspond to a center grid board that you know but keep secret. Each turn you play one to try and launch and grow hotel chains. The connecting tiles make the chains bigger and they take over smaller chains they come into contact with. All while this is happening, people are buying and selling stock of those chains trying to make big strategic gains and avoid loss. For 2 – 6 players, games last about 90 minutes.
FOR MORE: Buy Acquire
#05 | Yahtzee
Yahtzee makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because, whether it knows it or not, its grandchildren make up one of the most popular sectors of board games. Yahtzee was the earliest ancestor of the roll-n-write game. It doesn’t have to have dice but any game where you get your own score sheet and you make one decision at a time, filling up space that gets increasingly filled, owes at least a little of its existence to Yahtzee.
The game is a classic dice game played with 5 dice. Each player’s turn consists of rolling the dice up to 3 times in hope of making 1 of 13 categories. Examples of categories are 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, straight, full house, etc. Each player tries to fill in a score for each category, but this is not always possible. When all players have entered a score or a zero for all 13 categories, the game ends and total scores are compared. For 2 – 10 players, games last about 30 minutes.
FOR MORE: Games Like Yahtzee | Buy Yahtzee
#04 | Little Wars
Little Wars makes the list of the best industry milestone board games because it was the creation that blended story and gameplay. This bad boy came out in 1913 and was created by one of the greatest storytellers of all time, HG Wells. As for history, the game is a baby compared to the ancient classics like Go or Chess, but so much of storytelling in gameplay can be attributed to this title.
The rules themselves are fairly simple, as miniatures games go. There are rules for movement, ranged combat, melee combat, terrain setup, prisoners, etc. There are three types of units: cavalry, infantry and artillery. The toy soldiers of Wells’ day were fairly large, so the movement factors are also large, and it’s made to be played on a floor. For 2 – 12 players, games run about 90 minutes each.
FOR MORE: Buy Little Wars
#03 | Magic The Gathering
Magic the Gathering came out in 1993 which was just before the big modern board game renaissance. At a time when collecting cards meant cool baseball cards that didn’t do anything except “go up in value” (how’d that work out), this creation invented the CCG, or the collectible card game, and showed that the collecting hobby could have much more function and excitement to go along with it. CCGs are typically off to the side as more of a cousin to the board game, but it showed that games could be made in places you might not think, and that games can evolve through continued releases,
You play the role of a planeswalker—a powerful wizard with a deck of cards represents all the weapons in your arsenal. It contains the spells you know and the creatures you can summon to fight for you. Players build a deck of cards and duel against an opponent’s deck. Players are wizards attempting to reduce their opponent’s life total to zero. The first player to reduce his opponent’s life to zero (or meet another set win condition) wins the game. For 2 players, games run about 20 minutes,
#02 | Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons spawned some unfortunate stereotypes but all those archetype nerd-hating jocks were just jealous. The huge fantasy world and gaming collided in this master role-playing game originally released in 1974. It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon and opened up the hearts and imaginations of generations. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what D&D did because what it has done is so ingrained into what we know about fantasy, RPGs and world-building in the tabletop world.
In this vast story driven game, players generate their own special fantasy characters according to long sets of rules. There are different classes, motivations, skills and stat options to take to truely make this character unique. Then their is a dungeon master who creates a world filled with all sorts of evils. The players characters then take on that world fueled by their character capabilities and a set of handy dice. Players go in blind and have the entire world at their fingertips. Only the dungeon master knows what to come. There is no approximate time or player count constraints.
#01 | Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan takes the top spot on the list of the best industry milestone board games because it is widely credited with starting the modern board game revolution that took place in the mid-90s. We went from a handful of games, in generic archetypes, to thousands that stretch every corner of talented designers’ imaginations. Known as a eurogame, this showed that games don’t have to be me versus you or first to an endpoint. With euro games, you often have many different paths to victory and this showed that board games don’t have to be so black and white.
You need to grow your empire. Each game is completely different because all the resource tiles and numbers on them are changed and randomized each game. These control everything. You need to build settlements and cities to gain resources that are going to let you build even more and ultimately lead to victory points for the win. Every turn starts with the roll of two dice and that number corresponds to one of five resource types on the board. If you have a presence on that tile (or tiles) you get that resource. For 3 – 4 players, games run about 45 minutes.