Tabletop gaming has been around for a very long time. While I don’t want to dive into the rather lengthy history of gaming, every now and then it’s fun to take a peek back at what has influenced modern gaming. While tabletop gaming can trace its roots back to the ancient times, we’ve actually had some very impressive innovations over the past few decades. Today, we are going to take a brief look at 10 Influential Games that Changed Tabletop Gaming. While this is far from an all-encompassing list, each title on this list has effected our hobby in some way.
10 Influential Games that Changed Modern Board Gaming
1. Little Wars
Designed by none other than H.G. Wells, Little Wars pioneered the idea of a tabletop war game. While it wasn’t the first to use miniatures in a war simulation, Wells was the first to bring the idea to the average person’s table as a fun game to play (rather than an actual war simulation used by the military). From Warhammer to Squad Leader, most modern war games can give thanks to Little Wars and H.G. Wells for the inspiration.
2 Players • Ages 12+ • 90 Minutes
I know, Monopoly is really fun to hate on. Compared to almost any other modern board game, it’s terrible. However one cannot deny what a juggernaut this game has been for almost a century. Monopoly is one of most peoples first exposure to board gaming and, like it or not, it’s still a staple on many tabletops even today. While it’s definitely not without its problems, Monopoly’s popularity has paved the way for many other board games.
3. Dungeons and Dragons
Originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Dungeons and Dragons is largely recognized as the founder of the modern tabletop roleplaying game (RPG). This RPG was created to take players from simply being historical war gamers into a more imaginative, fantasy world where anything is possible. Dungeons and Dragons is now in its 5th edition, and has been inspiring legions of dungeon masters and offshoot games since its inception in 1974
4. The Settlers of Catan
Design by Klaus Teuber in 1995, Catan is widely recognized as the first german-style board game to achieve massive popularity outside of Europe and helped coin the term “eurogame”. For the longest time, The Settlers of Catan was the goto gateway game when someone wanted to introduce a new player to our hobby. While it’s status as the default gateway game has mostly been usurped by other games, it’s not hard to see the influence it’s had on euro games today. 20 years later, The Settlers of Catan is still making its way to people’s gaming tables.
5. Magic: The Gathering
Designed by Richard Garfield in 1993, Magic: The Gathering spawned a whole new genre of games, the collectible card game (CCG). Players would buy one starter deck, and then acquire more cards via randomized boosters. Love it or hate it, Magic remains is still an unstoppable force that is still played by its legions of fans today, despite many challengers gunning for its crown. Today, Magic can sometimes be solely responsibly for keeping a gaming store in business. I played Magic: The Gathering back in the late 90s and, once I left to college, I sold my cards off, thinking the game had run its course. Boy was I wrong.
6. Call of Cthulhu
Designed by Sandy Petersen, Call of Cthulhu is now in its 7th edition and still being played today. This pen and paper role playing game drops players into a story as investigators centered around the Lovecraft mythos. For players looking to break out from the fantasy genre, Call of Cthulhu fit the bill perfectly. However what Call of Cthulhu really did was inspire a legion of board games that piggy backed of the popularity of the Cthulhu Mythos. Ironically, before The Call of Cthulhu RPG, most people had never even heard of HP Lovecraft, or his writings. Today, Cthulhu is one of the most widespread themes in gaming, something that Call of Cthulhu helped bring to the forefront.
Back in 2008, Donald X. Vaccarino created a new genre of board game, the deck building game. Based around the concept of building your deck as the game progresses, this revolutionary concept wasn’t seen in games outside of Magic: The Gathering. And in Magic, all the deck building takes place before the game even started. Dominion really was something we hadn’t seen before. With a dozen expansions released, its influence helped inspire an uncountable number of new deck building games, with countless more hitting our tabletops every year.
8. Risk: Legacy
The board game Risk has been around in various iterations since the 1950s. However in 2011, designer Rob Daviau put his own spin on this decades old game. Rob introduced us the Legacy style game, which had players tearing up cards, writing on the board, and open sealed containers throughout the campaign. While the thought of destroying game components can give the average gamer the chills, there is no denying what a unique game Risk: Legacy was. Legacy style games have been more prevalent in recent years (Seafall, Gloomhaven, Pandemic: Legacy), and they can all give their thanks to Risk: Legacy for paving the way.
9. XCOM: The Board Game
As technology becomes more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s only natural that it began to creep into our tabletop games. While not the first game to use technology in it, what XCOM: The Board Game did do was bring us a game that worked fully with an integrated app. The app in XCOM decided what the aliens did, threw curve balls at the players, and even acted as a timer to keep them on their feet. While there was a good amount of push back at the time, today most gamers have embraced integrated apps, with games such as Mansions of Madness and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game all using an integrated app to enhance the gaming experience.
This one might be a bit of a surprise as the game itself wasn’t all that revolutionary (although it was pretty fun). However what Zombicide did do was help launch the Kickstarter revolution. While games had been funding on Kickstarter well before Zombicide, this was one of the very first games to debut at the $100 price point. Not only that, but it also brought us a massive amount of stretch goals that threw piles of extra at the players for no additional cost. It’s hard to believe that there was at time when pledging $100 for a board game, possibly years in advance, was unheard of. I remember seeing the campaign at the time and thinking it was way to pricey for a game. Again, I was proven wrong. Today it’s all too common for a minis game to have $100 pledge levels or even higher! And publishers can thank Zombicide for breaking the ground on that front.
As we said at the start, this isn’t an all encompassing list, as there are tons of games that have really left their mark on our hobby. What other games have influenced modern board gaming? Let us know in the comments below.