The Very First Games on Board Game Geek

24 April 2024
An entry on Board Game Geek is a must for any new game, but who won the race when BGG was first formed, and got there first?

Written by Chris Lowry

If you’ll pardon a little uncoolness for a moment, I’m afraid I’m about to reveal the hidden depths of my nerdiness. There’s no real way around it, because I need to talk to you about… URLs.

A few years ago, whilst browsing Board Game Geek for some game lost to my ailing memory, I noticed that there was a certain structure to links on the site. All of them use this format: Note the numerals there, giving each entry a unique identifying code? “Interesting!”, my little brain called out, “Change it to ‘1’ and find out which game was first on the website!”. Dear reader? I’m afraid this entire article has been spawned from that nerdly diversion. Join me, as we explore the first ten games ever listed on Board Game Geek…

1. Die Macher

A board game box, green with white writing saying Die Macher. There is a parliament building with a hand dropping in a ballot paper to it.

Numero Uno, the first ever game on Board Game Geek? It’s drumroll… Die Macher! That’s right, an out-of-print 37-year-old German game about jostling your way through Teutonic elections. Your aim is to win as many regions of the country as you can, to ultimately seize power for your political party. It sounds like the driest possible type of dusty old Euro title, and has a board that visually consists of concentric circles and boxes that reminds me of Brexit polls and swing-o-meters presented by David Dimbleby. It apparently manages a relatively streamlined approach that’s a little more appealing than actually counting real life ballot boxes - and it must have done something right to be Recommended for the 1998 Spiel des Jahres. Personally, I’ve never had a deep desire to hunt it out, but I’d love to hear how you find it if you do.

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2. Dragonmaster

Dragonmaster is up next, an even older 1981 card game feature trick-taking and a collection of fragile-looking plastic gems. This is far lighter in weight than the previous title… and almost nothing about it has aged well, especially the “are these bakelite or asbestos?” jewels. The card art stands out as unique, almost like Stephen Rhodes illustrations cut out by a collage artist, but I’m not sure it’s actually good - although many commenters disagree with me there, so form your own opinion. From the reviews, it sounds like rather a neat reinterpretation of an even older game Coup d'État, with an intriguing depth of play featuring basic, advanced and expert modes. Sadly though, it’s so long out of print that a copy will set you back much more than it’s likely to be worth.

3. Samurai

The modern box for Samurai, featuring a Samurai on the front with Japan in the background

The third BGG entry is a Reiner Knizia game - hardly a surprise since he’s designed 80% of the world’s published games. Now, whilst Samurai is not as well known as some of his other creations (Ingenius, Tigres & Euphrates, Schotten Totten, the list goes on…), it still regularly features in Knizia top ten lists. It’s a tile laying game where players strategically surround tokens on the board, aiming to own the most. Many of the mechanics have been re-implemented in his newer title Babylonia; which is also still in print and available. There was a 2015 reprint of Samurai, so you may find it second hand at a reasonable price - you just won't get option of removing the cellophane with a katana.


4. Tal der Könige

Tal Der Konige box is in the background, with a triangular board laden with square and cone shaped pieces.

Entry number 4, with a particularly inaccessible German name, is Tal der Könige. Competitive pyramid building has been covered by many designers, most recently by Carcassonne designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede in Caral - but none of the others come in a large triangular box! The collector in me feels two conflicting emotions here, part of me wants to own such an unusual game, the other part of me horrified at the idea of having to somehow fit a non rectangular box onto my shelves. The game itself is a lethally competitive game of sending workers to build pyramids - or, as their numbers rise, to steal blocks and entire pyramids from your opponents. I’ll be honest, the picture sold me on this one and I just ordered a second-hand copy.

5. Acquire

Board game box for Aquire, with a multicoloured citiy as it's background, Acquire in white across the front.

Acquire was the fifth game ever entered into BGG. I initially discovered it through this weird URL process and I’m so glad I did - it’s inarguably a modern classic, and deserves far higher awareness and praise. Check out Ten of the Best Underrated Games for more on this one!

You can find the modern version of Acquire on Amazon

6. Mare Mediterraneum

Mare Mediterraneum follows; a gorgeous looking game with a wooden box and pieces, all laid out on a huge, table dominating faux-leather map. It’s also a 4-6 hour slog of Mediterranean empire building, vying to be the best through tax, trade and warfare. Best for well-tanned players who love eating olives and playing Risk.

7. Cathedral

The Cathedral Board Game box, in front of it is a wooden game board with pieces of different wooden blocks denoting houses, churches, and others, all in muted brown and red tones.

Number 7 is Cathedral; a still-in-print abstract game that bears a strong visual and conceptual link to Santorini. Although both share a similar weight of complexity, the newer game has disappointingly plasticky pieces that I always feel let it down. Cathedral combats this with a pleasingly solid wooden building to plonk down… and an equally palpable £85 price tag to match.

Buy Cathedral on Amazon

8. Lords of Creation

Least memorably from the list, Lords of Creation is a 1993 game of gods shaping a world, then competing to own the best tribes and cultures. It’s not a game that’s aged well, and it has the lowest score of the first ten entries at just 6.1. Visually, it consists of a hexagon-based board covered with flimsy square terrain tiles and then circular barbarian tokens. The combination of these various shapes is - to me, at least - an ugly mess. The gameplay has some interesting tweaks - I like the idea of “creating” the world together first, establishing geography that then impacts on later battles - but I don’t like the idea enough to forgive its presentation.

9. El Caballero

Our penultimate title is El Caballero, from the renowned partnership of Ulrich and Kramer. The first impression is of Carcassonne tiles being used as the landscape for a strategic war game. It clearly shares a fair bit of DNA with El Grande - even from the name alone - and given that its from the same designers and came out only a few years later, that’s probably not surprising. A tussle over islands and resources, nailing down ownership with castillos and Governors; satisfyingly crunchy strategy on a board that changes every game.

10. Elfenland

The box for Elfenland Board Game, featuring someone riding a green dragon, with a castle in the background and another person riding a unicorn.

Finally, in 10th place, is Elfenland, a largely forgotten game from a designer who is anything but - the renowned Alan R Moon. Released 5 years before his magnum opus Ticket To Ride, Elfenland features large wooden boot meeples and a map that looks like a prototype for TtR: Middle Earth. Players are young elves on a journey of discovery, needing to visit a certain number of locations - likely a familiar concept, but rather than competing and blocking routes, players can pick-back on the work of others. It won the Spiel de Jahres in 1998 and is generally fondly regarded, but has failed to become a classic.

Buy your copy of Elfenland on Amazon


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