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First Published Games by Now-Famous Designers
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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I thought it would be interesting to see how some of our favorite designers started out. I took a look at their very first published games. I mostly based this on the dates listed on their games' pages. If you know of any corrections, please let me know.

These are listed in chronological order starting with the earliest, or by alphabetical order if their first games were published in the same year.
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1. Board Game: Pan-Kai [Average Rating:6.20 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Alex Randolph

Pan-Kai, published in 1961.
2-player abstract strategy game (with a solitaire variant).

Various-shaped Tetris-like pieces are placed onto a grid-style board. An area may not be completely surrounded unless it has at least 5 square in it. When you can’t legally play, you lose.

The description and pictures of this game immediately made me think of Blokus, a Spiel de Jahres nominee from 2002 (41 years later!)

Twixt was published less than a year later, and is still one of Randolph’s highest ranked games. He was far too prolific to list all his successes here, but Richochet Robot, Code 777 and Inkognito are also in the top 600. His children’s game Enchanted Forest was the SDJ winner in 1982.
 
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2. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:144]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Sid Sackson

Acquire, published in 1962.
Economic game for 2-6 players.

Players invest in stocks of businesses which may later merge based on their locations on the board. The goal is to make the most money.

Over four decades later, this is still going strong. Its overall rank is currently 48.

Sackson was another heavy hitter, and his game Focus was the 1980 SDJ winner. Acquire, as well as his book A Gamut of Games is ranked in the top 100. Can’t Stop, Sleuth, Kohle, Kies & Knete, and Buyword all remain in the top 500 or so.
 
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3. Board Game: Schmugglerjagd [Average Rating:5.67 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Rudi Hoffman

Schmuggler Jagd, published in 1965.
2-player abstract strategy game.

The name means Smuggler Chase. One player’s pawns are jewel smugglers; the other’s are customs agents.

Café International won SDJ in 1989, and is still Hoffman’s most popular game. Spiel der Turme was nominated in 1993.
 
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4. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:398]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Richard Borg

Liar’s Dice, published in 1974.
Dice and bluffing game for 2-6 players.

Players each roll a set of dice and then try to win them by guessing / bluffing how many of a certain number have been rolled total.

Liar's Dice was the 1993 SDJ winner and is still ranked in the top 500.

So are Wyatt Earp, Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadels, and Hera & Zeus. Borg’s 2004 game Memoir 44 is currently number 14. Battle Cry is also in the top 100.
 
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5. Board Game: 1829 [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2622]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Francis Tresham

1829, published in 1974.
Economic train game for 3-9 players.

Players invest in railroad stocks, then lay track and run their trains. This is the first game in a popular series.

Tresham has 3 Civilization games in the top 150. Two others make this cut-off as well: 1830 - Railroads and Robber Barons and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.
 
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6. Board Game: Tempo [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Wolfgang Kramer

Tempo, published in 1974.
Betting game for 2-6 players.

Players receive points based on how well they predicted the outcome of a race. They look at their cards before betting, and play the cards to try to get the outcome they want.

Kramer himself is a pretty safe bet. His games Heimlich & Co, Auf Achse, El Grande, Tikal, and Torres are all SDJ winners. Princes of Florence and El Grande are currently ranked at 3 and 4. Majaraja, along with Torres and Tikal are in the top 150. Many more come in in the top 300: Die Handler, Daytona 500, Tycoon, Mexica, Pueblo, and Java, and 6 Nimmt. Some of these are co-designed with either Richard Ulrich or Michael Kiesling.
 
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7. Board Game: War at Sea 2 [Average Rating:6.40 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.40 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Alan R. Moon

War at Sea 2, published in 1977
Expansion for a World War II game.
Designed with Paul Kaster.

This is an expansion for the 1976 Avalon Hill game War at Sea by John Edwards.

Moon’s game Ticket to Ride was the SDJ winner last year, and is currently ranked number 25. Union Pacific, San Marco and Capitol are also in the top 200. In the top 300 are New England, Elfenroads, and Elfengold. Elfenland was the SDJ winner in 1998.
 
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8. Board Game: Les Sales mômes [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Bruno Faidutti

Les Sales mômes, published in 1985
Hex game for 2-4 players.

This game was published in a magazine. Players are misbehaving children, playing pranks around town.

Citadels, at 92, is Faidutti’s highest rank game. Boomtown, Mystery of the Abbey, and Mystery Chess 2 are top 500 or so games.
 
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9. Board Game: Inkognito [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1031]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Leo Colovini

Inkognito, published in 1988.
Deduction game for 4 players (with a 3-player variant).
Designed with Alex Randolph.

Players must first figure out who their secretly-assigned partner is. After figuring out that they’re partners, they try to complete an assigned mission.

This game is still popular, currently ranked at 601.

Five of Colovini’s other games are ranked even higher: Carolus Magnus, Magna Grecia, Bridges of Shangra La, Cartagena, and Clans.
 
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10. Board Game: Barbarossa [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1523]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Klaus Teuber

Barbarossa, published in 1988.
Riddle game for 3-6 players.

Apparently this is based on a series of fantasy books. Players create riddles by making shapes out of clay!

This was also the SDJ winner from 1988.

Teuber has several other SDJ wins since then: Adel Verphlichtet (1990), Drunter und Drüber (1991), and Settlers of Catan (1995). Settlers is ranked at number 11 and is now part of a huge family of games. Domaine and Löwenherz are both top 100 or so games as well. Die Neuen Entdecker and Abenteuer Menschheit are top 400 games.
 
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11. Board Game: Chamelequin [Average Rating:5.96 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Richard Breese

Chamelequin, published in 1989.
Abstract strategy game for 2-4 players.

Players' pawns have a pole at the top, which colored rings are added to. Pawns may only be on a square of the board that is the same color as the topmost ring on their pawn. Moving only one space allows them to add a ring; if they want to move farther than they need to take rings off.

Breese's 2004 game Reef Encounter is ranked at 58. Keythedral and Aladdin's Dragons are both in top 300.
 
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12. Board Game: Dicke Kartoffeln [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:4724]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Doris Matthäus and Frank Nestel

Dicke Kartoffeln, published in 1989.
Economic game for 2-6 players (originally 2-4).

Players are potato farmers, trying to keep their fields healthy and productive.

Matthäus and Nestel also publishied a donkey racing game called Eselsrennen the same year.

Ranked at 112, the card game Mü und Mehr is their most popular game. Ursuppe is not far behind at 144. Frank's Zoo and Urland are also in the top 600.
 
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13. Board Game: Kreuzfahrt [Average Rating:3.25 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Richard Ulrich

Kreuzfahrt, published in 1989.
Family board game for 2-4 players.

The theme of this game is a cruise vacation.

As mentioned above about Kramer, Princes of Florence and El Grande are both ranked in the top 5. Die Händler, also designed with Kramer, is in the top 300.
 
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14. Board Game: Ex & Hopp [Average Rating:5.48 Overall Rank:8734]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Ruediger Dorn

Ex und Hopp, published in 1990.
2-6 player card game.

A player wins cards by having the most colored cards on a chit when it is scored. A chit is scored when the number of cards on it is the same as the number printed on it.

Dorn has two games easily in the top 100: Goa at 16 and Traders of Genoa at 65. Two of his recently released games are already in the top 200: Jambo at 159 and Louis XIV at 188.
 
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15. Board Game: Desperados [Average Rating:5.54 Overall Rank:8548]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Reiner Knizia

Digging, published in 1990.
Partnership card game for 4 players (with 2 and 3 player variants).

Players play cards in front of them to open up copper, silver, or gold mines. Their opponents can try to steal from their mines or force them to shut.

Knizia published two games in 1990, Digging and Goldrausch, both with mining themes, as well as his first book.

Knizia is a powerhouse. Tigris & Euphrates is the second highest ranked game on boardgamegeek. Six of his other games grace the top 50: Ra, Modern Art, Taj Majal, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Samurai, and Amun-Re. Five more make the top 100: Through the desert, Traumfabrik, Carcassonne the Castle, Battle Line, and Einfach Genial. Many more are not far behind.
 
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16. Board Game: Zorro: The Fight Against Alcalde [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
 
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Andreas Seyfarth

Zorro: The Fight Against Alcalde, published in 1990.
Bluffing game for 2-4 players.

Zorro is the theme here. Players attempt to be the first to get past the Alcalde’s soldiers and defeat him. Cards are played onto a series of boards.

A second Zorro game was published the following year.

Seyfarth has the number 1 game: Puerto Rico! The expansion is also in the top 100, as is the card game adaptation, San Juan. Manhattan won the SDJ in 1994, and is still highly ranked 11 years later.
 
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17. Board Game: Invers [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:6544]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Kris Burm

Invers, published in 1991.
2-player abstract strategy game.

Players slide tiles out of a grid. The underside of each tile is marked with a colored dot. Each player controls one color Once a tile is reinserted with the dot side up, the opponent may not remove it.

Burm is responsible for the GIPF project, games that can be played as is or combined with each other. Yinsh, Dvonn and Zertz are all within the top 50. The other games, GIPF and Tamsk, are well regarded also. GIPF ranks at 138.
 
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18. Board Game: Razzia [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:3031]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Stefan Dorra

Razzia, published in 1992.
Children’s card game for 3-8 players.

This is listed as a children's game, but it doesn't look like one. Players simultaneously play cards with either gamblers or police. If a gambler is played for an establishment that a police office wasn’t played for, then the player makes money. The player with the most money wins.

For Sale is Dorra’s most recognized game, with the 125 spot. Also in the top 500 are: Medina, Land Unter, Die Sieben Siegel, and Marracash.
 
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19. Board Game: Hopfen & Malz [Average Rating:5.19 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Dirk Henn

Hopfen & Malz, published in 1992.
3-6 player card game.

The title means Hops and Malt. Players bid for the finest ingredients as they compete to make the best beer.

Henn published 3 games in 1992. The names of the other two are Al Capone and Speckulation. I couldn’t find any indication of which of the three actually came out first. Al Capone is a mafia-themed game for 3-6 players. It was later renamed Stimmt So. Speckulation is a stock for 3-6, with money depicting mice.

Henn holds the number 7 spot with Wallenstein. Alhambra won Henn the SDJ in 2003 and it is ranked in the top 200, as are Atlantic Star and Showmanager. Metro is in the top 500.
 
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20. Board Game: Landlord! [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:3300]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Friedmann Friese

Landlord, published in 1992.
Card game for 2-6 players.

Players are landlords. They use 2-sided cards to either build new apartments, or add tenants or improvement to existing ones. They can add desirable tenants to their own buildings and riff-raff to their opponents’.

Landlord and Dimension both came out in 1992. Again, I don’t know which was technically first. Dimension is a 2-player abstract strategy game played with tiles.

Friese’s Power Grid is the 5th highest ranked game on this site. Funkenschlag just squeaks into the top 100, and 3 other games (Finstere Flure, Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, and Fresh Fish) rank in the top 500.
 
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21. Board Game: Times [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:5934]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Uwe Rosenberg

Times, published in 1992.
2-5 player trivia and bluffing game.

Players try to guess when an event took place. They play cards covering time spans of different lengths, and try to gradually narrow it down, until challenged by others.

Rosenberg also debuted with two games in one year. The other one, Marlowe, is a 3-5 player deduction card game with a murder mystery theme.

Rosenberg’s top game is Bohnanza. It’s ranked at 115 and has spawned an entire empire of related games. Babel and Schnäppchen Jagd are both in the top 500, with Mamma Mia not far behind.
 
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22. Board Game: Lords of Creation [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4305]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Martin Wallace

Lords of Creation, published in 1993.
2 - 5 player fantasy game.

Players play gods creating and subsequently refining tribes of people.

Age of Steam and one of its expansions are both in the top 20. Struggle of Empires and Princes of the Renaissance are both in the top 100 as well. Also in the top 300 are Liberté and Volldampf.
 
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23. Board Game: The Bottle Imp [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:778]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Günter Cornett

Flaschenteufel, published in 1995.
Trick-taking card game for 2-4.

This game is based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story “The Bottle Imp”. The idea of the story is that whoever holds the bottle can command the powerful imp to bring them power and riches. But don’t get too greedy before selling the bottle to someone else. Ifif you still have it when you die, you burn in hell forever. In this game, the winner of a trick is the player who has played the highest card, that is still lower than a number set by the bottle imp.

Again, we have several games in the same year. The others are Schlangennest and Canaletto. Schlangennest is an abstract strategy game where 2-4 players use tiles to try to create the longest snake. In Canaletto, 3-4 players bid on heirlooms in Venetian palaces.

Flaschenteufel is still Cornett’s most popular game. It and Kahuna are both ranked in the top 500.
 
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24. Board Game: Zündstoff [Average Rating:4.45 Unranked]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Michael Kiesling

Zündstoff, published in 1995.
2-5 player racing game.

In this rocketship-themed game, players bid and play cards to travel to the sun.

Kiesling had two games published in 1995. The other is called Mogelei, and is a bluffing and trick-taking card game for 3-8 players.

Tikal and Torres, designed with Kramer, are both SDJ winners. As mentioned above, the Kramer / Kiesling games Majaraja, Java, Mexica, and Pueblo are also highly ranked.
 
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25. Board Game: Blink [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:2702]
Katie Harris
United States
Colorado
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Reinhard Staupe

Speed, published in 1995.
Dexterity card game for 2-6 players.

Try to get rid of your cards as fast as possible by matching them to existing piles by color, shape, or number.

Staupe has two top 300 games: Edel, Stein, & Reich and Basari.
 
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