Seminal Games
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These are games that have had a strong influence on game design and gamers in general. I haven't included any more than one wargame (which IIRC is where it all started) on purpose. Note that including a game on this list doesn't make it a good game, just an influential one.

Please note I've left games designed before 1900 off the list. So no chess, backgammon, Crib, Whist, Go, or other older games. These are really part of the list by default, and don't really need discussing.
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1. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15333]
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This should probably be listed for "The Landlords Game". Over the years this has spawned an enormous number of spinoffs. Unfortunately most of them have been pretty dire. The original is pretty dated too.
 
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2. Board Game: Clue [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:7615]
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The earliest popular deduction game.
 
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3. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:501]
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Still hugely popular after 50 years, and spawned the PBM hobby almost single-handed. It seems to be undergoing a bit of a decline these days, as its natural fan-base begin to find fault with it in terms of length and knockout elements.
 
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4. Board Game: 1829 [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:3666]
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Francis Tresham's first masterpiece. Has spawned its own genre, and had a major influence on the structure of financial / stockmarket games. There's now an 18xx list (with a single entry at the moment), which is likely to be a good starting point for non-diehard discussion of the series.
 
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5. Board Game: Civilization [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:225] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
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Another Tresham masterpiece. This one inspired many other games, including Sid Meier's Civ. The wrangle over who owned the Civ trademark has to go down as one of the most convoluted in game-publishing history.
 
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6. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:801]
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IMO about the most influential game of the last 25 years. The whole CCG hobby owes much of their inspiration to this game.
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7. Board Game: Kings & Things [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1772]
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The first truly morphic board game, if a bit long. Or are there others I don't know about? What is more certain, though, is that this is a direct ancestor of Settlers. I see now that Titan has its own list. I would still contend that more people have looked to K&T for inspiration and mechanics though.
 
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8. Board Game: Railway Rivals [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:3209]
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The granddaddy of all crayon-rails games. Now overtaking Diplomacy in the PBM arena, and still going strong.
 
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9. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:207]
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Probably the classic business game of all time. You'll find its influence all over the place.
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10. Board Game: Raj [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1862]
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How many games do you know that are based on this one? I've run out of fingers...
 
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11. Board Game: Tactics II [Average Rating:5.33 Overall Rank:14987]
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The game that started off the boom years for board wargaming.
 
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12. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:542]
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Less influential than Civ, but has more direct spinoffs.
 
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13. Board Game: Verräter [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1340]
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I debated whether to let this one in. It's the direct ancestor of Citadels, and its core mechanism will doubtless be found in many games over the next few years. (6 months later) - I was proved right! Puerto Rico and Age of Steam are showing just how popular (and effective) this mechanism is. Look for plenty more games over the next few years which have used this "select your role" mechanism...
 
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14. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
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Resource management and placement to a T. The theme has been found replicated all over the place, and the core mechanics are to be found in such games as Kardinal & Konig (Web of Power), and so on.
 
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15. Board Game: Hoity Toity [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1200]
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The first game to "break out" of Germany, and the first to popularise the simultaneous secret choice of game actions.
 
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16. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1072]
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The first winner of the SDJ, the first (virtually) luck-free race game, and also the first proponent of the ubiquitous "McFibionacci Tesselation Ploy" (with apologies to Mike Siggins).
 
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17. Board Game: Kingmaker [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1702]
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This one is poor omission on my part. Most factional / voting games build on the foundation of this. The AH revisions made quite an impact on the original too.
 
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18. Board Game: Lexicon [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:10851]
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I've chosen this as it's the earliest crossword-like word-game I know. The gong could go to Scrabble, which seems to have more influence, but Lexicon beat it to publication by 11 years. There's also been more word-type card and tile games than actual board games. If anyone knows of some earlier word-games I'd certainly be interested in hearing from you.
 
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19. Board Game: Trivial Pursuit [Average Rating:5.20 Overall Rank:15269]
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Well, it doesn't really sit well in the rest of this list, but Triv IS the granddaddy of trivia games. Not that it's the first - there are plenty which pre-date it. But Triv was the first which really worked, and you only have to look a the swathes of spin-offs to realise just how influential it was. Unfortunately I place it just below Monopoly in terms of positive influence on board-games, which is about as low as you go.
 
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20. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
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I've been asked to put this on the list, although I do so reluctantly. Cosmic Encounter was the real ancestor of CCGs, but the marketing spark of WotC did spawn a host of other collectible card spinoffs. So I don't really include it as a seminal game as such, but more as a seminal point in marketing and packaging games.
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