I once heard an NPR music critic say the golden age of music is whenever you were twelve.
And when I was going through my collection, deciding what to keep while trying to purge as much as possible, I was pretty sure that anyone could tell I discovered boars games during the early to mid 2000s. Not necessarily the games from that era but their aesthetic.
Oliver Kiley’s classification of games (https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/27367/schools-design-and-their-core-priorities) has German Family and Eurogame as two separate design schools. (Yeah, I know both get lumped together as Euros) And the games that I kept definitely show a preference for German Family games. (That said, every single design school that Kiley lists shows up in my collection, even after the heavy purge.)
Catan had been around for close to ten years when I got into the hobby but it was still an environment that was reacting and responding to Catan. Lots of engagement but not violent conflict. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico and Ticket to Ride were major tent poles for the hobby. Games I still really like and think continue to hold up and deliver.
But, but, but, just because when I got into designer board games helped define my tastes in board games doesn’t mean I think that designs peaked then. I think that game design has improved over the last 20 years, and the classics that hold up are more outliers than representative.
Sturgeon’s law still applies. Developing a microscopic species for technological development always gets out of hand. No, wait. His other law: 90% of EVERYthing is crud. There are a lot of games out there that aren’t worth your time.
However, due to a number of factors, I do think we have seen a rise in refinement and innovation.
I don’t think of twenty years ago as a particularly golden age for board games. There are have been a lot of golden ages. But I do think it helped encourage elements that I want to see in games lol
While I appreciate direct conflict and story telling and puzzle solving, my introduction to designer board games definitely gave me a predilection towards more social interaction. And, yes, I know I am a huge proponent for true multi-player solitaire games but that’s because I can play them solitaire and get still get the proper experience. (Not that I haven’t had extremely social games of Take It Easy with people swearing at the tiles)
I don’t think there has been a bad time to get into gaming in the past fifty or sixty years.