The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are comprised of two major subphenotypes, Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). A significant role for genetic factors in IBD was established from epidemiologic studies and, more recently, the identification of well-established disease associations, notably the association of Nod2 (CARD15) polymorphisms with CD. The mapping to CD of Nod2 variants that alter protein function represents one of the earliest, most well-established, associations in complex genetic disorders. Since the initial discovery, genotype-phenotype correlations, definition of Nod2 expression and signaling pathways, association studies in other, related disorders, and features of Nod2 deficiency in murine models have been reported. Taken together, the Nod2 association to CD provides an illustrative model of the role of single gene variants in disease pathogenesis for common, complex multigenic disorders. Here we review general aspects of IBD genetics with particular focus on the role of Nod2 in CD.