Cardboard Children – Rab’s Top 50 INTRO

Hello youse.

Before the column goes VIDEO HEAVY over the next few weeks, I wanted to glide into it with a little chat about how I went through the process of deciding my TOP 50 BOARD GAMES OF ALL TIME. It was really hard, and I’m still unsure of myself, and I want to give you all an opportunity to remind me of any great games I might have missed, because I’m in a panic about it. Let’s talk.


Man. Here’s the truth of it. A Top 10 is easy. Well, comparatively easy, anyway. We bang on about our favourite things all the time, don’t we? Particularly these days, now that social networks have caused our egos to spiral out of control. We need everyone on the planet to hear our declarations. We must not let even one person pass through life without knowing what our favourite flavour of crisp is. (Beef, Monster Munch)

We’re always compiling lists. “Oh, that’s definitely in my Top 3”, we’ll say in the pub, as if we are in charge of some kind of official chart. “That film? Oh, that wouldn’t even make it into my Top 100.” Who the hell do we think we are? And, of course, the media have tuned into it now. Every link on the internet has become TOP TEN REASONS WHY this and 15 WAYS TO DO that – as if we can’t process any kind of information unless it’s in list form.

It feels like the right time to do my Top 50 games of all time. I’m going to list the reasons why, so that you can process it.

1. EVERYONE ELSE DOES IT: Yep. It’s started to feel a bit weird that I haven’t ever made one of these lists. Tom Vasel, the best board game reviewer on the planet, does a Top 100 list EVERY YEAR. That’s commitment.

2. PEOPLE LIKE LISTS: As much as I’ve been kinda complaining about them, the truth is that people love a list. Even I love lists. I love the order of them. I love how they cause a little bit of debate. “That above that? Really?”

3. THIS COLUMN NOW NEEDS IT: This board game column has been running for years. When it started, there was very little board game coverage online. Now there is a healthy amount. And so it’s doubly important for people to know who they’re reading. What I mean is – you have choice now. And it’s important for you to know if my taste is in sync with yours, or if I love all the stuff you hate. The Top 50 will give you a chance to see where I stand.

4. I NEED TO DO IT, ON A PERSONAL LEVEL: Yeah, this is a big one. See, I have too many board games now. I don’t have enough room for all of them. It’s ridiculous. I own hundreds of board games. I need to slim my collection down. And so I have to start asking myself the difficult questions. Which ones are my favourites? Which games are my Top 50? And is there a good reason to keep the rest?

Why video, though? I know some of you hate video. You’ve told me this before. I just think that with something as personal as a list of favourites, it’s nice to look a viewer straight in the eye. I also want to be able to show you the games in my hands. I have lovely hands. Writer’s hands. I also want to pay tribute, in a way, to what Tom Vasel has been doing over the past bunch of years. I watch more of Tom Vasel and his buddies Zee and Sam than I watch anything on TV. It’s worth you taking a look at Tom’s Top 100 videos before I do mine, I think. See how the master does it.


I made a list. A big one.

Then I made it smaller. Then I changed it.

Then I made it smaller. Then I panicked.

Then I changed it. A shuffle here. A switch there.

And then I had it. The Top 50.

I think.


What’s the point in the list for YOU, though? YOU, the reader – what do YOU get from it?

In this column, every week, I try to recommend great games. I’ve recommended a LOT of great games over the years. Not all of them will be on the list. When I recommend a game, there’s always an element of my personal tilt in there. But there’s also a fair amount of me putting myself in your shoes. There have been occasions when I’ve played a game and thought “Man, that’s a good game. I won’t personally play it much myself, but that is GOOD.” And I’ll recommend that game, because I know that some of you will play that game every week, forever. That’s my responsibility as a game reviewer on the best gaming site on the web. I need to make sure that my personal tilt is IN there, but I have to also think more broadly about the audience that reads the stuff.

I told you NETRUNNER was great, right? And it IS great, right? And you bought it and love it and play the hell out of it, right? Well, NETRUNNER just isn’t a game I’ve played too often, and I knew that would be the case when I first tried it. The theme just didn’t stick with me too well. I knew I wouldn’t have the time to properly dig into it. But I gave that thing a GLOWING review, because I knew the impact it would have on the scene. I knew that others would go crazy for it.

My Top 50 will be different. It will be entirely personal, and it will give you a different angle on the games that I love. You’ll see lots of stuff I’ve never even mentioned before on the list. You’ll be shocked at the games that are missing from the list, I’m sure. But it will be honest, and fun, and hopefully funny. And I bet it makes you buy more games.

And that’s the whole point, right? More games, and more time to play them.

I’ll see you next week for the first video in Rab’s Top 50 Board Games Of All Time.


By the way, alongside the videos there might still be the odd recommendation for new games. It will be business as usual on that front, so don’t worry about that.

Stay dicey!


  1. OpT1mUs says:

    Tom Vasel is like those bends you listened in high school.
    You have fond memories of them, but you outgrew them long time ago.

    • poetfoxpaul says:

      I quite agree – his recommendations haven’t been spot on for me for quite some time, unlike SU&SD. I still enjoy the writing, however.

    • Pippy says:

      I still think the bends is their best album.

  2. frenz0rz says:

    I played Blood Bowl every week. Slowly, after a few years, I started to lag and eventually took a break.

    You then wrote a wonderful recommendation of it on this blog.

    And now I play Blood Bowl every week, forever.

    (Ok, so it’s the videogame rather than the boardgame, but so what? It’s the same game, I can’t paint, and playing over Mumble is easier. Also, thoroughly looking forward to this Top 50; I bought Cosmic Encounter and Eldritch Horror on your reviews and I wasn’t disappointed!)

    • Everblue says:

      I also bought Spartacus on Rab’s recommendation for my friend Richy as a birthday present. We played it and I killed his slave girl with a javelin. I KILLED HIS SLAVE GIRL WITH A JAVELIN. We’ve still to find time to get together to play it again (jobs, families, distance, etc), but I’ll always have That Day.

  3. AngelTear says:

    And that’s the whole point, right? More games, and more time to play them.

    You’re telling me, reading your list will give me more time to play games? What kind of black majicks is this, and why wasn’t I informed before?

  4. edosan says:

    I had to stop watching that video after about three minutes. Tom Vasel is too impressed with his own brand nowadays. Give me SU&SD any day of the week instead.

    • Canadave says:

      I like Tom okay when he’s doing a top 10 with Sam and Zee (I especially like Zee for his sometimes esoteric tastes), but yeah, on his own, I just can’t handle him either. Something about his delivery just rubs me the wrong way.

  5. X_kot says:

    I’ve pined for more Downtime Town vids, so this is aces in my book.

    Anyone with predictions they’d care to share? I see Spartacus landing in the top five, as well as Descent. Number 1 will obviously be Monopoly – I’d wager my Water Works and Electric Company on that.

    • geerad says:

      I also enjoyed Downtime Town.

      If Cosmic Encounter is not in the top five, I will be shocked.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I think video is the perfect approach for this project, just because it’s personal. I can recollect several Downtime Town vids where Rab’s enthusiasm for a game was absolutely radiating from the screen in a way that wouldn’t quite happen in text format.

      I’m really looking forward to it.

  6. arienette says:

    I’d like to give a quick mention to A Study in Emerald, although I can’t have played it more than half a dozen times, the theme is amazing. Best thing about it, you’re randomly and secretly dealt one of two teams at the start, but only one person will ever win. When all is said and done, the person with the lowest points sees their whole team knocked out. Brings a really weird dynamic to the game that I love.

  7. jgedri says:

    I think I’ve found hog heaven.

    Being a tactile kind of guy (I still prefer pencil and paper to typing things), I wish I knew about this column earlier. Plus, it feels like many video games today take the “friendly” out of “friendly competition”. Guess that tends to happen when you have people pretending to kill each other rather than just knocking their token back a few spaces.

  8. Synesthesia says:

    Don’t listen to the video haters, rab! I LOVED the downtime town videos. The space hulk song and the two soldiers on the hex gag still crack me up. moar videos! zaooza!

  9. wintersnight says:

    I’m going to have to give a pass until it’s in print. Those vowel sounds are blood-curdling.

  10. amateurviking says:

    I don’t get much of a chance to play games in meat space (jetsetting international scientist playboy typeI have no friends within a 1000 mile radius). But I picked up King of Tokyo, based on Rab’s recommendation, when I was home the other month and played it over some beers with friends and it was ace. So I am excited about this.

    Also I have a bit of a crush on Rab so more of his fizzog is always welcome.

    • jrod says:

      +1 for King of Tokyo… i bust that one out almost anytime I have visitors and everyone routinely loves it

  11. jarowdowsky says:

    Aww I love Tom’s videos. He’s just a nice bloke chatting about games, not quite sure why he gets so much stick these days. He’s never gonna be one the cutting edge of youtube videos but they are comforting plus great mechanic descriptions.

    I’ve really enjoyed the top 10’s and Miami Dice to bring in some other voices along the way.

  12. jarowdowsky says:

    Oh and can not wait for more game videos from Rab, Downtime town are still some of the best content about board gaming every roughly shoved onto tape.

  13. tossrStu says:

    My money’s on the Game of Thrones board game being Rab’s number one choice, what with him being such a big fan of the show and all.

  14. jomurph86 says:

    Love the shout out to Tom! He’s given a lot to board gaming and he’s got this clear-eyed passion and lack of pretension that I find simultaneously refreshing and charming.

    Love that you’re doing a video series Rab! I have no doubt that it’s gonna kick ass!