Best Boardgames: The Cardboard Children Top 50

It is very easy to lose things when living in the thrall of the endless bear. You make something, you put it down and suddenly it’s gone, lost over the horizon. You type some words into the search box to try to find it again but, alas, the Rock Paper Shotgun Search-O-Tron 3000 returns nothing.

And so here we are, to gather Rab’s Complete Top 50 Boardgames posts into a single set of links, better that you might bookmark it, print it out, study it, love it. Did you ever wonder what boardgames you should play? We’ve got five videos and five articles that will tell you.

The Videos

If you want to watch the entire series in order, like a single 90-minute movie about a man who loves boardgames, you can do so via this handy YouTube playlist. Otherwise the RPS posts were:

Best Boardgames: 50-41
Best Boardgames: 40-31
Best Boardgames: 30-21
Best Boardgames: 20-11
Best Boardgames: 10-1

Rab’s Best Boardgames: The Breakdowns

To supplement the shorter videos of numbers 50-11, Rab put together textual breakdowns in each following week to explain in greater detail why a game made it on to the list. Here are those posts:

The Breakdown: 50-41
The Breakdown: 40-31
The Breakdown: 30-21
The Breakdown: 20-11

What of the games that almost made it? The games that are excellent but didn’t quite fit inside the top 50. Rab covered those in Off The List.

Right, you’re done working for the day now. You know what you’ve got to do.


  1. Steven Hutton says:

    Hey everybody lets take this opportunity to list our favourite games that didn’t make the list.

    Mine include, but aren’t limited to:

    Puzzle Strike (3rd Edition + Shadows) – Did ANY deckbuilders make the top 50? I’m a little surprised to see no Dominion but if any deck builder deserves entry into the top 50 it’s Puzzle Strike. It is a legit masterpiece.

    Yomi – A Fighting game for people who can’t play fighting games. I can play fighting games and I still like Yomi better than most. Fixed deck asymmetry and an insane commitment from the dev’s and community has made Yomi literally the best and most closely balanced asymmetric game that there is.

    Cosmic Enounter (I know it’s number 0)

    Space Alert – This game is absolutely bonkers and I could not love it more.

    • znomorph says:

      My wife and I like Shadow Rift. It’s a Co-op deckbuilding game where you play heroes defending the town of Haven from Monsters/Demons/Whatever coming through, you guessed it, shadow rifts. The town people are there, too, to help out.

      Everyone starts with the same deck, and you pick 8 stacks of cards from the ~16 different cards in the box. Those become the cards you purchase (along with stacks of the basic currency and attack cards).

      The enemy (one of 5 you can pick from) uses a pool of power tokens to determine when they spawn. When there’s enough for the next enemy in the deck, it comes out. Each enemy has 3 phases, where it might deal damage to the players (wound cards get placed in the player decks), or townspeople get killed (corpses get added to the town deck, more on that in a second).

      There’s also a deck of townspeople and wanderers. The townspeople can be used by the players to help out, like giving a bonus to attack(the smith) or giving you extra gold(the merchant). The wanderers can be purchased and placed in the town deck (which a new set of townspeople get drawn from each turn). They’re expensive, but have way better perks. If a townsperson gets killed, they go to the bottom of the wanderer deck(so they can be purchased later) and a corpse gets added to the town deck. If you draw all corpses on any turn, you lose.

      After dealing with moving enemies through their phases and dealing new townspeople from the deck, all players take their turn at the same time. So you have to work together to decide which order to play your cards in since they can affect one another on occasion.

      tl;dr – Shadowrift was described to me as “co-op dominion” which immediately excited me. But it’s so much more. It’s a little rough around the edges (it’s a new game company this guy started just to make this game), but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty cool.

      FYI, go to boardgamegeek if you get the game. The game designer is/was on the forums to clarify some rules, and you can find an example table layout which helped us when we started playing.

    • znomorph says:

      This is a great idea, by the way. The top 50 list has given me plenty of games to chase down, but now I’ll have even more! :D

    • James Pursaill says:

      Oooh, good shout!

      Netrunner – as a lifetime devote at the altar of Magic: The Gathering, I’m now a complete convert to Netrunner’s cyberpunky charms. I love Netrunner because it’s 30% deckbuilding, 70% how you play on the day – the opposite I find true for games of magic. I love it because there’s such a heavy level of bluffing in where the corporation hides agendas and buries it in layers of ICE – you need to be able to look into your opponents eyes and try and read the bluff – something you can never get with PC gaming. I love it because it’s an LCG, which will never tear through my wallet quite as hard as Magic’s random booster packs and its overpowered rare cards. I’ll never go back to MTG after discovering Netrunner.

      Kemet – by the makers of Cyclades, but set in mythological Egypt. The miniatures and the map are totally gorgeous, and it lets you teleport giant scorpions around the Nile. What other game lets you teleport giant scorpions around the Nile??? It’s the perfect segway for all your non-gamer friends that grew up with Risk and want that itch scratched in a more tactical, luxor(ious) way.

      Game of Thrones (2nd ed) – Rab recommends Warrior Knights over the classic GOT. Having played the original Warrior Knights (but not the FFG update), I gotta say I prefer the purity of GOT. Only 5 kinds of order, blind bidding, sexy leader cards – it’s 5+ hours of nailbiting, backstabbing tension. A game that breaks friendships and shaves years off your life expectancy.

      And, finally, I have to chip in my 5 cents for everyone hunting down a $300 copy of Space Hulk on ebay: I wouldn’t bother. Wait, wait! Don’t hit me just yet. I owned an original copy as a kid, painted up all the miniatures, played through the scenarios. Never enjoyed it as much as Talisman or Dungeon Quest back in the day. It’s pure to the point of being too simple, imho – make sure your terminators have the right corridors covered as you move through the cramped corridors, hope your bolter doesn’t jam. There’s only one flavour of enemy, which really limits the variety of scenarios you can play. The only mechanic I really liked was the motion tracker blips – the genestealer player could be hiding 8 stealers in a corridor, or just tricking your sensors with a giant rat when you come round the corner. It was a neat bit of bluffing that kinda evoked the James Cameron Aliens movie. But it’s not $300 dollars good, so please don’t feel like your missing out on the holy grail of gaming folks!

    • anagurl2014 says:

      I enjoy Ticket to Ride. It’s a game that is good for my whole family, ages (my son ) 8-66 (my father) . Another good one is Blokus, “The object of the game is to lay down all of your pieces before other player’s can lay down theirs. By using various strategies and pieces you can block others from laying down their pieces. It is possible that no one will be able to lay down all of their pieces, so whoever lays down the most wins!” ( link to )

    • Rodafowa says:

      +1 for Space Alert. My favourite game I never get a chance to play.

      Escape! The Curse Of The Temple – All the shouting and panicky camaraderie of Space Alert in a game you can teach in three minutes. The Big Box is going to be out later this year. Get it get it get it.

      Dominion – A minute to learn, years to master. The simplicity and lack of theme aren’t bugs, they’re features. People will tell you that Thunderstone is Dominion with an actual game added. Those people are wrong, and also probably ugly. Dominion is lean and smart and it’ll make you feel smart when you play it well.

      Galaxy Trucker – Basically a parenting sim. You spend the first half of the game doing the best you can with the information you have in a pressurised, constantly shifting situation to give your little one everything they need to function in the big bad world. Then you send them out and watch a series of terrible things happen to them that you can’t control and can only hope they come out of in one piece.

      Pandemic – I love the theme. I love the look of it. I love that I can play it with my gaming group and my family. I love the tough decisions it forces you to make. I love how it makes you feel like you’ve got everything under control then all of a sudden turns round and kicks you right in the fork. Some days it’s My Favourite Board Game.

  2. JFS says:

    So why is Rab wearing a wooly hat inside? Are the rumours about the British “summer” true, after all?

    • Emeraude says:

      He’s trying to hide he was playing Proteus in Penny Dreadful. He’s covering the scars.

    • Orija says:

      It’s a pseudo-hair simulator.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I think Rab is in Glasgow where the Sun is a thing of Myth and Legend; where the cessation of rainfall is cause for cars to remove their roofs and adventurous souls to cover their eyes with semi-opaque pieces of glass or plastic and clad their legs in fashionable half-trousers to let the howling wind rifle through their leg hair. Light-bulbs in Glasgow emit a gray pallor for though the firey radiation of that most combustible sky god is known by word of mouth: tales told and passed from generation to generation, no resident has experience to translate into the marvel of man made replication that so many other people take for granted, the dull fugue of an overcast sky is the only light this people has known.

      But he probably just likes the hat

    • Deathmaster says:

      One word: Balding.

  3. Rettich says:

    To me this was more like a “Best Thematic Games – Top 50”, than general boardgames top 50.
    So many essentials missing:

    Power Grid
    Castles of Burgundry
    Glory to Rome
    Terra Mystica (i know u mentioned that, but still)

    Just to name a few.

  4. Emeraude says:

    No Netrunner, no Diplomacy, no Once Upon a Time, no Res Publica (ok… that one has its issues, but I love it ! pffffffff).

    I’m disappointed.

    So many games I need to check though. Nice.

  5. SpacemanSpliff says:

    What, no Mousetrap?!?

  6. znomorph says:

    Saarlaender39 posted this in the 1-10 post, but I thought it might be good to have it here as well…

    Favorite Game of all Times: Cosmic Encounter
    01: Spartacus
    02: Space Hulk
    03: Talisman
    04: Mall of Horror + City of Horror
    05: Ascending Empires
    06: Chaos in the Old World
    07: Cyclades
    08: Mage Knight
    09: Magical Athlete
    10: Tales of the Arabian Night
    11: King of Tokyo
    12: Libertalia
    13: Lords of Waterdeep
    14: Dungeon Quest
    15: Descent
    16: Warrior Knights
    17: StarCraft: The Board Game
    18: Warhammer Quest
    19: Ghost Stories
    20: Magic: The Gathering
    21: Blood Bowl
    22: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
    23: Caverna: The Cave Farmers
    24: HeroScape
    25: Blood Bowl: Team Manager
    26: Age of Empires III
    27: Super Dungeon Explore
    28: Commands & Colors (The system as a whole)
    29: Survive – Escape from Atlantis
    30: Break the Safe
    31: Hour of Glory
    32: Fury of Dracula
    33: Pret-a-porter
    34: Warhammer Invasion
    35: Colosseum
    36: Shadow Hunters
    37: Risk Legacy
    38: Coup
    39: Formula D
    40: Claustrophobia
    41: ThunderRoad
    42: Rattus
    43: Dixit
    44: Trains
    45: Nexus Ops
    46: Kingsburg
    47: Ninjato
    48: Mission Red Planet
    49: The Duke
    50: Conquest of Planet Earth

  7. regault says:

    Am I the only one wondering which sick relative dying of cancer he played Talisman with? That’s the only thing that could possibly justify enough nostalgia to propel Fantasy Snakes and Ladders to #3 on the list.

    As it stands, everything from #4 to #50 are better games, and so are several games not on the list(Including Monopoly and Scrabble.) Talisman is a terrible game. I thought so when I was 12, I thought so now.

    • Bull0 says:

      Y tho

    • James Pursaill says:

      Got to disagree with you there amigo!

      As a game, if you are scrutinizing the mechanics, Talisman fails. It’s move and roll, there’s no player ‘grip’, it runs for too long and the endgame is lacking in majesty.

      However, as an experience, I think it’s unrivaled for the right situation. When you’ve got your drink of choice to hand and a group of friends who don’t necessarily play that many games, what other boardgame can you sit someone down in front of and say:
      ‘Just roll the dice. Pick a direction to move in. You’re about to have an adventure.’

      Anyone can pick Talisman up and play it , regardless of experience. It has enough expansions to give it endless variety. No adventure will be the same. It’s unfair, unpredictable, and hilarious. You can houserule most of the worst offending aspects away. When you want epic scale for minimum effort, I just don’t think you can beat a game of Talisman, provided you’ve got an easy-going, inebriated group of friends at the table.

  8. sirdavies says:

    I don’t play many board games but I appreciate his enthusiasm. I might check some of these out.

    • Derppy says:

      Go for Cosmic Encounter and Spartacus, you won’t regret it.

      I’m not a board game fanatic and play quite rarely, but I would absolutely rank those two at the top as well.

      They are pretty easy to approach, but still have a ton of tactical depth and the games never play out in the same way. Both encourage you to negotiate with your friends a lot and will have people begging for mercy or laughing like an evil maniac.

      They have enough random elements that the experienced player won’t totally dominate newcomers, but still always give you so many options that you won’t win or lose because of luck.

      Board games are at their best when players interact with each other a lot and have freedom to come up with their own strategy.

      And also have a lot of small tokens that are satisfying to stack and move around.

  9. doodler says:

    I can’t state this emphatically enough, Please try Eclipse. One of the best space strategy board games I have ever played. The games can take a little while when you are just starting out but once everyone knows the mechanics and systems it goes a lot faster, esp early turns before it gets dramatic.(like all games right?) It is fantastic! The base game’s races are a little generic and lack in variety if you play with a full table but for 4 person games it is fine. The expansion completely opens up the game and I find it to be basically essential now. The second expansion is a pass though, just extra figurines to add more players which you really don’t need.

    For me in my friends it has been an constant debate between this and spartacus for the past 8 months. Very sad not to see it on the list but it is newer…

  10. StashAugustine says:

    How has absolutely no one mentioned Twilight Struggle? In my opinion it’s the best-designed board game ever made, and it’s got a fairly strong theme as well. It’s very easy to learn, although it takes a while to sort through the full implications of the rules and all of the interesting things you can do, and it plays relatively fast- less than two hours for a game with one side never being out of the game for more than five minutes or so.