Top Ten

caveatSometimes it feels as though every board gamer on the internet, on websites, podcasts and YouTube channels, has published a list of their top ten favourite board games. Despite this, the reading / listening / viewing figures for these lists are usually very high – it seems readers and viewers have an insatiable desire for top tens.

This does not really surprise me; I understand why people like them, because when I was first getting into the hobby myself, I voraciously consumed dozens of “Top Ten” pages/podcasts/videos. There were so many games out there, it was impossible for me to look at all of them, and I just wanted someone to tell me which were the ones that I should pay particular attention to.  I still do enjoy looking at other people’s top tens occasionally, now; I like to see if other people share my opinions, and I like to see if there is anything I have missed.

So, naturally, I decided it would be a fun idea to end this book with my own top ten.

It seemed like a fun idea, that is, until I actually tried to do it. I soon realized however, how difficult it is choose a favourite between, for example, a great party game, and a great Eurogame.

Also, I realized that my own top ten list would be influenced by how often I have played certain games. There are games that am very enthusiastic about playing because I have only played them a few times, so I might put them in my top ten favourites, at the expense of games that I have had for years, and played over and over, perhaps too much. But that would not be fair on my old games.

What I am going to give you, then, is not a list of my own personal favourites, but a list of my ten top recommendations, and I am going to split them by game genre. I have tried to choose the games that I think are most fun to play, look great, are popular, and are readily available to purchase. Most of them, of course, would actually appear on my list of favourites too; I have not included any games that I do not personally enjoy (so, yes, there are a one or two very famous games missing). Most of the games in the top tens have been mentioned earlier in this book already, but there is plenty more information available for all of them online or on YouTube. Please do look them up.



If you are new to the hobby, I suggest that you start with one of these fine games.

  1. Ticket to Ride
  2. Takenoko
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Dixit
  5. Ethnos
  6. Splendor
  7. Kingdom Builder
  8. Barenpark
  9. The River
  10. Smallworld



Beautiful to look at, relaxed gameplay, fun puzzles to solve … who doesn’t love a Eurogame? Well, lots of people don’t, but they should.

  1. Scythe
  2. Village
  3. Orléans
  4. Terraforming Mars
  5. Istanbul
  6. Concordia
  7. Merlin
  8. Grand Austria Hotel
  9. Castles of Burgundy
  10. Fresco

I am going to mention one other game here – my favourite game of all time. Tragically, it is out of print in the UK at the moment, which is why I have not included it in the top ten, but I am hoping when my book becomes an international bestseller, this mention here will be enough to start a campaign to bring it back – it is Shakespeare, by Ystari Games. What a lovely game!



Here’s a subcategory of Eurogames that is so popular I have given it its own top ten.

  1. Viticulture
  2. Lowlands
  3. Stone Age
  4. Keyflower
  5. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
  6. Lords of Waterdeep
  7. Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
  8. Nusfjord
  9. Dinosaur Island
  10. Troyes




If you are new to board gaming, perhaps you should not start with these. However, for when you feel you are ready, I have selected a list of ten games that, although challenging, are thematic, attractive to look at, and well-known enough that there are YouTube videos that will help you learn them.

  1. Trajan
  2. Lisboa
  3. Le Havre
  4. Vinhos
  5. Food Chain Magnate
  6. Gaia Project
  7. 1846: The Race for the Midwest
  8. Great Western Trail
  9. Mombasa
  10. Brass: Birmingham



Some of these can be played in one session, some might take you years. They all, however, have you sitting down with your friends, telling a story together.

  1. Dungeons and Dragons
  2. Dread
  3. Fiasco
  4. Call of Cthulhu
  5. Tales From The Loop
  6. Monsterhearts
  7. Vampire: The Masquerade
  8. Blades in the Dark
  9. 7th Sea
  10. Timewatch



These great strategy games are the descendants of the old hex and counter games from the 1970s.

  1. Pendragon – The Fall of Roman Britain
  2. No Retreat (series)
  3. Combat Commander (series)
  4. Washington’s War
  5. 878: Vikings
  6. 1775: Rebellion
  7. Commands & Colors (series)
  8. Lincoln
  9. Ardennes ’44
  10. Hammer of the Scots



These are the games where you buy (and usually paint) your own miniatures, and recreate a battle, or skirmish, in a realistic setting that you have probably made yourself, too.

  1. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
  2. Lion Rampant
  3. Flames of War
  4. Wings of Glory
  5. Saga
  6. Bolt Action
  7. Malifaux
  8. Star Wars: X-Wing / Armada
  9. Infinity

I have not included Memoir ’44 on this list because I don’t want to make the serious wargamers angry.  There is no painting or crafting involved, but playing Memoir ’44 will give you an idea as to whether or not you are going to enjoy miniatures wargaming.



My rule of thumb is this: if I play better after a couple of drinks, then it’s a party game.

  1. Decrypto
  2. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  3. Sheriff of Nottingham
  4. Codenames
  5. Spyfall
  6. Skull
  7. Cockroach Poker
  8. Telestrations
  9. Dobble
  10. Dixit



Some multi-player games (e.g. Carcassonne, Abyss, Dominion) work very well with two players, but the games below are ones which are primarily for two players only.

  1. Agricola – All Creatures Big and Small
  2. 7 Wonders Duel
  3. Twilight Struggle
  4. Memoir ‘44
  5. Star Wars: Rebellion
  6. War of the Ring
  7. Hanamikoji
  8. Targi
  9. Jaipur
  10. Sun Tzu



When I say “abstract” I mean that there is no theme, or story, or simulation involved – it is just a pure battle of minds. I know that some of these games do technically have themes, but I have taken the decision that if, when I play it, I feel the same as I do whenever I play chess, draughts, or reversi, then it is going on the list.

  1. Hive
  2. Azul *
  3. Patchwork
  4. Tash Kalar *
  5. GIPF / YINSH / etc
  6. Santorini *
  7. Kahuna
  8. Quirkle
  9. The Duke
  10. Onitama

* All of the games on this list are for two players only, except for Azul, Santorini and Tash Kalar which play with 2 to 4 players.



These are the games where you build your decks as you go along in the game, they are not collectable card games.

  1. Dominion
  2. Star Realms
  3. Paperback
  4. Trains
  5. Clank!
  6. Arctic Scavengers
  7. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
  8. Shadowrun: Crossfire
  9. Valley of the Kings
  10. Thunderstone Quest



If you don’t feel like crushing your opponents, try a game where you are all on the same side, instead.

  1. Dead of Winter *
  2. Pandemic
  3. Shadows Over Camelot *
  4. Forbidden Island / Desert / Sky
  5. Spirit Island
  6. Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  7. Arkham Horror: The Card Game
  8. Mechs vs Minions
  9. Mysterium
  10. Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr

* These games have the option of playing with a traitor role.



These are games that are played over several sessions, with a story that develops over time. You should probably only choose a game from this list if you have no difficulty getting your gaming group together regularly.

  1. Gloomhaven
  2. Pandemic Legacy
  3. Mice and Mystics
  4. Scythe: The Rise of Fenris (expansion)
  5. Charterstone
  6. Gen7
  7. Discover: Lands Unknown
  8. Betrayal Legacy
  9. Werewolf Legacy
  10. Kingdom Death: Monster

I would like to give a special mention to The 7th Continent, which is an extremely popular campaign game, but was only ever sold through Kickstarter, and is now unavailable.



Here are ten more great games, one that do not quite fit into into any of the other categories mentioned previously.

  1. Blood Rage
  2. Western Legends
  3. Cosmic Encounter
  4. Detective: A Modern Crime Story
  5. The Mind
  6. Exit
  7. Fury of Dracula
  8. Flick ’em up
  9. Root
  10. Seven Wonders