What are the 10 greatest board games of all time? A simple question, but not an easy one to answer. While list-making is ubiquitous in the internet age, I find there’s some extra gravitas attached when you include the word “greatest” in your query. A couple of months ago I started soliciting volunteers to answer that question for this project, modeled after film’s Sight and Sound Poll. Now, the results are in.
I narrowed down contributors to game designers and game critics, mirroring the Sight and Sound poll. A number of popular aggregations exist already, and I wanted the Card and Dice Poll to have a different feel. I posted about it here and spread the word on social media. 29 people signed up to the mailing list and 18 ultimately submitted lists. I have to admit I hoped there would be a bigger response (more data!) Perhaps the discussions from this year’s results will inspire more participation in the future. I’ll have a sign up area at the bottom for those who would like to be on the list for next year.
Here is the prompt I emailed to everybody:
“The fundamental question is very simple: what are the 10 greatest board games of all time? You may define what “greatest” means to you however you like. It could be what you consider to be the most historically significant games, the 10 you enjoy playing the most, or anything else. You do not have to rank the games. There’s space in the poll to add additional comments and thoughts if you’d like to do that.
This is meant to be about the broad category of “board games”, which, of course, isn’t limited to games with boards. However, this is not meant to be about role-playing games. If there’s a game that you think straddles the line between “board game” and “role playing game” and you’re not sure in which category to place it, go ahead and err on the side of including it in your list.”
The Top 10
Conveniently, there were exactly 10 games that were mentioned by either 3 or 4 of the participants.
Go (4 votes) (-2200)
Scythe (4 votes) (2016; Jamey Stegmaier)
Terraforming Mars (4 votes) (2016; Jacob Fryxelius)
Android: Netrunner (3 votes) (2012; Richard Garfield, Lucas Litzsinger)
Carcassonne (3 votes) (2000; Klaus-Jurgen Wrede)
Chess (3 votes) (1475)
Dominion (3 votes) (2008; Donald X. Vaccarino)
Everdell (3 votes) (2018; James A. Wilson)
Gloomhaven (3 votes) (2017; Isaac Childress)
Magic: The Gathering (3 votes) (1993; Richard Garfield)
The Individual Lists
Click on the names to see what people chose and why!
Full Results Table
How To Think About This Information
I make no claims that this is a definitive list of the greatest games of all time. No list can be definitive. But I do think this project has a couple of advantages that could generate some interesting discussion. First, it’s a collection of individual lists that are also published separately. I hope you peruse everyone’s selections and see what went into the choices they made. I absolutely love how diverse and personal each one is.
Second, this was limited to designers and critics. Knowing that, did it change how they approached the question? Can you see the influence of the games the designers listed in their own designs? Do you have any additional insight into how the critics see games?
I encourage you all to consider the question yourself: what are the greatest board games of all time? Is there a best way to approach the question? How much should historical significance matter? Should newer games be discounted because they haven’t been subjected to the “test of time”? Or are we currently seeing the best that we’ve ever seen in game design?
Here are some questions I’m having fun asking myself right now: What’s my personal “10 greatest” list? What designers are underrepresented? What game genres are over/underrepresented. What inclusions or exclusions are most surprising? What’s my favorite individual list? What’s the best list of 10 games I can come up with that doesn’t include any of the games mentioned on anyone’s list?
Sign Up For Next Year
If you’re a critic or game designer and you’d like to participate in next year’s Card and Dice Poll, fill out the form below to get added to the list.
The criteria: A critic is someone who has reviewed board games regularly for at least one year. A designer is someone who has designed at least two published board games OR one game in the BGG top 2000. If you’re not sure if you meet the criteria or not, err on the side of inclusion.