Topic of the Week: Five over 500

This is kind of tangential to a future topic, but I wanted to do it anyway. I’ve said before, lots of our collections and top 10 lists have a lot of overlap, or at least are just retreading items we know even if we rate them differently. Where things get interesting is in the down catalog.

So give us your top 5, but only games ranked over 500 on BGG.

I imagine Chudyk will pop up a lot (though Innovation is in the 300’s), so you can put any Chudyk as a freebie footnote. Also any second or big box editions that have an alternate version better than 500 should be footnoted rather than listed.

1 Like

I used to make this easier. Turns out I only have 8 games outside the top 500, and I’ve only played 6 of them, so I might as well list 'em all.

  1. Whitehall Mystery (655)
  2. Rear Window (1992)
  3. Lords of Vegas (514)
  4. Letterpress (6647)
  5. Inhuman Conditions (3134)
  6. Men At Work (1110)

I’m surprised that Whitehall Mystery is so low considering it’s well-rated and generally considered better than Letters from Whitechapel (which is inexplicably ranked 367). Sure, the vibe is different (a rapid chase vs a net slowly closing in) but it’s still mostly the same game but with far less setup.

I suspect Rear Window’s low-ranked because it’s a Funko game that likely had (and will only get) one print run. It’s essentially Mysterium but it makes sense thematically and isn’t entirely a what-am-I-thinking game. The main issue is that there’s only 70 perfectly ok cards and you see most of them in a single playthrough. Whereas Mysterium has 80 beautiful cards and you see less than half (and that’s before you consider the Mysterium/Dixit expansion cards).

Lords of Vegas is Lords of Vegas. It’s a family-friendly, dice-heavy, slightly mean property game. It’s not going to be high up on BGG given your typical BGG-er.

I think Letterpress is great, but it’s a word game and I’m guessing it didn’t sell well.

Inhuman Conditions is a weird one. Tom did a positive review that got 144k views, but it has only 752 ratings. Maybe a 2 player RPG that lasts 5 minutes is too niche to sell.

And then there’s Men at Work, which is a very cute stacking game.


Zoo Vadis has no right being 1602,
No Thanks squeaks in at 502
Shikoku: 1889 at 911!
Botswana at 1863
MarraCash at 2858

6Nimmt is at 1444 being the 25th anniversay edition, but even then the OG is only 644!

Plenty of my favourites are below 500 rank


Everything I rate 9 or 10 and is below 500
Game My Rating BBG Rank
Botswana 10 1863
Zoo Vadis 10 1602
6 nimmt! 25 Jahre 10 1444
Dual Gauge 9 5964
Gang of Dice 9 5716
Town 66 9 5326
Tinderblox 9 3265
Tinderblox 9 3265
MarraCash 9 2858
Iberian Gauge 9 1777
Ride the Rails 9 1678
Get on Board: New York & London 9 1615
Qwinto 9 1348
Shikoku 1889 9 911
Red7 9 871
Sushi Go! 9 571
High Society 9 545
Lords of Vegas 9 513
No Thanks! 9 502

Wow, there are some classics over 500 and some real trash just under it, another example of how my tastes are very much not aligned with BGG rankings!

Outside the top 500, the ones I own and like between 500-1000 are:

Railroad Ink
High Society
Chronicles of Crime 1400
(not played it yet but from what I’ve seen it’s good enough to replace several older games in the genre)

And I don’t own but have heard very good things about:

Ready Set Bet (basically top of my wishlist)
Detective: City of Angels and
The Bloody Inn.


Blue Lagoon (852)
Mille Fiori (858)
Ohanami (930)
Miyabi (1517)
Cursed Court (3276)

Depending on the day I might argue that Blue Lagoon is the best gateway board game in existence.
Mille Fiori is probably my most played game of the last couple years. Plays great with almost every group and looks great on the table.
Ohanami would likely make my top 10 filler games
Miyabi is an incredible underrated polyomino game from Kiesling
Cursed Court A really fun bluffing game with great components that hits the table a lot at our house


I didn’t manage to sort the data in any way that made this easy, so the list may be inaccurate.

  1. Roads & Boats (603)
  2. Stationfall (1291)
  3. Horseless Carriage (1515)
  4. Napoleon’s Triumph (925)
  5. Tash Kalar (745)

Chudyk’s games as “footnotes”, ofc.

A lot of very good games outside the 500, so I didn’t have to look too hard. Just my favourite games list, checked to weed out the ones that crept in under 500.

Pictomania as a party game footnote, since Acacia did so.


OK, that was harder than planned. Even after separating out party games I had 24 games to consider. Here’s where we ended up (rankings may be a touch outdated as they are from a spreadsheet):

  • Coup (625) - Always blown away by the perfect interplay of the cards here. I love the shifting meta as telling-the-truth or lying-like-a-bastard trade off as the dominant strategy and the periodic adrenaline rushes of the big moments.

  • Formosa Tea (2979) - This may get a pity boost. But I do think it’s a hand-down best in class Euro like Concordia and Co. The engine toes that line between tense and satisfying. The player interaction is pervasive but subtle and often comes down to who and when you help rather than attacking each other.

  • New Frontiers (798) - This game has grown on me hugely during the last 12 months. Maybe this isn’t fair as it is built on RFTG and Puerto Rico, both in the top 100? While the building blocks are the same the puzzle feels distinct.

  • Oceans (514) - Fitting for a good game, it’s just over 500. I love how different games feel and how the theorycrafting of the first phase yields to engine wrestling in the second phase and either tremendous success or colossal failure.

  • Bruxelles 1897 (1687) - Maybe not fair as it builds on Bruxelles 1893, which is in the 400’s. This Euro goes toe to toe with Lorenzo for me as a replayable Euro with loads of stepping on toes, press your luck, and frustratingly shared benefits. I only have 1897 but am very close to getting 1893 whenever I start buying games again.

Other candidates I didn't pick:

Babylonia, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, Silver, Bohnanza, Empyreal, First Rat, Fox in the Forest, Habitats, Lords of Vegas, Neom, Polis, Pollen, Risk 2210 (ftw, I need to play this again), Settlers of Catan, Shikoku 1889, The Wolves (still in the middle of my first play but quite impressed), Thurn & Taxis, Trick of the Rails

I had to break out party games as a separate thing:
Wits & Wagers, Spyfall, Pictomania, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Incan Gold, Anomia.

I choose those intentionally as I think they all have a spark of genius, but for engineering social interactions rather than competitive or intellectual interactions. A different kind of genius.

Lastly I've got a list of aspirational games that I haven't played but, having researched and read the manual, I have high hopes that they could compete for this list.
  • Zoo Vadis (who are we kidding, this will be top 500 any month)
  • War of the Ring: The Card Game
  • Condottiere (how have I not gotten this to the table?)
  • Chicago Express
  • Carson City
  • Barracks Emperors
  • Argent: The Consortium (miniature Trickerion)
  • Brian Boru

Oh, and Mottainai. Poor 1,131 Mottainai. Love it.


I sorted out a bunch of games for being the same as one that is surely rated higher.

So here‘s bunch of excellent ones in the lower ranks that really should be much higher but for some reason are not.

  • Tash Kalar—I can‘t quite believe how low that one ranks. It‘s awesome and on BGA, too! It‘s a bit older and Vlaada hasn‘t been active in a while so I guess it‘s fallen off people‘s radar,
  • Leaving Earth—it is just not available, and never has been. But this one sings.
  • Hardback—how come my favorite small deckbuilding word game is ranked so low? I guess this combo is just not that popular.
  • Oranienburger Kanal—one of my favorite Uwe‘s. I really need to play this one again. I blame availability and there being too many similar Uwe games.
  • Menara—the best cooperative dexterity I have ever played (okay so it is the only coop dexterity game I have played)

And a bunch of honorable mentions: Legacy of Yu (solo only), Shipwreck Arcana (availability issues), Orichalkum, Faiyum (too weird?), Red Rising, Wir sind das Volk, Factory Funner, Pax Transhumanity, Petrichor, Polynesia, Miyabi, Stationfall, Railroad Ink

Too new to be high up:

  • Daybreak—just wrote about it. This one will surely rise.

Some games get overlooked, but I think a lot of games that we think should be higher rated have availability issues. Either they have never been available widely or they are older and hard to find.

Chudyk games are one example. I played Red7 at Essen once. Didn’t want to buy it then and for years didn’t see another copy. I got Mottainai Mini through some super obscure channel and traded for OOP Innovation…

Then there are games like Miyabi which was published by Haba. People expect Haba to make children’s toys not cool polyominoes games. So it gets overlooked.

Just a few of my theories why some games are lower than we expect them to be.

1 Like

Top-ranked games outside the top 500 that I own: Railroad Ink, Ingenious, Baseball Highlights 2045. I’m rather surprised Coup isn’t top 500. And Piepmatz! A “worse” game than Guillotine? Really not. Renegade I like quite a bit, but it’s primarily solo and went out of print when Victory Point Games fell over.


A lot of my collection is over Rank 500. And since the pool of games is so large, a lot of these 500-1000 are relatively well-known. It’s when you go beyond 1000 that makes something unknown. No one knows Bridges of Shangri-La, for example.

From my personal top 10 I have:

  • 764 - The Estates - this game seriously killed off a lot of Knizia auction games I used to have. Not even Medici is safe.
  • 572 - Chicago Express - DA KWEEN OF THE CUBE RAILS
  • 1765 - The Bridges of Shangri-La - I’ve heard people kinda dismiss this as “budget T&E”, but I’m gonna say that this game is a lot better than T&E
  • 1528 - Stephenson’s Rocket - of course. The best Knizia game ever
  • 550 - Pax Renaissance - This one crawled all the way to the top. The player interaction is high. The depth which involves long-term decision making and tactical adjustments makes this so compelling. Then, you coupled in the theme of using non=player elements as your pawns in your own game of chess.
a short list of other games I highly rated - both owned and unowned. Not complete. A lot are missing and I won't list them all
  • The King is Dead - 1810 - another banger, and it inspired Werhle to design Pax Pamir
  • Container - 924 - one of the deepest games I’ve played yet the rules are so simple
  • MarraCash - 2858 - one of the best old school German games I’ve played. Very opaque evaluations!!
  • Goodcritters - 2281 - another banger of a negotiation game
  • Power and Weakness - 6570 - best game that the designer of Hansa Toot have made
  • An Infamous Traffic - 3008 - I think this is my personal fave from him. Rather simple ruleset for a Werhle title and yet, it’s full of player entanglement
  • Ride the Rails - 1678 - another Capstone train game banger
  • Trick of the Rails - 3482 - trick taking AND trains!?!?!?
  • The Old Prince - 5223 - I only play this one online and I would rather play this than 1830
  • Zoo Vadis - 1602 - assuming it’s new and not a lot of people played this even after the SUSD review. One of the best negotiation games ever. I don’t pick up Bohnanza nowadays…
  • Intrigue - 2909 - still good enough not to be dislodged by ZV. Condensed alliance-negotiation games like Game of Thrones and TI4 into a small filler game, and it results with decisions being so dense and hard hitting, rather than the diluted shit you get from the former titles.

Okay, this sounds fun.

I think my top five, in no particular order, would be:

Lords of Vegas - I am shocked this is not in the top 500. This game really should have the mass market success of things like Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Wingspan. It’s easy to explain and play, you can be easygoing or cutthroat, and it has that thrill of the dice rolling both for gambling at an opponent’s casino, or when reorganizing trying to improve your control or take over a rival casino. You get some great highs when that longshot roll goes in a player’s favor, that even their opponents can’t help but cheer. I can only imagine the low rank is due to issues with Lone Shark Games, as there are some pretty interesting threads about their customer service.

Sheriff of Nottingham - I feel like this had to have been within the top 500 at some point, as it was a really hot item for a bit. Another one that just generates high points as players sneak a bunch of contraband past the sheriff, or conversely, the sheriff catches a bunch. Always good for some laughs.

Vampire the Masquerade: Vendetta - This game is horribly imbalanced once all players are familiar with the various clans, meaning it is almost impossible for some of them to win given some matchups…but I love it anyway! The bluffing involved as you play cards face down, making players try to figure out if you are playing something they have seen before or the new card you got that round is always entertaining to me. The agony of waiting for that powerful card for your clan to come up, only to have it be the one card in your deck you do not see the whole game. The clever combos that you can make are fantastic. The main downside is since it is just three rounds, you don’t get a lot of time to play with them. Also that in order to win, you cannot put all your cards at one location. You really need to place in two locations to make enough points to win.

Betrayal at House on the Hill - Played the first edition of this at a friend’s house once and I was immediately hooked. The large number of possible haunts, the wide array of event and item cards, the crazy way the house builds up, all combine to form this (potentially) incredible experience. Yes, you get duds sometimes, and somehow the blob scenario pops up all time time to the point we started skipping it, but when it hits, it is magic! I just wish they had kept the Underground Lake as an Upper Floor tile!

Love Letter: Batman - I have not played every version of Love Letter, but from what I have read, this is considered one of the best. Gaining a point by correctly guessing an opponent’s card with Batman always feels good, and the little tidbit how you don’t get a point if you guess Robin, since he is a good guy, is just funny. Super portable, quick to play, even if just killing some time waiting for something else. Heck, four of us played this while standing in line for a SHUX event! I can’t not include it!

Honorable Mentions:
Coup - has to be one of the best bluffing games, and it’s always hilarious how everyone starts out claiming they have a Duke for the extra money. :smiley:

Tokaido - just a very chill game, perfect for unwinding after a hectic day. Love the art, as well.

Royal Visit - really enjoy the tug of war between both the king and his retinue, and the crown token. Brilliant little game, and the new edition is gorgeous.

Zoo Vadis - with more plays, this might go into the top 5, but can’t base that on just one play.

V-Sabotage - really enjoyed the PbFs I played on here, to the point I backed the last KS for it. Only played it once since then, and really need to remedy that.

A War of Whispers - similar to ZV, only had one play, but it was fantastic.

Maquis - great solo game, even if you can lose on the first turn with some bad luck.

The Bloody Inn - I really enjoy this game. It can be a bit of a brain burner figuring out what to do, whether build an annex for the special ability or to murder a guest, as you need the money to win, but still making sure you dodge the police. Plus, which cards do you use to pay for your action? You really want to build the annex for the one card, but can’t afford it yet, but you could also really use the card to hire some more accomplices. Lots of fun decisions.

Mystery of the Abbey - I don’t quite know why I enjoy this improved version of Clue as much as I do, but I would never turn down a game of it. I think it is the clever questions you have to come up with in order to get the most info without giving it to the whole table. It almost always ends in a final turn where everyone is racing to get to the room to make the accusation, but if you’ve been playing well, you have made some good guesses about the traits of the murderer throughout the game and can win even if you aren’t the one who names them. Always enjoy this.

Escape the Curse of the Temple - Frantic dice rolling at its finest. Short, simple, fun.

And how can I not sneak Unmatched in here? Only two boxes are in the top 500, meaning the average of them all is probably outside of it, so I am adding it as a technicality. Goes in the top 5, easy.


Deus, only just outside the top 500 (but still should be higher))
Dogs of War at 816, I’m assuming it’s so low because it’s not easily available, which is a real shame
The Key: Sabotage at Llucky Llama Land at 5136
Big Top at 5700, a great auction game
Scharfe Schoten at 5490, a great trick taking game

And I have to mention two more trick taking games from Taiki Shinzawa - Inflation! and Charms. He’s also the designer of Big Top. I’ve only just received those two, but they go back a few years (Charms is 2014, Inflation is 2019).


I used the stack sorting filter on to sort by BGG ranking + my rating, which gives me:

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition (755)
Three Sisters (762)
Potion Explosion (530)
Through the Desert (599)
6 Nimmt (643)


Looking at my collection by BGG rankings today (13th February 2024), I would list the following outside the top 500:

1st: Statis Pro Football (ranked 6565)
Still one of my favourite solo and duo games with the right player and enough time, plus of course into the NFL theme (and vintage, given that I have the cards for the 1983 and 1985 seasons).

2nd: Maquis (ranked 822)
My favourite solo game for its theme, mechanics and play time.

3rd: A Touch of Evil (ranked 1292)
My favourite RPG-in-a-box and story-telling title, just pipping my number 4 due to its shorter setup and teardown time.

4th: Fortune and Glory (ranked 1202)
Another favourite RPG-in-a-box: I prefer the theme to AToE (above) but its more difficult to get to the table.

5th: Eleven: Football Manager Board Game (ranked 1938)
The match mechanics can be a bit fiddly but I love the look and theme, and much quicker and easier than slogging through PC football management sims.

Honorable mentions go to Scotland Yard (1524, and its Sherlock Holmes Edition at 10138), Talisman 3rd Edition (4152, with 4th edition coming in at 1847), and my Kalah (4096)/Oware (6181) set. I didn’t include The Fury of Dracula 1st Edition as, while it is ranked at 2913, the latest 4th edition comes in at 318. Also excluded were titles I own but have not played yet, so quite possibly Carnival Zombie: 2nd Edition (3207) and/or New Frontiers (803) would get into this personal top five within a few weeks.


Constraining it to games that I have played in person with a physical copy, I think my top five would look like this:

  • Railroad Ink. I have Lush Green, which is at 753, but Deep Blue is the highest at 543. I always have a great time with this game and the only time I feel a turn isn’t full of knotty decisions is the last one, and then only if things have gone very well.
  • Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game. Ranked 780. If this hadn’t come out just before FFG lost the GW licence, and therefore received the inevitable expansions, I’ve no doubt this would be rated higher. Co-operative games are my thing, and this one required plenty of player interaction to figure how to deal with the high difficulty. Also good solo.
  • Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game. Ranked 757. Nice little game that doesn’t take up much space and I enjoyed solo and multiplayer. Having played quite a bit of Space Hulk, it managed to capture the theme of the enclosed space and Genestealers being terrifyingly deadly if you let them get anywhere near you.
  • Evolution. Ranked 638. I’ve not played this often, so I don’t know if it held up to multiple plays, but I liked the variety of options it gave for what seemed like they would be viable ways to win. I haven’t played Oceans, but would happily do so given the chance.
  • Dark Moon. Ranked 1392. In my opinion sufficiently different to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, despite what BGG might say, I liked the replacement of the tiny cards for skill challenges with a dice pool. I do recall that it seemed harder to mess with people once you revealed as infected than being a Cylon in BSG, and it wasn’t thematically as strong.
Honorable Mentions
  • Star Trek: Ascendancy. Ranked 624. I really enjoyed the PbF games that RogerBW ran here, but I’ve never played it in person.
  • Pictomania. Ranked 941. I’ve never played it, but I like Pictionary and I’ve never found a Vlaada Chvátil game I didn’t like. Tash-Kalar could probably go here too.
  • A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game. Ranked 1292. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve almost bought this game, but I never quite pulled the trigger on it.
  • Talisman (3rd edition). Ranked 4152. In hindsight, I don’t think this a particularly good game, but I would be lying if I said that pre-teen/early teen me didn’t get a lot of entertainment out of playing this game with my brother.

One of many drivers. There’s also the random waves of hype, which are entirely unpredictable. Lowlands got rave reviews from SUSD and NPI, was available, and just no one got it. Flamme Rouge and Heat both got rave reviews but one is top 100 and one isn’t. Who knows?

The one I like to point to, though, is the “where does the game hit.” To become really popular, there’s that essen test where I have to love you before the first game ends. Games that pass this test do well. They also tend to play out after 5-10 games. Which kind of works, as most people play their games 0-5 times.

If you’re a game that wants sustained quality, to support 50-300 games, players are going to have to fall in love with it more slowly. Fewer people are going to see the 10/10 game there, then. Older games I think got more time and patience, different zeitgeist and fewer new games coming out 10 years ago. All to say, inefficiently, I think these titles we are listing are often games that grow on you rather than jump in your face, and are often better overall, but get that perfect score from fewer people.


I kind of disagree with the point about longevity and accessibility being mutually exclusive as a general rule. Without getting into my own particular tastes, I would like to point to games like TTR and Pandemic. That said, I am sure there is something to your theory that easy-to-grok games tend to become boring faster.

I agree that in the age of a deluge of new games all the time even when it is not Essen-month (otherwise known as October), people–and I quote my partner–“don’t want to waste a 2nd game on one they didn’t enjoy the first time around.” And even I who play a lot more games than him have to decide rather quickly how much time I want to give a game that didn’t convince me straight away–too many good games in my collection want to be played more.

But maybe there’s a difference between enjoying a game right from the start and grokking it. Because while I still can’t claim to have understood the full depth of Spirit Island, Terraforming Mars, Ark Nova or Terra Mystica, I knew about halfway through the teach of these games that I would love playing them.

I think BGG ratings are hugely influenced by so many other factors like marketing, hype, art, theme, publisher, timing, availability and uhm the “Algorithm” or whatever BGG does to the ratings. These all play a huge role in how well a game does (some of these only BGG). If you accidentally make a game about bees in the year that bees are popular… timing is on your side by sheer luck. If you more or less on purpose publish your game at the opposite end of the year from Essen-month well that’s your own fault. If you want to make a game that tempts people to use excel as a helper, well that’s so niche…


Frankly, the gameplay is SO different between Fury of Dracula 1st and 4th editions, that the only thing they share is hidden movement as a mechanic and overall theme. You can include it.


I think that’s a holdover from when it was a print ‘n’ play called BSG Express, but even then it was mechanically quite different.

1 Like