- Designer: Aurelien Picolet
- Publisher: Asmodee Germany
- Players: 4-9
- Age: 12+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with a copy purchased in Germany at Thalia.de
Top Ten was the typical Spiel des Jahres nominee/recommended game that I had never heard of prior to it being on the list of games from the jury. There tends to be one or two games like this every year, and if possible, I try to learn more about the game. There is currently no English version for this game; the reason for this is pretty simple; as for now, this is a German language only version with 135 cards laden with German language text. Lucky for me, the wonders of technology (namely Google Translate/Google Lens) make games like this fairly easy to play with online immediate translation. I saw this on a front sale table at a bookstore in Regensburg on a recent vacation, and my curiosity got the best of me, and it didn’t take me long to pick up a copy to try out.
Top Ten is a cooperative game for at least 4 players. The team works together over 5 rounds to try to put things in order; with the goal to be to survive through the final round without making too many mistakes. At the start of the game, a number of unicorn tokens equal to the number of players is set up on the table. For each mistake made, a unicorn is flipped over to reveal a steaming pile of poo. Yeah, it’s clear this is a German game.
Other than these tokens, the components are fairly simple. There is a deck of number cards (numbered from 1 to 10). There is also a deck of 135 double sided Theme cards, each of which has two different Theme options on it. There is also a neoprene mat on which you can store the cards and tokens on the table, but it is largely un-necessary.
To start the game, choose a starting player – and that player now draws a Theme card. He picks one of the 2 Themes on the side he is reading, and then reads it aloud to all players. The Theme is usually something on a spectrum, with keywords in Green (low intensity, e.g. 1) and Red (High intensity, e.g. 10) The Number deck is now shuffled, and each player gets one dealt facedown. All players look at their number and then start working on a response to the theme.
The starting player gets to make the first response; trying to give an answer whose intensity matches the number on the number card he was given. Remember that the number cards all remain secret at this time!
For instance, if the question was: “Name a hot sauce: from super mild to the hottest ever” – possible responses might be:
3: mittelscharf currywurst sauce
10: liquid death, scotch bonnet elixir.
After the captain has given his answer, then all the other players give theirs in turn. Once all players have done their thing, the starting player now has to try to order the responses from mildest to strongest (i.e. lowest to highest number). He points at a player, and that player’s number card is flipped up (and placed on the mat if you were using it). He then points to the next player whose card he believes to be next highest. If the new card is higher than the previous; this is a success and nothing happens. If the new card is lower than the previous, this is a failure and one of the unicorn tokens needs to be flipped over to the poo side. (It does not matter if the entire string of number cards is in order; you simply judge whether the newly flipped over card is higher than the previously revealed one). If all the tokens show poo; the group loses! After a round ends, the next player to the left becomes the start player, and the whole process repeats. If the group survives all 5 rounds and still has at least one unicorn token, the group wins!
If you get good at the basic game, you can move onto the advanced version where the starting player has to name the exact number on the cards before they are flipped over. Each wrong answer causes a unicorn conversion to poo.
My thoughts on the game
Top Ten is a game that is less about having the correct answers to the theme questions, but rather one that relies upon players being able to read into the responses/actions of their teammates. All of the cards that we’ve seen so far allow a wide range of responses; and the trick here is to come up with a response that accurately reflects the number you have been dealt.
As a round starts off, the Captain makes the first answer – and this sets the tone for the rest of the round. As answers are made, other players can try to intuit what numbers the other players have, and then give appropriate responses based on whether they think their number is closer to the green or red end of the spectrum.
Most of the cards simply require a verbal answer. Some may ask you to make a facial expression or perhaps utter a noise. Some made up examples could be:
- Name a hot sauce: from super mild to the hottest ever
- You are at a restaurant and just ate a hot sauce: make an expression from tasting a super mild sauce to the hottest ever
- You are eating some chicken wings covered in a hot sauce from super mild to the hottest ever; Make the sound when you first taste the chicken wing
As you can see, the same base answer stem could end up with different responses based on what the card asks you to do.
The groups I played with found the base rules to be reasonable. So far, I have won all the basic games that I’ve played in, with at least 2 tokens left over each time. My one attempt with the advanced rules was way tougher, with our group not even escaping the third round – it is quite hard to pick the exact number on the card, especially for numbers in the middle of the range.
I got a copy of this game, despite the language issues, because I wanted to see why the SdJ jury liked it. Also, the game had gotten some pretty great reviews by some of my BGG Admin friends as well as my brother. As I mentioned earlier, the language barrier was pretty low with the use of Google Translate, and while the translations weren’t 100% great, we usually just read the translation aloud as a group and then had the whole group agree on the meaning. In that way, it really didn’t matter whether or not we had an accurate translation; it only mattered that our group were all answering the same question! If we couldn’t agree on a translation, we simply skipped the card and moved onto a different one.
I’ve played the game a number of times, with different groups, and for me – the game has been OK at best. Maybe it’s because I’m not a spontaneous sort of person. Or I don’t like to mime things. Or I can’t stand the pressure of having to act out my answers on short notice. Or I just am not the sort of person who likes to bark like a dog or make slurping sounds as I enjoy imaginary hot or cold soup. For whatever reason, my response to the game has been lackluster. I just don’t see the fun in it. The feeling seems to be shared with most of the other people I’ve played with. Interestingly, in retrospect, the game is quite similar to Wavelength, though for some reason, the game just doesn’t resonate with me in the same way that Wavelength does. Perhaps it is because I’m called on to participate every round in Top Ten?
That being said, Top Ten got some pretty great reviews from my friends (and this is, in part, why I wanted to try the game!) – so maybe it’s just me – and my choice of local friends. I don’t deny that others have had a great time with Top Ten, and I can see why the SdJ jury thought this would be a great choice for the general German public – but this game is clearly not for me. It’s fine, I’ll be happy over in this corner playing my cube pushers while some other group laughs their way through this one.
Don’t let the German language in the box serve as a barrier. As long as at least one person has a working smartphone, this game is easily playable.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson (1 play): I’d much rather be playing Just One or Codenames… where the opportunities for clever play make them feel more like a game and less like an activity that allows the extroverts to perform and the introverts to dread seeing it hit the table again. Like Dale, I’m the first to acknowledge that others may well enjoy this… but I’m not among that number.
Jeff Allers (multiple plays): I have enjoyed playing this with non-gamer friends and family during vacations this summer, and I actually prefer it to Wavelength and On A Scale of 1 to T-Rex, both of which I own and are based on the same concept. This one is the easiest to teach people who don’t play many games, and we had quite a few laughs as well as requests to play again on subsequent nights. I actually like the fact that it encourages everyone to participate, and the introverts in our group did not have a problem with that (and they were not drowned out by more dominant players, since each player gets a turn). We even let the Captain come up with their own categories, which was also quite fun (in this way, you can try playing the game before buying it). My family still prefers Just One as their party game of choice, however, so although they enjoyed Top Ten, it may be a game I have to suggest, rather than one they ask me for the next time we have visitors.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Steph H
- I like it. Jeff Allers
- Neutral. John P
- Not for me… Dale, Mark Jackson