Designed by Peter A Seiler and published by Yub Nub Games, Top Tale straddles that thin line between storytelling party game and group therapy. The game is notionally for 2-10 players but it's probably at its best with 5-8 players.
The game comprises a hefty double deck of 140 cards, each of which sets out a topic, along with a comment to help jog players along. A card is drawn and players go round the table telling a story prompted by that topic. All the players then vote for the best story by, on a count of three, simultaneously pointing to the storyteller of their choice. That's pretty much all there is to the rules, which don't even dictate an end point for the game - offering the choice of either ending when any player has won a predetermined but unspecified number of cards or, as the rules ominously put it: 'when players get tired of learning about each other'. Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to allow a game to run until players complain that it has overstayed its welcome!
The topics on the cards offer a commendably wide choice of storytelling prompts. What's not clear to players, however, is whether they should be using them to share truths and secrets about themselves or whether they should be using the cards as springboards for a funny story. The game's strap line - 'Get To Know Your Fellow Human' - suggests the former but that veers more towards group therapy than party game. And if participants really are baring their souls then it would seem churlishly insensitive to vote on genuinely heartfelt accounts.
Our Board's Eye View plays tended therefore towards entertainment rather than empathy. We enjoyed Top Tale as a party game when players abandoned the confessional and instead used the topics on the cards to amuse. And if you go that route, there's a lot of fun to be had from this simple game - albeit that we'd strongly recommend just playing a set number of rounds (a dozen or so worked well for us). As with any storytelling game, it's very dependent on having the right group of players, prepared to throw themselves into it but who already know each other well enough to know whether or not they need to self impose barriers. We found nothing in the topic prompts to make Top Tale 'NSFW' (Not Safe For Work) but you could easily see how some participants might get carried away and tell tales to which others might take offence.
Top Tale is self-contained and playable out of the box without any extras but, by way of a bonus, Yub Nub have included an unlock code in each box that allows you to download and play an app that duplicates the content. It means you can take Top Tales with you anywhere as a travel game without needing to carry around the cards. That's a generous and very welcome addition but it did leave some of our team asking why they couldn't have dispensed with the cards altogether and just bought an app.