Friday, February 28, 2014

Board Games that Suck and Some that Don't by Luke McKinney

Suggest playing a board game and someone will say, "More like BORED game!" and it's still illegal to kill them. That's how low board games have fallen: Even punners feel safe taking the piss.
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When a simple pun-ishment could cruci-fix their sense of humor.
Board games now offer more amazing locations and adventures in a box than the TARDIS, but many people still rank them lower on their entertainment options list than murder-suicide, because they've been trained to hate them by the six worst board games in history.

#6. Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is the original sin of board games, the first mistake that curses innocents with the knowledge that things suck. It takes the infinite imagination engines that are children and makes them to do the same thing over and over until they're done or done even trying. The last person to destroy fantasy worlds so brutally was Sauron.
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"Now I hate people, taking part, and numbers. Great life training, Dad!"
Snakes and Ladders isn't a game; it's a simple test of how long simple people will be pointless. And because it's possible to "win," the answer is "a depressingly long time." This desire to achieve victory without any contribution or intelligence makes it the board game equivalent of reality TV.
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At least if they used real snakes and ladders they'd filter the gene pool.
Games are important. Even tiger cubs play games, because they help develop abilities for real life. Snakes and Ladders trains you for a really shitty life: You're sitting there doing the same thing again and again, and things go wrong through no fault of your own. You're not rewarded for effort or punished for laziness; your only job is to turn up and keep rolling the dice until it's all over. Or spin the spinner, if you paid extra for something else you didn't need, elevating the satire of modern life to terrifying levels.
If you're playing with total psychopaths, they'll insist on the rule where you have to roll the exact number to land on the final square. Moving faster than you need to isn't just unnecessary, it's now actively punished with teeth-grinding frustration as you're held back, waiting for all the slower children to catch up so that your achievement doesn't hurt their precious feelings. Which is the one lesson children are guaranteed to learn in school anyway.
Hemera Technologies/ Images
This girl will invent algebra before they finish learning the alphabet.

What You Should Play Instead: King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is how you make a game when you have dice but don't hate children. The dice's sides are one, two, three (so that the kids learn numbers) and heart, claw, LIGHTNING BOLT (so that they'll want to). Instead of trudging a boring path to the end, you're giant monsters out to destroy Tokyo, and you want to be the best monster. Show me a kid who doesn't like that, and I'll show you a perverted adult who's been using disguise to get you to change them.
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"Most babies don't wear belts over their diapers. I just assumed you were into it, too."
You roll the dice, deciding which to keep and which to reroll, Yahtzee-style. Tactical decisions are hidden in kid-friendly choices, like "Do you want to claw the Cyber-Bunny or buy an extra head?" These actual choices mean that, unlike Snakes and Ladders, a random number generator couldn't just sit there playing itself in the world's most depressing version of masturbation.

#5. The Game of Life

Now that you're too old to play the insultingly simple Snakes and Ladders, how about the exact same game without snakes or ladders? A straight shot across the board, but if you make it across with the wrong utterly random numbers, you lose!
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"That's OK, honey, go bash your head against that wall till it sounds like a good idea. Once per IQ point should do it."
A one-track game so horrifically boring, they had to put scenery on it, crappy plastic protrusions that do nothing but get in the way and make it cost more. It's the board game equivalent of 3D movies. There's an illusion of choice at the start, asking, "Do you want to go to college, or do you want to lose?" That could use a bit of an upgrade. They should ask, "Do you want to go to college?" Then ask, "What do you want to study?" and if you answer, "Dunno, whatever courses look easiest," you go $50,000 into debt and start four turns after everyone else. And you don't get a job card.
Jupiterimages/ Images
"Your coffee. Would you like milk, sugar, or to hear my thoughts on entitlement culture in The Great Gatsby?"

What You Should Play Instead: Ticket to Ride

Days of Wonder
Ticket to Ride is the perfect replacement for the Game of Life: it's for the same ages, the same kinds of groups, and it's also about journeys. The only minor difference is that it's actually a game and fun to play. Because there is nothing like backstabbing a family member with an entire train.

#4. Connect Four

Connect Four is how companies dispose of plastic waste at a 4 million percent markup. People wouldn't waste so much time on intellect-free plastics again until a bored garbage worker sculpted a pile of used clingfilm into a sex doll, creating the Kardashians. You can play Connect Four perfectly with a pen and paper.

Although you're badly misusing the word "play."
Instead you spend $30 on a pile of surplus checkers. Just so two children can work together, pumping things in, building it up until the big finish, when it opens up below and it all comes crashing out in one glorious moment.
Milton Bradley
The closest bored 7-year-olds can come to orgasm.
Also, it's not a game. There's more multiplayer strategy in sudoku. Connect Four was entirely solvedtwice, two decades ago. The first player either wins or is an idiot. There's a sequence of utterly unbeatable moves, meaning this isn't skill, it's extremely crude abstract pointillist color-it-in. Even without the unbeatable moves, it's built entirely around mutual spoiling tactics. You don't work toward cunning victory -- you repeatedly frustrate each other's attempts to get anywhere until one of you screws up and the other finally gets to win and leave. That isn't a game, it's a simulation of a failing adulterous marriage.
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No, that one time you pulled off a totally awesome double-ended three wasn't smart. It was because you were playing against your little brother and he was only 5. And it still didn't work on him the next game.

What You Should Play Instead: Alien Frontiers

Alien Frontiers wasn't pumped out by a huge company to extract money from boredom; it was Kickstartered by a tiny one that thought it sounded fun and was incredibly right. The game raised over triple the original goal, and did so well that an expansion project the next year earned quintuple that. When a company gets gaming-style bonus multipliers in real money, they're doing something right.
Clever Mojo Games
Every board gamer I've ever met is either an evangelist for this game or about to be forced to play it by me. Every move is affected by everyone else's, but you always have a clear path forward. Alien Frontiers has the true sign of a good competitive game: You sometimes want to throttle your opposition, not because they're winning, but because you've got an awesome move all ready and want to go again. It's a game where you haven't even lost before you're working out how you'll get them next time, NEXT TIIIIIIME!

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