Top 10 Board Games (For Ruining Friendships)

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Nowadays, nobody plays board games unless they’re out of alcohol and the Xbox is broken—those simple diversions of paper and plastic just can’t hold our attention in a modern world full of entertainment that’s flashy and action packed. Also, all board games are seemingly designed to produce nothing but anger, misery and broken relationships. Here are the ten worst offenders.

10. Scrabble

Scrabble

Despite what the commercials claim, Scrabble is nothing more than a game about being silently judged by your friends—and their verdict will not be kind.

As you stare at your tiles, racking your mind for a decent word, you’re all too aware that with every passing second the other players are readjusting their opinion of your intelligence. The pressure only grows as the minutes drag on; the longer your friends are forced to wait, the higher their expectations will be. Expectations that you and your four Os can’t possibly meet.

Finally, after half an hour, you play “dog,” feeling a deep sense of shame with each tile you place. As you sheepishly tally your six points, somebody else flashes a smug grin and plays “quixotic,” scoring 119 in the process. “Don’t feel bad,” they’ll say, with a voice that suggests you should feel as bad as possible, “I was just lucky.

Your next friend will look up some stupid two letter word on his iPhone, and the one after that take the spot you wanted to use next. When it’s your turn again, all you’ll want is to draw an F and U so that you can send your friends a message. But instead you’ll get another two Os, and the cycle of shame will begin anew.

9. Twister

Twister

The only game that comes with a risk of a sexual harassment suit every time you play, Twister is the perfect diversion for hormone riddled teenagers and the most socially awkward one imaginable for everyone else.

We all think the guy who suggests a game of Twister is being a creep—the best case scenario is that you accidentally see down some girl’s shirt and get slapped, and it’s only worse if you’re having a guy’s night out and your friend fools no one by saying “we’ll only play it ironically.” But since we’re too polite to point it out we go through the motions, desperately hoping the next call won’t be “right hand—green, your face—Steve’s crotch.”

Games are supposed to bring friends closer together, but they’re not supposed to do that literally—it doesn’t count as quality time if the time is spent discovering the scent of your pal’s deodorant. Come on people, we already have a way to do something with your friends that will embarrass and shame you forever: it’s called binge drinking.

8. Battleship

Battleship

Here’s how a typical game of Battleship plays out:

1. You spend an eternity planning the perfect placement for your armada, while your friend plunks his down in five seconds.

2. All of your friend’s stupid random guesses hit your ships, while each and every one of your carefully calculated shots misses. And while you have no proof, you just know your friend is lying.

3. Your entire fleet is sunk, and only after admitting defeat do you look at your friend’s board and realize you were hitting all along; he was just too dumb to read the grid properly.

4. Tempers flare, and, inevitably, someone gets a patrol boat in the eye.

5. The game gets shoved back into the closet.

6. Five years later, you find your copy of Battleship behind a stack of magazines and, forgetting how much you hate it, you invite your friend to play.

7. Repeat.

7. Parcheesi

Parcheesi

The “race to move your dinky plastic pieces around a stupid board” genre is bad enough already, but Parcheesi is the only game that allows you to bring your opponent’s progress to a screeching halt. If a player puts two of their pieces on the same square then no piece behind them can advance, regardless of the number of turns, profanities or threats of violence that go by.

If your timing is lucky, your barricade will make it impossible for your friends to do anything except sit and glare at you. Sure, once you’re out of other moves you’ll be forced to abandon your blockade, but by that point you’ll be so far ahead of everyone else that the game is all but over anyway. And beyond the ability to screw your friends the game is pure luck, which means Parcheesi is basically Candy Land for sociopaths.

6. Pictionary

Pictionary

Pictionary is a great game for kids—it encourages them to be artistic and creative, and you can excuse their crappy drawing skills because they’re young. But when adults play there’s no mercy, and the game quickly descends into a competition to see who’s the best at mocking their opponent’s artwork. At first, it’s all in good fun. But then somebody crosses a line, and the insults get ruthlessly personal. “Oh, that was supposed to be a bottle of pop? I just assumed it was beer. I mean, you do have that ‘thing’ with alcohol. Oops, sorry, I ‘forgot’ that was a secret!”

Sooner or later someone will decide to draw nothing but penises, and it all goes downhill from there. By the end of the game there’s a tacit agreement to never speak of it again, and the players will be just a little more distant for the rest of their lives.

5. Mastermind

Mastermind

Mastermind combines the action packed thrills of code breaking with the ability to make your friends feel retarded for not being able to figure out your devious code of “red red red red.” The Enigma machine had nothing on that!

The mere suggestion of playing Mastermind should be enough to ruin a friendship (the game is less exciting than doing your taxes while listening to a Gore Vidal audiobook), but the real problem is that it’s a two player that one person always takes much more seriously than their opponent. One player will spend an agonizing amount of time analyzing every move, while the other just guesses at random until they run out of turns. And they’ll each win half the time.

One person gets bored, the other gets frustrated, and nobody ends up a “mastermind.” By the time the game is over, you’ll both remember that the only reason you even own Mastermind is so you can hide your copy of Sexopoly behind it when your parents visit.

4. The Settlers of Catan

The Settlers of Catan

Leave it to the Germans to create a game based entirely around screwing other people out of natural resources. Sure, on the surface Catan is about developing a settlement—but in reality the primary goal is to make your friends beg for your precious sheep.

Catan is all about resource management, and being the only person with a supply of a certain resource is like being given carte blanche to act like a douchebag. “What’s that? You want some wheat? Give me all your wood, and get me a beer from the kitchen.”

It only gets worse as the game goes on and players become just a select few resources away from victory. “What do I want in exchange for my stone? I want you to cut yourself.

Ostensibly, the key to winning Catan is to plan ahead and negotiate shrewdly. But in reality, it all comes down to who can get away with being the biggest dick to their friends. And in that game, there are no winners.

3. Monopoly

Monopoly

If you didn’t expect Monopoly to show up on this list, you haven’t played Monopoly. The game’s winner is always determined in the opening minutes, but their victory is stretched out over the following 12 hours. And they are never, ever magnanimous. They’ll savoir every last one of your fake dollars, and mortgaged properties are like an aphrodisiac to them.

Even your sad attempts to steal from the bank won’t save you when you land on your friend’s Boardwalk hotel and they cackle with unhinged glee. As you haggle with them to stave off your inevitable bankruptcy, it becomes obvious that they’re a sadist who revels in your pain. You and his other victims will offer to surrender so you can stop playing Monopoly and go do something productive with your lives, but he’ll refuse. Why? Because he wants to see you suffer.

When the game finally ends, your friendship has morphed into the bond between a torturer and his victim. You’ll never be able to look him in the eye again, nor will you ever want to.

2. Risk

Risk

Risk is a game of luck disguised as a game of strategy, which means you can’t help but feel like an idiot every time you lose to your dumb friends, even though all they managed to do was roll higher numbers than you.

The only real tactical element comes from the negotiating, which always ends in tragedy. Alliances disappear faster than heterosexuality at a Lady Gaga concert; the second someone can exchange a set of Risk cards for some armies they’re going to turn around and crush you like the bug you are.

If you manage to survive the assault you’ll trade in some cards of your own and return the favor, and the two of you will go back and forth in a bitterly personal conflict until the guy who spent the entire game holed up in Australia sweeps the board in a single turn. You and your friend will blame each other for the fact that you both lost, and your fractured relationship will teach you lessons that apply to both Risk and life: never let a conflict get personal, and never trust anyone from Australia.

1. Diplomacy

Diplomacy

Risk may lead to your friends stabbing you in the back, but Diplomacy actually encourages it. It’s impossible to win without betraying someone—and the larger the web of lies you can spin, the more successful you’ll be.

But even worse is when the other players openly agree to wipe you from the map, and no amount of scheming, cajoling or begging can persuade them otherwise. You never know just how heartless your friends are until they’re putting aside their differences to destroy you with cold, calculated efficiency.

There’s zero random chance in Diplomacy, so if your friends decide you need to be eliminated there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. And while you hate them for it, you know you would have done the exact same thing to them. At that moment comes the realization that, deep down, you were never really friends at all.


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19 Comments

  1. I agree with you David. I love the “Cracked” style, facts with humor. I enjoyed this one, well written…

    P.S. “Sorry” should have been included in this list (yes, there’s always a critic, I apologize!). Nothing angered me more than being on the home stretch and getting my piece sent back home then waiting for one of two cards out of an entire stack to just pull him back out.

  2. I was at a party once when, in a haze of booze, two of my friends decided to play Risk. An hour later, they ended up outside beating the stuffing out of one another. Which leads to the moral of the story, Risk is Dangerous.

  3. When I saw the title of this list, I thought it was going to be boring or stupid. But David is exactly right. This is one of my favorite lists on Top Tenz! I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor, and so many descriptions & comments about the games are perfectly spot on!

  4. Loved this list! Monopoly and Risk are definitely games to be avoided. I’d also include Taboo. Friends of mine argue over whether you can use words that rhyme, pieces of the word (if the word is friendly, friend should/shouldn’t be in play), and whether or not hand gestures should be allowed. The fact that we usually play guys vs girls doesn’t help either, as we’re couples before the game and almost broken up once we finish

  5. teendetectivekc on

    i totally agree with you n monopoly. I wished you added life because i had a few fights from that game.

  6. The fact that we usually play guys vs girls doesn’t help either, as we’re couples before the game and almost broken up once we finish

  7. I agree with your list, but you left out UNO. After an hour of UNO you’re ready to punch your grandma in the face after the 8th time she lays a Draw 4 on you.

    • Second on Uno. I ran into problems with one group of friends when the it turned out my house interpreted the rules completely differently. Our version of Uno was already pretty harsh, but theirs was just sinisterly mean.

      It was also probably completely the way you were supposed to play.

  8. My brother bought this game when it first came out and EVERY time we played my mother would win…(it blew my mind that you mentioned it)she has been married to an Australian for 11 years now, true story.

  9. Someone over the weekend asked ‘why does every house have Jenga’. It’s because it’s so simple you can’t lose friends over it. It’s a great leveller where all you can do is curse gravity and move on.

  10. CynicalFatigue on

    Probably the most accurate ‘top …’/ ‘best …’ lists I have read to date. Of course, any list can be debated, but the lineup you chose is so solid that you could write a full article on the exquisite agonies involved in each one of these…LoL. ….the clueless risk player who makes mathematics play twister- G-d protects the clueless, that is abundantly clear :-). the friend who is a good guy but c’mon, the rules aren’t that complicated (ala your battleship buffoon- but it happens in other games of course)… and then there are the ones who genuinely, truly, have you gaping in wonder (mentally of course—-well, except for that time when you just couldn’t keep it in…>>> the damage control takes months, even years, of careful work after that… On the other hand, sometimes they just don’t get your outburst either!– a lucky thing for all involved 😉 ) *So much more we all could say…and yet we all GOT it right away, so Kudos on a fantastic analysis.*

  11. Hahaha, i played settlers with my boyfriend and i stabbed him in the back when I made an awesome move. He threatened to break up with me. Thats why I am never playing Settlers with anyone again.

  12. I was really expecting “Sorry” to be No. 1. When someone holds that little bell up to your face and rings it vigorously and goes, “Ssssoooooorrrrrryyyyyyyy,” there is a real desire to knock them off the chair. We usually played without the bell because it was always broken from being knocked out of people’s hands. Some people get really mean with this game.

  13. It’s nice to see at least some representation of less well known games like Settlers of Catan. I’d also recommend trying games like Puerto Rico, though.

  14. Diplomacy never gets the respect it deserves. I’ve owned a copy for three years and I’ve played it probably five or six times. Almost every time I’ve played it I’ve lost a friend. It’s an evil, evil game but it’s so much fun to play.

    Also, if you think Risk is bad, try Risk 2210 A.D. or Risk: Godstorm

  15. For those who keep saying that Sorry should be on this list, it already is, it’s called Parcheesi.

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