Category Archives: Board Games

Bad Games People Still Play: Risk

Risk is another one of the board game classics for people too afraid to try new things. The game is overly long, tedious to play, and far too luck-dependent for a putative strategy game. It also gives an advantage to eliminating players, which means people will be killed early and excluded from most of the game. How is that fun?

Worse still, having more territories means gaining more reinforcements, and having more reinforcements means you can more easily capture territories – resulting in a feedback loop. Whoever’s feedback loop spirals out of control first typically wins the game. Unfortunately you can always see this coming 5-10 turns away, so there isn’t even a climatic feel to the endgame. The winner being known in advance deflates any suspense that might have built.

Well, at least they haven't flipped the board.

Well, at least they haven’t flipped the board… yet.

 But without continuing in too much detail about the shortcomings of Risk, I’d like to highlight a major source for many of the game’s problems. Continue reading

Sex, Mortality and Jenga

Sex, Mortality and Jenga.

Many people have noted my disdain for classic board games. And while it’s true that I loathe Risk, Clue and Monopoly, one classic I’m all for is the madcap blocktastic game of Jenga. If you’re unfamiliar, the game is simple enough to explain. You have a tower made up of layers of bricks. The bricks have a length-width ratio of 3:1, so that 3 laying length to length to length make a perfect square. Layers are stacked with the bricks running one way, then the other, to form a sort of weave.

Players take turns removing a block and placing it on top of the tower. This placement continues the tower’s construction, so that it grows higher and higher as the game goes on. Eventually the loss of the lower bricks and the strain of the ever-rising summit cause the tower to collapse. Whoever made the building collapse is the loser. If you demand a winner, you can eliminate the loser from each round until only a winner remains, though less competitive circles are usually happy to just have one person lose and start again.

So what’s fun about building a tower over and over, only to watch it fall? Sisyphus was sentenced to something similar, and it was considered an eternal torture. Well, to quote Albert Camus: “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Though he was talking finding meaning in a godless universe, and not playing Jenga, I think it still applies. Besides, imagine how much happier Sisyphus would have been stacking wooden blocks with his damned pals Tantalus and Prometheus instead of lugging that boulder.

Pictured: Jenga Prototype, circa 500 BC

Pictured: Jenga Prototype, circa 500 BC

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Bad Games People Still Play: Monopoly

“Too technical, too complicated, took too long to play”
-Parker Brothers on Monopoly, 1934 

Most people will admit that Monopoly is not fun. Everyone has been in that monopoly game that went too long, but no one wanted to back down. Property changed hands, prison terms were served, arguments erupted, and friendships were rapidly eroding. By hour 6 no one was smiling. The banker was accused of embezzlement and people were coming up with new combinations of curse words to describe the dice.

Eventually only two players remained, the rest of the party having exited the room to escape the bad mojo. No fun was being had, but still these two grizzled tycoons played on. With bags under eyes and stubble on chin, they orbited their thimble and iron about the board meaninglessly. While fortunes peaked and dipped, their faces remained impassive, drained of emotion. Then something in one of them snaps, and the market crashes. By market I mean the game board, and by crashes I mean is flipped. This is what happens when you play Monopoly. And yet, the game remains popular.

How games of Monopoly end.

How games of Monopoly end.

Continue reading