Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Top Five Most Popular Board Games (that I Dislike)

Hello fellow gamers.  This is my first blog entry into the world of board games.  Let's start with two things I know well, what I dislike, and top X lists.  Lets jump right in.

5 Pack & Stack
Okay, not really that popular a game, but I still wanted to feature it on my naughty list here as it really exemplifies a common problemshared among all of the games here, with this one being a particularly flagrant offender, and that problem is the trivialization of the actions of the player.  Yes, there is a lot to do in this game, you roll dice, you need to analyize your cargo, there is some math and spacial reasoning to be done, but there is only one single part where skill comes into play, when all the players reveal the available trucks, and then people race to grab the best truck.  So what this game essentially amounts to is literally a split second of making a snap decision and moving your hand very quickly. With dice rolling being totally random, the scoring being a math exercise, and the stacking of cargo on the truck being close to trivial, to say nothing of plentiful aide other players will volunteer if the arangement is not perfect, the only opportunity to gain an advantage through skill presents itself in a window of less than 2 seconds per round. If you think of this more of as an 'activity' than a 'game' then it becomes more appealing.

4 Ginkgopolis
  I am pretty sure everyone thought that this was a great game the first time they played it, myself included.  There are many opportunities to gain advantages, build engines, and express yourself through the various strategies offered.  But, unfortunately, I came to realize after a few playthroughs the fundamental flaw in the design of this game.  At its heart, its an area control game.  Almost always, the winner is crowned by whoever happens to control the biggest sector at the end of the game. This game's problem is that it is an area control game, but the amount of workers you are allowed to place, and the location of where you can place them, is completely out of control of the player.  Its very dissapointing to play a game for a few hours only to realize you didn't draw the right tile at the very end of the game, yet another example of making good play irrelevant to the outcome
3 Trajan.
 I've enjoyed referring to this game by my accurate nickname of 'Frankenstein's Monster.'  This game is actually several board games stiched together. Obviously, there is some solitaire Mancala going on, but there is also Rummy, Connect Four, and Crawl the Graph. With development options and scoring mechanics pushing players towards focusing a single action type, IE focusing on one of the minigames as much as possible, one always has to wonder whether the eventual winner really deserves victory. Did the ship strategist really out-Rummy the Mancala player?  How do you even compare the two even if not constrained to just awarding victory points?

2 Bruges
Clumsy mechanics are a good Smell for unearthing subpar games. The drawing mechanic in particular is unpleasant not only because it is a weak mechanic, but that's really giving players false sense that they somehow control their own destiny when they really don't, and that players are supposed to accept the mechanic as some fresh or innovative.  Consider the following mechanics:

A player draws 5 cards and discards one
(The Bruges mechanic): A player sees two cards and choses one, which then reveals a new card.  Repeat this 4 more times.

While it might seem that the second mechanic conveys more control as its offers more decision making, these are virtually the same mechanic! (Actually, a player using the first mechanic would have a slight information advantage, and thus slightly more opportunity for skillful play.)  Because Bruges is about not being color screwed, I have always been mystified by the appeal of this game, considering that the majority of the game is spent agonizing over the perceived failure to get the right cards, when it really comes down to random chance.

1 Terra Mystica
TM is not a bad game, I just dislike it.  It's competitive SimCity on a board with fantasy creatures.  As long as you allow the game to dictate your moves, you should come out on top.  That's boring.  I hate boring. I like winning.  Winning is the goal of the game, but there are lots of other games where you can try to win and have fun at the same time.  Many people are impressed by how well its balanced considering the assymetric nature of the different races.  I am impress, I just don't care.  Balance is necessary to have fun, balance is not fun in and of itself.  Many people think that the game might be further balanced through various changes, and have fun toying with the idea.  I know it that its a fool's game to try and balance a game like this.  Because I am not actively purging the world of the inferior red-skinned and scaly blueskinned races of the world, then I'm not really finding the game immersive enough to move the needle.

Well, that is the list. I hope this article brings comfort to those who have always felt the same way about these games as I do but couldn't find people who agreed with them. Barring that, I also hope that this reading helps to refine the palate so that game quality is more easily determined, and that game designers continue to improve for a more refined audience. There are so many great games out there that hardly ever get played that I wish some of these subpar popular ones stop appearing in gaming bags to free up some quality time. Sorry to those who disagree with these opinions, you are welcome to defend these games if you cherish them, but if you are looking for one more player, you will have to pick a different game if you want me in.

**add pictures of games