Monday, July 11, 2016

Top Ten Disappointing Games

There are games that you expect to be bad and live up to those expectations.  Exploding Kittens is a hideous use of cardboard, but I could at least enjoy the pain of others as everyone tried desperately to lose first.  There are other games that are generally considered good, but aren't the type of games I like, such as Race for Galaxy or Power Grid.  The frustrating ones are the ones I expect to enjoy, but fall flat.  Onward to the negativity in no particular order.


Past me, a person who was halfway into this game, was a big fan.  It had exploration, a tech tree, civ based special powers, and 4 distinct paths to victory.  Then we reached the end game, where two colluding players and a stupid rock paper scissors combat system destroyed my hard built empire.  I gave the game a 2nd try at 2 players, but it ended in an equally aggravating fashion.  The combat system is bad enough that an expansion completely replaced it, but I don't imagine I'll give this a third try.

Steam Park

A game I bought on sale due to a cool theme -- building an amusement park, and mostly positive reviews, but it failed before it was even ready to play! The pieces were such poor quality, an x-acto knife was necessary to separate them from their moorings.  Even the theme was disappointing, as it turns out you are building a theme park for Robots.  Mainly though, the game was just dull.  I cared so little about what other players were doing on their turns that I found myself wandering away from the game to see what else was going on.

Kingdom Builder

Kingdom Builder was Donald Vaccarino's attempt to be known as a Game Designer rather than The Dominion Designer.  Well it turns out I'm more of a Dominion fan than a Donald Vaccarino fan. Like many on this list, Kingdom Builder was just boring.  You get to do so little on your turn, and often it was obvious what to do.


Trajan, at the time, was the top rated game by my favorite designer, so the odds were I was going to like this one.  Sometimes you roll snake eyes though.  The game revolved around a Mancala inspired mechanic that allowed you to play a series of mini-games. It was trivial to manipulate ones pieces in the Mancala section to take whatever action you wanted.  It didn't matter though as all the actions were uninspired, tedious, and disconnected.  For people who do not like Stephen Feld games, this must be what playing one of them feels like.  They still are mostly wrong, just not on this one.

Stone Age: Style is the New Goal

This expansion for Stone Age strives to add complexity to a simple game, but the additions undo the simple elegance of the original version.  In Stone Age,  one of the key decisions is to pick which resources to get, but the new trading mechanic makes it meaningless.  The other editions were either unbalanced or uninteresting.  I was hoping that Style would add life to a game I'd grown a little bored with, but it utterly failed on all accounts.

Catan Trails to Rails

A Catan spin-off with a cool looking map.  Sadly it missed much of what made the original great, like exponential growth and multiple paths to victory.  The game was repetitive and went on well past its welcome as each player did slight variations of the same thing.  There was a time where I wanted to own every Catan game, but I have seen a number of duds over the year, none more so than this one.

Great Snowball Battle:

I don't fund a lot of Kickstarters, but I couldn't resist one with a snowball fight theme.  The artwork and card names are cute, but it couldn't overcome terribly designed game mechanics.  Players ganged up on an unlucky participant or the game falls into an endless loop of attacking and running for cover.  I was tempted to try to redesign the game completely, as I do still love the theme, but I'm lazy, so I traded it away instead.


Marketed as Tichu for 2-3 players, I was automatically intrigued.  It lost me quickly by giving players 3 wild cards every hand, resulting in a game that is based much more in short term tactical advantage and repetition than its predecessor.

Nations Dice Game

Nations is a neat game.  Nations the Dice Game takes nothing from the original beyond the name and symbolism.  Most purchases are similar and way too often you have dice that you can do nothing with.

Labyrinth The War on Terror

From a designer of Twilight Struggle, it is the first attempt to game-ify modern conflicts.   Sadly, it fails to capture what makes Twilight Struggle great.  While TS had two opponents battling back and forth, in Labyrinth the two sides feel disconnected.  More problematically,  while TS has lots of die rolls that allow luck to balance out, Labyrinth has a few crucially important ones.  Either the bomb goes off and you win or it fails and you don't, which is way too big a swing for one roll.

Dishonorable mention

Founding Fathers: Squarely in the cool theme, poor execution category.

Troyes: I didn't think I could dislike a dice game quite this much.

VS System: I enjoyed the CCG,  so was hopeful for a streamlined version, but it streamlined away the good parts.

Bananagrams: I am a big fan of both word games and bananas, so I had high hopes for this one.  I like making cool words though, and Bananagrams doesn't care as long as you do it fast.

Quarriers:  Dominion with dice.  The randomness of dice rolling added to the randomness of picking dice from a bag, made planning utterly pointless. 

1 comment:

  1. I was fully expecting to disagree with nearly everything here. But I don't. Here's the ones I actually disagree with you:

    Haggis - Everyone has the same three bomb cards and if you use them for bombs you don't get the points for them. So I don't want to use them unless I really need to. The decision to use them feels strategic, not tactical, to me. I certainly don't get the repetition feeling you seem to have. II'm not saying it replaces Tichu, but when I don't have exactly 4, Haggis is close.

    Troyes - I still don't understand what it is about Troyes that you and Amy dislike. It feels like a fine dice drafting/worker placement game with lots of interesting moving parts. I need to get it played again, I miss it.

    Bananagrams - Oh yeah it does. Big words makes it easier to place small words later. I find that if I have an early big word or three, that gives me space to very quickly put in the little words I need to finish my crossword quickly. Otherwise I'll probably have to break down everything halfway to make my big word. In any case, Its such a super short game...