New Line Cinema
Hitting theaters this week, the R-rated comedy “Game Night” follows a group of friends who get together for regular game nights, only for one particular evening to turn bloody and unhinged. We didn’t realize it was a documentary. Kiddingnotkidding, because there are ton of games that sure start out fun but will for sure eventually make you lose it on your friends and family.
We’ll start with the old standby, because as Chief Wiggum put it, how do those Parker Brothers sleep at night? Part of the reason Monopoly is such a drain on friendships is because it’s an endurance test. You can spend hours going around the board just trying to end it all. My family would chant “Mortgage, mortgage” whenever someone landed on a hotel on Marvin Gardens. And if you’ve ever played a game with a full eight players, it always ends quickly and painfully for that one person who has to go last. And I dare you to try the fan-made Riskopoly, a combination of Risk and Monopoly that is as long and ridiculous as it sounds.
Settlers of Catan
Catan is the perfect game for people who want the hyper-focused intensity of a strategy video game like "Civilization" but combined with the angry shouting matches of Monopoly. Just try and be the guy whose numbers are never rolled and whose friends decide to steal your resources and never trade with you. I have brought my sister to the verge of tears because we couldn’t decide on whether you were allowed to build a settlement in between two other roads. Or how about this classy move? Ask about a particular resource just to get a sense of the room, then lay down a Monopoly development card and steal everything anyways.
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“Blokus” has become a verb in our household, as in, “You Blokused me!” In this game, you have 20-odd oblong tiled shapes that you have to lay down on the board such that each piece is touching via a corner, but not adjacently. But the strategy is in the name, and the way to win is to screw over your neighbor by laying your big fat T-shaped piece so that your opponents are all boxed in and you’ve taken up the maximum amount of real estate in the least efficient way possible.
You think Risk is bad? Diplomacy, another game about global domination, actually encourages you to make alliances with other players and stab your friends in the back. You start by having one-on-one conversations with the other players to forge alliances and develop strategy, you write your plan of attack on a sheet of paper, and then every action is enacted simultaneously. Diplomacy allows you to all at once watch as your friends look you in the eye and screw you over, without even Risk’s random chance die rolls to give you solace.
Some games are annoying because you have to screw over another person, and some games are life ruining because there’s (1) an anxious timer, (2) loud buzzing noises and (3) lots of arguing and shouting over things that have no answer. Scattergories has the trifecta. I dare you to find me a timer/buzzer that makes a piercing, loud clacking noise as time runs out more irritating than that one. After that you get to argue whether or not “Steak” should count as an “S” Food You Eat For Breakfast.
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Munchkin is a simple little card game that plays on nonsensical rules and has a satirical take on the draconian nature of something like Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games. But if you’re like many people drawn to table top games who enjoy structured rules and strategy, you’re going to be driven up the wall by your friends who aren’t taking themselves too seriously and manage to dominate you seemingly at random.
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“Words With Friends” ruined this game, although it was already pretty brutal to begin with. After that app came out, it became very clear that winning a game of Scrabble has nothing to do with vocabulary but with how well you can arrange nonsense two letter words like “QI” onto triple letter scores. The difference between “Words with Friends” and Scrabble is, now you have to sit in front of your friend as they take their agonizingly sweet time trying pull these shenanigans.
The Resistance, Werewolf, Mafia and Secret Hitler
I’m lumping all these together because there is now an entire genre of board game that is about one group of players who are oblivious and another group of people whose job it is to lie to everyone else. These games are designed to make you suspicious of your friends, to make accusations of one another and to secretly conspire against everyone else. And they have the nerve to call these party games!