6 Great Board Games (For Ruining Friendships)

#3. 13 Dead End Drive

Milton Bradley/Hasbro via YouTube

In 13 Dead End Drive, you play as a bunch of people stalking their way through a recently deceased billionaire's death mansion, trying to systematically murder each other in order to be the sole inheritor of her massive fortune. The board consists of a series of Final Destination-style traps that you try to steer your friends' pieces into, resulting in such wacky hijinks as sending them sailing down a neck-breaking flight of stairs or flinging them into a roaring fireplace to be burned alive. The commercial for the game shows a bunch of kids gleefully murdering an old man by dropping a several-hundred-pound crystal chandelier onto his face, because the 1990s were occasionally amazing.

Milton Bradley/Hasbro via YouTube

Milton Bradley/Hasbro via YouTube

Unsurprisingly, a game about premeditated homicide against your fellow players gets darkly personal in fairly short order. Either you win by ruthlessly killing all of your friends or you find yourself literally begging them not to kill your last piece, only to have them callously launch you headlong into a flesh-blistering immolation chamber, because the elderly billionaire apparently had a catapult installed in her hearthstone during the last lip-wiggling throes of dementia.

Milton Bradley/Hasbro via YouTube
Your pleas to spare the life of Chef Pierre will fall on deaf ears every time.

Either way, nobody wanted to speak to each other after the game was over, so 13 Dead End Drive was best left off of your sleepover itinerary unless you wanted to be giggling through Red Shoe Diaries all by yourself for the fourth Saturday night in a row.

#2. DragonStrike

DragonStrike was a board game version of Dungeons & Dragons that came with an introductory AdventureVision videotape featuring a bunch of community theater performers dressed up like various fantasy characters and acting out the rules of the game in an effort to teach you and your friends how to successfully avoid having any kind of sex until well after high school.

TSR/Wizards of the Coast via YouTube
"Observe how I gallantly thrust out my pelvis and compel the village females to flee as one in the opposite direction!"

DragonStrike actually insists that everyone watch the video before attempting to play, which is sort of like requiring people to attend an associate professor's lecture on film theory before allowing them to watch Predator.

TSR/Wizards of the Coast via YouTube
The video also includes detailed instructions on how to open the box.

Judging by the contents of the video, "AdventureVision" seems to be a spirited euphemism for "shame tears interwoven with clips of the third runner-up in a David Warner lookalike contest screaming at you about imagination and telling the rest of your friends to leave the room so he can speak to you in private." I am not making that up.

TSR/Wizards of the Coast via YouTube
"No no, get closer to the television. Good, now use the power of imagination to press your nipples against the screen."

By the time you finished watching all 33 fun-strangling minutes of DragonStrike's retrospectively hilarious one-act training play, your friends had quietly gathered up their sleeping bags and gone home. One or two of them probably called the police and said your parents tried to molest them to ensure that they never had to see any part of that video ever again. But that's OK -- DragonStrike seems to be aware that you will never be able to convince anyone to play it with you, because it includes extensive rules for a solitaire adventure.

TSR/Wizards of the Coast via YouTube
"That's OK, guys. I can play all four heroes and the man-scorpion. There's plenty of room within the hollow tomb of my loneliness."

#1. Monopoly

Hasbro via YouTube

Monopoly is almost a century old and has been translated into dozens of languages around the world. However, despite its status as an enduring cultural icon, I have never encountered a single person who legitimately enjoys playing the game. I'd challenge you to try to do the same, but it would be a fool's errand, because no such person exists.

Notice how there isn't a single human being within sight of that board.

This is because the object of Monopoly is to crush your opponents into bitter financial ruin amid the failure-stained alleyways and tenements of Depression-era Atlantic City. Essentially, it's a game about being Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life, except only one person gets to be Mr. Potter, and everyone else gets to be Jimmy Stewart on the verge of flinging his penniless ass into the swirling frigid waters beneath Pauper's Bridge. And a loss -- even an academic one that occurs within the game's first few minutes -- takes hours to play out. You can be thoroughly outmatched with absolutely no hope of victory and still end up moving your piece aimlessly around the board for three more hours, because whoever is winning ruthlessly refuses to let you quit. The game actually transforms you into a 1930s slumlord like some weird version of Jumanji cursed with a blood magic spell by J.D. Rockefeller.

Artist's conception.

And a Monopoly victory is one of the most joyless triumphs ever afforded to us outside of a participation award for losing a game of crab soccer on Field Day. Even the vague prospect of winning does nothing to make the experience of playing Monopoly enjoyable -- playing Monopoly is like being a death row inmate strapped to a table while everyone in the room is staring up at the wall clock and waiting for a call from the governor. Actually winning the game is such a cold, unreachable star on the horizon of possibility that most of us are content to whisper silent prayers that the game will soon be over. Which of course it never is, because if by some miracle you do start winning, you will suddenly find yourself gripped by the poisonous phantom fingers of the aforementioned robber baron and will actually prevent your friends from mercifully bowing out early, lending them money like Hatchet Harry in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to facilitate your ultimate domination. I've seen one friend happily foot the bill for another player's Income Tax (which would've put that player out of the game) just so that person would still have a chance to be smashed against his remorseless gauntlet of houses and hotels like a rickety old potato freighter in Shipshredder Reef.

Parker Brothers/Hasbro via YouTube
That old guy is keeping everyone afloat just long enough for him to move in for the kill.

Yet for some reason, everyone I know owns a copy of the game. There are countless different themed versions (I own both Spider-Man and Indiana Jones Monopoly myself), and it's been adapted into video game form for a handful of different systems. However, I can assure you that gluing pictures of Spider-Man and Indiana Jones to the board does absolutely nothing to enhance the experience, and I'm fairly certain the only reason the video game versions exist is because the people who would be enthusiastic enough about Monopoly to purchase them no longer have any human friends to play with.

Parker Brothers/Hasbro
"Finally! Ah ha ha! The world is miiiiiine!"

Tom played DragonStrike by himself one night in 1996 and glimpsed a horrible truth of the universe that he has yet to reconcile. Read his novel Stitches and follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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