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A board game night is a great way for friends who have been banned from clubs and strip bars to hang out, but there are only so many times you can screw over your buddies in Settlers of Catan before you get a meeple shoved ... um ... let's just say before they get mad. But how do you pick a new board game from the tons of expensive ones out there?

I have no freaking idea. But I can tell you what games to avoid. I convinced some friends to play some of the worst board games I could find to determine if they were really as bad as they appeared, and while I don't want to spoil anything, I don't have friends anymore.

7
Hotflash! The Menopause Game

Is there anything we could learn about menopause from a board game that bad sitcoms and hack stand-up comedians haven't already taught us? After I managed to convince everyone that this was a real product and not a fake box I creepily made in my garage, we found out!

Hotflash! is what happens when Snakes and Ladders gets vomited on by a health textbook. The goal is to reach Hormone-Free Haven while avoiding PMS Purgatory, Raging Hormones, and the Fallopian Tubes, and I think writing that sentence made me ovulate. I haven't seen this many stereotypes about women in one place since I visited a men's rights website.


"Blah blah SJW blah blah used to be funny blah blah." There, I took care of your terrible comment for you.

If you like rolling dice while revealing personal secrets, you're either a gambling alcoholic or the designer of this game. Landing on a "Hotflash!" circle forces you to answer an inane question or perform some sort of ridiculous challenge, which is how we were offering our beliefs on whether or not aliens exist one moment and giving each other back massages the next. Imagine your mother performing one of the following, and decide if you could still look her in the eye afterwards:


Clockwise from top left: yes, no, hell no, hell no.

The "Raging Hormones" circles move your piece forward or bump it back with cards that offer fun facts about menopause, empowering or embarrassing scenarios for middle-aged women, and completely arbitrary statements. I'm not certain why learning that an egg remains fertilizable for 48 hours is considered a setback while "a baby boomer reaches age 50 every eight seconds" puts you ahead, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that not a whole lot of thought was put into some of these:


If you get your menstrual woman to fart between two men who have hemorrhoids, you win the game instantly.

When a board game designer is forced to come up with dozens of good ideas for cards, but can't because they consider a menopause board game to be a good idea, you can notice their own biases start to creep in. Several cards bring up questions about space travel, and while most cards that mention famous women and female firsts move you forward, a fact about a Japanese empress sends you back.


"Try getting reincarnated into a better religion."

So my best guess is that this game was designed by a middle-aged woman who's enamored with the thought of space travel but frowns upon Buddhism and/or the Japanese. It's like if Monopoly had a community chest card that read "A Negro broke into your home and absconded with your valuables." I hate it when my menopause games get all political.

The game pieces include "chocolate," "wine glass," and "tampons," because those are all things you associate with women when you don't think about them for more than five seconds. If this game had an expansion pack, the pieces would be "nagging" and "pretending to have a headache." The box says, "If laughter is the best medicine, then Hotflash! is the best pill." Normally when that many words get used incorrectly, you end up with a BuzzFeed article.


"Don't be silly. Those cards have way higher word counts than our articles."

6
Children's Bible Trivia

Bible trivia is for trivia enthusiasts who think Trivial Pursuit is too secular, and Children's Bible Trivia is for adults who are too dumb for regular Bible trivia. Any child who can actually win this game lives on a compound in Wyoming and thinks the Democratic Party is one of the circles of Hell.

After only a few questions, it became clear that I had invited my friends over to tell them that their souls are damned. There haven't been this many wrong answers since I asked an Ayn Rand fan how the government works. If we taught Sunday school, our answer to every question from a child would be "Jesus?" and our answer to every parent concerned by our teaching methods would be a smoke bomb. Speaking of incompetent, the board looks like it was the arts and crafts project of one of the kids who were badly Photoshopped onto the cover.


"Jesus died for our sins. Making this was one of those."

The goal is to move up the rainbow by answering a question from each category, and that's not a picture of the game in its early stages. While there are some gimme questions, most require a theological knowledge well beyond what we were taught by Rev. Lovejoy. For the first several questions about Bethesda, I thought they were references to the video game company.


I realized the difference when you weren't forced to get the answers with a separate DLC.

If it wasn't for the multiple choice questions, we would either still be playing this game or we would have pledged our allegiance to Satan. Asking a child to spell "Christmas," and then asking them how many fat cows the Pharaoh dreamed about is like asking them what they want for Christmas and then handing them the charred, urine-soaked remnants of said gift. There wasn't a difficulty curve, there was a difficulty sine wave.


We eventually triumphed thanks to the laziness of whoever wrote the questions -- it claims to have over 1000, but when one asks who laughed when God said his wife would have a baby and another asks how Abraham reacted when God said his wife would have a baby, it doesn't take a theology degree to puzzle the latter out. That would be like asking me how much money I spent on this game, and then asking me how I felt about wasting $20 on this game.

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5
Awkward Family Photos

Your first question is no doubt "why is there a board game based on a website that loses its novelty after 30 seconds?" and the answer is the same reason there's a Damn You Autocorrect game and a Storage Wars game -- bad board games are easy to make and grandparents who want to give their grandchildren a "hip" gift have deep pockets.

The goal, aside from mocking families who are obviously happier than us in order to feel less dead inside*, is to answer hypothetical questions about each photo. If you guessed that these questions are shallow, repetitive, and not the slightest bit thought-provoking, don't congratulate yourself. That was obvious, and this isn't some fucking kindergarten class where you get a gold star for showing up.


*I was later informed that all of my friends are happy and well-adjusted,
and I'm the only one with crippling emotional problems. So fuck those guys.

The game is played by drawing a photo and rolling a die to determine a question. The 20 questions include "What celebrity would be a great addition to this photo?" and "What would you rather be contributing to humanity instead of playing this?" Everyone writes an answer, one player picks their favorite and tries to guess who wrote what, and then you get offended when people keep assuming you wrote the racist answer.

If you guessed that 20 questions would get repetitive in a hurry, look three paragraphs up. It turns out that the answer to "What would make this photo even more awkward?" is pretty much always "boners." If you took a picture of a family trying to decide what important lesson could be learned from a photo of a dog shoving its junk into a cat's head, you would be able to use their photo in this game. And every player's answer would be, "We should take a break from family game night."


And for the blue jean family pictured, a break from each other.

Half the photos can only be called awkward in the sense that Zooey Deschanel calls herself awkward -- they're clearly not, but claiming otherwise increases sales. A picture of a baby isn't awkward, because it's a fucking baby. They cry and shit for a living. Pretending that Robert Downey, Jr. is holding him isn't going to change that. If the game wanted to include pictures of people who are actually awkward there would be a camera hidden in the lid that activated at checkout. "Some pictures are worth a thousand laughs," but only the pictures of people playing this and only to the game's manufacturers.

4
Twilight: The Movie Board Game

If I know Cracked's readers, and I think I do, you're all a bunch of Twihards. There are multiple Twilight board games, because there are multiple sins that humanity has collectively committed, but this one in particular made me run around outside in the middle of the night checking the makes of the cars on my street. Why? A game card challenged me to guess three. What did that have to do with Twilight? If I could answer that, I'd also be taking credit for designing it.


I think even immortals could think of better things to do with their time.

The goal is to earn cards that represent eight different scenes from everyone's favorite movie. This is accomplished by either completing inane challenges or answering movie trivia. Fun fact: no one who played had seen the movie.

Second fun fact: this game is such bullshit. I collected four of the eight scenes before landing on a square that forced me to give them all up and backtrack across half the board because I couldn't name the two boys who asked Bella to prom. It's Mike and Eric, for the record, and now I will always remember that instead of one of my friend's birthdays. This was less of a trivia game and more of a Twilight-themed death march.


It was tough deciding between the blue, the light blue, the pale blue, and the purplish blue piece.

We managed to muddle our way to success, a term I use very relatively here, by besting challenges like "close your eyes and name three things on the walls," a skill vampires are famous for.


Boring others apparently being a close second.

But the final scenes required trivia knowledge, at which point it became like one of those 18-inning baseball games. Here are the cards we went through before someone got over that final hurdle:


We had to avert our gaze from Taylor Lautner's eyes. Watching us. Judging us.

If that doesn't look like a lot, let me put it another way: we almost played to a draw by running out. Eventually, someone was able to piece together a victory through lucky guessing on multiple choice questions and contextual knowledge from previous wrong answers, but this almost became a game where everyone lost, and since we were already losing by playing the game, it would have been a truly crushing defeat.

Smarter people than us would have watched the movie first, but if I was intelligent, you wouldn't be reading this article. We did, however, watch the movie afterwards and successfully anticipate practically every moment, and if there's a word to describe how sad that is, my thesaurus doesn't have it.

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3
Best Friends Sleepover Game

Since a court order prevents me from associating with underage girls, I've never been able to have the classic sleepover experience. Oh sure, I slept over with my guy friends, but playing video games and farting just isn't a substitute for gossiping about boys and doing each other's nails.

You win the sleepover by being the first to complete tasks from five categories: snacks, games, hair and makeup, dress up, and dancing. In dress up, you might have to put on a pair of socks, or you might have to put on inappropriate stripper heels. You're told to "act out" each activity, which means this game is marketed at both very rich families with kids who can actually go and grab all the items they're told to, and very poor families for whom pretending to eat a strawberry is the closest they'll come to actual fruit for weeks.


"Look at all those delicious foods I promise I'll buy you for real one day."

Evidence for the former comes from the fact that all the characters are white and have names like Blair and Kira. I chose to play as Yasmin, because she looks like she needs all the help she can get.


You just know Blair invited her because her mom heard about the fetal alcohol syndrome rumors and felt bad.

I learned two things from this game: adults will happily do activities for children if they're given alcohol, and little girls really, really like flowers.


I must be careful to not get these facts mixed up.

The already nebulous concept of winning a sleepover is complicated by the fact that "mishaps" can force you to redo activities in dour penance, and at various points you get banished to bed, only to sneak out and rebel through ballet moves. As you can see on the game board, there's only one bed, and the fact that the characters are like eight years old didn't prevent inappropriate jokes from the players. So it was kind of like having a sleepover at a house where rumors swirl, and your parents prevent you from visiting it again.

I lost the sleepover, so we'll add that to the list of things I never thought I could fail at and yet somehow managed to. But I did win the game-within-a-game of hide and seek and get into bed with Blair, so in a way, I think I still won.

2
Justin Bieber: Always Be Mine

Like any 26-year-old man, I'm a huge fan of Justin Bieber. Until now, I've only been able to express my love through fan mail and the restraining orders I get in response to my fan mail, but thanks to the medium of board games, I can now compete for what I've always dreamed of having in real life: the right to plant a big, sloppy kiss right on Justin's face.

The game comes with four Bieber boards. There's neutral Bieber, smiling Bieber, pouty Bieber, and pouty Bieber with a different shirt. Players take turns drawing from a deck of cards with instructions, and had I known that this would have resulted in me wearing a toilet paper hat and socks on my hands while applying lip gloss to my blindfolded roommate, I would have waited to masturbate after the game instead of secretly ejaculating on the boards beforehand.


My case of Bieber fever may be terminal.

Our pop music overlord also insisted that players recite the alphabet like an opera singer, act like a frog, and remove a sock from another player's foot with their teeth. While my initial assumption was that Bieber would have no idea that this product exists, I now believe he wrote these demands personally, because making his fans perform increasingly surreal tasks is the only way he can access the dark pit of what were once his emotions. Somewhere, late at night, Justin Bieber gets turned on by the thought of thousands of girls turning their clothes inside out, barking like a dog, and tickling each other. If you went on a date with Bieber, he would make you play this.


"And then kiss me. Kiss me right on the eye. Yesssssss."

While we didn't learn much about the Biebs, we did learn that there's a thin line between what prepubescent girls do for fun and what gets grown adults institutionalized. I was tasked with rapping "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and by the time I declared that her lamb's fleece was as white as a mid-west bitch's ass, I suspected I was actually experiencing the fever dreams of a dying man. All I know for sure is that I ended up with smelly hands and Stockholm syndrome.


We're the perfect couple, at least until he leaves me for one of those sluts from Guess Who?.

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1
The Fifty Shades of Grey Party Game

Suggesting that we play the Fifty Shades of Grey Party Game was the fastest way of telling my friends that I'm emotionally unstable without having to show them my penis. I'm not even sure if I should bother telling you the objective, because it's clear from the start that no one wins. "Party Game" hasn't been so ill-defined since Russian Roulette was invented.

The goal is to accumulate "Inner Goddess" tokens like you're an unusually needy deity. First you write a list of "Submissives," aka friends and family whom you're comfortable calling submissives. Then you take turns asking kind-of-naughty-but-not-really questions, and everyone votes on which Submissive best fits the scenario. The fact that this comes from a company called "imagination" is truly ironic.


Did Godek write this?

You win tokens by having the most popular answer and/or the answer that the question-asker chose. It's kind of like being on a bad first date, in that every detail you learn about your friends makes you like them less. But first, you all have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, a reference to both the novel and the fact that no one involved will ever want to discuss this again.


Guys, I don't think my friends took this board game's paperwork seriously.

Once that's out of the way, the fun continues to not begin:


My answers to those questions would be "Who cares?," "I don't want to know," and "Society pages? What are we, 80 year old aristocrats?," respectively, which suggests that my inner goddess isn't joining one of the cool pantheons anytime soon. If I wanted to know which of my friends was most likely to have sex while blindfolded, I would have bought blindfolds and cheap vodka instead of this game.

The questions are judgmental, uncomfortable, or both. Deciding which player is the most likely to break into an ex's home is like taking a poll of who should cease being your friend from that point on. I'd rather not think about which of my friends would love to be seduced in strange and unusual places, and I doubt they're terribly enamored with having to wonder about whether I'm the sort of person looking to get laid on top of the Sears Tower, either. It's like you're constantly voting your friends off of a reality show.

Either because we don't know each other well or because we didn't want to admit how well we know each other, my friends and I didn't get much consensus on who likes Valentine's Day the most, or who was the most likely to be turned on by this sexy, sexy Q&A. But there was one scenario we could all agree on:


Nine out of ten people agree that Cracked editor and columnist J.F. Sargent is likely to have a sugar daddy.

I offered to spice up the game by introducing the "Red Room" expansion pack, and you couldn't empty a room quicker if you had a gun that shot tigers (Like, shot out live ones. All guns can shoot tigers in the other sense). Now I'll never know which of my friends is into anal, which is the whole reason I hosted game night in the first place. Please don't tell them that, though.


For more from Mark, check out 6 Storytelling Problems Video Games Still Can't Fix. And then check out 17 Board Games Too Awesome To Exist.

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