6 Great Board Games (For Ruining Friendships)
I played a lot of board games growing up, because I was an aggressively unathletic kid who appreciated any socially acceptable excuse to play with toys, and games are essentially toys with rules (this is a phase I have yet to grow out of). And competition is an integral part of most games, so a certain amount of skullduggery among friends is to be expected. However, there are some games, regardless of how fun or awesome they may be, that seem to have been designed for the explicit purpose of ruining friendships. The following board games are virtually guaranteed to leave you and your friends feeling so bitter that the rules might as well read "Stuff corpse shit into an electric toaster and leave it cooking in the center of the table while players take turns screaming racism into each other's open mouths until both slots pop up and scald everyone's faces with zombie diarrhea."
Risk (or alternately Risk! back when conversations about the game were apparently intended to include a lot of declarative shouting) is the game of global domination. You assume command of an army of ambiguous nature and intent and attempt to take control of the entire world, crushing those who oppose you under your war-mongering boot heel. There's no room for diplomacy in Risk -- it's a steel cage match between Jeff Hardy, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and a shimmering leprechaun cauldron of pure crystal meth. The only victory condition possible is total fucking elimination.
With an exclamation point.
The problem is, the only people who ever suggest playing Risk are the ones who have never lost a game of Risk. It's like a shorter version of Monopoly, only without the equalizing element of chance. Consequently, the only way to win is to actually be good at the game, and the only people who are good at Risk tend to be cartwheeling douchegoblins about it. Just keeping a copy in your house is like hanging a picture of the time you ran into Shia LaBeouf at Hooters in a frame above your television. It is an accomplishment the rest of us neither envy nor need to be constantly reminded of.
"Man, Johnny even has an exit strategy. He's too good."
More importantly, it's impossible to get better at Risk -- you either start out bad and get progressively worse each time or win every single game. So, inviting a group of friends to your apartment and then saying "Hey, everyone, let's play Risk!" is essentially the same as Channing Tatum getting a bunch of people together to watch him do stomach crunches for two to three hours. I know your abs are better than mine, Channing. I don't need you to flex me into submission while I'm stuck in Australia earning two goddamned armies each turn.
What you're seeing here is essentially the plot of Rambo III.
Fireball Island is a 3D board game wherein you try to beat your friends in a frantic race up the side of an angry Polynesian volcano god to steal his magical jewel and claim victory. The commercial offers a breathtaking glimpse into a bygone era when people would set fire to elaborate jungle film sets in order to sell board games to children.
And dress a kid up like Paul Freeman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The volcano constantly spits out fireballs, hence the title, and if your piece gets knocked over, you have to go all the way back down the trail and start over. But the volcano doesn't act on its own -- you and your friends play cards to aim the screaming demon mouth and spew forth its blazing ammunition.
So really, the game is less about who can beat whom up the side of the mountain and more about who can be the biggest festering asshole and knock everyone into a rocky canyon or off the lip of a seaside cliff with the judicious application of molten vengeance. Nobody gives a shit about the jewel five minutes into a game of Fireball Island. It's all about blasting your friends with fireballs until everyone gets sick of it and quits to go play Sega.
"I only invited you because my mom made me, Tina. Take your plastic gemstone and get the hell out of my house."
HeroQuest is a board game of heroic fantasy that has everyone playing together on a team against one person, because somebody has to control all the monsters and dungeon traps and essentially act as the game's referee, even though sports-related terms are generally a terrifying spider web of confounding uncertainty for kids who spend their free time throwing polyhedral dice at tiny plastic doom lords. The hero players work together to hew their way through swarms of monsters in a cursed keep, patiently accepting the monster player's rulings with grace and good humor, and at the end of the game everyone high-fives and skateboards down to 7-Eleven for a congratulatory round of best-friend Slurpees.
Just look at the camaraderie exploding from this picture.
At least that's what it says on the box. An actual game of HeroQuest is a two-hour screaming match over whether your dwarf actually stumbled through a door into a head-cleaving booby trap or was merely considering stumbling through a door into a head-cleaving booby trap.
"Bullshit! My dwarf totally sees that guy!"
It isn't uncommon for a session of HeroQuest to devolve into threats of physical violence over whether enough of the Skeleton King's resplendent bonefinger crown was sticking out from around a corner for your wizard to spot him and blast a face-detonating mystical fireball into his undead eye socket. It's like a clinic teaching burgeoning sociopaths how to get the most out of a verbally abusive relationship.
"I swear to God, Timmy, if you don't move that monster the hell out of my way, I will shit on my fist and punch you in the teeth."
Since the hero team is typically three to four people strong and the monster team only ever consists of one person, the game seems to be actively encouraging the heroes to bully their way through a series of explosive personal-attack-laden arguments that are typically resolved by the monster player quitting and pedaling his or her bicycle home in tearful indignation. My father once rage-quit a game of HeroQuest, back when I was in elementary school and he was 40 fucking years old. It's a brutal game best reserved for those occasions when you want to completely sabotage your relationship with a single friend or relative.
13 Dead End Drive
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
"Finally! Ah ha ha! The world is miiiiiine!"