Bored Games

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 10 2015 @ 1:11pm

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Oliver Roeder goes through the bottom of BoardGameGeek’s rankings, noting that games based solely on luck, like Candy Land or The Game Of Life, typically rate the lowest among more serious board-gamers. Monopoly, despite the higher level of skill it requires, doesn’t fare well either:

[P]robably due in large part to its huge popularity, Monopoly has become a bête noire for many serious board gamers. It suffers from problems that most game designers nowadays try to avoid. First, players can be eliminated. This is no fun — unless, of course, the eliminated player finds something better to do than play Monopoly — and games are meant to be fun. Second, there is often a runaway leader. Someone can snap up a juicy monopoly early on, and that quickly becomes that. The rest of the game is pro forma and boring. And games aren’t meant to be boring. Third, there is what’s known to game designers as a kingmaking problem. A losing player can often choose, typically via a lopsided trade of properties, who wins the game. This is also no fun and negates whatever skill was required to begin with.

Oh, and it also takes a really long time to play.

But Roeder defends the bad board games as well:

Through whatever quirks of history, culture and commerce, these are our first games. I — and I can’t imagine I’m alone — retain fond memories of playing Candy Land with my cousins during summers at my grandma’s house and War with my friends on the school bus. Monopoly and The Game of Life may bespeak a special American capitalist fascination — an ingrained desire to live out a make-it-or-break-it adventure.

And even if it’s not an objectively good game, Candy Land teaches lessons — playing by the rules, healthy competition, winning and losing graciously. Tic-tac-toe represents a first foray into strategy and game theory — however simple — for many children. That’s not a bad thing. These games might be “bad,” but they’re important. We start with them, and we move on to better ones.

The best-rated game? Twilight Struggle. Previous Dish here on another massively popular strategy game, Settlers of Catan.