Fivethirtyeight published a list today of the worst board games of all time, based on the website Boardgamegeek. Most of them are “classics”, in the sense that you’ve almost certainly played them before. The most notable of them are War (the card game), tic-tac-toe, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, The Game of Life and Monopoly. They are terrible for different reasons (I’m pretty sure that War can actually last longer than World War II), the deficiencies of many of them comes down to one overriding principle: the reliance on luck. Tic-tac-toe is a special case because it’s a “solved” game that will always result in a tie unless the players are extremely young or mentally incapacitated (drunk tic-tac-toe is actually kind of awesome).

I hate excessive reliance on luck, as I’ve said before in my series on board games. Most of the games in the list are guilty of that, and in some of them (Candy Land, War, and Chutes and Ladders) it’s the only thing that matters. Now, granted, those games are designed for children (as the article points out). Therefore, that really just leaves Life and Monopoly.

Now, I personally like Life and Monopoly in small doses. There are lots of modifications you can make to Monopoly to decrease the length of the game (the speed die added in later editions is now a part of the actual tournament play). Later editions of Life add some strategy too. However, that’s not why I like them. I like them because they’re easy to teach and appeal to a broad audience. Some of the best games (Twilight Struggle) are about as easy to teach, but many are not. I also like Monopoly and Life as gateway games: a good place to start and, as the deficiencies become more obvious, they will lead to a desire for better games.


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