The Five Best Board Games That I Hate to Play

Before I get a whole bunch of hate for this, let me preface it with this: these are some of the games that are most often requested by my group, and, consequently, these are games that I often teach. So even though I personally hate these games (and hate may be a strong word, it's more that I nothing these games), I still expose new people to them and respect their place in the hobby.

There is a difference between games that you dislike and games that are bad. The games on this list are provably good, solid games, but there are reasons that I’ve grown to dislike them over time -- and these are opinions that are shared with a lot of the people that I know.

Alright, now that I'm done covering my ass --

1. Catan

A lot of people have a sort of “elitist” opinion of Catan. Catan is a gateway into board games and people tend to outgrow it over time. That means that people who once enjoyed Catan end up later claiming that it’s a bad game, simply because they’ve grown as players.

But Catan obviously isn’t a bad game. It’s a well-designed, elegant game that lends itself to a lot of different adjustments. Even its re-skins often have surprising amounts of value. It’s just a simple game. Every game of Catan plays out pretty much identically to every other game of Catan; there are never any surprises and there are rarely any unique strategies.

Each player also tends to develop their own way of playing Catan. You know who is going to go after the longest road, who is going to build an army of knights, and who is simply going to keep pulling development cards. Once you’ve mastered the basics of Catan -- and gained a cursory grasp of the statistics involved -- there isn’t a lot more to explore.

2. Munchkin

This is a game that is about getting to level 10 before other players, and yet somehow the base game doesn’t include a level tracker. It’s petty, but this fact drives me absolutely crazy.

Munchkin is a luck-of-the-draw game masquerading as a strategy game. Though you can strategize to a certain extent, the sheer randomness of the other cards, and the disruptive play of the other gamers, means that you can’t really anticipate anything that happens.

Add this on to the social aspect of Munchkin (“I’ll help you if you help me”), and Munchkin becomes yet another “lynch mob” game; the type of game that just turns on players in turn until someone out of group focus sneaks up and wins.

I’ve never liked these types of games. These aren’t games like “Secret Hitler,” where players are called upon to deduce which player is a traitor. These are games where players just viciously turn on each other because they’re doing worse than each other; “crabs in a bucket” the game. Some people like these types of games, I don’t. It isn’t satisfying to build a character, because they can be deleted at any time. It isn’t satisfying to beat other people, because it’s luck of the draw.

3. Fluxx

Catan, Munchkin and Fluxx are all what I call Monopoly games. That needs to be explained, because it has nothing to do with their similarity to Monopoly. Instead, a Monopoly game is a game that has such simple gameplay that it's been re-skinned into a thousand different fandoms without functionally changing the game itself.

I’m always wary when I play a Monopoly style game, because to me, it says two things:

  • This game isn’t interesting enough on its own, so we added your favorite characters from something else entirely.

  • This game is designed entirely for box appeal. Know someone whose only defining character trait is their undying love for Firefly? Have I got the gift for you!

Fluxx, like Munchkin, is just a random ride from start to finish. And that’s really the point: it’s a time killer. But because of the way that it’s set up, it really just lends itself to a lot of confusion and explanation throughout, and though everyone experiences it, I’ve never known anyone to actually like it. The best thing I've ever heard about Fluxx is "Oh, I know that game!"

4. Cards Against Humanity

I can feel myself losing a ton of people here, and, I'm going to do the sensible thing and double down on it: I can’t stand this game. I’ve never been able to stand this game. And again, I don’t hate it, I just nothing it.

If an adult couple has one board game, it's Cards Against Humanity. I’ve played it with a dozen different groups, and it's always the same. The box gets pulled out of its dusty shelf, where it was sequestered next to old South Park DVDs and an empty Loot Crate box used for storage. Someone, probably a mid-30s woman, goes “Uh oh!” Someone makes a bukkake joke. Someone explains what bukkake is.

Cards Against Humanity isn't a game so much as a way for adults to talk about how “bad and twisted” they are. It’s the board game equivalent of the backroom of a Spencer’s. And don’t get me wrong: I am all about juvenile humor. The problem is Cards Against Humanity is also incredibly repetitive. There are win cards in there (“David Bowie…”) that will always win, and the game just becomes an exercise in gross out humor.

I'm in the weird position of being a larger fan of the company that owns Cards.Against Humanity than the game itself; by all accounts, CAH is a stand up company that does amazing things and treats both its customers and its employees right. I just wish I liked their product more.

Now, to really put myself in a bad position: I actually love Joking Hazard. What's the difference? Go figure, but if I had to say, it's that Joking Hazard is more "that was ridiculous," and Cards Against Humanity is more "look at how ridiculous we are."

5. Splendor

I’ve rarely played Splendor and not won, and I’ve rarely felt like I deserved winning. That’s probably the core of most of the games on this list: I don’t like games that don’t feel rewarding to win.

Before I continue: I haven’t played the Splendor expansion, and I’ve heard that it does good things to extend the game.

Splendor is probably one of the least objectionable games that can possibly exist. It has one or two quirky, clever game mechanics, and that’s it. Rounds go quickly and the game passes quickly. Usually, someone wins by surprise. Half the time I play, people don’t even realize they’ve won until a few turns later.

I like introducing Splendor to people who haven’t played games before. The rules are easy to follow and the game becomes intuitive, once the selection process for colors (and item fulfillment) “clicks” with them. Splendor is a great game. But after people learn Splendor, they rarely want to play it again -- it’s like Catan, where once you’ve learned the game, there’s just nowhere to go from there.

Because of that, I tend to hate actually playing it. It always feels like a chore or a waste of time; it’s difficult to get emotionally invested in the outcome of a game that is that simple and that rote, and it's hard to like showing people a game that they'll play once and never come back to.

Again, this is a list of games I personally don’t like playing -- and they’re all good games. All of these games are valuable, have solid core mechanics (except maybe Munchkin… I really hate Munchkin), and are especially great for those who are just getting into gaming. But I'm not sure I'd buy any of these games or keep them around myself, even though I've somehow accumulated them over time.