User Ratings Determine Worst Board Games are Family Favorites

User Ratings Determine Worst Board Games are Family Favorites

Candy Land board game

Games that rely heavily on luck meet the lowest of rankings on BoardGameGeek.

How do you judge something on how bad it is? BoardGameGeek takes in user ratings from 1 to 10, with 1 being "you won't catch me dead playing this." Using those ratings, FiveThirtyEight found some of the lowest-rated games, which might be in your family's basement.

Using data mined by Rasmus Greve, FiveThirtyEight discovered the games ranked poorly on BoardGameGeek have one thing in common.

Luck-based games get the most negative reviews on a site like BoardGameGeek, which favors games geared toward adults with some kind of strategy and greater player encouragement to continue playing. For example, the highest rated game on the site is Twilight Struggle, a complex game set in the Cold War involving both luck and skill, but that would never be the first board game for a young child to play.

The card game War, Tic-Tac-Toe, Snakes and Ladders, Candy Land, The Game of Life, and Monopoly are winners of some of the games on BoardGameGeek not only with an average low score, but a whole lot of negative ratings. Games like War, Snakes and Ladders, and Candy Land are probably games many of us played during our childhood. They also place a reliance on luck, as much of the game is flipping card after card to see if it's greater than your opponent's or racing to the end with die rolls or card draws determining your fate. Other games like Monopoly have a lot of luck with some skill, but players can get booted out of the game or easily determine the winner. Tic-Tac-Toe has no luck but is incredibly easy to end in a draw, making it boring.

Of the games FiveThirtyEight points out, Monopoly has the most reviews - over 10,000 - and sits around the 4 mark, making it boring game that you could be talked into playing occasionally. War had only 1,000 ratings, but sits around a 2, an annoying game you wouldn't be likely to play again.

Of course, these are still games that most kids are introduced to as their first board or on-paper games. A part of that could be from nostalgia, and a part of it could be their relative ease to play and teach kids how to follow rules. (Not that it ever stopped me from making up my own rules in Candy Land.)

Source: FiveThirtyEight

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I see no mention of risk or its dozens of variants. I feel left out because that's what my family plays (my favorite is 2210AD).

Is it just me or does this article/research make the people on BoadGameGeek sound like they only like games with a 100% chance of a good outcome or winning?

These are board games, people. Cards will be shuffled and drawn, dice will be rolled, and coins will be flipped. Luck cannot simply be removed from the premise of a board game.

Zontar:
I see no mention of risk or its dozens of variants. I feel left out because that's what my family plays (my favorite is 2210AD).

Risk games seem to mostly be rated in the 5ish range on that site(keeping mind that the highest ranked game only has an 8.2... no inflated ratings on this site), but Risk Legacy enjoys a solid 7.73 and ranks as the 106th most popular board game and 74th most popular strategy game on the site. Apparently Risk Legacy is a special long term version of Risk where the game is permanently affected by each playthrough.

Dr.Awkward:
Is it just me or does this article/research make the people on BoadGameGeek sound like they only like games with a 100% chance of a good outcome or winning?

These are board games, people. Cards will be shuffled and drawn, dice will be rolled, and coins will be flipped. Luck cannot simply be removed from the premise of a board game.

Possibly just you. The article says that the top rated game is a complex game involving both luck and skill. How that correlates to "100% chance of good outcome or winning" isn't something I see.

EDIT: Also, how does your assessment of the luck requirement factor into traditional board games such as chess?

War and Snakes and Ladders have their place.

Tic Tac Toe is an abomination.

Scars Unseen:

Zontar:
I see no mention of risk or its dozens of variants. I feel left out because that's what my family plays (my favorite is 2210AD).

Risk games seem to mostly be rated in the 5ish range on that site(keeping mind that the highest ranked game only has an 8.2... no inflated ratings on this site), but Risk Legacy enjoys a solid 7.73 and ranks as the 106th most popular board game and 74th most popular strategy game on the site. Apparently Risk Legacy is a special long term version of Risk where the game is permanently affected by each playthrough.

Correct, and a game I have been interested in getting if I ever have a regular playgroup, as the way it is permanently affected seems as though it would work better with consistent players.

Yeah, it isn't really a surprise, War is useful when you're playing with a six year old who can't manage any card game more complex than checking whether one number is higher than another but for anything else the lack of any choice gets dull real fast. You might as well roll a dice and say whoever gets the highest number wins, there's effectively no difference except one is drawn out more.

Pure luck means the kids can actually win, and if they don't do well enough they'll get pouty and bored and stop playing (this goes for many 'adults' too).

The reason they are so common is because every store carries them, and everyone knows about them. I don't bother going much to the big box stores because it's endless variants on the classic 5-6 most popular Milton-Bradley games, or 20 copies of "who can say the dirtiest sounding words" game variants. I think the last time I was in a physical store (I live 3 hour drive from the nearest dedicated gaming store), I bought Jenga.

Instead I try to buy gifts for friends and family that are both rated "fun" on BGG (or looked fun in Wil Wheaton's TableTop series), and are age appropriate.

My 9-year old always asks to play "Betrayal at House on the Hill" now, and my 6-year old loves "Settler's of Catan Jr" and "Spot It". I think the last time they picked up "Trouble" they were bored in minutes.

But when you're a grandparent or an average Joe who doesn't know where to buy these things, or even that they exist, your only options are the local stores.

This is why "family & friends" game nights are a good idea. Spread the nerd around. You'd be surprised how much fun people can have, and suddenly want to know where you found all these awesome new games.

Dr.Awkward:
These are board games, people. Cards will be shuffled and drawn, dice will be rolled, and coins will be flipped. Luck cannot simply be removed from the premise of a board game.

Then you haven't played the right kinds of board games ;)

War is a great game for budding game designers, as it's a simple enough game that you can create variants of it easily. The version I still occasionally play involves having a hand of five cards, picking out one to play like normal War. An additional rule to keep the aces moving was that a two of any suit could beat an ace. I also had the winnings deck reshuffled when the player ran out of cards to draw from, I don't remember if that was a rule from War or not, though.

Also, Candyland at least deserves some laurels for inspiring this entry in Existential Comics:

"Tic-Tac-Toe has no luck but is incredibly easy to end in a draw, making it boring."

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it is impossible for anyone to ever win unless one player makes a (very dumb) mistake.
That's why it works in the movie "War Games"; the supercomputer says "Fuck this nuclear attack business, this stupid simplistic 'game' has shown me that one can never win anyway!". At least, that's the exact quote as *I* remember it ;)

RelativityMan:
Also, Candyland at least deserves some laurels for inspiring this entry in Existential Comics:

Haha, that's quite a good one!
It really *is* an amusing game after all!!! ;)

Dr.Awkward:
Is it just me or does this article/research make the people on BoadGameGeek sound like they only like games with a 100% chance of a good outcome or winning?

These are board games, people. Cards will be shuffled and drawn, dice will be rolled, and coins will be flipped. Luck cannot simply be removed from the premise of a board game.

I think what their saying is that people prefer games where their actions and choices are the deciding factor between victory and defeat, Chess/Checkers etc being perfect examples.

No surprise. if i am to rate a game ill rate game that requires skill above pure luck game because the challenge required in skill based game will give me better satisfaction. when it comes to family meetings though you likely not playing with board game enthusiasts. in which case, bring out the monopoly, youll have more fun than trying to teach extended family play, say, BattleStar Galltactica board game.

Kenjitsuka:

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it is impossible for anyone to ever win unless one player makes a (very dumb) mistake.
That's why it works in the movie "War Games"; the supercomputer says "Fuck this nuclear attack business, this stupid simplistic 'game' has shown me that one can never win anyway!". At least, that's the exact quote as *I* remember it ;)

Or as SMBC put it, "Go first and hope your opponent makes a mistake.".

We kinda' gave up on "I win!" games around here. What about Trivial Pursuit?

Dr.Awkward:
Is it just me or does this article/research make the people on BoadGameGeek sound like they only like games with a 100% chance of a good outcome or winning?

These are board games, people. Cards will be shuffled and drawn, dice will be rolled, and coins will be flipped. Luck cannot simply be removed from the premise of a board game.

You couldn't be more wrong. The reason these are terrible games is these are games where you do have a 100% chance of a particular result. In War, Candy Land and Snakes & Ladders this is because the players are incapable of making any decisions at all. In Tic-Tac-Toe this is because it's such a simple game that a moderately skilled player is capable of making only one decision: do I deliberately sabotage my own chances of winning?

Luck should be used to add "fog of war" - it should be used to muddy the "correct" solution enough to make alternate strategies viable, and thus to force the player to consider defenses against those alternate strategies. Complexity - as in Chess - can serve the same purpose, but this complexity should be added without making the game complicated.

ricree:

Kenjitsuka:

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it is impossible for anyone to ever win unless one player makes a (very dumb) mistake.
That's why it works in the movie "War Games"; the supercomputer says "Fuck this nuclear attack business, this stupid simplistic 'game' has shown me that one can never win anyway!". At least, that's the exact quote as *I* remember it ;)

Or as SMBC put it, "Go first and hope your opponent makes a mistake.".

The interesting this to me is that for all the talk of how easy it is to tie in that game or of people making a dumb move, very few people actually understand the "strategy" of tic-tac-toe at all. Even in the movie, for as much as they talk about how there is no way to win, suggesting they should know the moves not to make, they make the incorrect choice when it comes time for them to demonstrate. Some random guy says "Put X in the center square" and Daniel responds "I know"

Strazdas:
No surprise. if i am to rate a game ill rate game that requires skill above pure luck game because the challenge required in skill based game will give me better satisfaction. when it comes to family meetings though you likely not playing with board game enthusiasts. in which case, bring out the monopoly, youll have more fun than trying to teach extended family play, say, BattleStar Galltactica board game.

To be fair, I likely would have more fun teaching them to play the BSG board game, even if I failed to do so. Monopoly is fucking naff. After all the properties have been bought and some lucky sod got Mayfair and Park Lane on the first round, the game becomes a boring stalemate based purely on dice rolls because noone wants to trade, the only excitement being when someone does something of their own violition and robs the bank.

Zontar:
I see no mention of risk or its dozens of variants. I feel left out because that's what my family plays (my favorite is 2210AD).

You should check out Warlight. It's basically Risk, but online, and everyone takes their turns at once so there's not huge wait times.

The Game of Life gets poor ratings? Aren't we being metaphorical today...

I can understand the low rating of Monopoly. The game is so damn predictable. Based on how lucky you are with your roles you can easily have a full set of roads early in the game and buy other roads just to block others from building houses. If this happens you pretty much won the game already. The other players will then circle the drain slowly until they land on your hotels and lose completely.

Yeah btw. recently played Monopoly with my family. 5 times in a row I had to pay the taxes right after getting the income. It didn't end well for me....

This kind of thing drives me nuts but I'm comfortable here so I'm going to vent instead of just closing the window. First, it's fine for BBG to have its review system - it's a means for adults to think about games for adults. And that's great. Nothing I'm about to say is about adults thinking about games for adults.

Except these are not games you play with adults.

The whole purpose of games for kids - especially the very very little kids for whom Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, etc are designed - is different. We're looking at players 3-5 years old, pre-literate but itching to be part of what they see going on around a table. Luck based mechanics make total sense. The entire point is that no decision making process needs to take place.

People who deride this forget how many elements of gameplay are learned, not instinctive. Taking turns. Moving in specific ways along a board. Interpreting symbols. Learning to win and lose without being a dick.

Once kids get this stuff in place and are ready to move on, by all means bin the games. Or let them keep them to play with friends or siblings so they can learn self-governance.

</rant>

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/06/11/my-latest-assault

The reasons those games are for children happens to be for the same reason no one used the auction system in Monopoly with children. Every child needs to have the opportunity to win in order to have the motivation to play. If you start a kid out with chess and play to win the child will loose every time. With Snakes and Ladders it doesn't matter how skilled you are so everyone has an equal chance to win. Those games are intended to get kids used to playing together in a group, and at that they are pretty good games.

Also, Tic Tac Toe does not place a high value on luck. It's the opposite of luck. The problem is that once you've mastered the basic logic you can never win or lose. Every game ends up becoming scratch, and the appeal is lost. Luck has Zero to do with winning or losing with Tic Tac Toe. It is a child's first logic game.

no surprise there, everyone hates Monopoly

im pretty sure atleast 1 war was started by that dumb game

Most games can have some value, depending on the audience.

Games have been used as tools for as long as games have existed. Some games teach language, others teach color recognition, while some just teach the patience of taking turns and not touching the bits belonging to others. Snakes and Ladders is a game, but was also a Metaphor; the same was originally true about The Landlord's Game (Monopoly).

I can't remember if the TOS prevent me from linking to outside websites or not, but this one is particularly relevant so I'll risk it. We discussed the dozen BGGs lowest rated games back in 2008 in the On Board Games podcast. In that episode we tried to dissect what value the games had and in some cases what the target audience was. http://onboardgames.libsyn.com/obg_019_the_dirty_dozen

What is your favorite classic game? I like Stratego, Mastermind, Black Box, and even have a copy of Risk Legacy on my shelves at home. If I never have to play Monopoly again, it'll be too soon.

Every board game should be skill based so I can crush every child I face.

The idea that these are ideal family games because they're the kind kids can understand or the only ones they have a shot of winning are untrue and doing kids a major disservice.

Kids are way quicker than people give them credit for, especially when it's about something that interests them. Even if a simple pure random game is they only thing they can handle, there are MUCH better options than war! Give them Feed the Kitty, Hisss, Spot It!, Suspend Jr or a ton of other options. Haba is a fantastic German game company that makes high quality games for 2 and up that are also fun for the adults. Worried about Dad beating the kid every time? Play a cooperative game, or one that can be played in teams!

Need an icebreaker game or one to bring to an older gathering? Not all good games are hyper-complex and take hours to play. Some of my favorites are ones I can teach in less than 10 minutes to practically anyone and get everyone playing.

elvor0:

Strazdas:
No surprise. if i am to rate a game ill rate game that requires skill above pure luck game because the challenge required in skill based game will give me better satisfaction. when it comes to family meetings though you likely not playing with board game enthusiasts. in which case, bring out the monopoly, youll have more fun than trying to teach extended family play, say, BattleStar Galltactica board game.

To be fair, I likely would have more fun teaching them to play the BSG board game, even if I failed to do so. Monopoly is fucking naff. After all the properties have been bought and some lucky sod got Mayfair and Park Lane on the first round, the game becomes a boring stalemate based purely on dice rolls because noone wants to trade, the only excitement being when someone does something of their own violition and robs the bank.

the problem is, your nongamer "everything fiction is crap" aunt X may not want to be taught to play BSG board game. she knows monopoly though! and when it comes to monopoly vs boringly sitting at the table, ill take monopoly, thanks. I kinda like monopoly though, maybe its because i used to play it a lot with grandpa, so i may be biased here.

 

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