Board game Top 10: My most played games I won’t play again

In a continuing look at longevity and replayability (see links at end of post), I thought it might be interesting to look at games I’d played the most of that, if given the opportunity, I’d actually veto: and look at the reasons why.

I guess, if push came to shove, I probably would play them – if one was the only game available and there was nothing else to do, or of it was the person’s birthday and they were absolutely determined etc – but otherwise I’d be strongly looking for or suggesting something else.

There are of course many other games that didn’t make the list as I simply haven’t played them enough times to get to this point (Firefly, for example, with two plays!) – so these are games I initially at least saw enough in to want to explore more but that, at some point, the gloss really fell off.

And although it should be obvious, this is of course only my opinion. To illustrate that, I’ve included each game’s Board Game Geek rating at the time of writing (and overall position in its table) to show what the general gaming public may think of it. You can make your own mind up about the fact most of them rank higher than the games I’ve designed myself. There’s no accounting for (my) tastes…

Top 10 games I’ve played the most that I won’t play again

(15 plays, BGG ranking 527, 7.04)
This largely well-regarded game came highly recommended and, after adding it to my collection, saw a lot of plays for me between 2012 and 2014. Sadly though, as you play more and start to work the game out, it becomes clear that, unless you have equal luck of the draw, the winner will largely be determined by luck. The game has several types of card and a drought of any of them can put you in a hole you simply can’t get out of. It makes the game frustrating and happens too often, for me, to be an acceptable luck element – mainly because there’s no way to mitigate the situation. Which is a shame, as otherwise the game has a lot going for it.

San Juan
(13 plays, BGG 239, 7.28)
I was an experienced Race for the Galaxy player, and had Puerto Rico, before I played San Juan – which I immediately regarded as Race with stabilisers. However, I also saw its potential to introduce players to the concepts in Race – my favourite game. It worked perfectly for this, except that I hated it. How could you make a game with a big deck of cards that had so few options? So many duplicates? Why would anyone play this over Race? The answer, of course, is exactly that: you can work towards a strategy relatively sagely, in the knowledge the cards you need will probably show up. But for me, it was tedious and one-dimensional compared to my precious.

(12 plays, BGG 3630, 5.93)
People can be very sniffy about Munchkin, and while I agree in terms of game play I wouldn’t ridicule Munchkin players. It has acted as a gateway into our fantastic hobby for many RPG and light game fans, so where’s the harm in that? It’s exactly what happened to a few people in our group – we just don’t play it now. On the plus side, it has humorous cards that any fantasy fan will appreciate and is good fun for a few games. However, once you see through the game’s (fairly shallow) conceit the fun quickly runs out – unless you’re a big fan of simple ‘take that’ games.

(9 plays, BGG 531, 7.03)
Ascension arrived on the wave of deck-builders that came in the wake of Dominion’s success. Designed by Magic: The Gathering experts, it saw players buy cards from a central deck but quickly specialise in particular factions so as to build a synergy. It was fun to explore for a few plays, but it soon became clear that if the cards you wanted didn’t come into the display at the right time – while they did for another player – it soon became a procession you could do nothing to stop. As with Jambo this happened too often to make the game fun enough to stick, with despite it being relatively short.

(8 plays, BGG 571, 6.98)
This is the first game on this list that actually gets my hackles up when I think about it. Again coming in the wake of Dominion, this literally ripped the good ideas from Dominion wholesale while adding a piss weak generic fantasy theme on top – plus a couple of equally piss weak ‘level up’ and ‘dungeon’ mechanisms to give the illusion of originality. It was clearly rushed out to ride that Dominion wave, proven by the fact it needed a reprint to make it playable and a second to make it ‘finished’ (although I still found it awful). Just my opinion mind. And… relax.

Mage Knight
(7 plays, BGG 23, 8.11)
Before the outrage begins, yes, this is a good game – it just isn’t for me. When I first read about it I was super excited about it and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it: an intelligent fantasy game based around deck-building and RPG elements that sounded like the tabletop equivalent of the Heroes of Might and Magic computer game series. While to many this is exactly what it turned out to be, but for me it was too long, too strategic and too fiddly – its weight rating of 4.26 out of 5 on BGG says it all (I’m more comfortable around 3 of 5). Its not you Mage Knight, its me.

Combat Commander: Europe
(5 plays, BGG 110, 7.91)
If I recorded computer-based plays in my ‘played’ list on BGG, this entry could equally have been Memoir 44 – another card-based war game that flaunts itself as being euro gamer friendly by its pure popularity, but then falls down by keeping the traits that make traditional war games so loathsome for me – namely the blind luck. Cleverly position your forces, outwit/think your opponent, bait your trap then pow! Roll a bunch of ones and lose anyway. There are brilliant games out there now that manage to simulate combat in clever ways. Yet many people still prefer this kind of thing regardless.

A Fool’s Fortune
(5 plays, BGG 6471, 6.19)
Despite myself, I still think there’s a great game lurking beneath this mess of a production. It’s a rummy style card game with a few too many clever twists on the original idea to make it intuitive – which is made 100 times worse by using terrible flowery language for absolutely everything you do in the game. While I can see they were trying to add theme, all they achieved was to add several extra layers of bewilderment to an already unintuitive game – making it largely incomprehensible. So much potential, but oh my did this game need a loving development hand.

Battlestar Galactica
(3 plays, BGG 65, 7.75)
I seem to be one of the few people who think the TV series was bloody awful (the story seemed OK, but so many bad actors) – but I was happy to give the game a go, and liked the premise of the traitor mechanic (which was relatively new back then!). I will always forgive a first play of a game going long, especially if you’re learning it together, but subsequent plays just dragged on and on, and for me were nowhere near engaging enough in terms of game play and atmosphere to warrant the hours spent on it. I get why it’s popular, but for me it was the gaming equivalent of watching paint dry.

Pot de VinAce of Spies & Space Race: The Card Game
(3 plays each: BGG 7398, 13940 & 2689 respectively)
I’ve crow-barred three into this slot as each had three plays, while each was also a Kickstarter card game I held out high hopes for – but sadly fell well short of the mark. These are all classic examples of being great ideas that have been poorly executed, needing the development of a professional publisher rather than a few mates at the local gaming club. On the surface they look professional, but underneath they’re underdeveloped and fall way short of their potential. But while people keep blindly backing these things unplayed, they’re going to keep coming into production.

See also:

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