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Flags to avoid, or a list of excused flaws
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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There are some things I just don't like. In games there are various aspects I dislike enough to almost instantly select against any game that contains that trait. Usually this means that I just don't play that game and (mostly) otherwise ignore it. Sometimes this is fair and my early discrimination is correct by my standards, but every so often something sneaks through and reveals itself as a game I adore despite having a dreaded characteristic.

Below I'll list despised traits and games which carry that trait and I like anyway. Where possible I'll use an image which shows the dreaded thing. If there are other traits that you strongly dislike, please add them to this list, choosing a game you DO like which has that trait, and adding an explanation of why you still like the game even though it has the dreaded characteristic. If you can also support your claim with a representative image, then so much the better.
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1. Board Game: Keythedral [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:425]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Player Shields

The whole concept of player-private information rubs me the wrong way. The fact that a game features shields for the players is a big turnoff. If the data also happens to be trackable then it is almost invariably right out the door. Keythedral is an exception here as everything that the shields hide is perfectly trackable. As a result I simply play without the shields and find the game much improved. In the meantime if the early pictures of a game (say BoardGameNews or the publisher's site) reveals player shields then the game is going to fall way down on my interested list, usually right off it.

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2. Board Game: Wings of War: Famous Aces [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:549] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Blind Bidding

Ewwwww! There are very few games which feature any sort of blind bidding I'm willing to have any truck with. I can probably list them on one hand without running out of fingers: Kaivai, Wings of War, uhhh.... In the case of Wings of War I don't mind the blind bidding (movement card selection) as it is so narrowly constrained and the players have so very much information as to the interests, values, and capabilities of the other players leaving the blind/estimation aspect relatively small. As a result the blind aspect of the movement choices doesn't hit as many snags for me and the dance of path-finding and path-determination (two aspects of games I really like) overwhelm any remaining queasiness.
 
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3. Board Game: China: Grenzstreitigkeiten [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Right/Left Binding

Otherwise known as Player to the left of the newbie wins! Blech. It is each players role to lean on the player to their left, to do their damnedest to ensure that the player to their left has the absolute minimal chance to ever gain an advantage while meanwhile also fighting against the similar attempted suppression coming from the player to the right. And yet there are a few games I like which rely on this damnable feature. China - Borderfights, like most card games, relies on right/left binding heavily. For me it is saved purely by the fact that it plays in 45 minutes and features a considerably more complex relationship and incentive/disincentive pattern than just right/left binding. If either of those things were missing then it would be right out. Likewise for Web of Power and China.
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4. Board Game: In the Shadow of the Emperor [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:538]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Hidden Scoring

I don't really mind if players score unknown values in secret, as long as the game is suited to that and the variance is small, but when the scoring, the thing we're all actually playing for, is needlessly obfuscated then I'm placed in the position of needlessly climbing pointless hurdles put there by the game's designer/developer and that's just not worth it. I'd rather play the actual game than dance to some other claptrap they decided to needlessly inject. In the Shadow of the Emperor fails on two counts: Scoring is hidden and scoring is perfectly trackable. Utterly pointless and irritating besides. I might as well play with a pencil and paper to keep track. Happily the game works very well with public scoring.
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5. Board Game: 1856 [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:513]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Economic Engines

I tend to dislike games which require players to build and operate an economic engine marginally more efficiently than other players. Sure, there are plenty of economic engine games I like, Age of Steam and 1856 being the most obvious -- however what I like about those games isn't the economic engine (and I tend to bad at that aspect besides). I like them despite and in spite of that. I like the network building, the route planning, the construction and manipulation and exploitation of a network/graph, the high levels of player interaction and screwage, the direct competition. In 18XX terms I'm interested in the engineering and the operations and merely put up with all that share crap as a required expense in order to get the real tasty meat I like. For Age of Steam it is the auctions, the route planning, the exclusive nature of selected actions, and the very simple and delightful fact that an entire game can be (largely) validly planned out before the first turn. That's the good stuff.
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6. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:359]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Tactical vs Strategic

I dislike highly tactical games. I adore games in which I can approach the first move with a blank slate and then plan out a likely viable beginning-to-end game strategy. The more the concentration of the game moves from the big plan to short term optimisation the less interested I am. I adore the big pause at the start of Age of Steam as players work out pretty much their whole game (well, at least that's what I'm doing). Blokus breaks this archetype. It is almost entirely tactical, players can very rarely every plan more than 2 to 3 moves ahead, and yet I adore it, especially the two player game in which each player plays two colours. The intersection of perfect game knowledge and tactical exploitation built on top of my core sweet spots of route building/graph manipulation and spatial visualisation carry it over the brink into greatness.
 
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7. Board Game: Kaivai [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1909]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Random/Luck

I think the time I most strongly dislike luck is when it takes the game away from me -- not necessarily the victory, but the challenge and competition and value of the decisions I make that form the game. I despise those occasions when I make a decision and then depend on luck to see whether or not it worked. Success or failure I feel as if the game has cheated me of something interesting. I recently played a prototype and won, but in the end it came out that if Joe has pulled the right card in the last round he would have won instead. That soured the game and my victory. If I'd been Joe and I had pulled that winning card and so won the game, it would have utterly spoiled the game and removed any trace of pleasure I might have taken in it. How...blech...how uninteresting. My victory wasn't determined by how I played, it was determined by luck, stealing the value and import and thus enjoyment of all the decisions I'd have made in the game so far. The game took something away from me. It took away both the decisions and the value of those decisions. Both win and loss were distasteful, and the potential victory was even more unpleasant. Blech.

Now of course this is a matter of degree. Should the game contain any random factors then any game decision is somewhat subject to this later-luck reversal. In an idealised perfect sense my argument and preference is flawed. Really this is a question of degree, not absolute.

The fishing dice in KaiVai are wrong, they are an obvious case of a game flaw: the result of fishing is randomly determined immediately after making the decision to fish without any opportunity to react or recover. Additionally the variance in potential fishing results is very large, leading to potential large fishing swings based on nothing but lucky dice rolls. I've seen 4 dice rolled for no fish, and four dice rolled for no fish -- both extremely unlikely cases (KaiVai uses special dice). It could hardly be worse, this is Very Bad Stuff and the use of dice in KaiVai is a primary and common complaint. However, the game works and works very well and the game would not work so well were fishing deterministic. Some variance is actually needed by the design, leaving the complaint then being exactly how much and the manner in which it is injected into the game. All decisions in KaiVai are significant, including fishing, and the game is quite delightful. The dice merely leave a sour spot that the rest of the game successfully overcomes.

Happily Kaivai Expansion corrects most of the luck/random problems with KaiVai, albeit at the cost of considerable added complexity.

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8. Board Game: Feurio! [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:2676]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Marginal Accrual

Games tend to feature a mix of big and small plays. From a game design perspective this is a function of how the overall goal of the game relates to intermediate goals provided during the course of the game. Some games swing this pendulum too far. Some games put (almost) all the concentration on players building a system which is marginally more efficient at earning Victory Points than the other players. Usually this is a probability function against some mostly random event (eg I'm marginally more likely to get the cards I want flipped than he is (see above comments on luck)). Canal Mania and Race for the Galaxy are two examples of this pattern, both games I don't like. You could also describe such games as mostly tactical.

I have to go far down my ratings list to find a candidate in Feurio. Much of the game comes down to maintaining maximal value flexibility for future opportunities (random tile draws) and a little right/left binding. It isn't a great game, but it is a decent and worthy game with two or three players. The fact that the tile distribution is well defined (36 tiles, 6 of each value) and thus easily counted and tracked, and that the tile placement rules form patterns that can be recognised and exploited very early in the game when the randomness is largest are the saving graces.
 
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9. Board Game: Ricochet Robots [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:424]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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Low Interaction

Ahh, the eternal complaint of multiplayer solitaire! Chosing a representative game that has this trait and yet I like is hard. Roads & Boats is a possible choice, except that when played well and played competitively the game is quite significantly interactive (goose thief!), especially in regard to the aforementioned geese, as well as roads/walls, mines, and wonder bricks. However I'm going to pick the curious game of Ricochet Robot instead, mostly because of how bivalent I am on the game. Ricochet Robot is a game I enjoy playing, sometimes a lot, but I don't actually like the game. It is too isolationist, too solitaire, too discrete. What makes up for it is the route planning and simple cleverness of the resulting solutions. I enjoy that, sometimes a lot.
 
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10. Board Game: Bakschisch [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:8075]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Blind bidding with losing bids spent as well as winning bids

I share with you a general distaste for blind bidding. It's even worse when everyone loses his or her bid. Of course, the theme of Bakschisch is bribery, so this mechanism is consistent with the theme, but many people I suggest this game to recoil in horror.

Despite these handicaps, I rate Bakschisch an '8'. First, the blind bidding is the whole game. It's much less objectionable than when you introduce a (to my mind) spurious element to another set of mechanisms that are the interesting part of the game; then the grafted-on element ruins the rest. Here it is the game. Second, the game takes only 20 minutes when we play it, and for some reason my dislike of blind bidding takes more than 20 minutes to emerge. And finally, I've found that Bakschisch is an excellent game to teach to younger gamers or newer gamers, as it is easily understandable yet offers scope for clever play. It's nice when everyone is on a level playing field.
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11. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:26]
Gláucio Reis
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
RJ
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Chaos

This is different from randomness or luck. I'm referring to the chaos caused by a kind of player interaction. Players can interfere too much with your moves, and the board situation changes a lot until your next turn. In "El Grande", you can move and remove other players' pieces, and I certainly dislike that.

I have played the game just once and haven't decided whether I like it or not, but I thought it would be an appropriate example.
 
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12. Board Game: Cartagena [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:641]
Jim Pulles
Canada
Regina
Saskatchewan
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Open Information/Complete Information

Unlike JC I have a great dislike for open information games. I find that it tends to slow games to nearly a crawl, the AP tends gets to be annoying, and it sucks all of the 'fun' from a game..

I like randomness in a game to the point where EVERYONE in the game has a chance to win (however remote) right up to the very last turns. The Jamaica version of Cartagena, where players play from a hidden hand of cards, is a prime example of this randomness. That being said, however, I prefer playing the Tortuga version with its open information.
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13. Board Game: Age of Renaissance [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:568]
Bruce Keeney
United States
San Jose
California
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Stubbornness. This isn't actually a game mechanic, but I dislike games that reward stubbornness. Australia in Risk is a prime example. Galileo Kids: Entdecke Wissen This is just one of Risk's problems but I hate how Australia is recognized as the best strategy and it goes to the most stubborn player (or you both lose by contesting it). I really enjoy Age of Renaissance although it too rewards the player that hogs the silk and spice.
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14. Board Game: Politics as Usual [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:8863]
Brian Alvarado
United States
Fontana
California
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I get this one alot. Just because the game has a Political theme they won't play a game.
 
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15. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:29]
Marc-Andre Blanchet
Canada
Sherbrooke
Quebec
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Cooperative Game

Arkham Horror is pretty popular with my game group and I can't stand it. Shadow of Camelot is easier but there's a Traitor. That's better.

I didn't want to try Battlestar Galactica because it's a coop game. Until the owner told me, don't think of it as a coop game, it's a two teams game, Cylon vs Humans. Cool. And I have loved that game since.
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