Games that are ruined by the theme
Just Lucky
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A great theme can make a good mechanic into fun time. Some themes, however, make a game unplayable for me. I will try to explain why and I am sure people will disagree.
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1. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Just Lucky
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I have no doubt that this is a great game. But I play with an international crowd (German and British in the families) with people aged between 8 and 80. Making a game about battles that are in living memory seems to me in bad taste. Someone's brother may have died in the battle that we are reproducing using bits of cardboard.

Ancient wars or fantasy worlds are a much safer bet.
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2. Board Game: Tanto Cuore [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1362] [Average Rating:6.88 Unranked]
Just Lucky
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Need I say more. Hiring all female maids. Where are the equality monitoring recruitment forms in this game. What kind of gender-stereotyping is this introducing.

Seeing the girls' pants is only a small part of what is wrong with this theme.
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3. Board Game: Morels [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:593]
Just Lucky
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Everyone seems of say that this is a great game but I can't imagine a game based on collecting mushrooms hitting the table very often in my house. My kids won't eat mushrooms and I am sure that they would show no interest in collecting and cooking them.
 
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4. Board Game: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:548] [Average Rating:6.99 Unranked]
Just Lucky
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In fact, almost any zombie game. I am not against the tension that zombies can add to the game or the idea of zombies. What prevents me from investing in this type of game is the graphics. I find the images replusive and I would not enjoy an hour looking at cards and board with these images on. Cartoon zombies would be fine, but from what I have seen the gameplay in such games is not as good.
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5. Board Game: Subbuteo [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1313]
Just Lucky
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Or any game that tries to reproduce a sport in a game. Sport is sport and gaming is gaming. It is bad enough that they put sport on the TV without letting it creep into gaming.
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6. Board Game: Felinia [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:3098]
Just Lucky
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Cats in clothes are just freaky. It reminds me of those paintings of dogs playing snooker. It is just wrong, wrong, wrong!
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7. Board Game: The Looney Bin [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:10316]
Just Lucky
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A game that stigmatises or trivialises mental illness will not make it into my collection.
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8. Board Game: Kill Shot [Average Rating:4.15 Overall Rank:14743]
Just Lucky
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A game that suggests that terrorists should be shot rather than brought to justice.

EDIT: This game must be from an inward-looking, xenophobic, neo-imperialistic game designer.
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9. Board Game: Rattus [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:787]
Robert Beachler
United States
Woodburn
OR
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A lot of people have said this theme is pretty terrible and I agree to some extent. Spreading the black plague and killing off people (cubes) is pretty bad but it is a fun game.
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10. Board Game: Tic-Tac-Toe [Average Rating:2.61 Overall Rank:15666]
James Pinnion
United Kingdom
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I'm sure that deep inside this game is a gem waiting to be unearthed. I just cant get past the theme of segregating hugs and kisses - these are joys that are meant to be shared, not monopolised by one side or another!
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11. Board Game: The Suicide Bomber Card Game [Average Rating:5.21 Overall Rank:14270]
Just Lucky
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Maybe this shouldn't be on the list as I am not sure whether it is a good game but it illustrates that there are games that have themes that are just unpalitable.

I can just imaging someone coming up with a longer game based on the 9/11 attacks. It would be a co-op game where you have use your resourses to over come the pilot and suppress the passengers while still trying to guide the plane to its target. If you lose you end up crashed in the desert somewhere or shot out of the sky. No matter how good a game that is, no one would buy it - I hope.
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12. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:187]
Liam
Scotland
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A game where you relive the murder and dissection of sex workers.

Um really? surprise
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13. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:447]
Liam
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I don't think the theme ruins the game but I do find it a bit alarming.

"I love the idea of this game and yet the theme is really really dark, strange and sinister. When you think about it, we are recreating a human disaster for fun. It doesn't really matter, purely because it happened so long ago. None the less it must have been a horrific event - bubbling skin, smell, suffering, chaos and dust. We look at Roman civilisation and scoff their use of the death penalty, slavery, torture and gladiatorial combat. Yet what would the Romans think of us.

I wonder what horrific events of our time will be so dehumanised that they will be made into games in the next millennia or so. Humanity has a half life. It happened so long ago that these people are no longer human and no longer deserving of our empathy. This said we still remember Pinny the Elder and care about his story. We care about individuals but not the great mass of humanity.

Strange to think that almost all of us will cease to be, then, in good time, cease to be remembered in this mortal coil... We are what we believe and I believe good people don't disappear and the bonds of love never break - but I just don't think it's true... hmmm, how odd it is to be human and part of the chorus."

Excerpt: We come with the Dust and go with the wind.
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14. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:374]
D. Quinn Nix
United States
Arvada
Colorado
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Intelligent, sentient food... !

shake

I'm sorry, but I draw the line here. Of all the things anthropomorphized by the entertainment industry – animals, insects, toys, cars, etc. – anthropomorphized food is the most distasteful. Disgusting, even! The very idea, that a thing we eat and digest and defecate could be an intelligent and sentient being!

Bad enough that animals – even the ones most commonly eaten by us, such as cows and pigs and chicken – are anthropomorphized in movies, TV shows, literature, and board games. (Most of it targeted for our children!) However, we who enjoy that sort of thing in our entertainment can choose to be vegetarians or (even better) vegans, and thus live harmoniously with the idea that animals can be intelligent and perhaps even sentient beings. But when a food staple such as beans is anthropomorphized, where does that leave us? Starving and soon to become extinct, that's where. This disturbs me to my very core.

Thus, I cannot bring myself to play this horribly themed game, fun and silly and popular though the game itself might be.

cry
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15. Board Game: Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:293]
Liam
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Oh boy... I add this on the understanding that we don't talk about politics/religion. If anyone does wish to discuss anything, please post in RSP.

Frankly this game is a hell of an undertaking. Done really rather well (save some luck issues) mechanically but on a subject so sensitive that regardless of who you are there is something in this game that is likely to put you off.

Victory Conditions and the path to Victory:

Firstly, the way to win is through violence - peace is not an option, though there are a couple of positive cards. Fair enough it's a war game. Likewise Islam in this game is, for the most part, only presented as a problem to peace - again given it's title what did I expect, so fair enough.

In a similar way a certain outlook is forced upon you;
with cards like: "Renditions: Detainees set to less gentle host" and
"Enhanced Measures: detainees interrogated roughly"
being good for the democratic player.

The problem is, as someone with an interest in Human Rights and having looked over the empirical literature on these methods I'm convinced that not only don't they provided good evidence they destroy the freedom we are trying to protect.
I'm aware that there are sound arguments and empirical evidence against my position, other ways of looking at it and that I may well be naive and wrong (no RSP chat please.)

There are some awful to odd word choices for example the cards:

Martyrdom Operation: 'skillful suicide attack' - 'Skillful?!?!!?!?!!?!' What a awful word choice. Wouldn't 'successful' be sound less admiring?

'Ethiopia Strikes: intervention against Islamism'. What is Islamism? Do they mean the spread and saturation of fundamentalist Islam or are we against the spread of Islam as a whole?

When it comes to domestic policy:

'Leak: Controversial program exposed' - Now my thing is why go with 'controversial program' rather than 'sensitive security information exposed', personally I think controversial programs should be publicly debated in pluralistic societies.

'Wiretapping: Aggressive US domestic surveillance', again here for me, lose the word aggressive and replace it with 'better' or 'securer'. I'm all for drug dealers and terrorists being under surveillance but aggressive creates an element of doubt about what is being referenced. In my own country what I'd class as our aggressive surveillance led to the killing of innocent Brazilian civilian.

Then there are some odd factual choices:


'Schroeder and Chirac: Politicians play up defiance of US' - While there were many populist politicians who did play on anti-war and frankly anti-US feeling, for myself this is not the case with either Schroeder or Chirac. Both argued that Iraq had no WMD and therefore opposed the justification for war, both were critical of elements of the British and US operations.

'Al Jazeera: 'Arab TV spins extremism': Huh? Regionally Al Jazeera are a moderate and pluralistic voice. Why on earth pick them given the wealth of more hateful and fundamentalist channels out there?

'Madrassas: Muslim schools teach extremism'. The problem here is we have taken the Arabic word for academy and unilaterally linked it to the teaching of fundamentalist Islam. This is highly undesirable.

No doubt they are trying to refer to some madaris that were/are fronts for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism - hence the word Taliban means student, as some Pakistani madaris sent their students to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets - but the designer/proofreader should have taken way more care.

The use of art:

The choice of art throughout is photographs. Which is rather brave but can be off putting at times particularly with the card:
'Abu Ghurayb: Photos of US military prison abuse' which uses the notorious image of the prisoner on the box with a hood over his head and wires attached to his fingers, told that if he falls off the box he will be electrocuted. I don't think they should have used this image.

Jihad:

Finally and most significantly the word: Jihad and Jihadist is throughout reductively used in the context of only violent holy war. I realise this is common in some news media and that it has become the dominant context. Jihad, however, means struggle and it's context is wider than merely physical violence to include the spiritual struggle to be a good Muslim and oppose other Muslims who distort Islam.

When I showed the game to an Muslim pal of mine his only irritation was that the word Jihad was being presented in a pejorative way that obscured it's positive meaning. "Jihad has become a dirty and dangerous word - Imagine if you couldn't use the word prayer in public."





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