The Most Brutal Games in the Universe
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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I like games that have very difficult economies and/or decisions. I've been concerned lately that the crowd seems to want more open, 'do what you want at any time' games from designers. The rise of games calibrated for solo engine-optimization experiences supports this concern of mine. I've listened to so many reviewers say "Its great! You can do anything you want when you want to, which I like b/c anything else disrupts my plan or is mean!"

You get the gist. I like games like that from time to time, don't get me wrong. But, I'm most excited with games that illicit a: "Holy Sh*t!, that just screwed me..!"



Music to my ears...

This list is about those games and your experiences
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1. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:123]
Board Game: Age of Steam
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Adam SmithMicrobadge: Grateful Dead fanMicrobadge: Greater Boston Grogs memberMicrobadge: Brain burner fanMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercy
Can't count the number of times a player at the table sat back in their chair looking at the board and said, "I'm out, the blue cube just shipped was my lifeline." Or, "Crap, I miscounted, I'm screwed."

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2. Board Game: Dungeon Lords [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:288]
Board Game: Dungeon Lords
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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This one just makes me laugh. You desperately try to manage the process of getting resources, hiring monsters, paying upkeep, etc. Meanwhile, some adventurers come to try to kill your stuff, ruin your dungeon and steal your materials. Brutal. And amazing.
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3. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:335]
Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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This one is Stefan Feld's best. Don't care what anyone says- his games after this became point salads without much soul.

This one is all about managing your decline. Turn Order is big as you make tough decisions on who stays and who goes. Its a brilliant design.
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4. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:518]
Board Game: Struggle of Empires
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Adam SmithMicrobadge: Grateful Dead fanMicrobadge: Greater Boston Grogs memberMicrobadge: Brain burner fanMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercy
2 actions per turn though you need 20. Unrest, bad die rolls traveling across the oceans, allies abandoning you at the wrong time, etc. Don't get too far ahead of the pack or you're smacked down hard.

If you haven't played this game, you're missing out on Martin Wallace's Mona Lisa.
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5. Board Game: The Republic of Rome [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:542] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Board Game: The Republic of Rome
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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IF the Republic survives its endless wars, you must try to navigate the other factions to rise above. Its impossible. But, try it.

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6. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2797]
Board Game: German Railways
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Adam SmithMicrobadge: Grateful Dead fanMicrobadge: Greater Boston Grogs memberMicrobadge: Brain burner fanMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercy
Like train games that encourage others to block you out at every chance? Play this one. Invest in the wrong train at the wrong time, game over.
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7. Board Game: Deep Sea Adventure [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:679]
Board Game: Deep Sea Adventure
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Adam SmithMicrobadge: Grateful Dead fanMicrobadge: Greater Boston Grogs memberMicrobadge: Brain burner fanMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercy
Not a huge game with a ton of layers BUT everybody loves treasure, right? Love H20 more though as you're going to need it... and others want to make sure you have none of it. Play this with my 9 year old daughter and you'll float to the bottom of the sea every time..
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8. Board Game: Pax Renaissance [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:560]
Board Game: Pax Renaissance
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Play it and find out. Do it now.
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9. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:1018]
Board Game: Vanuatu
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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I heard a Dice Tower reviewer state that Nusfjord was a great worker placement game b/c 'like in all worker placement games, you can do pretty much anything you want...'. umm, what?

Try this one... a different take on WP to be sure but getting screwed out of actions is a part of this one. Plan well so you don't!
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10. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:84]
Board Game: Caylus
Andrew Young
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Adam SmithMicrobadge: Grateful Dead fanMicrobadge: Greater Boston Grogs memberMicrobadge: Brain burner fanMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercy
The best worker placement game to date, IMO. How many times has a player gone to the building you needed? How many times have you forgotten the sequence of buildings and getting resources and you can't build? How many times has the bailiff and provost nuked your dreams?

This one is good.
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11. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:32]
Board Game: Food Chain Magnate
Lucas London
United States
Marion
Iowa
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Cutthroat as all get out.
Very very easy to get messed over. Sometimes you see a move and know it just screwed you. Sometimes you won't know how screwed you are for 3 more hours.

The first game of this I played was pretty friendly, but I had to sell it after the 3rd. My group tends to shy away from brutal games.
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12. Board Game: DungeonQuest [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1782]
Board Game: DungeonQuest
Ugur Dönmez
Netherlands
Hoofddorp
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This list is not complete without this old classic! The rulebook says you have about a 15% chance to survive and from experience that sounds about right. My most vivid memory was crawling heavily wounded towards the exit with my loot, as the sole survivor, only to be shot in the back by a goblin two tiles before freedom. Brilliant stuff
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13. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:355] [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Chuck Tewksbury
United States
Gardner
Massachusetts
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so many times......best laid plans........ the opponent needs to roll less than a 4 to win after hours of play.....his dice fall out of the cup... come up 1,1



Averages mean nothing in the heat of the battle in my experience!

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14. Board Game: 100 A.D. [Average Rating:6.69 Unranked]
Board Game: 100 A.D.
Shaun Morris
United States
New Jersey
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If you're interested in cutthroat then this is the game for you. It's the only game my group has ever played where by the end of the game we were all screaming at each other. One guy still gets genuinely upset when we talk about this game.

Oddly, we all keep talking about playing it again but we've never managed to get it back to the table. I might need to set this up for game night Saturday....

Only issue real with this game? There were only 100 copies made and about the only place you could get them was Gen Con 2015. The designer sold the game to another publisher with the idea that it would get a wider release but it never happened.
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15. Board Game: Neue Heimat [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:2227]
Board Game: Neue Heimat
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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This gem of an auction game definitely needs to be on your list. It's possible to win with a negative score by taking everyone else down worse.

I've got some code which analyses comments on the top 1000 games. Here are the top 10 for percentage of comments which use the word 'brutal':

title matches total term %
id
32944 Neue Heimat 19 220 8.636
4098 Age of Steam 99 1863 5.314
156501 Greenland 12 238 5.042
31722 Steam over Holland 7 139 5.036
175914 Food Chain Magnate 43 960 4.479
31594 In the Year of the Dragon 86 1922 4.475
104020 Vanuatu 18 420 4.286
188920 This War of Mine: The Board Game 8 189 4.233
135382 Shadowrun: Crossfire 21 528 3.977
71061 DungeonQuest (third edition) 26 671 3.875


Four of them (five now) are on this list already - not bad!
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16. Board Game: Machiavelli [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:2274]
Board Game: Machiavelli
David Patterson
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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"Has fortune dealt you some bad cards. Then let wisdom make you a good gamester." - Francis Quarles
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Diplomacy can be a brutal backstabbing game in its own right. Machiavelli uses the same basic order-writing, movement and battle system as Diplomacy - but "supply centers" generate money instead of units. And money can be used to build new units of your own, or to bribe an enemy's unit to go home, or even to bribe an enemy unit to become one of your units! And you can create elite units that break logjams, counter-bribe a critical unit, or just paralyze an opponent for a turn with a judicious assassination.

Board Game: Machiavelli


The possibilities for mischief are endless - you need to build alliances to win, but you can trust no one.

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17. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1324]
Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks
technically dead
Canada
Ontario
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This requires some very careful management of your population.
But most importantly, if you acquire some knowledge early (like say, Fire) and don't have any proper income, you'll be unable to earn enough income to ever buy another tool.
The only fossils your tribe will ever leave behind will be the bones of the few peeps you have--but no archeologist will see them as significant. shake
soblue

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18. Board Game: Conquistador: The Age of Exploration [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:4322]
Board Game: Conquistador: The Age of Exploration
technically dead
Canada
Ontario
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The 'unknown' world is a very unforgiving place--and so is the journey to get you there. This game is against you at every step.
If you survive the trip across the ocean, and the environment doesn't kill you, AND you manage not to piss off the locals, you just have to survive any possible confrontations with any of the other nations in play.

But wait! That's not all! We'll also throw in an extremely tight budget-that will run out very quickly if you don't dig up something of value in this new land. But don't expect that to be easy, either.

Best not to have any family if you're thinking of joining an expedition.

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19. Board Game: Age of Renaissance [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1374]
Board Game: Age of Renaissance
James Webb
United Kingdom
Canterbury
Kent
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I notice that the OP has an AoR microbadge.

Two words.

Civil. War.

No, wait. Mysticism. Abounds.

Actually, no, let's go for Alchemist's. Gold. Or Black. Death.

Too much brutal.
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20. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:766]
Board Game: Santiago
James Webb
United Kingdom
Canterbury
Kent
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My word, this game is MEAN.

It's an auction game, where each turn you need to bribe the person who came last in the auction, in order to make sure your crops get watered and don't shrivel up and die.
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21. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:370]
Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe
H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
Germany
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Although this is a masterpiece of game-design, it is just too brutal. Chess-like cut-throat intensity. Every single move is crucial.
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22. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:431] [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked]
Board Game: Chess
H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
Germany
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"Silence! I kill you!"
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23. Board Game: Lancaster [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:388]
Board Game: Lancaster
Jeff
United Kingdom
Maidenhead
Berkshire
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You need that location?... let me kick you out with a bunch load of squires.

You think you've won that battle in France, here let me just upgrade my knight so I win it instead.

You really want that law to come in... sorry I just voted against you, with all my votes.

Love this game, the ability to mess with each others plans is excellent!
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24. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:77]
Board Game: Dominant Species
Mus Rattus
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When I teach this game, I lay out a few dominance cards and let players know that they exist, to be forewarned, and be prepared to take them if they come up.

Cataclysm (or is it Catastrophe?)
Biomass
Predation
Mass Exodus
Edit: and Blight
Immigrants*

Of these, I think Mass Exodus is the most brutal. It doesn't *require* you to kill enemy pieces but it may allow you to.

*I usually play with the shortened version, so this card isn't in the deck. But it deserves a warning if it is!

Beyond that, there is the brutality of blocking the Wasteland space and letting someone else's precious elements disappear, or taking some precise Competition actions right before the Dominance phase and ruining the planned scoring. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and this game is certainly brutal.
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25. Board Game: Cave Evil [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:2977] [Average Rating:7.94 Unranked]
Board Game: Cave Evil
Mus Rattus
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I don't know about the game-play, but this game is certainly the most BRVTAL to ever exist.
It is also TRVE and KVLT and probably frost-bitten.




(I'll remove this if the list creator prefers as it's not really what the list is about)
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