Games with Weird, Odd, Unusual, or Unorthodox Themes
Alex Bagosy
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The oldest excavated game on record is a fragmentary set from Ancient Sumeria which may be distantly related to the games found in Egyptian and Chinese tombs. Over the thousands of years that have followed, we have produced a wide variety of board games as a species, covering virtually every aspect of our experience, not to mention mythology, religion, art... They say that nothing is truly original, and that's probably true even of games.

But every once and a while, you get a theme, or a concept, that defies explanation.
Here is a list I've been working on for a while: it's essentially a list of the strangest, most unorthodox, most unusual themes for games/game expansions that I've ever encountered, heard about from other gamers, or read about here on the 'Geek.

These are all games which, for whatever reason, don't really sit within the paradigm of "standard" themes, and then take it a step further by just being plain weird. Some of them are actually pretty good. Others are highly questionable. They're all games guaranteed to draw a double-take with the right crowd.

I intend to update this list as I find more weird themes/games/etc. Please, feel free to add your own as we go along. Maybe, like me, you'll seriously consider adding some of these to your collection; you might also consider bringing along a portable wood-chipper on your next thrifting run.

One general rule of thumb: I've tried to avoid focusing upon unpublished games, or prototypes, or pnp games. Nothing wrong with any of those, but I wanted to concentrate on games that were actually marketed at one point or another.

-INVICTVS

EDIT:

This list is sorted by titles to make it easier to follow and less likely to attract repeats. You'll want to check every page for all the weird goodness (and not-so-goodness)

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1. Board Game: Abusir: Die fünfte Dynastie [Average Rating:6.72 Unranked]
Board Game: Abusir: Die fünfte Dynastie
Alex Bagosy
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In theory, the theme, building the pyramids of Giza, is not so unusual. However, a closer examination of Abusir will reveal a very unique take on building the Egyptian pyramids.

Some Egyptian pyramid themed games focus upon economics, or touch on the subject lightly with stacking blocks and stealing resources. Abusir, however, takes it a step further by focusing -exclusively- upon the construction of the pyramids (economics be damned). The players -really- have to drag the blocks used to build their pyramids from flat barges on the Nile and then across the desert to their building sites. They must then raise these blocks into position using an included lever/pulley system.

Actually looks like a lot of fun, and wouldn't mind having a copy if anybody's in the mood to trade. More importantly, however, this is so far as I know the only game in which ancient methodologies of building/construction are actually used (albeit in an overgeneralized form.)
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Board Game: After the Holocaust: The Nuclear Devastation of America – Recovery and Reunification
Enrico Viglino
United States
Eugene
OR
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Guide your economy through a post nuclear era.

Bonus points? It's essentially unwinnable.
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3. Board Game: All My Children [Average Rating:4.44 Unranked]
Board Game: All My Children
Alex Bagosy
United States
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So, yeah. I first encountered this at a board game auction a few years ago. At the time, we'd just finished a long round of betting for a copy of 1776, in which one bidder had asked very seriously if the variant held by the auctioneer included the "British Special Fire Rule." Tired, and anxious to move on to something else, I simply blurted out,

"Does this one include the British Special Fire rule?"

And the auctioneer, not missing a beat, replied.

"No, Alex. That's a different edition of All My Children. I think the Falcon Crest game had it from the beginning, though."

..

"Pine Valley appears to be a quiet community, but beneath that thin veneer of respectability lie powerful passions and petty jealousies, wild emotions and dark machinations. For this is the home of Erica Kane and Palmer Cortlandt, of Tad Martin and Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford. This is the home of All My Children. All My Children is a game of romance and intrigue in which each player takes the part of one of the major "stars" of the show, and attempts to fulfill goals to reach ultimate happiness."

And get this... best part?

Published by TSR!!!

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4. Board Game: The Amanda Knox Board Game [Average Rating:10.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Amanda Knox Board Game
Jeffrey Daniels
United States
Chicago
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5. Board Game: Antler Island [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:5124]
Board Game: Antler Island
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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I own the Fragor Games edition of this one. One of the stranger titles in my collection, though you wouldn't know just from a cursory glance.

The entire purpose of Antler Island is to "rut" - that is, in layman's terms, to mate with a doe. In fact, the more does you mate with, the higher your score, and the more likely you are to win. The other game mechanics focus on items to help you rut more effectively - growing larger antlers, eating food, and maneuvering to prime strategic territory for... err.. "rutting."
One of the more amusing aspects it that, once a doe has been mated with, she's removed from the board. It's exhausting work for the ladies... but not for the players (gallant stags that they are.)

The rules of the game politely suggest that for "over sensitive players" and children, "rutting" could simply refer to "kissing" a doe.
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6. Board Game: Audit: The Tax Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Audit: The Tax Game
Alan How
United Kingdom
Bromley
Kent
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There are 6 owners listed (including me).

No one has played it.

No one has rated it.

It is not included in any subdomain.

It has no suggested number of players.

There are no fans.

Is this the saddest game of all time?
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7. Board Game: Auweier [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:14775]
Board Game: Auweier
Board Game: Auweier


From the rule book:

"Egg On - A mating game for screwy birds

In this game, the players slip on the feathers of a male bird. Through the use of bridal gifts (worms) they try to convince the stunning females (in the middle of the table) that they would be the best fathers for their eggs. During the course of the game, the males try to mate with the females in order to achieve paternity over certain eggs. However, not all the eggs are equally valuable. The first egg in a nest scores fewer points than the third. Also, there are females who are better suited for mating (they have matching color) and their eggs thus earn a bonus.
The King of the Nest will, without a doubt, be the one who manages to mate with all the females, i.e. to collect eggs in all the colors."
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8. Board Game: Axis & Allies & Zombies [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:5891]
From gallery of kbf001
Jim Wickson
United States
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Unspecified
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Coming soon
 
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9. Board Game: Baby Boomer [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Baby Boomer
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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The theme?

Your infant has just acquired an automatic weapon from your closet (or wherever you've carelessly left it). He's now walking down the hallway, and has already shot the dog. You must disarm him, or become his next victim.

Speaks for itself.
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10. Board Game: Barbarossa [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:3198] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Board Game: Barbarossa
Boian Spasov
Bulgaria
Sofia
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Can't believe this game is not on the list yet. It is about sexy pinup anime Nazi girls conquering Moscow. Or something... Can you go much more unortodox than this?

Ah, Japan

Quote:
Barbarossa is set in a fictional Second World War setting, where cute German military girls rush against Moscow to defeat the evil magician Stalin.
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11. Board Game: Big John [Average Rating:4.04 Unranked]
Board Game: Big John
Alex Bagosy
United States
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A big game, about... a big toilet.

"Object is to get rid of all the Big John Scuzzies in your Scuzz bucket by adding them to Big john (toilet) and flushing the handle.
Contents: Big John toilet, pipe, base, 4 plastic Scuzz buckets, cardboard tile and basement floor, 36 Scuzzies."

The only post in the "Big John" forum reads, in part,

"Fun! What young group (and adults) doesn't enjoy the thrill of the randomizer? Shouts, upsets and glory - all for flushing the ol' john"

I can vaguely recall a relative commenting on this game when it was released, "great," she said, "it's not as if (name of the kid) isn't terrified enough of toilet training as it is."

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12. Board Game: Birds Eye Race Against Time [Average Rating:4.12 Unranked]
Board Game: Birds Eye Race Against Time
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Over the years, hundreds, if not thousands, of promotional games have been manufactured around the globe to promote various products. This could easily stand in for any of them.

This particular game was available with proofs of purchase from Birds Eye Frozen Foods. The objective: to harvest, package, and deliver the perfect peas to Birds Eye, which would only accept the delivery of the "finest peas."

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13. Board Game: Bistourisq [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Bistourisq
Dashiell Pinar
France
Barnave
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I don't know if it's weird, but at least it's unusual !

A game of plastic surgery

players act as patient and doctors in the same time, creating their own bodies in a first round and then have surgery from others players.

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14. Board Game: Black Magic Ritual Kit [Average Rating:1.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Black Magic Ritual Kit
SPM
United States
Richardson
Texas
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I mean, let's say you're sitting around with your in-laws on Thanksgiving, slightly bored, slightly tipsy. You might as well break out a classic family-pleaser that will evoke (literally) the spirit of your childhood. I dunno, something like Black Magic Ritual Kit?
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15. Board Game: Black Stories Funny Death Edition [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:6348]
Board Game: Black Stories Funny Death Edition
Simon Blome
Germany
Herne
NRW
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Real and funny cases of death - converted into little mysteries you can solve with friends or your family!
 
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16. Board Game: Black Stories: Christmas Edition [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:15212]
Board Game: Black Stories: Christmas Edition
Simon Blome
Germany
Herne
NRW
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Perfect for Christmas Eve.
 
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17. Board Game: Busen Memo [Average Rating:4.77 Overall Rank:19274]
Board Game: Busen Memo
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
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The perpetual favorite among Geeklist posters... and parodied constantly as a result.

Busen Memo is essentially "Memory." Instead of colorful patterns, or faces, or any of the million and a half other themes that have been used to reinvent the game concept to death and back again, this particular version uses actual photographs of breasts, and tasks the players with matching the appropriate pair.

Without wishing to be crude, it is in fact an anatomical fact that no two pairs of breasts will be precisely the same. It's also a fact that people trying to make a quick buck will do his/her best to put them in as many games as possible.

But why this particular approach was taken to a memory game, a game marketed towards board gamers and not simply in "Adult" boutique shops, is a question that remains unanswered.
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18. Board Game: Bush Whacked [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Bush Whacked
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
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A roll and move game, featuring George W. Bush trivia, facts, and cards...

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19. Board Game: Cairo [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:9591]
Board Game: Cairo
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Yet another Egyptian building game. But this one also has a strange take on the whole subject. It's actually a flicking game. Players have to flick their blocks into position on building sites, and one strategy is to flick blocks in such a way so as to knock down the progress made by other players.
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20. Board Game: Canadian Civil War: La Guerre de la Sécession du Canada [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:15852]
Board Game: Canadian Civil War: La Guerre de la Sécession du Canada
Enrico Viglino
United States
Eugene
OR
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21. Board Game: Carcassonne: Expansion 7 – The Catapult [Average Rating:4.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:4.83 Unranked]
Board Game: Carcassonne: Expansion 7 – The Catapult
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Arguably the moment that Carcassone jumped the shark. Here we have an expansion that involves dexterity to place a meeple, in a game that involves no other dexterity elements whatsoever.

Perhaps proof that sometimes one or two expansions is more than enough...
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22. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:119]
Board Game: Chaos in the Old World
Alexei Gartinski
Jordan
Amman
Unspecified
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Gods of pestilence and destruction competing for who kills most, pollutes most and contaminates most of, well, more or less everything... That is a bit unusual and somewhat weird, isn't it?
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23. Board Game: Club [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Club
Russell Martin
United States
Maryland
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I actually saw this at DragonCon (probably 1996) and never again anywhere else. I think that William Levy was there in person, signing copies (not that I actually saw anyone buy a copy while in that part of the trader's area).

I had a look at it because, at the time for me, the theme was out of the ordinary. And I don't recall the artwork being particularly "sensuous".

I'm amused that, from the blurb, there were apparently plans for this to be a CCG (or maybe an LCG in today's parlance).


"CLUB is an adults only, R rated collectors card game with pin-up art by the world's most dangerous cartoonist, William Levy, known for his underground comic book work in five countries. In this game, you run a strip club, trying to earn cash and avoid the wrath of your neighbors. Deal with street gangs, hustlers, egotistic dancers, crossdressers, and all the other facets of the business, while admiring the sensuous art. Starter deck contains 60 cards, instructions, and a dash of crazy."
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24. Board Game: Cows Can't Dance (but they like to be asked) [Average Rating:5.00 Overall Rank:17452]
Board Game: Cows Can't Dance (but they like to be asked)
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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And in some states, you can even ask them without being arrested.
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25. Board Game: Crack Whore [Average Rating:4.71 Unranked]
Board Game: Crack Whore
Alex Bagosy
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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"Crack Whore is a solitaire adventure dice game where you play the character of a prostitute who is trying to escape the street life. Of course, to accomplish this you need to save up some considerable money; and that means working the streets. Will your pimp, drugs, diseases, and guys that like to hack apart street walkers stand in your way to achieving a better life?

Multi player option allows for more than one person to play at a time, competing to see who is the first to escape the streets and win the game. Can you escape the desperate life of the streets before they put you six feet under?"

Because most of my wargaming friends prefer miniatures (and I like them too), my chance to play wargame type boardgames has been greatly reduced in recent years. I've gone over to trying various solo boardgames, starting with wargames, then moving out to other genres. It's a remarkably pleasant way to spend a few free hours, or a rainy day, or a day in the sunshine, or.... It helps that I also enjoy roleplaying, and only get to do it very rarely these days.

I've been a U-Boat captain, a Barbarian Prince, an Alien Overlord, Captain Nemo, Enver Pasha, Erwin Rommel, Alexander the Great... but this is one role I've never played. Perhaps it's best that way.

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