This week the Opinionated Gamers are publishing a series of articles ranking games in a few different ways based on data collected from many different contributors. Today’s topic is popular games that are “not for me” under the classic OG rating system. Twenty-two contributors voted on their picks for popular games that are “not for me” to come up with today’s list, including Alan How, Brandon Kempf, Brian Leet, Chris Wray, Craig Massey, Dale Yu, Frank Branham, Fraser McHarg, Greg Schloesser, Jeff Lingwall, Larry Levy, Lorna, Mario Pawlowski, Mark Jackson, Matt Carlson, Patrick Korner, RJ Garrison, Simon Neale, Talia Rosen, Tery Noseworthy, and Wei-Hwa Huang.
It was an exciting race with 118 different games receiving at least one vote (including a few games designed by OG members, such as Deduce or Die, New Amsterdam, and Suburbia). We’re nothing if not honest about our opinions here at the Opinionated Gamers! I originally proposed this article as bluntly being about “overrated” games, but my fellow OG contributors knocked me down a peg or two by urging me to change the nomenclature to acknowledge that these games are simply not ones that we like. I have a tendency to be a bit more set in my ways, but c’est la vie. The idea for this piece comes from my 2008 article “A Penny Saved,” in which I explained my 50 least favorite games, some of which still got the nod here — all these years later. If you love any of these 20 games then you’re certainly not alone because they’re widely popular, and I’m sure some OG contributors even love them, but in the aggregate, these are the popular games that we collectively most find to be “not for me.”
55 points from 3 voters
Is Tapestry popular? I guess at least 3 OG contributors think so. I thought that Tapestry was widely panned as a bust. I played it once and don’t have any interest to play again, although I’d agree to a second play if pressed. This is a long dry civilization game that is fairly straightforward with minimal thematic elements.
- Larry: To answer Talia’s question, Tapestry is in the Geek’s top 250 and has a large and fairly rabid fanbase (it also has quite a few detractors). It didn’t take the gaming world by storm, but it is popular. But the main reason it was my #2 Not for Me game is that it was an easy pick for my worst game of 2019, so my view of it is quite different than the majority opinion. It’s principal crime is it’s very poorly balanced. (I’ve only played the original version, so I can’t speak to the numerous fixes which have been made. But call my old fashioned, but I still feel that a publisher owes it to its customers to deliver something on Day 1 that is at least reasonably well balanced.) Statistics show that there is a wide variance between the value of the starting civ powers and my games certainly reflected that. The Tapestry cards are also out of whack, with some being very useful in the right circumstances and others being close to pointless. In my first game, thanks to some fortunate draws, I scored more than twice as many points as my opponents and had far more turns than they did. My second game wasn’t quite as extreme, but I still wound up winning easily, thanks to good fortune. This just isn’t acceptable. In addition, this is a long game (both games took at least 3 hours) and there is practically no player interaction. There is also very little connection to its theme; it doesn’t feel anything like a Civ game. Finally, it just isn’t much fun to play. That’s obviously a subjective thing, but when added to the game’s other flaws, it was the final stake in the heart.
Despite an unenjoyable first game, I made a point of playing Tapestry a second time, just to ensure that my initial attempt wasn’t a fluke. Sadly, it wasn’t, as the same issues cropped up again. The game seems deeply flawed and even when things worked better, it isn’t much fun to boot. I’m happy that others enjoy it, but you’d have to wrap me in considerable layers of tapestry in order to get me to sit still long enough to play this again.
61 points from 6 voters
I’m thrilled to see this make the list. I gave it my #2 spot way back in 2008 and I’m still just as confused by it today. I’ve played it a bunch of times, but I just don’t understand the love. If you don’t draw the tiles to be involved in the first or second merger, then good luck getting your companies to go defunct quickly enough and getting back into the game over the next hour. I also don’t have a lot of fun placing 1 of my 6 tiles that all do nothing without any clear sense of the implications. I’m sure I’m missing something here, and I’m confident this game has several staunch OG defenders, but at least I have a few fellow detractors on this one.
- Mark: A number of the games I chose are games that I respect for their role in the development of board games… but don’t enjoy playing. Acquire is solidly in that category for the reasons Talia outlined.
- Matt: Acquire (published 1964) predates my getting into “modern” boardgaming (early 90s) so not a game for which I have a lot of nostalgia. The constraint of where to place pieces is interesting, but the game simply has screwing over the other players as the central mechanic. Not one I enjoy, especially in a game of this (admittedly moderate) length. So many other games are a better fit for me.
- Larry: Talia summarized most of my concerns with Acquire. It certainly isn’t a bad game, but I never felt the gameplay lived up to its exalted reputation. My family was an early adopter of the 3M games, so I got to play this soon after its initial release back in the mid-sixties. I’ve also played it as a teen, as a young adult, and as a more experienced gamer. At no point did I ever see the greatness in the design. Just a bit too much luck and not enough choices most of the time. For a long time, I thought I was the only one to notice that the Emperor might be slightly underdressed, but it looks like I have some company with some fellow OGers.
- Melissa: Fraser’s a fan of this one, but I don’t see the appeal. Not enough interesting decisions for my taste.
- Greg: This was one of my earliest forays into “European-style” gaming, even though it is an American design. I played this many, many times in high school and thereafter, and am still always happy to play Acquire, even though the tile draw can sometimes wreak havoc on one’s plans.
- Fraser: My only issue with Acquire is finding people to play it with (q.v. Melissa’s comment above)
(18) Tigris & Euphrates
65 points from 5 voters
- Matt: I place this game high on my list of games I love to hate. I can see a good game in there but it is simply not for me. It’s fairly abstract (a negative) and has significant player conflict. Conflict isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but this has aspects of conflict for which I do not care. (1) Players can easily get caught in the crossfire. I may not be winning, but when someone else attacks the leader, I still might lose significant position on the board just for being in the way. (2) The conflict strongly favors the “winner” with the loser becoming even more vulnerable to attacks from the other players. For me, this is compounded by the unknown strength of the opponents. I’m constantly trying to put together a set of tiles with which to attack, only to find out my opponent is either defenseless or out-powers me with a surprising cache of just the right tiles – to disastrous effect. The result is that I sit around most of the game constantly stressed about what’s in everyone else’s hands. While I like a challenge and difficult decisions, I just don’t like sitting through a long game where I’m never quite sure of my current or future strength. Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t mind playing with “hidden points” (yes, I know you can count them) as I like the fact that the leader might not be exactly known. This helps a bit with the “pick on the leader” problem.
- Larry: I think that T&E is a great game, but I have to admit to being a bit uncomfortable that a design that requires such skill to play well also has a fairly high luck factor. It’s a bit of a strange mix. However, the game is a bit beyond my capabilities, so I’m not really qualified to judge it.
- Talia: Heresy! Tigris & Euphrates (or Euphrat & Tigris) is one of my most played in-depth German-style games of all time with over 100 plays. Whatever people tell you, it’s not just about drawing more red tiles. It’s about knowing and seeing when and how to attack. It’s about knowing when and how to prioritize the placement of each of your four leaders to gather points, earn treasures, and shore up your fragile position. It’s about building toward monuments at the right time and place. The beauty and majesty of Tigris makes me ill-equipped to explain what it’s doing on this list, but I’m sure some other OG members will jump in here to explain their perspective.
- Greg: I stand firmly with Talia here. Tigris & Euphrates is a brilliant game that requires skillful play and planning. It has been a mainstay in my personal Top 10 since its release.
- Fraser: It is three different great games in one box; two player, three player and four player Tigris & Euphrates are entirely different games. I have round that I do really badly at two player, very well at the three player count and OK at four player.
65 points from 4 voters
I didn’t vote for Gloomhaven personally, but I’m not surprised to see it here. #1 game of all-time, really? I played my copy twice and then sold it. It seemed like a more mundane version of Descent: Journeys in the Dark, which did what Gloomhaven tries to do but better and over 10 years earlier. Do the Gloomhaven fans just not know about Descent, or just love all the pieces, or what? This just cannot be the best board game ever made. That does not compute. What will knock it out of that coveted spot? Maybe Through the Ages or Twilight Struggle will make a comeback!
- Simon: Whilst I thoroughly enjoy dungeon crawlers and RPGs, Gloomhaven got my gold medal because of its combat gameplay. I fully appreciate the clever idea behind the card based combat but for me it is just far too slow. Exploring a dungeon and coming across some evil monsters should result in fast and furious combat. My games of Gloomhaven have resulted in “hold on a moment, let’s plan this round of combat to the first detail………..”
- Matt: Well, technically this is “for me” but the huge commitment (by all parties) needed to work through the campaign paired with the long setup process (yes, I have all my bits heavily organized, but still…) makes it very hard to get to the table. There’s also my indignant reaction to this story-based game when it assumes my “character” will perform a certain way. I recall an encounter card where it was something like the chance to help or ignore someone we met on the road. Clearly my goody-two-shoes character would want to help them, but after reading the results it felt like I just let them fall into the ditch rather than the “mean” option was where I pushed them in myself. Essentially, picking a “nice” choice ended up with my “character” taking not so very nice actions. I don’t mind the “nice” choice having bad consequences, I just didn’t like the game to essentially put words into my mouth.
- RJ: I happen to like Gloomhaven. No, I didn’t vote for it. And I would agree that it’s not the #1 game of all time. I’m trying to figure out where the OP came up with that. Being #1 on the geek doesn’t make it #1 of all time. Just of the moment. I’ve played Descent and it was…ok. But I’ve been loving Gloomhaven. Perhaps I’m writing on the wrong article. This one is for me. (Maybe I just want to argue…)
- Melissa: Where does “haven’t bothered to play it yet and forgot I owned it” sit on our ranking scale? I was moving furniture around yesterday and found a big heavy cardboard box … with Gloomhaven inside. It feels too big for me to bother with right now, to be honest. Maybe if someone else set it up for me?
69 points from 5 voters
I’ve never heard of Lisboa, but I see that it is a 2017 game by Vital Lacerda, so if I’d made the mistake of playing it, then it likely would have jumped up even higher on this list due to how much I disliked playing Vinhos and CO2. Glad to see I’m not the only Lacerda detractor around here, although I know there are a few Lacerda super fans in the OG ranks, so you may hear a split decision on this one. For me, Lacerda games are kitchen-sink affairs that try to do everything at once without a clear animating principle, much like Rosenberg and Feld have been trending in recent years but to the extreme. I hope some of the five voters for Lisboa will explain their particular qualms.
- Simon: There are times when designers feel the need to throw every possible mechanic and idea they have into a game and for me Lisboa is such a game. Far too much quantity over quality.
- Larry: Lisboa is a typical Lacerda game in which the actions you select trigger other, free actions, and much of your success is setting yourself up for those chains. I love games with cascading actions, but Lacerda takes it to such an extreme that I can’t find the central thread in his titles. These free actions aren’t thematic–in fact, they often run contrary to the game’s theme. I find his designs to be very hard to learn and bewildering and unpleasant to play. It’s a shame, because I usually like games at that level of complexity, but his have proven to be such an exception that I’ve pretty much given up on trying his stuff. However, there are many who adore his games and all I can say is, more power to them.
- Fraser: We own it, but it is still in shrink. I am pretty sure we would like it, but it is still in shrink. We had/have an offer from a good friend to teach us, but pandemic. Still in shrink.
70 points from 5 voters
This Martin Wallace game from 2007 was in my top five for what I thought of as most “overrated” games. It made my list back in 2008 and it makes my list again today. I love a handful of Wallace games when they draw me in and engage me for a couple solid hours, such as God’s Playground, Age of Steam, and Last Train to Wensleydale. But Brass just didn’t live up to the Wallace name for me, and felt more lackluster, much like Steel Driver or After the Flood. Given how beloved Brass is, I’m surprised to see that 4 other OG contributors put it on their popular “not for me” lists because I have a feeling we’re in the minority among OG members and board gamers generally. At least the “genius hummingbird” that is Wallace has settled down to explore the Brass ecosystem a bit more fully than most of his half-baked titles.
- Matt: I like the idea of the game, and had one enjoyable play, but I guess this is “not for me” because I’ve never bothered to get it back to the table. I think it’s simply the “brain overhead” of parsing out all the rules and strategy when they’re not linked in through a more common theme. (Don’t get me wrong, I love that it is a non-standard theme, but that does mean it takes a bit more brainpower and if I’m being lazy I don’t want to put that kind of effort in to get it running again….)
- Larry: Brass is a tough game and I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone (I like it a lot, but I’ve never been much good at it). But I do find it ironic how much we gamers beg publishers to give us different themes than the same old, same old, and when they do, we often bitch at them because it’s not in our comfort zone! The central concept in Brass of flipping your companies is unusual, but it makes perfect sense once you realize it’s a way of showing when a company finds a steady customer for its services. I think the idea is inspired, since it’s such a streamlined way of of dealing with a potentially complex activity. I think this different way of dealing with things in an economic game is one of the reasons for the design’s great popularity.
- Melissa: I’ll be the Brass defender here! I like it and it’s definitely in my “want to play more often” category. It’s an interesting and tight game, and very cleverly designed.
71 points from 6 voters
Yes! Why does this game get so much love? I get why people recommend most gateway games, but this one baffles me. You want to introduce someone to the board game hobby, then show them Ticket to Ride, Forbidden Island, Qwirkle, Carcassonne, Kingdomino, and so many more. But why bore them with Splendor? It doesn’t make any sense to me and 5 other OG members. There are so many solid 30-minute introductory strategy games that this cannot possibly be one of them.
- Larry: Splendor is a perfectly reasonable game. I find it very straightforward and mathematical in nature. I felt like I had plumbed its depths after about one game and I’ve done reasonably well in my subsequent games. Consequently, it holds little interest for me anymore. Obviously, there is an audience for such designs, but, like Talia, I’m a bit mystified by its staying power. Abstract, themeless, and easily mastered–doesn’t sound like a formula for success, but the game still seems to be popular, so what do I know?
- Melissa: You know, I really liked Century: Spice Road when I first played it, and I felt that Splendor ‘replaced’ it for me. Splendor was more streamlined and faster, and it had those poker chips. But the more I have played it (and for some reason, it does seem to be popular with more casual boardgamers), the less I like it. It’s also one of the very few exceptions to my “use the theme to teach the game” rule – I struggle to find the theme at all.
- Greg: I never, ever understood the love for this game. To me, it rates an absolutely definitive “eh.” I was never excited about it and still cannot understand its appeal.
- Fraser: Maybe there’s not a lot to it, other than empty space in the box, but it plays well and quickly and it has nice chunky poker chips.
(13) Twilight Imperium
82 points from 7 voters
I somehow made the grievous mistake of playing this game 5 times, which is over 20 hours of my life that I’ll never get back. This game is so plodding and cumbersome that it does everything that Nexus Ops does in four times the length. Twilight Imperium also seems to strongly incentivize turtling defensively. In my experience, the winner tends to be me if I can convince you and your neighbor to fight. But I’m too aggressive to sit back, so I end up dragging down whichever poor soul I decide to attack. If you want an intense combat game then there’s Nexus Ops or Risk Legacy. If you want a galactic strategy game then there’s Eclipse. You surely don’t need to waste your time with Twilight Imperium.
- Mark: “Let’s you and him fight” is never a solid basis for a game design… let alone one that eats up 4+ hours at a minimum. Granted, it’s not quite Star Fleet Battles, where the fun is in designing your ship rather than playing the game… but the excessive amounts of turtling and the subsequent whining as a couple of players emerge from the interminable border spats stronger than the rest just isn’t fun. (And, before someone grumbles that I’m “in love with high-falutin’ Euros”, remember that I’m the guy who has Memoir ‘44, Clash of Cultures, and Heroscape in his top five games of all time.)
- Greg: I remember when the highly touted 3rd edition came out and I was invited to play it one Saturday by a fellow gamer who adores it. We spent the entire day — nearly 10 hours playing — and I essentially used the “turtling” strategy. My only attack came on the final turn on the game when I knew I had the game well in hand. I never, ever saw the need to play it again.
(12) Race for the Galaxy
84 points from 6 voters
I’m a little bit shocked to see this one make the list. I don’t particularly enjoy Race for the Galaxy, given my strong (somewhat inexplicable) personal preference for Roll for the Galaxy. I’ll leave it to the 6 other OG contributors that voted for Race for the Galaxy to explain their distaste. If I had to guess it might be something to do with the fact that the fans all seem to have played this game 1,000 times, leaving any casual observers in the dust without any hope of even deciphering the icons before they’ve completed their entire tableau.
- Mark: As a huge fan of Race for the Galaxy, I’d like to blame a whole lot of Race fans who chose to teach this game in ways that actively drove people from the table. The iconography works – as evidenced by the success of Roll for the Galaxy & New Frontiers – so I suspect the problem lies with muddled teaching and scorched earth “ha ha, I beat the newbie” behavior.
- Brandon: Mark hit the nail on the head with the way that older, more experienced players teach RftG. I came into a group that absolutely loves it, they’ll sit and play 4 player games in 20 minutes, and they expect you, the new player to come in and do the same. Also, the iconography works, sure, but it’s not good, not to mention the whole game is just kind of convoluted. I far preferred the simplicity of The City, or even the newer Res Arcana. Both do a lot of the same things, in an easier to understand and play package.
- Matt: Huge Roll for the Galaxy fan, but suffer from the issues mentioned. In my case, it is flipped in that I would tend to be the more experienced player. It is not an easy game to spring on newer gamers. To play the game “well” I feel that players really need to know what sorts of things are in the deck. Any game needing to explain every card before the game starts really puts a drag on the play.
- Melissa: I missed the initial hype on this game and struggled with the iconography. I think Talia hits it with her comment about newbs struggling to keep up with the very experienced players – I always felt that everyone else knew what to do while I was still working out what each of my cards did. I don’t mind being rubbish at a game, but I really hate holding up play. I adore Roll for the Galaxy, though.
- Greg: I don’t enjoy this game for one simple reason: icon overload. Every time I played (three times, to my recollection) I always struggled deciphering the icons. There were simply too many and, for me, their meanings were not intuitive. I much, MUCH prefer Roll for the Galaxy.
- Fraser: Absolutely agree with Talia and Melissa about the newbies being completely destroyed by the experienced players. It can be quite off putting. I do enjoy Roll for the Galaxy though, even more so now it is on Board Game Arena.
86 points from 8 voters
The Scythe backlash is real! This game was so ascendant, and now there seems to be some growing opposition. I, for one, really enjoy Scythe, especially with the airship expansion. And I’m looking forward to trying Rise of Fenris some day. I can see why it’s not for everyone, given it’s a Frankenstein “weuro” hybrid. Remember when we used to call games like Wallenstein “weuros” because it was rare for “eurogames” to have direct conflict? Now it’s so common that they don’t even have a name. I love that the victory condition in Scythe is fairly separate from the combat and even from the game end condition. I enjoy the variable player powers, the fun encounter cards, and the tricky challenges of managing the heart track. I wouldn’t want to play with more than three or four players, but it sounds like many OG folks wouldn’t want to play with more than zero players…
- Brian: I’m responsible for a scant 2 of these 86 points. I answered this survey in the “overrated” sense by reviewing all the games from the BGG top 1,000 and ranking those which I have both played and have the least desire to play again. In that respect Scythe was 19 of 20. This excludes a large list of games I’ve never played and never will, and the fact that I would give it a try again with the right group. Still, I’ve given it a few tries and it’s never really sung to me.
- Melissa: I bought Scythe on a whim, after an encounter with a hairdresser who thought reindeer were “just normal deer with costumes on”. There’s a card in the game that echoes this. But like Gloomhaven, it’s languishing in the unplayed-and-not-terribly-interested pile – at least this one was unshrinked so we could see the card in question.
- Greg: The hype probably killed this one for me. The game was SO highly and loudly touted, that I was expecting the equivalent of gaming Nirvana. Instead, what I found was a decent game, but nothing which overly excited me. I’d probably play again if a group of friends were playing, but I have no desire to seek out a playing.
(10) Arkham Horror
88 points from 9 voters
I’m glad to know that my dislike of Arkham Horror is shared by so many. I always thought that everyone was somehow in love with all things H.P. Lovecraft except me. It seemed like I couldn’t be a real nerd (despite my insanely nerdy habits / obsessions) because I didn’t “get” Lovecracft or Arkham. I only tried this game once back in 2009, so I can’t comment in any detail, but it was incredibly long, boring, random, and not at all engaging.
- Brian: I’m responsible for 1 of these 88 points. And it comes down to game length. I just don’t find that Arkham Horror delivers enough for the duration when I’ve experienced it. There are other games where the story grips me more.
- Matt: I love co-ops but the length (mentioned above), the theme (not a horror/squick fan), and the many many bits mean I’m not interested in getting it to the table.
- Greg: I am a HUGE fan of HP Lovecraft, so I was drawn to the game due to the immersive theme. However, as Matt points out, the length, fiddlyness and abundance of pieces disappointed me. I found Eldritch Horror improved these factors somewhat, but not enough for it to entice me to play regularly.
- Fraser: I am guessing we are not talking about the 1987 edition which I own and have played with my Call of Cthulhu group. I haven’t played the new one, although I have friends who swear by it and make a day of it (literally) by playing with many or all of the expansions.
(9) Modern Art
94 points from 6 voters
My personal #1 most overrated game. Why? Just why? There are so many fun, interesting, fascinating, enthralling auction games. Why is Modern Art revered? I just don’t understand. The prices in Modern Art are so much less opaque and more straightforward to estimate. I find the bidding to be so much less interesting and so much more of a foregone conclusion when everyone knows the maximum possible value of the painting. As bidding approaches that value, it all feels more and more pointless. The returns end up being so slim, and the value to each player doesn’t vary in the fascinating way that tiles in Ra do. After a turn of Ra, players suddenly have vastly different valuations of a flood tile, a civilization tile, or any given monument tile. How could you not much rather be playing Ra?
- Mark: Knizia has made much better auction games (Traumfabrik, High Society, and – of course – Ra)… and the fragility of the game system make it painful to play. (What do I mean by fragility? A new and/or bad player can make decisions in which paintings to auction that will radically favor another player and throw the game completely out of whack.)
- Tery: All auctions and bidding all the time? No thank you, especially when one player can completely throw the game off.
96 points from 8 voters
I don’t understand this selection. Wingspan is an incredibly clever design, with a unique theme that draws people in, and with gorgeous production values. I’ve had plenty of disagreements with my fellow OG contributors over this game, and ultimately I think they’re wrong. I’ve taught this game to people who would not normally play strategy board games and they’ve fallen in love. Yes, the game does not innovate significantly mechanically, but it innovates dramatically in its execution, which matters far more than most OG members think. Yes, Wingspan is not the greatest thing since sliced bread or the second coming of Settlers of Catan, but it’s a brilliant gateway game for broadening the appeal of this niche beloved hobby of ours.
- Larry: All true–just don’t make me play it. I mean, the game is decent, but it does nothing new or original and the mechanisms are a bit clumsy. If the theme appeals to you, then you should probably own it, but if you feel that birds should get the bird, there isn’t much “there” there. You asked us to cite games that were much higher regarded than our personal opinions of them and Wingspan fits the bill. It’s won all kinds of awards and raked in all kinds of money, but the gameplay only deserves a rating of 7 or even 6. Mechanically, I think there are much better gateway games out there. Now, if we’re talking theme or art, that’s a different story, but neither does much for me, personally. I don’t resent the game’s existence (in fact, I’m glad it’s out there and I’m very happy for all who are associated with it). I just don’t want to have to play it.
- Brandon: My number three and it honestly could have been one or two, but I was feeling generous I suppose. I have played Wingspan a total of six times, five times because I thought I needed to in order to review it fully for my first ever review here on the OG, and another play because a friend and his wife wanted to play it. After that the game was sold with a quickness and even though I could have made a profit at the time, I felt bad and sold it for cheaper because I just wanted to have one good feeling about the game. The biggest crime here is the sheer boredom, the repetitive play and the need to simply bury cards and get eggs towards the end for as many points as possible. I love how folks like to tout the sheer amount of cards as a positive as if having a lot of cards means variety, well it doesn’t. I mean it does if you are counting the art and the bird names, but action wise, the cards are repetitive, they just word them differently. The biggest negative for me in a game like this was the sheer way it feels horribly solitaire. Even when you play bird cards that could trigger on others turns, they rarely do, plus everything is just positive reinforcement, there is no negative anything. I know, I know, a lot of folks like this about the game and tout it as a reason for it being a wonderful introduction game. I’d honestly rather play Ticket to Ride and have someone steal a route I’ve been working towards than just play patty cake with everyone else at the table. But hey, apparently I am in the minority.
- Melissa: I’m with Larry and Brandon. It’s fun enough, but it’s not something I’d reach for. And I *really* dislike the plastic tray thingy – although the “bird feeder” device is fun. Every time I talk boardgames on radio, someone rings to say they’ve played it – but because it’s a simple game for hobbyists, or a complex game for non-hobbyists, there are often calls from people who are struggling with one element of the rules. It’s great to see women designers succeeding, and it’s great to see games getting more mainstream press. I’ll defend it to the hilt – but I am unlikely to play it.
- Greg: I align with Melissa’s opinions on this. It is a decent game, and I’m happy to play it, but I don’t seek it out. I would rate it a “7”, but there are many other games I’d reach for first before choosing this. Its wild popularity baffles me.
97 points from 7 voters
No surprise here. Werewolf is and always has been divisive. At board game conventions, there are the Werewolf players and the non-Werewolf players. Late at night, conventions seem to split in two with the Werewolf players running off to play for hours on end. I find myself strangely caught between these two worlds. I cannot imagine playing Werewolf as much as the true Werewolf fans, but I’ve been known to enjoy a game here or there, especially of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Resistance, or Avalon. It’s not really a game though, so much as an activity, which might be why so many OG contributors voted for Werewolf on this list.
- Tery: Werewolf is more of a social activity than a game to me.I really have a hard time understanding why people enjoy playing it for hours on end, and don’t even get me started on the gazillion special powers that have been added that make the game get drawn out even longer. It’s painful. I was convinced to try it again a few years ago and my opinion was confirmed; it was random and far too long. I’d rather be playing just about any other party game.
- Melissa: The more I play social deduction games, the less I enjoy them. They’re arbitrary, fiddly, and frequently outstay their welcome. Player elimination is a rubbish mechanism and it’s even more rubbish when it happens without rhyme or reason.
- Greg: Tery’s opinion matches mine EXACTLY. I would rather play just about anything else than Werewolf. It is a long, boring and excruciating exercise in mob mentality. No thank you. On the plus side, it sells like crazy and has made my good friends Ted & Toni Alspach a TON of money!
(6) Battlestar Galactica
103 points from 9 voters
I want to know if any of these 9 people have watched the entire television series! I played the Battlestar Galactica board game once before ever having watched the show, and I was bored out of my mind. Then I started watching the show, loving the show, and enjoying the board game. I don’t have the temperament to write many board game reviews, but I did write a glowing one for this game – Paranoia at its Finest. I’ll let the other OG voters explain what they possibly could have been thinking in expressing their confounding dislike for the tense joy of Battlestar Galactica.
- Brandon: I have watched the series and the only thing that I really could think of as I played that corresponded with the series is that it went on entirely too long. To be fair, my play of BSG was tainted by random accusations and a finicky rules lawyer that always held up the flow of the game, but I’m okay judging it that way as most of these kinds of games feel that way in the long run.
- Matt: I’ve watched much of the series. I like co-op games. I don’t like hidden traitor games. (Note, a pet peeve of mine is the term “semi-co-op.” What the heck is that? You are either cooperating, or you aren’t. Is Puerto Rico a semi-co-op game because my choices can help or hurt you? – Or pick another Eurogame where players can contribute to a common cause in order to earn points…)
- RJ: Ooohhh! A 3 hour game of Werewolf! Sign me up…uh..no. (I’d rather play One Night Ultimate Werewolf.)
- Larry: I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the TV show, enough to convince me that both it and the game are Not for Me. But you know what, I’ve never read The Bottle Imp and I still love that game. Being aware of the source material shouldn’t be a prerequisite for enjoying a game. Anyway, my only game of BSG was a pretty bad one–the rules weren’t explained well and the traitor got the other players to toss me into the Brig. Pretty frustrating stuff. But even if ignore that less than stellar experience, I’m not a fan of most cooperative games, I like the ones with a traitor even less, and I have no interest in the subject matter. Definitely a Not for Me vote, wouldn’t you say?
- Greg: I, on the other hand, really enjoy Battlestar Galactica. I have enjoyed some absolutely fantastic gaming experiences when playing this. The hidden traitor aspect works splendidly here (far better than in Shadows over Camelot) and there is usually constant tension and atmosphere of impending doom throughout. For me, this is an excellent cooperative game.
- Fraser: Tip one – you really should watch the TV series before playing this game (as some friends of Daughter the Elder’s had NOT). Tip 2, no matter what IMBD etc. say, the TV series ended after three seasons. I haven’t played this game for years, but when it was newish I used to play it about once a fortnight (every two weeks) and it was really good. If I had played it more often, I think it would have outstayed its welcome, but that was the right sort of frequency. I only ever played the first expansion and don’t really know about the others.
(5) Taj Mahal
105 points from 7 voters
Some OG contributors made the interesting point that Taj Mahal isn’t popular these days, so it cannot possibly be overrated. I guess this shows how old school most OG writers are that we think this mostly forgotten Knizia classic is more popular than it ought to be. I agree that Taj Mahal got a lot of love back in the day for no clear reason, given how many other enthralling games Knizia designed. I also agree that it’s mostly forgotten these days, so it’s an interesting entry in our Top 5.
- Mark: Another Knizia… hmmm. I sense a theme. This is a game I loved on my first play, liked on my second, had questions on my third, and by my fourth & fifth play was actively trying to figure out how to get someone to buy my copy so I wouldn’t have to play again. Again, “let’s you & him fight” rears its ugly head… as the path to victory depends on someone else choosing NOT to get into a bidding war with you.
- Larry: I think the reason this got so many negative votes from our more veteran gamers is that they retain bitter memories of games from back in the day that included insane bidding wars. All I can say to that is, sometimes, ya just gotta walk away (and realize who might want to win that auction just as badly as you do). But I do feel that Taj Mahal is one of Knizia’s better games, albeit one that might not work for every group.
(4) Cosmic Encounter
105 points from 8 voters
Another divisive title if there ever was one. People always seem to love or hate Cosmic Encounter, and you can count me in the hate column. I have a feeling we will have a few staunch Cosmic defenders in the OG ranks that may come out of the woodwork here, but enough of us apparently dislike this popular space combat game to give it a spot near the top of the charts here. I think we can all agree that the incredibly diverse variable player powers were foundational, but the gameplay itself is lackluster, right?
- Mark: Like Acquire, a game that I respect for the innovation – but don’t like playing. And, yes, I’ve tried every version at one point or another: Eon, Mayfair, Avalon Hill, and Fantasy Flight.
- Matt: Absolutely love the many, crazy player powers – especially the ones that lead to more social interaction. (Steve Jackson Games’ Illuminati, anyone?) However, the game can VERY easily drag on far too long. While the target of conflict is randomly determined, which can be a plus as it avoids pile on the leader problems, it also means one player can run away with the game with all the other players helplessly looking on. In a game this unbalanced, I feel ganging up should be allowed. Props to the game though for having a player power (Ziltch) who doesn’t play the game and just hangs around the board “freely” giving advice in the hopes they can get their secretly chosen player to win the game…
- Larry: My initial exposure to this game was with the original Eon version and I played with players who insisted on using every expansion, with multiple powers, multiple everything–the works. Basically, the more chaos, the more they liked it. I’ve always been allergic to chaos, so this did not suit me well. But even a tamer version of Cosmic is too crazy and chaotic for me. I acknowledge the game’s tremendous importance in the history of the hobby, but I really have no desire to ever play it again.
- Melissa: Did someone mention sneaking out of the woodwork? I’ll be honest: I don’t actually know whether Cosmic Encounter is a good game or a great game. I have so many happy memories of playing it, I can’t not feel excited at the prospect of playing it. I’m not usually a fan of wild and chaotic games with multiple rule changes, but Cosmic is the exception to everything (as long as it’s the Eon version). Meeting Peter Olotka at BGGcon in 2019 was an absolute highlight – I carried the original warp token with me to get him to sign it.
- Greg: Yet another game that just failed to deliver on the hype. I bought this early on in my gaming renaissance based on reputation alone. I played numerous times and it never failed to disappoint. It left my collection a long, long time ago.
- Fraser: What Melissa said, except I haven’t met Peter Olotka. Eon! Eon! Eon!
(3) Exploding Kittens
107 points from 6 voters
What an interesting choice for our Top 3! I don’t imagine that any OG contributors like Exploding Kittens… I certainly don’t. But I think many of us didn’t even think to vote for something like this because it’s so mindless. We also didn’t vote for LCR or Monopoly, but that doesn’t mean that any of us actually like playing LCR or Monopoly (at least as far as I know). Perhaps Exploding Kittens can be a stand-in for all of the classic mindless American fare (from Uno to Chutes & Ladders).
- Matt: Random. Yuck. I might play a game of Exploding Exploding Kittens…
- Mark: Exploding Kittens has a single virtue – it’s over quickly. (And, btw, I like Monopoly.)
- Greg: I guess this is technically a game, but I think it was nothing more than a money grab. Awful game. Awful.
(2) Dominant Species
147 points from 10 voters
When I saw that Dominant Species was getting more votes than any other game on this list, I almost pulled the plug on the whole experiment. I just cannot fathom putting Dominant Species as the top strategy game on the OG list of games that are “not for us.” I adore Dominant Species. I cannot get enough Dominant Species. I want to go play Dominant Species right now, even though it’s almost midnight! I’ve only played Dominant Species 22 times, and that’s not nearly enough. If you’ve played Dominant Species with anything other than 3 players, then you need to go back and try it again. If you’ve played Dominant Species without removing a few cards from the deck, then you need to go back and try it again. If you’ve played Dominant Species without me keeping the game moving at a good pace so it’s a quick 2-hour affair, then you need to play it again. Ten of you voted for it, and I’m just beside myself. Dominant Species is one of only 20 games that I give a 10 out of 10 rating (with over 1,800 games rated). This game should be on the best games of all-time list, not the worst!
- Brian: I have not played this game as a quick 2-hour affair. I am willing to give it another try with a trusted guide such as Talia. Until then, based on my far less snappy and engaging experiences, it remains not for me.
- Mark: The quirks of Dominant Species would be tolerable – maybe – in a 2 hour game. I could pretty much ignore them if it only took 60 minutes. But at 3-4 hours, it is unbearable.
- Brandon: Yup, everything that Brian and Mark have said here is why DS ended up being my number 2 (pun intended).
- Matt: Methinks you protest too much. If I have to do all those things to make it a great game, shouldn’t it be a different game?
- Larry: Talia, all of my games of Dominant Species were with you. If you made all those adjustments, it obviously still didn’t help the game. And 2 hours is just a fantasy; all our games lasted at least 4 hours. It seems like the definition of an overwrought game, with a few too many mechanisms stuffed into it. A bad game? No. One I ever want to play again? Again, the answer is no.
(1) Cards Against Humanity
148 points from 8 voters
The popular game that OG members felt was most “not for me” was Cards Against Humanity. I didn’t vote for this game, so I’m going to need the other 8 people to jump in and explain their thinking here. Personally, I looked at the Top 300 or so games on BGG to pick the games that I voted for. By contrast, Cards Against Humanity is ranked #4,322. So I’m having trouble seeing this one as popular or as overrated. I guess it shows up in mainstream stores, so it may be popular in that sense. And obviously there are many far better party games (as evidenced by this game being ranked the 493rd best party game). I suppose I should be thankful that this selection kept Dominant Species from taking the top spot, but it just goes to show you that everyone has a different perspective for evaluating these things.
- Matt: My “Not for Me” vote is indeed the issue of its mainstream popularity. Take a relatively groundbreaking game, Apples to Apples, and just throw in (very) lowbrow humor and (often quite) offensive not-humor and you get a very not-good game. If you like CAH, check out the YouTube channel The Dragon’s Tomb and their recent Kickstarter game: “Offensive Adult Party Game.” It comes with 1 black card and 17 identical white cards. I won’t spoil the (2 minute) video any further…
Opinionated Gamer Comments:
Talia Rosen: Most of the games that I voted for did not make the list above (except Modern Art, Brass, and Taj Mahal). In particular, I think that Feld’s Castles of Burgundy and Rosenberg’s Caverna are very overrated. Both designers started indulging their kitchen-sink tendencies after they had both proven that they can make thoughtfully streamlined games. My feelings on Power Grid are also pretty well documented. I don’t understand why anyone would want to play Star Realms or Stone Age when Dominion and Caylus exist. I also cannot wrap my head around people’s love for Terra Mystica or Russian Railroads. None of these confounding games made the list above because clearly my distaste is not shared, so I’ll have to just keep dodging this drek and seeking out those delightful games of Dominant Species.
Brandon Kempf: Behind the scenes I secretly championed for this to just be a list of Stonemaier Games titles, as I know that I voted for at least two of them in the Top 5. No publishing house more covers the “Not for Me” spectrum than Stonemaier Games. There is nothing inherently wrong with them, they just aren’t fun and they can’t seem to get things right the first time around in spite of all of that “playtesting and proofreading”. Honestly, I should have put Euphoria on the list as well, and if I had ever played Tapestry I am sure it would make it too, but I won’t, so it won’t. :) Also, Pendulum is just a mess of an experience that I don’t recognize publicly that I have played, and I have, and I won’t make that mistake again. Other than that, my Top 2 were, the 18xx series of games and Dominant Species. Both games suffer from being too long with very little payout in the end. Plus, Dominant Species suffers with being one of my least favorite gaming experiences based on a couple of players at the table, well one player at the table, and the other who left after 2 ½ hours.
Brian Leet: Only three of the twenty games I voted for made it to this list, and two of those were very much ‘residual’ to my attempts to corral the process with some level of objectivity – along with a decision to not put any game on the list I haven’t actually played. After many decades of gaming, I’m pretty adept at avoiding games that will inevitably be ‘Not For Me’ and that leaves a slightly unfortunate knock against the games that I have tried and just not found as engaging as others. Talia even has me questioning my Dominant Species vote now. In the end, there isn’t a game on this list I wouldn’t play with a good group of friends, with the possible exception of CAH which I have played, but lost its luster early for me.
Wei-Hwa Huang: The whiplash that occurred when the poll changed from “overrated games” to “not for me” games threw a monkey wrench into the results, I think. For me, Exploding Kittens is very much an “overrated” game — it gets a disproportionate amount of attention for the game it is. It was an insanely high Kickstarter launch, and it felt like when it came out all my non-gamer friends were gushing over this slow-play Russian Roulette variant whose only saving grace was that some popular webcomic artist drew pictures of cats on it. I simply cannot understand its lasting appeal. Whereas, in contrast, Wingspan is very much a “not for me” game — I can appreciate some of the things it tries to do, it seems like a perfectly serviceable gateway game, there are some interesting decisions — but the theme personally falls very flat to me, as I don’t have a single orinthological bone in my body, and there are a few game design aspects in there that irritate me and make me feel like the game has a lot of wasted potential.
As for some of the others… I thought Modern Art was rather stupid the first few times I played it. It was reasonably easy to figure out how much a painting was likely to be worth, so one could just pick a strategy of “bid so that you get at least X%” of the profit and the game is solved, right? But I kept on losing against veterans, and that’s when I realized that the beauty of Modern Art is that it isn’t a 2-player game. Say a painting is worth $100, and you buy it for $95. You’ve only earned $5 on the deal and the auctioneer has earned $95, so a bad deal for you, right? A bad deal … only if the auctioneer is your rival. See, you’ve just gained $5 on everyone else. If you don’t think the auctioneer is a threat, it can be the right thing to do to throw them $95 just so you can gain on everyone else. What this means is that Modern Art is really a negotiation game disguised as an auction game. Once I saw this subtlety, my respect for the game went way up.
Battlestar Galactica … if you have to watch all 9 seasons of a TV show to appreciate a game, I think that squarely puts it in the “not for me” category. I liked the core mechanic, but it was too much make-shift work and number counting to get to that mechanic.
Simon Neale: It didn’t surprise me that my silver award didn’t make the cut as it is Agricola. I saw this game summed up very accurately by another reviewer who titled it “Misery Farming”. I know that I probably stand alone with this choice but I have moved from Agricola to Caverna and now I have Nusfjord in my collection as it delivers a similar gameplay experience in a runtime that is appropriate and without the constant pain of payments.
Matt Carlson: All my “big” choices were covered above with the exception of Yokohama (along with Clank!) which fit into the category of games where I’ve gone last in the turn order and spent the rest of the game feeling like I was always on the verge of accomplishing something but failed because a player completed it one turn (but the same round) before me. (Yay for run-on sentences!) They’re both probably good, but I’m still holding a grudge.
Melissa Rogerson: I never got around to voting, but this list is looking pretty fair to me*. Excessive length and bloat, issues with icons, arbitrariness all are cues to me that I should probably look at something else.
* Except for Brass and Cosmic. What were you people thinking???
Larry: My voting fit the group’s list reasonably well, as I voted for 11 of the group’s top 20. My top Not for Me game is El Grande, and I knew I wasn’t going to get much support for that. But I’ve played it 7 times and each one has been a poor experience. That even includes two games that I won, which only lowered my opinion further, since I don’t think I played very well in either of those. After that, I voted for Tapestry, Vast (probably the worst gaming experience I’ve had in the last 10 years), Dominant Species, Battlestar Galactica, and Acquire. The only games in the top 20 that I really like are Taj Mahal and Brass. Race for the Galaxy and Tigris & Euphrates are also enjoyable, but I do have some issues with both of them. So a pretty good list, from my point of view.
Methodology: Each voter picked up to 20 games, giving 20 points to their top choice (gold medal), followed by 19 points to their second choice (silver medal), 18 points to their third choice (bronze medal), 17 points to their fourth choice, and so on. Voters were allowed to select any 20 games that they wanted (which resulted in 118 different games getting votes). The points from all 22 voters were added together to come up with the ranking above.
I’m with Wei-Hwa Huang here on Modern Art – it’s not an auction game, it’s a negotiation game – and if you have a group that’s willing to do some role-playing, it can also be delightful. But then again, I don’t think Ra is an auction game either, it’s a push-your-luck game. (Medici? No, I think that really is an auction game.)
I’m actually now intrigued to play Modern Art with you and Wei-Hwa! I haven’t played it since 2006, and my goal when selling it back then was to never play it again… but I’m a bit curious to see how negotiation Modern Art would work with your approach…
Wow, 7 of these are in my top 30 or so!
Now you know to always do the opposite of what the OG says. The OG loves a game, steer clear. The OG pans a game, run out to get it :-)
Talia, Whenever I read your lists of games that you like and games that you dislike, I’m so glad that one of the larger oceans lies between us. Imagine if we lived in the same town and belonged to the same games club, the number of games we could play as part of the same group would be vanishingly small. Perhaps we should start exchanging lists of personal favourites ,so that the other would then know what not to even bother trying. For example, among the games that I would refuse to play again are Dominant Species, Wingspan, Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, while my favourites include Brass, Castles of Burgundy and Lisboa.
Fortunately, there is such a wide range to choose from these days that there is plenty for all tastes, and the trick is simply to have friends whose likes and dislikes are similar to your own.
It’s my mission to find a game that we can enjoy together when we meet some day Stuart! Check out this list of my 44 favorite games — http://www.opinionatedgamers.com/2012/06/04/best-for-any-crowd — there must be something there that you like… right? If not, then maybe check out my player count cubes — http://www.opinionatedgamers.com/2020/09/28/talia-rosen-player-count-cubes — where you’ll surely find a game you like, and as a bonus, you’ll find out how many people to bring with you when you visit Virginia :-)
Oh, Stuart, you just made my day! “Glad one of the larger oceans lies between us”…I love it! (Needless to say, I game with Talia all the time and despite her occasionally questionable tastes in games, she’s great fun to play with.)
My top twenty overrated games using the stats feature on BoardGameGeek are as follows:
1. Mage Knight Board Game
2. Caverna: The Cave Farmers
5. 7 Wonders Duel
6. A Feast for Odin
7. Exploding Kittens
8. D-Day at Omaha Beach
9. Gobblet Gobblers
10. 7 Wonders
12. Dominon: Intrigue
16. Dice’s Zoo
17. Morgan’s Revenge
18. Stone Age
20. Citadel Combat Cards
Your site is called “Opinionated Gamers”. I don’t think “overrated” would have been contrary to the spirit of such a site!
It surprises me considerably that German-era classics like Modern Art and Tigris and Acquire make up a bigger chunk of this list than current “BGG hotness”-type Euros!
When I saw all the Knizias up there, I was expecting to see Martin comment. :D
There were a couple “not for me” games in the above list (including Acquire and Modern Art — sorry Martin as well as BSG). The only one on the list that I think is a “bad game” is CAH — one of very few I’ll refuse to play (except on my children’s birthdays if they beg).
My list would have added Lords of Waterdeep, Small World, Power Grid and El Grande — four popular games that I cannot stand. And what about Catan? I can’t imagine too many OGers would voluntarily play it. Or am I wrong?
The only game on the list that surprised me was Splendor. I still maintain that it should have won the SDJ over Camel Up. I probably like it best with 2 or 3 players. I won’t generally ask for it, but if someone wants to play it 2-player, I’m happy to do it. There’s randomness with only one player occasionally getting cards that play into their strategy, but even when that happens, the game is quick enough that it doesn’t bother me. And most of the time, there’s enough opportunity for blocking that I find it a competitive 2-player game. Add in the expansions and it’s a winner for me.
It would seem the issue with Race for the Galaxy is not the game as such, but players of the game… (I love Race for the Galaxy but only play it with my husband so don’t suffer those issues)
I just reread this article and I was kind of shocked how often I felt like Larry was taking the words right out of my mouth. Every time he wrote something it was replicating my exact feelings about the game . . . until I got to El Grande. No, no, no, Larry – El Grande is a masterpiece! The hundreds (thousands?) of hours of joy I’ve experienced from board games over the past twenty-some years I owe to that one game. It changed my life. And I still love it today.
I just realized the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on games in my adult life I also owe to El Grande. I’m good with that.
I do worry that I’ve got a rule wrong in Modern Art.
“It was reasonably easy to figure out how much a painting was likely to be worth, so one could just pick a strategy of “bid so that you get at least X%” of the profit and the game is solved, right?”
As I understood it, you only earn money for the top 3 selling artists in a round. So, in Round 3, an artist who won 1st and 2nd previously and thus has 50 value carried over, might be worth 80 if they sell most this round, or then again it might be worth 0.
You’re first up in the auction for one of those paintings. How exactly are you solving what it’s worth in the range 0-80 and bidding accordingly, assuming you have other players at the table?