Help find our family a new board game!
December 1, 2008 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a new board game to gift my family of sore winners.

Every Christmas is quality family game time. All four of us are extremely competitive and very sore winners and there is no better Christmas gift than rubbing a big win in the face of another family member. Really, we all get along famously.

So this year, I'd like to get us a new game to play, since we haven't had one in a while.

Games we like include Tripoly, Upwords, Hearts, Uno, CatchPhrase, and Sequence.

Games we kind of like, but probably don't need any more of, include Scattergories, Guesstures, and Pictionary.

Games we don't like include Monopoly, Risk, and Trivial Pursuit.

It would ideally be something that's over in an hour and offers opportunities to screw over another player in a very satisfying way. Doesn't matter if it's a team game or not. Players are all adults (brother and I are in our 20s). Given all this, what would we like? Are there new games out I haven't heard about yet?
posted by olinerd to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (55 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Cranium?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:01 PM on December 1, 2008

posted by AV at 6:03 PM on December 1, 2008

Sorry! is a great screw-your-opponents game.
posted by donajo at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2008

Khet is really fun. It's a bit like chess with lasers, but still enjoyable for illogical, chess-hating people like me. And I mean c'mon, you can't go wrong with LASERS!!!
well, maybe...
posted by Menomena at 6:07 PM on December 1, 2008


Avalon Hill just re-released it (I may be behind the times though). You invest in hotel chains, buy and sell stock, merge corporations and try to be the richest tycoon at the end of the game.

It's basically like the real stock market, but without the jumping out of windows/jail time that's usually involved.

If that's too much like Monopoly and you're willing to spend some money, Fireball Island is still one of the coolest board games ever.
posted by QUHZK at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2008

Illuminati. Not only is it easy to learn and fun to play (and funny) but it has plenty of opportunity for spite moves.
posted by Class Goat at 6:11 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

offers opportunities to screw over another player in a very satisfying way

Try Maui (also known as Mao or a host of other names). It's the most bureaucratic card game I've played...a million rules that must be specifically adhered to and, if violated, result in another player giving the violator another card. If anyone asks a question or cusses when not specifically allowed to, that's another card. If anyone plays too slowly while trying to figure out a valid move, that's another card. The deck is like a firehose of cards to your hand. Best played quickly and ruthlessly, the game can be extremely frustrating when losing, and extremely satisfying when penalizing others or winning. Most games I've played have ended when a frustrated player storms up from the table, angrily throwing their confused fistful of cards at everyone else (who are usually giggling).
posted by msbrauer at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2008

Blokus? Fun for 2 to 4 players. Screwing other players is sometimes unavoidable and often desirable!

If you don't like Monopoly or Risk, you won't like stuff like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride but I have both and they're both fun and complex enough to make each game interesting. Plus Ticket to Ride is practically a work of art, at least the Germany version is.
posted by GuyZero at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, you can get versions of Rummy that use tiles sort of like dominoes or mahjong instead of cards. We have one that's pretty generic although I have no clue where it came from. Again, lots of fun but less opportunity to screw other players as you don't really know what tiles/cards they have.
posted by GuyZero at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2008

I don't at all agree that not liking monopoly or risk means you won't like the german "strategy" games.

But you should get and play Tichu. It's a team based card game, which is fun to get competitive about. The rules are not too byzantine, and it's great with 4 (there's a three-player set of rules but I think it's lame)
posted by aubilenon at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2008

Fluxx. It will drive you nuts. Then you'll immediately want to play again.
posted by sdrawkcab at 6:21 PM on December 1, 2008

Munchkin. It can run a bit longer than an hour but you can always house rule a hard time limit. I personally prefer the Cthulhu variant.
posted by Mitheral at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2008

Fluxx massively fails if you play with too many people. Keep under the person limit or you'll be trying to find someone, anyone to win just so the damn game can end.

I actually think you should try Ticket to Ride; its rules are much simpler than many other german-style games. You can check out its website; I think there's a way to test play online so you can see if you like it before purchase. (if you are going to buy the game, get the Europe version; the European map and some rule details make the game much better balanced than the u.s. map game is).

There's also RoboRally, which is good fun for messing with other people.

And of course you should check out boardgamegeek for more options.
posted by nat at 6:53 PM on December 1, 2008

Jungle Speed would be my spoons on steroids :)
posted by rvrlvr at 6:54 PM on December 1, 2008

This should keep you busy.
posted by Bonzai at 7:00 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by pazazygeek at 7:01 PM on December 1, 2008

I used to play Family Business with my in-laws during the holidays. It's a card game where each player has their own mafia family: The object is to put the other families "up against the wall" then start a mob war to kill them off. Lots of opportunities to screw over the other players, especially if you have the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" card.
posted by mogget at 7:09 PM on December 1, 2008

My recommendation: check out Fun Again Games' recommendations and see if something there sounds like a good fit. There are a ton of great games out there that most people have never heard of.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:11 PM on December 1, 2008

Ticket to Ride

Great game, 45 minutes, never gets old.
posted by COD at 7:13 PM on December 1, 2008


Quick, easy to learn tile-laying game that awards points based on "completed" cities/streets/fields, etc.

It's playable (quite nicely) with two people, and the dynamic with 2+ allows for plenty of back stabbing or neighbor-helping (depending on how you want to phrase it... and on which side of the equation you find yourself).

Fun, always different, allows for strategy, but the tile-laying nature means you don't have to plan ahead more than a few turns. (Or counting tiles as you would count cards.)

Gameplay between 15 and 30 minutes.
posted by Seeba at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Apples to Apples is a great family game. The responses and pathetic defenses of the responses require either serious anger management techniques or diapers (for those who peealittle while hysterically laughing at the angry people.)
posted by Pennyblack at 7:19 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding donajo's recommendation of SORRY. It's the absolute best at screw-you-over and has very simple play.
posted by ahimsa at 7:19 PM on December 1, 2008

Seconding Munchkin. Screwing people over is in the rules.

Another game where screwing people over is part of the game is Saboteur. It's a card game where you all play as dwarves in a gold mine. Some of you are gold-diggers, while some of you are saboteurs - but none of you know who is who. The gold-diggers aim to build a track to the gold (by laying out cards representing tunnels) while the saboteurs aim to stop that from happening. If the gold-diggers reach the gold, they distribute the gold amongst themselves; if they don't, and they've run out of cards, the saboteurs win.
posted by divabat at 7:33 PM on December 1, 2008

2nding Apples to Apples.

Add a little alcohol (that is, if you're into that kind of thing), and you've just made a great game even greater.
posted by mrhaydel at 7:45 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

"It would ideally be something that's over in an hour and offers opportunities to screw over another player in a very satisfying way."


Of course, if you play with the premise of trying to impress your possible future MIL with your smarts and then end up beating her, there is a chance you will no longer be in the running as her future DIL......................just saying - happened to me. :(
posted by ourroute at 7:54 PM on December 1, 2008

Hi! This is Matthew Baldwin of the aforementioned defective yeti.

At first blush I'd say the game you are looking for is Ticket to Ride. It has all the hallmarks of a light family game (easy to learn, short playing time, etc.), but does offer player the opportunity to screw-your-buddy. You are all competing to build railroad lines across the United States, but typically there is only one connection between any two given cities. That means that if you and mom are both planning to go across the midwest, but you manage to snag the Chicago to Omaha route before her (for instance), she might get blocked, or have to build a more circuitous (and time-consuming) route. IN YOUR FACE MOM!

Carcasonne, mentioned before, is also a good pick, but rarely engenders the bad blood you seem to be looking for.

If you really want to break-up the family, check out my post on Games That Will End a Friendship Forever. In particular, the game Intrigue, which is, simply put, the nastiest game ever invented. This is not hyperbole. Though the game is simple, no one will be on speaking terms for days thereafter.

A more appropriate selection from that list might be Citadels, in which players can rob and even murder one another.

Lastly, might I suggest Tichu? Though a partnership game (meaning you'll have to cooperate with at least one other person), it offer the potential for stunning upsets and exciting reversals of fortune--in other words, for lots and lots of gloating.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 7:59 PM on December 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

I forgot to mention Bang, because I personally don't like it (too much viciousness to other people)-- but you might.
posted by nat at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


My family has been playing this at Thanksgiving for the last 30 years (at least) and there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching someone think they're setting themselves up for an awesome move and then swooping in and taking the triple word score.

Apples to Apples is great fun, but not so much for out and out competition.
posted by messylissa at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2008

Cranium: yes. It is awesome. Sorry is also great. You might like Settlers of Cataan, it starts seeming a little nerdy, but ends up being a rather great time for all kinds of folks. Of course, Scrabble. Perhaps Balderdash?
posted by General Malaise at 8:46 PM on December 1, 2008

Pit is card-based, but proprietary cards. You can screw people to an extent. It gets loud - my friend's family has had the cops called on them.
posted by knile at 9:23 PM on December 1, 2008

For some reason, Bohnanza really brought out the knives in my friend group. It's essentially impossible to get ahead without trading, and relationships were nearly ended over embargos.

Ticket to Ride is fun, but the opportunities for screwing people are relatively rare. You don't totally know what people are trying to do, and you can often (but not always) route around someone who cut you off. I think it's not quite what you're looking for. There's also not a lot of payoff; even if you did screw someone, they're not going to let you know it.

My favorite trick-taking game, Wizard is also a great choice. It's deceptively simple — it's just spades, except not team based, you don't necessarily deal the whole deck out, and it has 2 extra card types. It's got TONS of opportunities for maliciousness, because of trick bidding. You have to nail your bid to get points; going over is just as bad as going under. So when someone across the table leads a 5 of clubs and you realize you can play under it, someone is bound to ask the question "so, can we make her eat this trick?" Collusion happened all the time and was quite delicious.

Not to be a hater, but I think Fluxx is also totally not what you're looking for. It's an interesting game (that I don't like much, but appreciate why others like it) that does interesting things with rule modification. The problem is that gameplay is largely random. You don't really know what cards other people are trying for, it's nearly impossible to know how your rule-change cards effect your chances of getting what you need, and so it ends up being more of a decoupled race/luck game.

Carcasonne has its moments of screw-age, but they're pretty tough to pull off and happen maybe once a game.

Citadels is great, and I think pretty appropriate for what you want. Definitely worth a look.

You should also check out Guillotine — it's all about manipulating a shared queue to your own advantage and the disadvantage of others. I think it would be great for your situation. It was out of print at one point, though. I'm not sure how hard it is to get these days.
posted by heresiarch at 9:32 PM on December 1, 2008

Nthing Apples to Apples.

Also, nthing Apples to Apples with drinking. Nothing is quite like playing that game while tipsy.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:50 PM on December 1, 2008

Once you develop a feel for the game and its strategy, Sevens is a great cutthroat game for 3 or more players that can be played with just a deck of cards. To add even more competition, give each player a set amount of chips at the beginning and make players toss a chip in the pot whenever they pass, with the winner scoring the pot.
posted by kyleg at 10:07 PM on December 1, 2008

Seconding Pit.

It is the game that is the most boring sounding (invented in 1904??? corner the market on commodities??? really???) that is most fun and exciting of any I know. Screaming, gloating, and furious shouting are all part of the process.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:30 PM on December 1, 2008

Spite and malice.

My grama cackling gleefully as she blocked one of us (usually sacrificing herself, or her partner) is one of my favourite childhood memories.
posted by bellbellbell at 11:04 PM on December 1, 2008

Well, they're not board games, but Fluxx, Munchkin, Skip-Bo, Phase 10 and Mille Bornes are favorites in my family. Skip-Bo, Phase 10 and Mille Bornes are particularity satisfying for playing for the big win. There's nothing like seeing your opponent's Skip-Bo pile and refusing to put down the card they need, at the expense of your own discard pile- I learned the hard way about my husband's strategy: never give the other player a move if you can help it. Your opponent has a 5, you have nothing but 4s in your hand and the play piles are all 3s? Discard, discard, discard and watch the frustration mount. Or ganging up on someone in Mille Bornes to cause endless flat tires, red lights, or accidents- the frustration of defeat can only be overcome by a rematch!
posted by andeluria at 11:24 PM on December 1, 2008

2nding Carcasonne, Settlers of Cataan, & Munchkin.
posted by juv3nal at 12:41 AM on December 2, 2008


No really, that's the game's name. You're in a typical zombie survival scenario, and as the game progresses you lay out more and more of the city with sections of tile. The first one to the helicopter wins. Plenty of opportunity to, say, surround your opponent on all sides with zombies and laugh as they have no hope of escape. There are expansion packs, too.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:20 AM on December 2, 2008

Kill Dr. Lucky

The reverse of Clue: You're trying to kill the bastard Dr. Lucky without being seen by other players. The board comprises rooms of the house, and the cards dealt to players include weapons (everything from trowel to bad cream) with varying point values. When you try to kill Dr. Lucky, other players must collaborate to come up with enough points to thwart your attempt. Not only can they screw you in your murder attempt, but they can screw each other by lying about whether they have points and how many. Players can also thwart your attempt by being close enough to you and Dr. Lucky to witness the crime and thus prevent it in the first place. In addition, with move cards you can move Dr. Lucky closer to you and away from another player who's just about to try to kill him.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:40 AM on December 2, 2008

The only correct answer in this whole thread is SORRY. The whole point of the game is to screw each other over.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:57 AM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far.

Quick question: any experience playing Apples to Apples with only four people? Boardgamegeek suggests 6+.
posted by olinerd at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2008

I've only ever played Apples to Apples with a larger group (6 or more) but I don't see why it wouldn't be fun with fewer. I came in this thread to suggest it, but now I guess I have to nth it instead.

I will second Wizard though. My friends and I used to get together to play Wizard every weekend in college. The games became pretty nasty, and best of all featured a scoresheet that the winner would tack up to the bulletin board for gloating purposes. Hell, anything with a tangible scoresheet you can point to in the end is fun for bragging rights. (This was in the early 90s, glad to hear I wasn't the only one that liked the game.)

Seconding Phase 10 too. Phase 10 is great in an Uno-sort of way. You must collect a certain set of cards, in a specific order, and features ample screw-your-neighbor opportunities. If you go out in a round by playing all your cards, everyone starts over - but anyone that didn't complete the previous set is still stuck there, while those that did move on to the next set in the progression. It's possible to finish the game at set 10 with some unlucky soul still stuck at set 3 or 4 or even earlier. Again features scoring, if two people finish all 10 sets low score wins. Another opportunity to post a brag sheet on the fridge.

Guess I must also second Mille bournes, which can be a lot of fun; someone gets ahead? Slap 'em with a "Speed Limit" or "Flat" card and watch them screech to a halt. I picked up what appears to be an original US release copy of the game from my in-laws. (I almost want to buy a new copy and preserve the original, but I don't think it would be worth all that much even though it appears to only have been played once or twice.)

And although it isn't necessarily a board game (not that cards are either!) you can't go wrong with a good set of double-twelve dominoes and a game like Mexican Train or Chickenfoot. Chickenfoot, especially, as starting a new "foot" forces everyone to stop until the "foot" is completed. There have been times when we've actually gone to drawing the very last tile in the boneyard before anyone could complete a foot and move on.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:16 AM on December 2, 2008

Apples to Apples is better with more people, but we only have 4 playing most of the time and still have a great time.
posted by maxg94 at 7:53 AM on December 2, 2008

Seconding Sequence. My family plays it all the time together and much cheating, arguing and hilarity ensues. The good kind of cheating and arguing of course...
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 9:11 AM on December 2, 2008

Nthing Fluxx and ZombieFluxx (get some fluxxBlanxx too, nothing is as fun as when someone draws my patented "draw 0" or "Play 0" game enders and noone wins)

How about Gloom,from bgg:
The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You'll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents' characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.

Allthough not playable with 4, I find that Werewolf (or Mafia if you rather) has a tendency to rip families apart.

How about the game of "dozens" (just kidding on that one).

Here are some BGG GeekLists that may offer some further suggestions:

A journey through games in which we attempt to screw over our friends

12 Ways to Screw Your Neighbor

12 More ways to screw your neighbor
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:21 AM on December 2, 2008

Apples to Apples is exponentially less fun for each player below 6 that you play it with. You can play it with four, but it just lacks the punch of playing it with more people.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:24 AM on December 2, 2008

Oh god, how could I have forgotten Spoons!!! (I demand it be written with three bangs, feel free to substitute interrobangs for a new group)

Spoons!! This is the end all be all of violent family games in our family.
Basically you get spoons out (one less then the number of people) and a deck of cards.
Put the spoons in the middle of the table. The dealer deals four cards to each player, sets the deck to their right and begins drawing cards and passing them to their left.
You may exchange a card that you are given for one in your hand, the goal is to make a set of four.
Once you have achieved the set of four, grab a spoon, then everyone else has to grab a spoon. The one without a spoon gets a letter (S.P.O.O.N.) the first to spoon loses. The deck goes to the next person to deal
Possible asshole tactics:
- As dealer go through the deck as fast as possible flooding everyone else with cards and fucking up their Christmas.
- Slyly grabbing a spoon as soon as you get your set of four, and not telling anyone.. Wait to see when someone looks up and notices a spoon missing.
- Fake grab for spoons randomly if you are waiting for cards.
- Grab your spoon and slap the rest of them off the table.
- Grab ALL the spoons and randomly throw them around the room.
- Grab all the spoons and don't give one to your wife. Free ticket to the couch.
- Grab the last two spoons and wrestle for the winner. I've thrown by BIL into a cabinet doing this, We've tipped over tables, and windows have been broken. Your level of violence may vary.
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:25 AM on December 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

The thing I also love about munchkin is that the instructions say that its ok to cheat as long as you don't get caught that turn.
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:28 AM on December 2, 2008

I'm the Boss - pretend you're Donald Trump with better hair. Seriously, I suck at strategy and prefer cooperative (rather than screw-your-opponent) type games, therefore I hate this one. But it is something your family will like.
posted by killy willy at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2008

we love scrabble and boggle and uno ... loved this:
posted by carter32 at 3:47 PM on December 2, 2008

There's a trick-taking card game called Mu, which is a lot of fun. The spite comes in because partners change every turn, and while you can force people to play on your side, they don't *have* to cooperate.
posted by lorimt at 7:26 PM on December 2, 2008

Just to add an alternative opinion on Apples to Apples, I love playing games and am always open to learning and loving a new one, but I hate hate hate Apples to Apples. I can't figure out what makes it fun or why people like it. I'm almost considering using up my AskMe question this week asking why the game is enjoyable and how I can make it more fun. As it is, the game is essentially "Here's a word, give me some words that may or may not be related, I pick which word I like the most. Who's next?" Man I hate that game...
posted by msbrauer at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2008

I don't even know if it's still manufactured but if you can get a hold of Probe I'd recommend it. It's got a lot of the word-geek appeal of Scrabble but there's an element of vicious trickery that appeals to the competitive folk. Balderdash is great fun, too.
posted by Neofelis at 11:45 AM on December 3, 2008

Carcasonne, Wizard, Acquire, Kill Dr. Lucky, and Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition are all fun games. If you want a game that literally takes less than a minute to play, I recommend Light Speed
posted by lsemel at 10:29 PM on December 3, 2008

Late to the party, but thought I'd mention that my friends and I have had a lot of fun playing Apples to Apples with four people - each person laying two cards instead of just one. This allows you to play a funny card and a serious card. And you get to go through your hand faster, which eliminates the "stale card syndrome." Great fun!

I also have to recommend Milles Bournes. The competition level achieved such epic proportions, we had to retire the game for a while.
posted by bristolcat at 2:16 PM on December 8, 2008

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