Things That Are Not Really Debatable: The Best Board Games Ever

Things That Are Not Really Debatable: The Best Board Games Ever

Do you recall how the Riddle of the Sphinx just turned out to be an allegory about the circle of life?  The sphinx killed a lot of innocent tourists for not catching her murky metaphor about the human lifecycle lining up with the stages of a day, until Oedipus busted out the answer (which he probably celebrated by spending some time with his mom).  Like Oedipus, as kids we all enjoyed hanging with the family and playing some board games.  Then, as teenagers, family game nights turned super lame.  Just as the metaphorical cane allows the person in the Riddle of the Sphinx to walk later in life, so does alcohol consumption allow adults to embrace game night again.

But how do the games themselves stack up?  Some games are tests of physical dexterity, some of mental acuity, some of pure chance.  Which ones are best suited for the simultaneous consumption of alcoholic beverages?  Which ones are likely to start a fistfight among close friends?  I’ll admit my exposure to board games isn’t particularly worldly – my mom wouldn’t allow games that were satanic (D&D) or involved murder (Clue) – but I’ve had my share of action.

Before anybody starts complaining – “Where’s Pictionary?  Where’s Taboo?” – I enjoy those games, they are pretty fun to play with groups of people, but to me there is far too much input for the players to consider them board games.  They are more like performance art.  I think strategy and chance are the key components to a great board game, not the ability to quickly draw simple-yet-accurate drawings or to have friends that aren’t retarded.

Imma break this into two parts, because then it will be two posts (I’m getting pretty tired)…

The Best Board Games Ever (Part I)

10.  Don’t Break The Ice / Operation

Games: Teaching kids about tragic accidents and congenital heart disease for years

Description: I’ve got to give a nod to something for the young ones and to recognize the skill/dexterity element of boarding (as we board gamers call it).  I personally despise the newer wave of skill games like Jenga, mostly because I stink at them and they aren’t really improved by enjoying a martini while playing.  (I like to think that it’s my propensity for drinking that causes the shaky hands, not my family’s propensity for getting Parkinson’s.)

Most people probably prefer operation to the lesser-known DBTI, but I preferred the latter: there was no need for batteries, there were no incredibly tiny pieces to invariably lose (although if you lost too many ice blocks in DBTI, you were really f*cked), and I liked the sense of being able to potentially protect of someone who was healthy – the Moe-looking guy on Operation had so many problems that he wasn’t long for this world anyway.  Certainly that nose was a sign of either alcoholism or skin cancer, which the game failed to even diagnose.

Enhanced by Alcohol: No, I didn’t drink much when I was five.

Fistfight Potential: Not really, kids were mostly into eating play-doh, and I don’t think grownups would be playing these much.  Still sweet games though.

Any Downside? The aforementioned lost pieces were a killer in both games.  And who ever used the money and cards in Operation?  I didn’t even know those existed until I was expertly putting that picture together.

9.  Yahtzee

Known as "Bar Dice" in Wisconsin

Description: A game that teaches probability and suggests a future interest in casino craps?  Sign me up.

Enhanced by Alcohol: Yes, in fact, when in Wisconsin I learned that the bartenders keep a Yahtzee! game for slow nights and will play it with customers – if you lose you buy a drink, if they lose, they buy you a drink – phenomenal.  One of the rare no-downside cases for the consumer.

Fistfight Potential: Not really, most people in Wisconsin are pretty amicable.

Any Downside? A great board game really shouldn’t have a diminishing element (ie a need to buy refills) – those scorecards don’t last forever.  That’s how the getcha.

8.   Uno

Learn spanish and the concepts of betrayal and retribution all at the same time!

Description: A simple card game where you attempt to screw people over and avoid being screwed.

Enhanced by Alcohol: Without question.  Uno is actually more fun as an adult, when you can though a “Draw Four” on your SO while enjoying a Red Bull and vodka and cursing and yelling.  Good times.

Fistfight Potential: The potential for collusion (not to cheat, just to screw one person disproportionately) is high, but generates less fistfights and more quitting (with a disgusted scattering of cards thrown in).

Any Downside? Losing cards is always a danger, but that’s the case with pretty much every board game.  Compact, good to drink to, fun – this might be too low.

7.  Boggle/Scrabble (I know, they are completely dissimilar, but what kind of nerd puts two word games in the top ten?)
In one of the greatest achievements in word game history, I got "bonebreaker" in both games on the same day

Description: Nerd games where people who like read and stuff have an advantage.  Scrabble gets all the love, but I actually prefer Boggle and working within a framework that starts from scratch every few minutes.  I’ve actually only played Scrabble a few times as an adult, but I am badass; I have no idea why we didn’t have it as a kid given that my mom was always making me compare our scores in “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power” in Reader’s Digest and I was a champion speller (damn you, “obscured” – how does f-cking “occurred” have two r’s and you don’t!)

Enhanced by Alcohol: Maybe a bit of wine helps, but you can’t go on a real bender and expect to throw up some sweet triple word, triple letters.

Fistfight Potential: Moreso in Boggle, where strange things can happen.  I once had an SO who could trounce me in Boggle every time, despite the fact that I had prob 80 IQ points on her.  She had the strategy of making everything friggin plural and also could do all the “bad, dad, sad, lad, cad, had, zad, qad” BS….so there was usually some frustation/anger involved.

Any Downside? Scrabble takes a long time, and Boggle makes too much f-cking noise – it’s worse than Trouble with the Pop-O-Matic.

6.  Twister

Bikini Twister variant trumps Star Wars Monopoly

Description: I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually played Twister, but I really wanted to include this picture.

Enhanced by Alcohol: Um, yeah.

Fistfight Potential: Only if the baby oil runs out.

Any Downside? You’re at a guys-only party and somebody wants to play Twister.  Why not just have a tickle party?



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