Note: The opening images in this series aren’t of real games by the way. They’re just photoshopped pictures I’ve obtained through various websites. But they kind of emphasize that these games I’m featuring aren’t meant for families for various reasons.
For 5000 years, people have played board games to amuse themselves with others. Of course, in the age of the Internet, they tend to be played during camping trips or power outages for the most part. But even today, they tend to be a part of many people’s lives. Just look at Kickstarter. In fact, I have a friend from high school who has started his own Kickstarter campaign for a trading card game called, “Sky Royals,” I think but I can’t be exactly sure. Sure to think it’s “Sky” something but I could be wrong. Still, we tend to associate board games with the notion of family game night in which parents and kids gather around to play these as a family. It’s usually associated with the weekend or Friday, save maybe during the high school football season for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, though we tend to associate board games for kids, this isn’t always the case such as you see with Dungeons & Dragons fans. But it got me thinking of which games I wouldn’t see as appropriate for a families to play or ones families wouldn’t find fun. Some may be offensive and inappropriate. Others might be boring and dumb. Some may even have complicated rules or unfortunate implications. Still, I wouldn’t recommend them for any family on a Friday night. So for your summer reading pleasure (especially if you live in Southwestern Pennsylvania), here is my first installment of some very family unfriendly board games.
- Hunger Games District 12
Contents: Game board, 55 resource cards, 9 special deck cards, 44 reaping cards, 4 player tokens, 1 round token, 1 first action token and 6 cover tokens
Object: Avoid the Reaping by using your wits to acquire food, clothing, medicine, and fuel before being chosen. Players also try to avoid taking Tesserae which will increase their chances on Reaping Day.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Well, The Hunger Games Trilogy are popular books and the movies are box office hits. Not to mention, the franchise is aimed toward teens and young adults.
Why it’s not: Because the story centers around certain concepts that aren’t so nice like violence, poverty, and political repression. Also, most Panem teenagers avoid the Reaping with sheer dumb luck, even though the reaping system is basically rigged and the poorest kids are the most likely chosen, especially from the poorest districts like District 12.
Available?: Yes, through all major retailers.
- Hunger Games: Training Days Strategy Game
Category: Strategy, Auction/Bidding
Contents: 18 Tribute cards representing the boy and girl Tributes from 9 Districts (1-4,7,8,10-12), 3 Effort tokens for each District (1,3,6), Deck of 45 Challenge cards: 3 End of Day cards, 24 Event cards, 8 Special Event cards, 10 Alliance cards, 9 District markers, Approval Rating score board, 3 dice
Object: Players choose tributes and challenge each other to matches on wits and skills as well as other attributes.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Once again, The Hunger Games Trilogy is a best-selling series and box office franchise hit. It also caters toward teens and young adults.
Why it’s not: The game basically glamorizes a competition in which 24 teenagers are chosen throughout a dystopian country to fight each other to the death on national television. The Hunger Games are hateful and deplorable as well as ruin the victors’ psychologically. In fact, the whole series is viciously anti-war and the Hunger Games basically symbolize how horrible, life destroying, and how evil humanity can be. Or in short, a dehumanizing death match.
Available?: Yes, through all major retailers.
- Subway Vigilante
Category: Adventure, Humor
Contents: 1 game board, Rule Sheet, 4 gun tokens, 24 bullet tokens, 30 “Make My Day” Cards, 30 “Punk” cards
Object: Armed with a handgun and 6 bullets, each player must survive a commute between Brooklyn and the Bronx with a subway filled with punks as well as obstacles like car derailments, shoving matches, nosy security guards, overworked policemen, and botched subway transfers. Includes a round table discussion at the end of the game.
Why they thought it was a good idea: I don’t know, the popularity of Dirty Harry and Death Wish during the 1970s?
Why it’s not: For one, it glamorizes vigilante violence which is a very terrible thing and downright illegal. Second, it makes New York look like a crime ridden death trap, Third, let’s say that gunplay in a subway can lead to significant collateral damage.
Available?: I’m not sure. Probably not.
- Gay Monopoly
Category: Economic, Humor, Negotiation
Contents: game board, instructions, paper money, 2 dice, bathtubs, bar tokens, and 6 original playing tokens (jeep, leather cap, high-heeled pump, handcuffs, hairdryer, and teddy bear), 28 property cards, 21 Family Pride cards, 16 Manipulation cards, 31 Ollie’s Sleaze Bag cards
Object: It’s like Monopoly but instead of buying streets and placing homes and hotels, players buy gay locales where they put bars and bathhouses. Also, you sometimes have to act out gay stereotypes to get more money.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Its original purpose is to celebrate the “gay lifestyle” coinciding with the rise of the Gay Rights Movement of the 1970s.
Why it’s not: Basically the game goes with every type of gay man stereotype you can think of. Not to mention, it doesn’t include lesbians. Still, when it come to the “gay lifestyle,” the only way it’s distinguished from their straight counterparts is fact they prefer to have sex with members of their own gender (that doesn’t result in children). That is all. Yeah, quite offensive and not reflective of the gay community’s diversity.
Available?: Not really, for it’s out of print thanks to a Parker Brothers copyright lawsuit.
Category: Economic, Mature/Adult, Roll/Spin and Move
Contents: Game Board, Loan Shark Tray, 40 Crack Houses, 17 Projects, Pink Slip Cards, Ghetto Stash and Hustle Cards, 7 Game pieces (Pimp, Hoe, 40 oz, Machine Gun, Marijuana Leaf, Basket Ball and Crack), Counterfeit Money, 2 Dice
Object: It’s very much like Monopoly except that players buy stolen properties, pimp hoes, build crack houses and projects, pay protection fees, borrow from loansharks, and get carjacked. Railroads are replaced with liquor stores while some properties consist of a massage parlor, peep show, and pawn shop. Taxation squares are replaced by carjacking and police shakedown squares.
Why they thought it was a good idea: It’s actually a parody of the urban poor black lifestyle allegedly celebrated in Hip Hop and Rap lyrics.
Why it’s not: If this was a tribute to The Wire, it would be much more understandable. Then again, probably not. Seriously, this game is incredibly racist and derogatory toward black people that it sparked controversy since its release in 2003. Also, just because Hip Hop lyrics contain specific references doesn’t exactly mean these rappers specifically intended them to be celebrated or glamorized as this game does.
Available?: No, because it was subject to a lawsuit by the NAACP and Hasbro as well as been banned on various websites.
- Capital Punishment
Category: Political, Strategy
Contents: 1 game board, 4 sets of four capital criminal playing pieces (murderer, rapist, arsonist and kidnapper) in four colors, 4 sets of two liberal playing pieces in four colors, 60 innocent citizen cards (15 for each player), 2 standard six sided dice, 3 spare innocent citizen cards.
Object: Players try to get their criminals into a combination of life imprisonment, death row, or the electric chair. But can also use Liberals to get a criminal back on the streets, angling for a second victory condition of killing all 15 of your opponents’ citizens and sending them to Heaven.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Let’s not kid ourselves, the designer’s intention was to convince people why the death penalty is a good idea.
Why it’s not: For one, this game basically states that the death penalty deters crime and that liberals are soft on crime. Not to mention, it tends to dismiss the fact that there are good reasons to be against capital punishment or criticize the criminal justice system. Nor does it provide an accurate description of criminal justice system such as racial profiling, class disparities, the ambiguity of innocence, and how life in prison without parole for the most serious crimes is a better alternative to a death sentence. Also, it leaves out how the legal process makes capital punishment insanely expensive as well as the fact that death row inmates could spend decades in prison before they’re executed. And then there’s the fact that death row inmates receive a lot of media coverage in the days before their execution as well as offers no closure to the victims. Then there’s the fact that more states have abolished capital punishment in recent years, most notably Nebraska, which isn’t a liberal state by any stretch of the imagination.
Available?: Hopefully not.
- Life as a Black Man
Category: Role-Playing, Simulation
Contents: 1 24″ x 24″ game board, 1 9″ x 12″ Prison Platform, 1 4-sided die, 1 6-sided die, 6 game pawns, 12 decks of Action Cards: 25 GlamourWood cards, 25 Black University cards, 25 Military cards, 30 Ghetto cards, 25 Corporate America cards, 20 Church cards, 25 Prison cards, 25 Life cards, 50 Career cards, 25 Racism cards, 25 Crime cards, 25 Police cards, 18 Character Type Cards: 6 Creative, 6 Intellectual, 6 Athletic, 14 Transportation Cards: 5 “No Car” cards, 3 “Bucket” cards, 2 “Used Mid-Size” cards, 2 “New Sub-Compact” cards, 2 “New SUV” cards, 3 Debt cards, a pack of BlackMan money
Object: Players start as an 18 year old black male high school graduate and make moral choices throughout the game possibly finding themselves at Black University, the military, the ghetto, or “GlamourWood.” First player to reach the “Freedom” space wins. It’s kind of like the Game of Life, except possibly worse.
Why they thought it was a good idea: It’s original intention was to show how tough life is for a young black man and how it’s not easy.
Why it’s not: Unfortunately, this board attempts to simplify a very complex problem by involving a parade of stereotypes which blurs the lines between satire and actual racism. Players are also giving numerous opportunities to commit crimes which will earn more money but make them more likely to land in prison. Those with enough money can hire the “Dream Team” lawyers and get off without punishment, which is an obvious reference to O. J. Simpson. However, there could be worse, right?
Available?: Might be out of print for all we know. Nevertheless, it’s now an app.
- Bombing of England
Category: War, Pinball
Contents: a holed map of Great Britain as well as several spring driven balls.
Object: Players fire spring-loaded balls over a map that contains Great Britain and parts of Northern Europe. Players score points for each target the ball settles on and loses points if they hit a Nazi occupation or ally. Player who scores the most wins.
Why they thought it was a good idea: This game was created by Nazi Germany in 1939 as a propaganda piece.
Why it’s not: Uh, it’s basically a family board game celebrating the Battle of Britain in the most anti-British way possible. Seriously, it’s basically making light of cities being bombed, civilians getting killed, children having to be evacuated to the countryside, homes being destroyed, sleepless nights, and all the other crap the British had to deal with. Still, there’s one bombing German cities called Duel in the Dark.
Available?: Oh, God please no.
- Public Assistance: Why Bother Working for a Living
Category: Economic, Political
Contents: 63 Paper Baby ‘counters’, 54 Welfare Benefit cards, 54 Working Person’s Burden cards
8 plastic pawns in 4 colors, 3 dice, Money, Board
Object: Players move around the board in 2 different tracks “working person’s rut” and “able-bodied welfare recipient’s promenade.” The goal is to collect the most money after taxes once a pre-determined circuits around the board have been achieved. Spaces on the board contain various instructions on where to move your piece or how much money to receive or pay out. Players also collect “welfare benefit” and “working person’s burden” cards as they progress around the board.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Of course, this game’s creator intended to satirize the welfare system and why it’s unfair that hard earned taxpayer money has to go to lazy, poor, drug addled, delinquent, and baby popping bums.
Why it’s not: This is a very derogatory game toward poor people, especially blacks in which they’re portrayed as lazy, drug addled, delinquent, and baby popping bums who won’t go work for a living. Not to mention, it really paints an inaccurate and terrible picture of people on welfare as well as the system itself as a nanny state. It also fails to show the horrific realities of people in poverty who might have a good reason to be on welfare such as being under 18, disabled, having no health insurance, working multiple dead end jobs on minimum wage, homelessness, minimum job security, racial profiling, corruption of law enforcement, and living in a shitty neighborhood with high crime and crappy schools as well as lack of job opportunities. Nevertheless, being on welfare doesn’t relieve anyone from poverty or any of that. Seriously, why do people have to be such assholes when it comes to poor people?
Available?: Hopefully, the first edition is out of print since the NAACP tried to keep it off the shelves. But they recently re-released the game as “Obozo’s America.”
- The Sinking of the Titanic Game
Category: Nautical, Educational
Contents: game boards, retainer clips, 24 passenger cards, 18 sea adventure cards, 18 island adventure cards, 6 lifeboats, 20 food tokens (five of each color), 20 water tokens (five of each color), 4 ship’s officers, 2 dice, metal binder screw and post
Object: As the Titanic is sinking, players must race around and rescue passengers from their state rooms and rush them to the life boats before the ship goes under. After the ship sinks, they must get enough food and water by visiting islands and/or drawing cards to stay alive until rescue boats appear. The first one to make there wins the game while everyone else dies. Oh, and there’s a thing about gathering supplies and racing to the islands.
Why they thought it was a good idea: Well, this game was released in 1975 so it’s certainly not a tie-in to the 1997 James Cameron movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. So I’m probably going with the educational standpoint.
Why it’s not: You have to wonder where Milton Bradley’s conscience was during this game’s development. Now trying to educate people about certain historic events is one thing. But to make a board game about the greatest maritime disaster in history that left over 1500 dead? Well, you’re doing it wrong! Also, the racing to islands thing to gather food and supplies for the survivors, uh, that didn’t happen in real life. Not to mention the Titanic sank in the north Atlantic and I’m sure the survivors didn’t encounter baboons. Seriously, capitalizing on a disaster? You got to be kidding me.
Available?: It caused such an outrage in the UK that it was renamed Abandon Ship with the iceberg being switched to a coral reef. The premise was changed to saving the most passengers, too.