12 Things I Don't Like In My Board Games - cutlassboardgame.com

12 Things I Don’t Like In My Board Games

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What makes you like a game? Or dislike a game for that matter? In this video I went over the 12 things that are likely contributors to whether I like or dislike a board game. Not guarantees by any means, but they are generally factors I dislike and why.

Variability in Games –

TimeStamps:
0:00:00 – Introduction
0:01:27 – Variability
0:03:37 – Cascading Failure
0:05:39 – Luck In Heavy Games Without Mitigation
0:07:52 – Choosing Points Over Fun
0:10:04 – Excessive Take That
0:11:58 – Finishing Blow
0:13:20 – Campaign Games
0:15:10 – Fixed Number of Rounds
0:17:48 – Not Enough Player Agency
0:21:03 – Small Increments of Reward
0:23:43 – The Work To Reward Ratio
0:26:05 – Bad Art & Components
0:27:43 – Wrapping Up

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76 Comments

  1. Ohhh, I HATE fixed number of rounds ❤️❤️ good one. It often feels like an arbitrary and inelegant cut off point to keep the game artificially contained. Cascading failure has put me off games entirely.

  2. The best thing about boardgames is the content you and the birds create 😇
    Haha sorry too easy but still kind of true (best thing ofcourse playing the game, so you are second;))

  3. Although I really don't mind most of those things, you do actually make a very good point and have swayed me a little. Especially with campaign games 😀

  4. I feel you on cascading failure for sure, I wonder if it could be countered by cascading success where, yes, bad things make it harder but you can recover from it in a big way.

  5. TMB is a great example example of cascading failure. One of my faves but sometimes if I fail an early encounter I just reset.

  6. Do you like Pandemic and do you consider it cascading failure?

  7. Thanks for creating this video. It was well articulated and highlights why I do find your tastes and mine align a lot (except you like area control/direct confrontation games and solo games more than I). Great examples and analysis!

  8. agree on a lot of these but I love campaign games…gloomhaven(finished everything and ordered crimson scales, 155 plays), etherfields done, lord of the rings LOTL all finished,…..and lots of campaign kickstarters comming. I would rather play some games I love a lot dthen a lot of games a few times.

  9. Excellent video.
    You manage to put words on feelings i had but didn't know how to formulate.

  10. Cascading failure can be fun if the game has multiple Hail Mary plays to reverse your misfortune. But I do agree that, in general, cascading failure is terrible. I’m looking at you, Hostage Negotiator.

    The illusion of agency is probably my number one. Most everything else, I can get past, but if there is no real choice, I would instead read a book or watch a movie.

  11. Take a drink when Alex says "at the end of the day" or "regardless" = )

  12. I very much agree with almost all of these points. The one I slightly disagree with is fixed umber of rounds/turns. For me, it depends on whether the number of turns is organic to the game design or not. Terraforming Mars is an example where the variable number of turns is organic – Mars isn’t terraformed if you raise the temperature and surface water but don’t raise oxygen. But some games may take place over a fixed time interval (say a year), with each turn representing a month. For that type of game, the number of turns feels natural. (I should add that my daughter agrees with you 100%.)

    I am in complete agreement re: excessive take that. I’m far less tolerant of excessive take that than I used to be. In small fillers, sure. But in games where a take that can undo several turns of planning. Not for me.

  13. The "poor dice rolling" crescendoing into catastrophic loss … yeah I can live without that in my game for sure! Fixed rounds, couldn't agree more, gross! Bad components – with you on this too! Give me STONE dice, triple layer everything. spiral bound books, sprue miniatures, that shiny highlighting on tokens (Middara) … Gametrayz and wood organizers … I want all of it. Take that can get left at the door … but the Mitigation is always welcome at the Table lol.
    My only deletion from the list Alex would be Campaigns .. Id have too get rid of most of my games!
    Great topic and video sir!

  14. Not enough player agency is what kills game the most for me. Usually after 3-4 plays of a euro I 'feel' like I see the patterns and decisions make themselves. And heavy euros which might solve that feel like work :p

  15. I already knew I aligned with you in a lot of points, this video was just another confirmation of it. Very well done, your fluidity and thought process never cease to impress me. And the presentation is always on point! You’re constantly and gradually improving on your channel’s quality. Very cool! 🙂
    That said, I overall obviously agree with you in your points. Campaign games can be a bit, or a huge bit, of a commitment, depending on the game. Big ones are bound to scare me off (that’s why I passed on Kingdom’s Forlorn), but I do enjoy them a lot.
    I would add another 2 points, for me: the thematic disconnection between mechanics and the abstraction they are supposed to represent and the infamous roll to move, but that’s an obvious one. The theme is also very important, but that’s is a very personal and subjective aspect.
    Great video, Alex!

  16. The points vs fun topic is an important one for me too. I was just telling someone how this really bugs me in Terra Mystica (one of my favorite games). As I got better at the game, it really bummed me to learn that some of the best moves are just taking point generating tiles instead of engine boosting ones. Sure, they’ll maximize my score, but ugh! Boooring!

  17. Alex Radcliffe, a man after my own heart. If I designed a game all these things would be top priority.

  18. Games that require a minimum of 3 players

  19. Really useful overview I find you are the content creator I agree with the most and after watching this it makes total sense. The only one that doesn’t bother me is the finishing blow

  20. Games stuffed full of unnecessary grey plastic minis that double the price of the game, together with yet more metal coins could be added to the list

  21. I do not like games that have a runaway leader problem. Especially if someone gets an early lead and it’s obvious to everyone there are no chances to catch up.

    I also am not a big fan of games that are too asynchronous. Where it’s basically learning complete sets of different rules for each player.

  22. For me, fiddly and unintuitive rules can be a showstopper. Rules that make little thematic sense or feel inconsistent with other rules (for no apparent reason)

  23. Totally agree to your Luck in Heavy Games part! I owned Eclipse Second Dawn and had the same problems with luck. Although I also find the Luck Part also dominating the exlore action (especially 2nd planet systems) and the technology tiles you draw (ex. some tecnologies totally change the game if drawn, even if drawn late and only once)

  24. 17:59 But what is “player agency”? Everyone throws that term around, but I do not understand what it is!

  25. 21:48 I find Dune: Imperium to be guilty of that ( but I still like the game – I just had a bad experience [regarding the “people dynamics” – the behavior of the players outside of the game itself – and also someone lengthening the game by taking excessively long on their turn] the last time I had played it 🙁 ).

  26. 26:45 So what game(s) which did not have the gameplay you enjoy has/have been changed my having outstanding art?

  27. Enjoy your videos.

    "I dont like rewarding someone else for happening to be in the right spot, at the right time, getting the thing done"

    But yeah, that's a hard disagree with me there. If you know that's the goal in the game, then you just need to set yourself up to be that person. That's the point. If you can't, then you shouldn't be rewarded for it. That would be a terrible game if you weren't rewarded for doing this.

  28. I prefer fixed rounds in a lot of cases. Games where the end can be ‘raced’ typically lead to a feeling after the game where it either ends too soon before you get going, or went on way too long. And usually racing to end as soon as possible is the better strategy.

  29. Work to reward was never an issue when I was younger, but as a busy adult, it's really an issue now. I often end up playing an ok game that has 2 minutes of setup over an awesome game that has 15 minutes of setup, just because I'm tired, and I just want to play a game, and I don't have the mental energy to refresh the rules in my mind.

  30. Unnecessarily fiddly rules. TMB and Mage Knight both have fiddly rules, but they are massive games with an equally massive number of potential interactions. The fiddly rules generally exist to address edge-cases one might encounter during game play. Then you have a game like Nemo's War, ugh what a miserable rulebook. There are rules that trigger or modify other rules, rather than addressing something that happens in-game. Horrible game design.

  31. Great video, nice bird's eye view of board game design.

  32. Take that has to be my #1 .I agree, its less frustrating when its helping an opponent towards a goal. But when its just nasty to be nasty, i hate it. Although you could argue, any negative against an opponent is helping you towards a goal….

  33. Completely agree on most of these – especially choosing points over fun, and the need for variability!

  34. I never played the first edition, but I feel like in Eclipse: Second Dawn the luck factor is mitigated by being able to upgrade ones computers. Sure the "big" hit is a 1 in 6, but you can upgrade to get a hit on a 2+ and that makes combat less about luck and more about having enough ships to tackle the Guardians and Ancients.

  35. I think you played pipeline wrong because a good move is 50 or 200 dollars

  36. I think it's great that you made this video and the variability one because it's helped me realise that there are some areas where we have pretty different opinions on what's fun and that in turn is useful for contextualizing your reviews, etc.

    I wish more reviewers would do this, it would probably cut down on the number of games I've backed because of a positive review…from a reviewer with a different idea of fun to mine 🙂

  37. I totally agree concerning fixed number of rounds although there are several games with fixed number of rounds that I like.
    Having a fixed number of rounds takes away something from a game and makes it too calculable.

    I also agree in some other points:
    – lack of variability
    – bad artworks/graphic design
    – luck in heavy games without enough mitigation
    – not enough player agency
    Not quite sure about the rest of the points. They might depend on the particular game for me.

  38. Fixed number of rounds is interesting; I hadn’t thought of this as a potential negative before. Isn’t this just basically a subset of variability? Like I don’t think you can math out A Feast For Odin or even something “smaller” like Lost Ruins of Arnak, Brass, 7 Wonders, etc. Those games provide big variety in what appears throughout the game, so even though you can be good at them, I don’t think they are solvable per se. Regardless, you’ve given me something to think about!

  39. I agree with this list except the campaign part, purely for the reason that not everyone can have constant flow of new games and campaign games a lot of times have the highest replay ability and best value for cost per play. I am glad you brought up luck in complex games. I played Dwellings of Eldervale this weekend and I hated the feeling of playing a euro but then your constantly rolling for battle where only the high die matters. It made me wonder how so many people love the game and if I'm missing something for disliking it.

  40. This is so funny. My wife, daughter, and I were playing Terraforming Mars today after Terra Mystica yesterday. We all agreed that fixed round games weren’t quite as fun even though we like Terra Mystica a lot. It was just a very clear back to back comparison that got us talking about it.

  41. Cascading failure is an interersting one, and I guess I somewhat agree. But I do wonder how games can avoid that. An easy patch would be somekind of catchup mechanic which is far worse for anyone who likes their moves to matter in games.

  42. Yea, totally the opposite of you on campaign games. To me, they are much easier to table since you already know how to play them.
    I can pull KDM out at any time and get right into it. The key is not stopping for long periods of time (months), which is a luxury you don't have.
    As for Vagrantsong, Zee stated in his review that it was the perfect mix of agency, story, and randomness.

  43. So agree on Dominion. I am one of the play testers for the app, but if you do not play optimal against the AI you get trounced which is no fun at all. That is really points over fun. As a result I will not buy the physical game.

  44. The "fixed number of rounds" issue is amplified by another issue which is: currency of the game is also the main source of victory points. Let's take Evo for instance: you can upgrade your specie with mutation points and mutation points are the only way to get victory points, so even if for that game the number of rounds is not precisely known (there is 3 possibilities) you must carefully invest when approaching the end and you must choose points over fun. But let's take 7 Wonders on the opposite, you can score points with money but it's not the main source of points. You may score a lot of points with money, but you have to choose that strategy. The number of turns is fixed but as it's almost always better to invest your money rather than saving it you don't have to choose points over fun.

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