It started out as an innocent little suggestion. “Hey, let’s all get together for a game night!” A little wine, a few snacks, a clear table, and five happy couples all gathered around for an evening of fun and amusement.
It…did not end that way.
So here are five games to keep clear of — or plan your evening around, depending how much you like your friends.
White Elephant Gift Exchange
Also known as Yankee swap, this game never fails to rapidly devolve into a social litmus test. Players bring gifts and take turns choosing an unwrapped gift or stealing one already open. It seems like a simple enough concept for a group who don’t know each other that well, but that’s just what the game wants you to think.
First, there are the rules. Does everyone choose a gift before opening? Can you open and steal? Can you steal back what’s been stolen from you? What about trading? Price limit?
Then, there are the gifts. You get a bottle of locally made hot sauce, how neat! The next player gets two bottles of wine. The next player gets a complete barbecue set. One of these things is not like the other. One of these things stuck to the price limit. Inevitably, something will become the dud gift. If it’s that thing you carefully picked out and put thought into, then your evening sucks just as much as that unlucky soul who got the hot sauce.
Then, there’s the stealing…
You open a gift, and it’s a lovely box of chocolates! Oh, but there’s something more too. It’s…$5 worth of scratch cards! Um, thanks? That’s basically just $5 less of a gift than all the rest. But then that gift gets stolen, “for the chocolates.” Ha ha, sure, I bet. And then I–I mean you–spend the rest of the evening wondering if you’ve just had $1,000 dollars snatched out of your life forever. Sneaky jerk.
Or there was the time with the tacky gift exchange when the 12 year old got to join the adults from the office opening their gag gifts, and got one of those ice cream punch toys, which was totally super cool and clearly the best gift there! And then the 12 year old had that gift stolen by some 40 year old who totally wasn’t going to play with it or anything, and the game wasn’t fun any more. What? I’ve clearly gotten over it.
Scrabble, you say? That nice game with the word tiles and pictures of people drinking tea? Yes, Scrabble. Don’t let the packaging fool you. Beneath that friendly veneer of language merrymaking and crossword shenanigans, lies an evil, malicious purveyor of Bad Times. No, I’m not talking about the people who won’t play me because they know I make money with words (Thursdays down by the docks, winner takes all Scrabble throw down — bring it!)
Or, if your group is truly doomed, you will have among your company that player, who reads the Scrabble dictionary in advance for valid words, so when the time is right, she might play the word “ng” and laugh in your face when you try to challenge it for not being a real word.
This little known rpg/board game features a vibrant combination of monster killing, hilarious quests, and swearing profusely at your closest friends or loved ones. This is a game that proclaims, in very positive words on its own back cover, how it will destroy all the friendships you hold dear. Let me explain…
Dokapon is a game about a kingdom under attack, and about a king who values money over absolutely everything else. To get ahead in the game, you need to level up, so you can fight monsters and reclaim towns, because towns are worth a lot of money, and the more money you’re worth the better chance you have of being crowned next in line for the throne. The catch is, while you’re levelling on those monsters you can also turn on your best friend or loving spouse while he’s severely injured from saving a town, and kill him. And then take his town. Or all his money. Or destroy his weapon.
Or if you’re feeling kind, you could just rename him Turd Ferguson, write graffiti all over his face in permanent marker, and change his hairstyle to poo. I am not even kidding. You can also send assassins after one another, rob each other, and poison your friends, them give them foot sores so they can only walk a single space each turn the whole way back to the temple for healing, getting attacked by monsters every step of the way. And then kill them right before they get a chance to recover their health.
The smack talk runs rampant, the stakes grow ever higher, the hurt feelings fester and fester, and eventually, amid all the swearing and near-throwing-down of controllers, that thing you’re thinking but not saying becomes that thing you’re saying, and then my husband and I are apologizing to each other later that night for being total dicks to each other over a cute cartoony video game.
Also, he stole the win from me the first time we played after I took down almost all the boss’s health. Just saying.
At one time in your life, you were the best at this game. You beat all friends, played the hardest, unlocked all the impossible to beat achievements, including that fake one that for the All Bonds unlock. You were amazing.
Now you’re grown up, and you and your adult friends decide to pull out the N64 for a classic video game night. Or maybe you pull out the Wii for a little shiny new Goldeneye with motion control. Either way, you know you’re the best, and you’re going to mop the floor with these poor saps who never knew you in your heyday. Trouble is, they were all the best too. They played more than all their friends, they unlocked all the secrets too, and they’re about to mop the floor with you.
Goldeneye is one of those games everyone was the best at, once upon a time. At least, we all think we were. Then, all innocently, we stumble across other so-called Goldeneye masters in casual conversation, and now it’s time to whip out our controllers and see who’s control stick still has the most snap to it. That’s when things get ugly.
For a while it’s all casual, just feeling each other out. A win here, a loss there, but oh, she doesn’t know my true skill yet. Then the fancy moves come out, the spawn-kills, the bullet-riddled corpses just for that extra “F YOU!” at the end. In the end, it always devolves to slapper fights.
Thank Nintendo those N64 controllers can handle so much throwing on the floor.
The granddaddy of all hate-inducing games. Risk is the epitome of friends getting together around the dinner table for an evening, engaging in a little friendly competition, rolling some dice, and then never speaking to each other again.
It starts, like so many things, with arguments over the rules, over placement of troops. That sly, superior tone begins to creep into someone’s speech. Oh, that’s how you play? That’s never how I played. Then there are the accusations of copying someone else’s strategy. There’s the “I didn’t mean to roll my dice right through your army” move, the “I forgot to place guys at the beginning of my last turn so I’m going to do it now,” and the ever popular “I just like Australia, okay? That’s why I stuck every single one of my guys there and reinforced it beyond all possible attack.”
More than any of the others above, this game encourages alliances, deception, sneakiness, backstabbing, and power tripping. Risk is especially deadly with couples, because suddenly some people are off limits, or vicious looks are lowered across the table when troops start piling up near Honeydearest’s border, and remarks about couches/sleeping on them start popping up.
And then there’s the smack talk. Video games are awful for it, sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard worse insults and taunts thrown around a game night than over a Risk board. People who barely know each other, who are trying to get off on the right foot still, suddenly start outright mocking one-another and laughing directly in their faces. I’ve seen swearing, insults, legitimate threats for separate sleeping arrangements, and lots and lots of crying. Oh my, the crying. I can think of no other game that provokes the sheer level of tears that Risk does. You make one little slip, leave Europe open on one of its way too many damn entry points, and spend the next ten minutes with someone you barely know laughing in your face while mowing down your entire remaining forces.
At the end of the night, it’s all anyone can do to shake hands, mutter something that doesn’t quite sound like “That was fun.” No one suggests you do it again. No one says to have a safe drive home. You all just hate each other, and you’ve learned the worst of each other.
So what game has destroyed the most of your friendships?