One of the reasons I enjoy the board game hobby so much is its social nature. It allows me to spend time with a group of old or new friends, have some laughs and some fun along the way. In my regular game group, we can play games that can be qualified as “competitive.” Some games we play have an element of “mess with your neighbor” but these tend to be a little more lighthearted, done with a grin and a chuckle.
Sounds great, right? If you enjoy spending time with your gaming group and keeping your friends, then I highly recommend you keep on playing your games of 7 Wonders, Pandemic, and Legendary: Marvel Deckbuilding.
However, if you are really annoyed because your buddy didn’t kick in for pizza last week, or that your husband is watching another Star Trek TNG rerun, or if you just want to watch your gaming group burn, then these are the games for you. Lies, deceit, betrayal, and backstabbing are the keywords when describing these games; that may in fact cause you to lose a friend along the way. So let’s get into my Top 10 Games to Lose Your Friends.
Top 10 Games to Lose Your Friends
10. Mille Bornes
Normally you would feel sympathy if your friend got stuck at a red light, or ran out of gas, or had a flat tire. Not so in Mille Bornes, where you actively try to hinder your opponent by playing various automotive mishaps on them to stop them from winning. This game gives you all the fun of siphoning gas from your friends, without the jail time and monetary reparations. Play Mille Bornes with your friend that judged you when you could not change a flat tire, and see how he feels now that the shoe is on the other foot.
2-6 Players • Ages 8+ • 45 minutes to play • $11
One of the original games of conspiracies and bargaining, Illuminati lets you jump into conflicts by either spending money to aid in the attack or defense of your enemies and allies. You can go from supporting your neighbor in one battle to trying to beat them into the ground in the next. Now combine that with the fact that cheating is, in fact, legal (as long as you don’t get caught) and this game has the potential to provide plenty of side-eye glances to your “friends.” Play Illuminati with your conspiracy-crazed uncle (we all have one), then delight in betraying them at every turn. Tell them the black helicopters made you do it.
2-8 Players • Ages 12+ • 60 minutes to play • $27
8. Downfall of Pompeii
Any game that lets you throw your opponents’ meeples into a volcano is one that will strain the boundaries of friendship. It gets even more brutal when you throw in and give them a Wilhelm Scream while you do it (or do as I do and download the app for liberal and repeated use.) Combine that with the 2nd phase of the game, where you are positioning the lava flow to block your opponents from exiting the city, and to overrun their meeples, and you have a game that may require some burn cream to soothe the singed edges of your gaming group. Downfall of Pompeii should be played with your friends that like that song Pompeii, because they should be punished for their music taste.
2-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 45 minutes to play • $30
This game takes delight on you having terrible things befall your own characters, but Gloom really shines when you put your opponents’ family members out of their misery before they get to lead a despair-filled life. Providing your enemies with cake, happy marriages, puppy dogs and ice cream would not usually make them upset with you, unless, of course, you are playing a round of Gloom. Play this one with your emo niece, because she will be really upset when you brighten her day with happy things.
2-4 Players • Ages 13+ • 60 minutes to play • $18
6. Cutthroat Caverns
At first glance, Cutthroat Caverns is a cooperative game, where you are trying to clear out a dungeon filled with baddies with your best mates. Everything is civil, until you start poaching kills from your new ex-friends. The point of the game is to play around with the amount of damage you do, combined with other actions and event cards, to be the last person to deal damage to the monster, awarding you the points. For a game that starts off as cooperative, Cutthroat Caverns devolves into betrayal very quickly. However, there still needs to be an element of cooperation amidst all the duplicity, providing players with more strategy as to when they decide to start double-dealing. Play this with your DM, and see how he likes it when he gets backstabbed.
3-6 Players • Ages 12+ • 90 minutes to play • $25
5. Sheriff of Nottingham
A game of bribery and deceit, Sheriff of Nottingham allows players to make bribes to the Sheriff to inspect their enemies’ shipments, while ignoring their own. There is nothing more frustrating than convincing the Sheriff to let your shipment of contraband through, then having to pay some extortion fee to overcome the bribing efforts of your opponents. It’s especially frustrating for me personally since I am terrible at bluffing so therefore I end up having to always pay to not have my shipments inspected. Sheriff of Nottingham is a good one to play with coworkers, since you are constantly throwing them under the bus to your boss anyway.
3-5 Players • Ages 13+ • 60 minutes to play • $25
Munchkin, in our experience, is a game that provides a path to victory for the player that is still surviving after everyone has run out of ways to mess with people who are about to win. All you need to do is just hang on while your opponents play wandering monsters, boosts, and penalties to your rolls. It even tells you in the description of the game that one of the goals is to “stab your buddy.” It’s refreshing to have such honesty! Play Munchkin only once a year, then put it away and don’t speak of it again until the following year. Trust me.
3-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 90 minutes to play • $18
A game of pure negotiation, Lifeboats requires you to negotiate with your fellow players to decide which boats move forward, which boats spring leaks, and which boaters get thrown overboard. Since negotiation is the name of the game, backstabbing and deceit go together like peas and carrots with Lifeboats. It’s highly interactive, fast-paced, and guaranteed to make you want to flip the table at least five times during your play due to your friends’ evil natures. Play Lifeboats with your family, because nothing says family like throwing your relatives overboard to drown in shark-infested waters.
3-6 Players • Ages 12+ • 90 minutes to play • $50
The granddaddy of the list, Diplomacy has been causing visions of slashed tires and keyed cars since 1959. Diplomacy, like other area-control games such as Risk, involves you moving your armies through territories (in this case, pre-WWI Europe), defending your claims while taking over your enemies’ positions. The fun in Diplomacy is that all moves are hidden then revealed simultaneously after a period of negotiation. Oh, you thought your western flank in Munich was safe as you decided to march eastward into Bohemia, because the player controlling France swore on a stack of Bibles that you were allied? He lied, and now you’re getting invaded. This game has developed a cult following over the years, with massive tournaments, clubs dedicated to playing solely Diplomacy, and a thriving play-by-mail/play-by-email online community. This one is recommended to play with people over the Internet, because they aren’t really people.
2-7 Players • Ages 12+ • 360 minutes to play • $20
They might as well have named this game “How to Lose Your Friends in an Hour.” Ostensibly, you take the role of a noble trying to place your family members in other nobles’ businesses, bribing and paying your way to victory. However, the theme is a thin veneer for a game that is a straightforward no-holds-barred exercise in lies and deceit. You can make a deal with your friend, accept their bribe money, then immediately go back on your deal and help the other players out. Intrigue does provide a good experience if you like the negotiation and dealing and can handle some knives in your back. My recommendation is to go to a game convention and find three people you never have to interact with again then have a blast playing Intrigue. Better if that convention is one you have to fly across an ocean to get to.
3-5 Players • Ages 12+ • 45 minutes to play • $16
So that about wraps up my Top Ten Games to Lose Your Friends. Did I miss your favorite game of backstabbing and betrayal? Let me know in the comments below.
Mille Bornes is NOT a game 😉
Or tell me how a game can consist of playing the next drawn card without the need of looking at it?
I added Mille Bornes because it hits me in the nostalgia feels. Played it quite a bit with my parents growing up.
Surprised not to see Survive on the list. From personal experience I would say that Alcatraz: The Scapegoat can leave you with one really bitter friend.
Never played. Probably would be #11.
Junta is missing too…
That’s because I don’t particularly care for Junta.
Great list! Certainly share your sentiments on a lot of these days. Also any of the Fantasy Flight Game of Thrones games could be put on this list as well. Talk about friendship enders!
My buddies and I used to play Munchkin A LOT. We like messing with each other anyway, so the game was perfect for us. We reveled in stabbing each other in the backs, and we called it “friendship breaker” game. It was good times.
Then one day, we took the game to one of our friends’ place. That friend had played the game with us before, but his wife hadn’t, so we explained the rules to her and she joined our game. Then near the endgame, she stabbed her husband in the back. Hard. Everybody found it hilarious, except the husband guy. He was utterly flabbergasted that he’d been betrayed by his wife so badly. Oh, the look on his face.