Reaction Buzz: Games to Replace Games that Stink

Reaction videos are all the rage right now. You know, someone creates something creative, and someone else films themselves watching it and reacting. Some of them are fun to watch, others are kind of obnoxious. There’s a great scene in Bo Burnham: Inside where Bo Burnham sings a song, then films a reaction video to his own song, then reacts to his own reaction. It’s quite brilliant.

Anyway, I’m not doing a reaction video because…well, this is a blog. Also, I don’t really know how to do one. But I can still write a reaction. Today, that reaction is going to be for the video “10 Classic Board Games That Suck (And 10 To Replace Them)”. This video is by SungWon Cho, aka ProZD on YouTube. I really liked his list, but found myself thinking of games I would include if I were to make the list. Here’s the video in question, and I’ll just add a language warning – several F-bombs are dropped here, so maybe don’t watch this with the kids around.

Let’s get started!

image by BGG user mildthrill

The classic word game Scrabble is first up. This is a game ProZD says he likes, but because you’re focusing on hitting certain point spaces, it makes it feel less fun than if you can use whatever letters you liked. For that reason, he suggests the deckbuilding game Paperback, as well as Letter Tycoon, which adds an economic element.

Personally, I can’t comment on either of his choices because I haven’t played them (although when I did a similar type list with my second post-holiday gift guide, I did suggest Paperback as an alternative for Scrabble). Paperback is definitely a game I want to try, though I haven’t really been that interested in Letter Tycoon. My suggestion for a different word game to try would be Word on the Street. In this one, you’re given a category of word and need to come up with your own word to fit it. Like, if the card said “a type of fruit”, you might say “strawberry”. Then you look at the street, which has one of every letter (except vowels), and pull each letter from your word towards your side once for each occurrence in your word. So for “strawberry”, you’d pull the S, the T, the W, the B, and the Y one space each, and the R three spaces. When a letter goes off your side of the road, you score it, and you need eight to win. This can be played as a two-player game or in two teams. It’s a lot of fun, and coming up with the most extravagant words possible in the time limit can be challenging. It’s definitely a different kind of word game than Scrabble, but one I’ve had fun with.

image by BGG user arki10

Next up is Battleship. This game is, of course, the classic grid based combat game where you take a wild guess at a spot on the map where a ship is and hope you hit. It’s very luck-based, and has the classic catchphrase “You sunk my battleship!” It was also the basis for a movie that, by all accounts, was terrible. I have not seen it, and don’t plan to.

ProZD’s pick to replace this one is Captain Sonar, and I couldn’t agree more. Captain Sonar adds an element of deduction and teamwork that Battleship is sorely lacking. You’re piloting a sub, trying to locate your opponents and blow them out of the water. The ship breaks down, you have to fix it, you have to charge your weapons and detection devices, and you have to pay attention to your opponents to try to lock in on their position. It’s a great game, and one I’m looking forward to pulling out when this pandemic is over and I can actually play with a big group again. It would absolutely be my choice for a replacement for Battleship. Of course, Captain Sonar is really an eight-player game while Battleship is only for two, so we really need for certain pandemics to be over so we can start playing again.

image by BGG user edelen

Clue is the next game on the list. This is, of course, the classic deduction game where you’re trying to figure out WHO killed Mr. Boddy, HOW they did it, and WHERE they did it. The game is plagued with plenty of logical problems, but it’s a fairly fun narrative experience. ProZD brings up that the roll-and-move aspect is the weakest part of the game, and this is true. If there were a better movement method, the game would be a lot more fun.

The suggestion for replacing this game is The Search for Planet X, which is a game that I have not played. It sounds pretty interesting, though, and it’s one I want to play. He also suggests Alchemists (though the pictures he shows are for the game Alchemist, which is not so much a deduction game and more of an economic game). Alchemists is good, and I like that as a heavier suggestion for a deduction game, but my own suggestion is currently Mind MGMT. Mind MGMT (which I reviewed last year) is a one vs. many hidden movement game where one player is sneaking around recruiting new agents. The other players have to try to figure out where they are through the use of different clues gleaned from features on the board. It’s pretty straightforward, tough to play, and a very good deduction game. The training game is simple to learn, and you can add more stuff as you get more comfortable with the system.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The next game on his list is Catan, the 1995 classic from Klaus Teuber that is pretty much a mainstream game at this point. Catan is a resource management game where you’re building settlements, cities, roads, and developments in order to get to ten points first. Like many people, it was my introduction to the hobby.

ProZD suggests that it be replaced by Bohnanza, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But I don’t think Catan should even have been on this list. Like many gamers, I have moved beyond Catan, and never play anymore. But I remember the experience of playing it for the first time. It was like nothing I had ever tried before, and it opened up a whole new world of gaming to me. By including it with other mass market titles (and yes, you can make the argument that Catan is now a mass market game), you’re basically minimizing the impact it can have. Tell people next steps they can take from Catan, and that’s OK, but I wouldn’t include it on this particular list.

Now, Bohnanza. This is a classic trading game where you’re trading beans back and forth. When I did my list, I had Bohnanza as my replacement for Monopoly, because I honestly think the trading is the best part of Monopoly. We’ll get to Monopoly later, but Bohnanza is a great game. Rather than being a replacement for Catan, however, I think I’d suggest it as another game that someone who likes Catan might also enjoy.

image by BGG user DashProcessor

Next, it’s time for Cards Against Humanity. This party game is basically Apples to Apples with really offensive cards. It’s also one of the only two games on ProZD’s main list that I haven’t played, and one of the few games that I will never play. I don’t use the word “never” lightly – if this is what everyone at a game night playing, I’m just going to sit and wait for the next game or just go home. I know enough about it, I’m good.

The replacement suggestion here is Say Anything, and I heartily approve of this recommendation. I would replace a lot of party games with Say Anything, even Apples to Apples. In this one, players are given a prompt, and they write down the best answer they can think of. A judge picks their favorite answer from the bunch, and then everyone tries to guess which one they picked. It’s a lot of fun, and if you can play with any level of “maturity” that you wish without it being forced on you. An Uncensored version was planned, but I don’t think it was ever released. Just as well – I think it’s ridiculous how many party games decided to jump on the CAH bandwagon and release more “adult” versions of themselves.

image by BGG user GROGnads

Next up, we have Risk, which is the other game on this main list that I haven’t played. Risk is a well-known game where players are trying to conquer the world. You build up your armies, throw them at the other players, and try not to die off too early. I haven’t played because it’s way long, way too luck-based, and too much about conflict for me.

ProZD suggests Blood Rage to replace Risk, which I also haven’t played and can’t really compare. But it seems to me that would be like going from Raffi to Led Zeppelin in one move. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but for someone who likes Risk, I don’t know that Blood Rage is the next step. It has its fans, and I would like to play at some point, but I don’t know about replacing Risk with it. He also suggests Zombicide: Black Plague as a replacement for the dice rolling aspect, which I also haven’t played. But ZPD is co-op, and I don’t know that it would appeal to someone who is out for blood. I’m going to suggest King of Tokyo, which would also make a good replacement for Yahtzee (not on this list). It’s a game where you’re rolling dice and attacking your opponents, and it’s in a much tighter package. If you’re looking for a game where conquest is more prevalent, try Small World (which I also recommended on my previous list). In Small World, you’re trying to conquer a smaller plot of land rather than the entire globe, and you get to play with several different races you can mix and match. There’s limited randomness, and it’s not nearly as long as Risk. I think. I played a six-player game of Small World once, and that was way too long.

image by BGG user Aarontu

And now it’s time for the one you just knew was coming…Monopoly. This of course is the most popular board game in the world, but in hobby circles, it has an extremely bad reputation. Part of this is the extreme luck, part is the length, part is the player elimination, but I think most of it is the house rules people have tacked onto it over the years. Free Parking means you get to park for free, people. There’s no parking lot in the world that I know of that says, “Thanks for parking here. Here’s $500, plus all the other taxes and fees we have collected since the last time someone parked here.”

As mentioned before, I like Bohnanza as a replacement for Monopoly because the trading element is the best part of the game. ProZD made two suggestions here – Machi Koro and Space Base. Machi Koro is an OK light game, but it’s one that has fallen out of favor with me for much the same reason that Catan has – the luck of the dice makes it hard to get an engine going. Space Base, on the other hand, is a fantastic choice. You’re getting ships that will trigger when you roll certain numbers, but can also collect stuff that triggers when others roll those numbers. You still get some randomness, but it doesn’t feel as punishing. Most importantly, there’s very little just waiting around in Space Base, and I like this as a replacement for Monopoly.

image by BGG user henk.rolleman

The Game of Life is the next title. This is the classic spin-and-move game where you get in a car and try to make a million dollars. While it’s incredibly random and quite unrealistic, it’s still got bit of a narrative to it. It’s not a game I want to play anymore, but it’s not one I have any real hatred towards.

The suggestion here is to replace the game with Tokaido, which is also a journey game, but with a lot more choice and strategy. In Tokaido, you’re traveling the ancient Japanese road, trying to do all the touristy things along the way. Thematically, they’re not the same, but it is a game of following a path. Maybe CV or The Pursuit of Happiness would have been better life-building parallels, but I haven’t played either game, and maybe he also has not. I like Tokaido as a replacement game for Life, though I think it’s several steps ahead in complexity.

image by BGG user binraix

Next up is Sorry!, which is a game where you’re trying to move your pawns around the board to their home base. This is done through the flipping of cards. There’s the opportunity to swap places with an opponent, or send them to start, to which you must say “Sorry!” in the most annoying tone of voice ever. This could have been replaced on this list by Trouble, which is essentially the same game with dice, or Parcheesi/Pachisi, which is the older form of the system.

ProZD decided that the fun part of these games was the “take that” aspect, and to replace them, chose Can’t Stop. Can’t Stop is a push-your-luck game where you’re rolling dice and trying to lock in three columns by getting your pawns to the top before your opponents do. I think Can’t Stop is a phenomenal choice to replace Sorry/Trouble/Parcheesi, but I don’t really consider it a “take that” game. There is a bit of that, I suppose, as you lock down columns other players might be trying for. For me, the game is about pushing your luck and trying to get as high as you can rather than trying to screw your opponents. Still, great choice.

image by BGG user handofachlys

Finally, it’s time to dump on Candy Land. This is the classic color matching game where players draw cards and move to the next color that matches on a track. Or possibly get sent to a special space. It’s completely luck-based, and it’s not a good game. But it is a good activity for children who are learning their colors and observational skills.

ProZD recommends Camel Up as a replacement. Camel Up is a game where you’re betting on camels, and using dice to see which ones actually move. It’s an interesting game (and a Spiel des Jahres winner), and a good suggestion for older people who don’t want to play Candy Land but still want movement to be deterministic. But, Candy Land is a young kid’s game, and my suggestion to replace it is Hoot Owl Hoot. This is a where you’re drawing cards and moving to the next color, BUT it’s cooperative AND you have a three card hand to choose from. There’s also sun cards that must be played if drawn, and you have to get all owls to the nest before the sun rises. It’s right on Candy Land’s level, but is a much less dumb game.

So, that’s that. Thanks to ProZD for uploading the video – I enjoyed thinking about the choices. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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