There are plenty of games out there that let you be mean to your friends. The “take that” genre is alive and well. And sure, there are cooperative titles where the game itself is mean to you. That’s just to provide the requisite challenge since the players are all working together. But then, there are purely competitive titles that nevertheless go out of their way to smash your progress. Where you have to watch out for the game as much as your fellow players. Games like Dungeon Lords that try to tear down what you’ve built. But it’s not the only fantastic title. Here are a few more of the most awesome.
At first blush, Macao might seem like a fairly standard euro-style game. It has plenty of cubes for pushing. But as you get into it, you realize that this game is very into punishment – and not necessarily the 50 Shades kind.
Each round, dice determine the possible resources. If you choose a red 1, then you get one red resource now. A red 2 gets you two resources, but not until next turn. All the way up to six which gives you plenty of resources – but not for a long while. And the timing is important because you have to play cards each round.
What happens if you don’t? If you exceed your hand limit and have to discard, you get a “punishment marker.” Yes, that’s the literal designation in the rules. What if you don’t clear your hand of cards by game end? Punishment. What if you miscalculate and don’t have resources on a given turn? Punishment.
Macao forces you into a highwire act where you try to skirt the line between safety and progress. You want to do just enough to avoid punishment while marshaling your resources elsewhere on the things that actually give you points and disrupt your opponents. The tension is thick and Macao is awesome.
Of course, if we’re talking about mean games we have to include Galaxy Trucker. In the first phase, players compete in real time to build space ships. There are tons of tiles in the middle of the table and players grab them, decide it they want to add them to their ship, and then go back for more. Eventually, your ship is complete (or you run out of time) and then you go to the second phase: actually flying those contraptions you’ve built.
Before they fly off, though, you have to check them to make sure the connections are right. Not every tile fits next to every other tile. When they don’t fit, one of those pieces falls off. And if that happened to be the critical piece connecting a whole wing to your ship, well, the whole wing falls off.
Once inspected, Galaxy Trucker sends your ship down a gauntlet of destruction. You’ll be pummeled by asteroids large and small, have to face off against pirates and smugglers, and even face epidemic diseases that can deplete your crew. It’s not uncommon for your hastily built space boat – that you crafted with love and care – to be obliterated before it makes it out of the phase. And yet, Galaxy Trucker is phenomenal fun. It’s exciting, intense, and hilarious as you see the carnage unfold.
IN THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON
In the Year of the Dragon takes the cooperative game mentality and puts it into a competitive arena. Specifically, it has a whole series of events which do nothing but hurt the players. But, rather than a cooperative game where the players collectively try to overcome, the players instead fight tooth and nail against each other to get the items necessary to avoid pain – and to deprive their opponents of the same.
Theoretically, Dragon has a peaceful theme where each player is building palaces and inviting various scholars to visit. As you do, you gain prestige and the goal is to be the most prestigious by game end. But it’s not so simple as that. During the game, you’ll face famine. If you don’t have enough rice you’ll lose scholars. Doctors can help you avoid the plague, but are otherwise useless. In fact, the most useful scholars tend to also give you the fewest options.
If you don’t have enough room in a palace, then you have to kick an existing scholar out. But you can’t just build palaces in preparation either. If there is a palace without a scholar, it decays and could disappear entirely.
Players slug it out in brutal fashion as they play through this remarkably antagonistic title. And the result is an incredible title where you have to focus and strategize from the very beginning to the very end. A slip here or there may result in your scholars dying, or your palaces disintegrating. And that won’t bring you prestige.
Do you have favorite games that try to punish the players? Tell us about them in the comments.
Image Credits: Rio Grande Games, Czech Games Edition
Featured Image Credit: Czech Games Edition