Three of the Meanest Board Games You’ll Play (That Aren’t Diplomacy)

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Diplomacy is an epic game of negotiation and strategy, but it is unbelievably brutal (partly because it takes so long). If you’ve spent hours enhancing your position and building up your forces, it can be heartbreaking to lose it all in one swift backstab from an erstwhile ally. But Diplomacy isn’t the only mean game out there. Some titles thrive on unexpectedly stabbing your buddy. Here are three of the best.


Intrigue is every bit as mean as Diplomacy and you’ll certainly lie right to your friends’ faces, but the whole game takes only about thirty minutes or so. Without the long buildup, you’ll remain friends by the end. Probably.

Each player starts with eight scholars who can go to work in your opponents’ manors and bring home an income. So you send them off. On that opponent’s turn, they can decide what income to provide. And the negotiation starts there. “What will you give me to provide the 6 grand per round income?” You negotiate and pay bribes. Only after the bribes are paid does the player decide the income. Oh, you had agreed and bribed for the 6 grand slot? Too bad he put your scholar in the 1 grand slot.

It gets even worse if there are competing artists from other players. Only one gets in and the other is sent to the island of misfit scholars. Of course, he negotiates with each of you one at a time. He secures bribes from everyone. And only then does he make his choice about who stays and who goes. Your word is not your bond here. And you have to be comfortable with delicious, delicious deceit.


A classic of modern board gaming, Citadels can be absolutely brutal. It starts friendly enough. There are eight roles in the game and players engage in a modified and hidden draft. Each player gets one role and each provides a special power. The Architect can gather more cards while the Merchant can get you additional income. The goal is to gather gold and use it to build eight buildings. Whoever has the best buildings wins. Easy, right?

Well, maybe not so much. You see, most roles exist to harm the other players. The Assassin is the first role to act and he can call out any other role. That role is dead. If you think someone has chosen the Merchant, you kill the Merchant and end their whole turn. Next to go is the Thief who can steal any other player’s money. The Magician can change hands and the Warlord can even destroy opponents’ buildings.

What follows is a tremendous game of bluffing and double think. Maybe the Bishop is the perfect role for you… so you avoid it purposely. That way, when players try to steal or kill the Bishop, they’ll miss you. Unless, of course, they’ve already figured that out. Clearly you cannot trust the wine in front of you.

Better yet, Citadels is slated to be reprinted in an updated version this year. New roles and more variety will make every play fresh. And deadly.

Tammany Hall

Nothing says brutal like 19th century New York politics. In Tammany Hall, players represent various factions trying to be elected mayor. They do so by shepherding in various immigrant groups, gaining their political favor, and turning that into votes. While it is built around an area control mechanism, it’s unlike any territory grabbing game you’ve played before.

Every four rounds, there’s an election. Each precinct votes and the one who wins the most precincts becomes the new mayor. If you’ve installed a boss there, you can get some votes. But you can also get the votes from immigrant groups if you’ve done them favors. So it’s all about ensuring that your favored groups (or, more accurately, the groups that favor you) find their way into the precincts you want to win. And the mayor then has to assign the other players to various city jobs, each of which bestows special powers. Powers that will, of course, be used to decimate the mayor.

Plus, each election, the players can choose to slander one another. A slander against you can absolutely devastates your reputation in various communities and can actually spread from precinct to precinct. Planting the right rumor is important, and requires some favor by the slanderer. When played right, the slanderee can see their prospects absolutely wither. The October Surprise is alive and well in Tammany Hall.

What games do you enjoy that let you be downright mean to your friends? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credits: Mayfair Games, Asmodee Games, and Pandasaurus Games.

Featured Image Credit: Avalon Hill

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