Every year I encourage the members of my regular game group to create a list of their top 100 games of all time. Today I’m starting a new series in which I explore my friends’ favourite games and specifically look at the games they chose to put onto their top 100 that I hate.

Hate is a very strong word. To be honest, most of these games I would still play. These are games that I would call ‘fine’ and would play if someone was really keen, but are not games I would ever suggest playing on our game nights.

The first person I’m picking on today has chosen his alias to be Otter. He would identify himself as a classic Euro gamer; someone who enjoys trading cubes and deterministic gameplay over luck and dice. While not totally against the odd direct conflict game, his preferences are firmly in the economic side of the spectrum.

I’ve ordered this list, starting with the games at the very top of his list, not in the order of how much I dislike each one.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 – #1

Ooooh boy coming right out of the gate with a spicy take. I’m not a big fan of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. There are a lot of aspects that could be contributing to my opinion, such as the fact that I haven’t finished the campaign yet, or the fact that I’ve only played it two players. I’ve purposefully hidden the paragraph below for those who may be sensitive to spoilers. Highlight the text if you want to read some of my reasons for not liking Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Some of the reasons I don’t like Pandemic Legacy are very arbitrary. I don’t like that one of the viruses turns people into ‘faded figures’, which is very reminiscent of zombies, which is just a concept that I’m extremely tired of. I also don’t like that in a 2 player game it feels like we HAVE to use a certain subset of characters or we have no chance of containing the virus or even winning. I also don’t really like the consequences of a bad game, if a city (or cities) falls because of a unlucky card flip, that city is now harder to deal with and more likely to be a pain in the butt in subsequent games. Further to that we are disincentivised to branch out and try new characters; the ones we’ve been using all game have gotten several improvements and until they’re lost forever, there’s no real reason to deviate.

The paragraph above is white text with a white background. Highlight to read, but be aware there are spoilers.

In the end, I would so much rather play base Pandemic, which is an excellent experience beginning to end. Sometimes when I want to shake up my co-op game experience, I’ll pull out one of the alternate Pandemic versions, such as Fall of Rome, Rising Tide, or even The Cure (if I want to roll a lot of dice). That offers much more variety for me, and I don’t need to bring the same group of people back together again and again to play through a campaign.

Side bar, that last complaint, bringing the same group of people back together again and again is the crux of most of my complaints with all Legacy and campaign games. If someone is dedicated enough to return regularly to play Pandemic Legacy again and again with me, I’d almost certainly rather be introducing them to the wider world of board games. I know this speaks to my own need for discovery, but Pandemic is such a great introduction to cooperative games that once I’ve gotten someone hooked with it, there’s so many other experiences I’m keen to share with them.

Alchemists #10

Alchemists designed by Matúš Kotry and published by CGE in 2014 was pitched to me as a Clue-style deduction game, but much more interesting and ‘gamey’. This pitch didn’t particularly excite me as I hadn’t played Clue since I was 9 or 10 years old and didn’t have particularly fond memories attached to that game.

What Alchemists actually is, is a worker placement game with a deduction element. The deduction either needs to be managed by an app, or have a player act the role of a moderator and manage the deduction element. Alchemists features 8 different ingredients all of which have a positive or negative value in 3 aspects (confusing, I know). The goal of the game is to deduce the aspects of each of these ingredients and publish theories proving you are the smartest Alchemist at the table. It’s entirely possible to publish false theories in an effort to rush your opponents into also publishing their half-baked theories, after which you and the scientific community at large can mock them mercilessly.

What I don’t like about Alchemists is that the system is opaque and obtuse, and you can get really unlucky. The method for gathering information is you first need to take an action spot, which may cost you money if someone mixed a red potion before you did. Then, you mix two ingredients into a caldron and they’ll pop out a result, consuming the two resources. The result you can use to deduce some information, and once you have enough information, you can figure out the individual properties of each ingredient. In one of my games I matched 3 different pairs of ingredients together and every time they turned out to be the the equal and opposite of each other, giving me almost no information I could work with and leaving me far behind everyone else. Eventually I was able to use that information to figure out each of the ingredient’s aspects, but it was too little too late. Everyone else had already published their papers and sold their potions to eager explorers.

Other things that rub me wrong are the lengthy playtime. Alchemists is easily a 2 hour game, longer if you’re learning how to play. It’s also difficult for new players, as they can’t really ask clarifying questions lest they give away some of their secret information. Hopefully whoever teaches this game can clearly impart the logic puzzle, or the new players will be left feelings stuck for a very long time. It’s also fairly punishing, making a mistake or missing timing your moves can dearly cost you, which feels particularly bad in a long game.

On a more positive note, I really love the art and production of Alchemists, and the rulebook was hilarious. If everyone is of an equal skill level, Alchemists can be a fun afternoon, but high academia is just not for me.

Stockpile #12

Sometimes it’s hard to discern where a heavily random game is good, and where it’s bad. Why do I love Galaxy Trucker, but despise Stockpile?

Stockpile is a stock market manipulation game where players each have a small amount of hidden information. Each round players will seed portfolios with shares in a company, then bid on which portfoliton you want to acquire. After acquiring a portfolio, you have the option to sell some stocks, then the market moves. Each of the 6 companies will move either up or down. If the stock hits the top of the track, it splits, doubling your stake in the company. If it goes bankrupt, all those stocks in your portfolio have become worthless.

Stockpile feels very random and unfair. The player who knows if a stock is going to go bankrupt due to a massive -3 movement has such a better piece of information than the player who knows that another stock is just going to go up by one. Often, you’ll have information about a stock, but then never have the opportunity to take action on that information. If you know American Automotive is going to go up 2, but you never see those shares, that information is essentially worthless. Sure, you could try to barter or psyche out your opponents, but that pales in comparison to actually knowing the hidden information and using it to your advantage. You can know that if the Automotive company is going up by 2 then the odds of the other stocks going down are marginally higher, but it’s just not enough to make meaningful decisions.

I do like the asymmetric player powers, and the expansion turns up the randomness even further by including dice that dictate how the market will move, making it even more volatile. If I’m going to play a game where I feel like I have no control, it may as well be extra random and I can make my own points by going heavily into bonds.

Grand Austria Hotel #13

I really wanted to love Grand Austria Hotel by Simone Luciani and Virginio Gigli. With my hospitality background I adore the theme of serving coffee and cake to guests before seeing them to their rooms. In practice, however, Grand Austria Hotel feels plodding and tedious. Most of the decisions feels dictated by the dice, which somehow always seem to be exactly wrong. I’ve had instances where I look at the dice and think “This is awful! I can’t do anything with this!”, re-roll the dice, only to find that the re-roll is somehow worse than the original state!

Perhaps it’s foolish of me to expect something exciting when strudel is one of the main resources. I find myself frustrated every time I play, especially as I see my opponents racking up combos and hiring staff that cascade into dozens of filled rooms and fully progressed on the emperor track thanks to a well timed pull of a guest, or a perfectly timed dice roll. What makes Grand Austria Hotel even worse is the snake draft, which somehow seems to elongate the downtime in-between turns. “GAH” is all I can really say about this one…

The Oracle of Delphi #24

A Stefan Feld race game, I was so excited when I first sat down to play The Oracle of Delphi. I was on a bit of a Feldian kick, having just played The Castles of Burgundy and Trajan, so I was very excited to see what this new, colourful box had in store for me.

Unfortunately what I found was a race to complete three sets of four different objectives. At the start of the game you’re weak and trying to get anything done feels like a chore. As you complete some objectives you get benefits that make you stronger, but you’re also taking on penalty cards. If you get too many penalties, you have to skip a whole turn which feels AWFUL in a race game.

Two of the four tasks you’re trying to complete are pick-up and deliver, and the entire board is seeded from the start. The first player to go can end up with a huge advantage by being able to pick up and drop off resources directly next to the start while others need to cart their goods clear across the sea. The objectives that aren’t pick-up and deliver are entirely random, either rolling dice and hoping you clear the threshold or flipping a face down tile and hoping it’s your colour. These objectives just don’t make for an interesting game in my opinion.


There are a few other games on Otter’s list that I’m not the biggest fan of, including Lorenzo il Magnifico, Teotihuacan: City of the Gods, Ticket to Ride, and Mombasa, but I’ll leave roasting those games to another day.

Feel free to tell me I’m wrong in the comments; lambast my opinions and accuse me of being uncultured swine! I dare you to write 2,000 words slamming 5 of my favourite games of all time, which you can read about by clicking here.