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Horrible / Tabletop Games

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"[S]aying that this game should be burned is an insult to fire."
Jason Sartin, in his review of F.A.T.A.L.

You know those old board games, card games, and roleplaying games you keep in your closet or attic? Yeah... you might want to keep a few of those in your closet, lest somebody sees them and tries to use it against you in court... especially if it's one of these.

Important Note: Merely being offensive in its subject matter is not enough to justify a work as Horrible. Hard as it is to imagine at times, there is a market for all types of deviancy (no matter how small a niche it is). It has to fail to appeal even to that niche to qualify as this. Additionally, to ensure that the work is judged with a clear mind and the hatred isn't just a knee-jerk reaction, as well as to allow opinions to properly form, examples should not be added until at least one month after release. This includes "sneaking" the entries onto the pages ahead of time by adding them and then just commenting them out.

Examples (in more-or-less alphabetical order):

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    Tabletop RPG 
  • RTG released a Dragon Ball Z RPG. The execution was just as ludicrous as it sounds — stat blocks for characters from the series had attacks that required rolling upwards of 30 dice... and that was just for the Saiyan Saga. The book itself was poorly written and poorly laid out, and it suffered from a lot of filler devoted to only marginally-relevant subjects, such as customizing action figures for use as game pieces. Three sourcebooks were released (with more cancelled), but the Fusion system was horribly suited to DBZ — the creators took a system with expected stat values between 1-10 (involving rolls of only 3d6 to resolve checks) and fed stats in the hundreds into it. "Power levels" amounted to nothing more than MP, but were used as the basis for gaining XP from a fight.
  • F.A.T.A.L. is, hands down, the all-time reigning champion of horrible RPGs, and there's a lot to say about it:
    • The rolling system is completely broken. One of the game's most basic rolls is 4d100/2-1 — to break that down, you take a hundred-sided die, roll it four times, sum the results, divide in half, and subtract one. You do this for anything requiring a bell curve, including all 17 of your character's stats. Later versions "improved" it — to 10d100/5-1, which is rolling a hundred-sided die ten times, sum the results, divide by five, and subtract one. Granted, you won't actually need a hundred-sided die, but if you used a 20-sided die, you'd have to roll it fifty times. The first edition even included a ridiculous 1d10,000,000 roll — either you'd have to find a ten-million-sided die, or you'd have to roll a ten-sided die seven times (once per digit).
    • The character system is also completely broken. It takes forever to draw up a character thanks to the aforementioned dice rolling, taking up a full third of a more than 900-page tome. Races are poorly thought out — they all hate each other so much that it's totally implausible to form an adventuring party from them. Classes are broken — all earn experience in different ways, but some are incomplete, many are civilian jobs no player would want, and for some it's possible to die of old age before reaching Level 2. Stats are complex and include things like head size, social and marital status, and anal circumference. And given the broken nature of the rolling system, in early editions it was possible for "anal circumference" to be zero or negative.
    • The magic system is completely broken. Spells are either useless in normal play, pointlessly situational, time-consuming and impractical, needlessly risky, or useful only for sexual situations. Magical items tend to consist of sophomoric, racist jokes. Its highlight is the namesake spell, which kills everything in the world — and is part of the miscast table.
    • But the biggest problem with the game is its all-around contempt for basic human decency — it's horrifyingly racist and sexist. Those races no one wants to play as are mostly bizarre ethnic stereotypes. Sex happens all the time in this game, to the point where it's possible to accidentally* rape an opponent to death during combat. (But to determine the results of sex, the player must solve quadratic equations, which grinds the pace of the game to a crawl.) The overall tone is especially cruel toward women — the most fleshed-out thing in the whole game is prostitution, and women are either housewives or whores. The game seems to assume you'll be playing as an asshole rapist, and if you aren't, it tries to push you towards it at every opportunity.
    • The definitive review of this game, by reviewers Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin, is a very detailed, horrific, NSFW ordeal that laid out its case meticulously (and got a rise out of the game's authors, who proved they Can't Take Criticism). The game also has a theme song, which is pure comedy gold.
  • HYBRID, which first appeared on the Usenet group as a series of posts by the author "C++", purports to be a Role-Playing Game that "accurately models physical reality". Instead, it's a disjointed jumble of mathematical equations with undefined variables; allusions to social and political issues and pop culture; misogynistic and other offensive statements; and much more. But the worst are the rules, which are numerous, ever-expanding, and veer off into tangents — even "Rule Zero", an explanation of how C++ numbers his version histories, is a 1500-word diatribe about conspiracy theories and Superman canon. And there are tons of cross-references, some to non-existent rules or even rules from other games. It is virtually impossible to make any kind of sense of the rules (even C++ himself broke his Rule Zero), much less actually create a character and play the game. ranks this as the second-worst game of all time, with only FATAL ranking worse.
  • The Masters of the Universe RPG was released by FASA in 1985 to cash in on the fad at the time. It was intended to introduce 8 to 10-year-olds to RPGs, but even for adults, it was close to being completely unplayable. Its combat system is its undoing, as it's needlessly complicated and missing some important rulesexample or even directly contradicts itselfexample. Spells are particularly ill-defined, with later releases including a card that rather than explaining the rules, said they would be included in a future edition (which never came out). Players have to consult a complex table to see how an enemy reacts to being hit before they can even do damage. And the game also gave the impression that the writers had never watched the source material — Teela, for example, is a magic user in the game but a Badass Normal in the original, and Orko of all people gets offensive spells.
  • Racial Holy War was made by a white supremacist group called The Creativity Movement, and it's pretty clear that pushing their ideology was more important to them than making a good RPG. The plot is right there in the title: set in the future, the Jews have taken over the world, and you play as the plucky white La R√©sistance who will overthrow them. It reads like an over-the-top parody of neo-Nazism, or like someone read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion but didn't feel quite up to tackling Mein Kampf. The game's most ridiculous feature is that every enemy race has a Special Attack based on racial stereotypes, which ends up making the whites look far less badass than what the writers intended; Jews can bribe them not to attack, and Black people can debilitate them with their body odor. Even if you're not offended by its hateful premise, there's no fun to be had with this game, as the rules are horrible, broken, and unfinished, including complete omission of rules regarding player-character attack resolution — put simply, the game forgot to tell you how to attack things. The Intimidation mechanic is the most broken, adding up the score of every combatant on each side, meaning a handful of heavily armed White Warriors could be scared shitless by a hundred Jewish babies. And the game's cover is outright stolen from The Hills Have Eyes (1977) with almost no changes. It's so bad, 1d4chan considers the game worse than F.A.T.A.L. — the material lacks shock value, doesn't cross the line twice, and is too reprehensible and pitiful to be enjoyed ironically. More info here.
  • Spawn of Fashan is a classic example from the early 1980s that has become one of the standards by which execrably-bad tabletop RPGs are measured. It was an incomplete release — even though it had an example world, it didn't include enough in that sample for full use of the system. It took a long time to create characters and run combat because the stat tables were poorly organized and poorly labeled.
  • Wraeththu: From Enchantment to Fulfilment: The RPG "adaptation" of Storm Constantine's fantasy series about post-apocalyptic mystical monoecious mutants with flower-like genitalia (no, seriously) ended up not realistically portraying the setting of the books at all, casting the player characters as pretentious and glamorous sociopaths, and going out of its way to be as unhelpful to the novice Game Master as possible. Of note are the gut-wrenching mechanics: among other transgressions, chain mail transfers a statistical immunity to flamethrowers. Details here and here.

    Board Games 
  • Intelligent Design vs. Evolution utterly fails to be a fun game, regardless of one's religious views. It's a simple board game where two players or teams must move their pieces to the end of the board while gaining "brain cards" and answering questions. There are only 250 question cards (by comparison, Trivial Pursuit has 1,000 with six questions each), and many of them don't have questions at all; they're just potshots at evolution, Ad Hominem attacks, attempts at proselytization, or random Bible quotes. A few use Insane Troll Logic, like one using the No True Scotsman fallacy to prove there are no hypocrites in "the Church". Information on the cards is not only wrong or misquoted, it's also often not proofread; one memorable card hits all these points by citing as its source "Wickipedia". The blog Freaking Awesome takes a look at it here.
  • Jurassic Park III: Island Survival Game is an overly simplistic "roll and move" game whose primary failure is the utter lack of strategy designed into it. Two players control either the humans or the dinosaurs; the humans must escape the island, while the dinosaurs try to kill the humans. The dinos are at an intrinsic disadvantage, in part because the human player can always roll to escape during a dino attack and move forward several spaces. The game board is split into five sections, but the game is so linear that there's no real incentive to choose any one over the other. You can draw cards, but a strict reading of the rules suggests they must be used immediately rather than saved for later. The humans' win condition amounts to landing on the final space and hoping you draw the win card. All this amounts to a Luck-Based Mission. Even the craftsmanship is terrible; while the modeled plastic dinosaur pieces are okay, the cards, life chips, and human character pieces are all made of cheap cardboard, and the game board's illustration of the island is sparse and ugly. Critical Hits gave the game a 2/10, noting that the only potential fun to be had would be from ignoring the given rules and simply role-playing your own scenario with the pieces.
  • Monopoly Global Village: Pokemon GO is a knockoff version of Monopoly made to cash in on Pok√©mon GO. The game was just regular Monopoly just with the spaces changed to real-life cities and costs having an extra zero (you will run out of currency really fast if you played the game, unlike the original Monopoly), the game has nothing to do with Pokemon except for the box and the centre of the board being changed, the game board was noted to be so flimsy that there was no way to get it to lay down flat, the player tokens and dice were extremely tiny (for the player pieces, they could have at least used some of those knockoff Pokemon miniatures you can find online), the money was printed using cheap paper and would tear easily, the box and game board were made out of poor quality plastic and the building pieces were extremely poorly molded. Not to mention that half the renders on the packaging and on the game board have nothing to do with Pokemon Go (such as fanart of the Kanto starters playing Gameboy, Charizard, Ivysaur and Jigglypuff from the Super Smash Bros series, Dawn, Red and Ethan from the main series games, Detective Pikachu, and the Eeveelutions from Pokemon Stadium). Also, Seoul and Tokyo cost the least, possibly due to China's relations with Japan and Korea. Phelan Porteous was so unimpressed by it that he gave it a rating of 2 out of 10 .
  • Oneupmanship: Mine's Bigger is a 2013 roll-and-move game. The goal is to be the first player to get $100,000 by investing in real estate, playing the stock market, gambling, and acquiring valuable items. That doesn't sound too bad, but there's a good reason Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower subtitled his review "How NOT to design a game". It plays like a demented, low-rate Monopoly clone; one space forces you to pay 20% of everything you have (this is a pain to calculate, which may be why Monopoly uses fixed amounts), and the "Free Parking Jackpot" House Rule is codified in the game (when in Monopoly it's not a rule because it causes severe Ending Fatigue). You can ignore paying for any of your other buildings if you own the tallest on the board. The random mechanics can be cruel, with the worst being the "Do or Die" space in which you force another player into betting all your properties on a single roll. The Chance card equivalents have weird requirements like playing a thumb war with an opponent or standing on one foot singing "The Star-Spangled Banner". If one player declares bankruptcy, every other player must do so as well, and the game ends in a draw. And the components are lazily designed and cheap, especially the paper money, which looks like it was just printed out on computer paper. It was apparently designed to be a parody of the nonsensical lifestyles of the rich, but its execution was just lacking.
  • Power Lunch is a variant of Rummy in which players meld together cards of celebrities sitting at a restaurant table. If your cards don't match any sets, you explain why they'd be sitting together, and the opponents vote on it — and there's nothing stopping them from rejecting them every time. It also went outdated quickly, as it was made in 1994 and the celebrities were very much popular only around that time, making it impossible to play in later decades just because no one knows who they are. Only one version was made of this game, and Board Game Geek gave it a rating of 2.60 out of 10.
  • Rap Rat is a board game for kids made in 1992 which used a VHS tape as part of the game. You would put in the tape, roll a color-coded die, and move around the board. Every time you land on a space in your color, you would get a MacGuffin piece; you get ten, and you win. Except the board is an infinite loop, making it pretty much uselessnote . Instead, the TV was used for Rap Rat, an insufferable and frankly creepy cartoon rat with oversized ears and fish-like eyes, to interrupt the players to tell them to do things and/or rap (actually, talk while skipping over the same word several times) while eating a block of cheese for 10 minutes note  — with all players losing if he finishes before a player wins, which is extremely difficult to do because the whole game is a Luck-Based Mission. The rules themselves are also quite broken — at one point Rap Rat tells a player skip a turn based on their age, meaning that any adult player might be unintentionally eliminated from the game. Needless to say, you are much better off playing without the VHS tape at all. It says something when Rap Rat has a creepypasta, which is pretty much the only reason why anyone nowadays has heard of him. Most damningly, its publisher was already known for the much better horror-themed VHS board game Atmosfear, suggesting it was a matter of just trying to market to kids and failing miserably. Matt Sall of the website Bell of Lost Souls reviews it here.

    Card Games 
  • Havic: the Bothering is a "parody" of Magic: The Gathering which actually predates the first official Magic Self-Parody set Unglued. The game itself plays exactly like an extremely dumbed-down version of Magic, so much so that "THIS IS A PARODY" was printed on the starter deck boxes and the rules card explicitly tells players not to build their own decks, all in an attempt to avoid legal issues from Wizards of the Coast. (Didn't work, and the game's creators were banned from GenCon thanks to legal maneuvering by WotC). But beyond that, the game itself is bad, with most cards being borderline or outright unplayable, a shallow card pool (96 cards!), terrible "artwork", and humor which nobody would find amusing. The rules were all printed on a single card included in each starter deck, which fails to explain certain mechanics, comes up short in explaining others, reads like a run-on sentence, and abounds with misspellings. Certain cards also have typos. You can check out the game and its history here.
  • Redakai was an attempt by SpinMaster to capitalize on the popularity of Bakugan, and wound up being a prime example of every design flaw a Collectible Card Game can have. Cards were made of clear plastic with lithographic designs that would "animate" when moved, allowing the cards to layer their effects by being stacked on each other. This was a Dancing Bear at best, but in execution was a massive detriment, because it was impossible to make a unified card back, and the specialized black container (sold separately of course) didn't even work — in other words, you could recognize cards from the back. The extra material costs made the starter decks and boosters far more expensive than its competitors. Both of the game's expansions reprinted cards from the first set as Rares, meaning many boosters contained nothing of value. Marketing failures aside, game balance was atrocious and clearly untested; several cards gave you an Extra Turn at no cost, and some one-sided floodgates would lock the opponent out of the game. There was even an infinite loop one-turn-kill that could be executed as early as the third turn, all the pieces of which could be found in one starter deck. Throw in low-quality action figures, oodles of overpriced peripherals, and a So Okay, It's Average tie-in cartoon, and you have an utter flop. Despite the huge marketing push, Redakai floundered around for only six months before being cancelled entirely. Kohdok discusses it here.
  • The original version of the Space Phenomena set of Top Trumps cards is embarrassingly bad. The parent game is well-respected and has had a ton of expansions, mostly from its simplicity; you compare statistics on each card, whoever had the better one wins the round, and you learn about various things in the process. Space Phenomena, however, is filled with cards that have statistics that are uselessly low or have almost every category listed as "N/A", use incompatible units like displaying the speed of some objects in kilometers per hour but others relative to the speed of Earth's orbit in Earth years, have many identical statistics due to the objects being located on Earth, use misleading statistics such as suggesting that Venus wasn't discovered until 1990 or the Moon wasn't discovered until 1651note , or are just plain incorrect like Halley's Comet being -6,000,000 Earth masses as if it somehow weighed a negative amount. All of this combined to make a game that was dubiously educational and no fun to actually play. A year after its release, Top Trumps apologized and reprinted the set with better objects and more consistent stats. You can watch Ashens rip the original version apart here.
  • Spellfire is a CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons made in the Follow the Leader rush after Magic: The Gathering popularized the concept of collectible card games. Unfortunately, several factors helped kill the game. They had bad rules, artwork recycled from Dragon Magazine and old book covers, and horrendous craftsmanship — rare and powerful figures were depicted as photographs of dressed-up employees, mundane household items, or poorly-made models. When your cards being printed on flimsy photo paper is the least of your concerns, you know you're in trouble.

  • BreaKeys was a collectible trading game whose main gimmick was literally breaking your opponent's game piece when they lost. The point was to clip two pieces together and twist them until one snapped, and go until only one key was left standing. BreaKeys pieces apparently came in bags of 20 for $20, which could be wasted in less than a minute in a game. Because the weaker pieces would always be the first ones to break, the law of collectible games — the rarer the game piece, the stronger it is — does not apply here, as the stronger keys would inevitably be all anyone had left. Furthermore, the broken plastic pieces were fairly sharp and could cause messes and small injuries. And the icing on the cake: you could just feel, with your fingers, how strong each key was before using it. Watch CR review it here.

Alternative Title(s): Traditional Games