Long before we had video-games and cable news networks to keep us entertained, there were a variety of board games. Some were cheesy, harmless fun. Others, such as Monopoly, were so competitive, they practically broke up families. There were also board games which were so needlessly over-complicated, they made people toss the game and all of its contents right into the nearest trash can.
For our purposes, we’re going to be taking a look at board games with utterly insane premises. Seriously, our sanity has all been tested with these games and have made us regret rolling those dice to begin with. Check this list out for yourself, and you’ll probably be reminded of all the games you threw in the trash. Good luck.
15. Bed Bugs
The Milton Bradley board game called Bed Bugs may seem innocent enough on the surface. Just look at that zany commercial featuring kids with tweezers collecting cartoon insects. Bed Bugs is a goofy, 1980s kids game inspired by a real world problem. That being; a nightmarish parasitic infestation. For anyone unfamiliar with actual bed bugs, there’s nothing remotely fun about having them. In fact, we run from them. So why is there a game about having fun with them?
Bed bugs are tiny, hell-spawn that feed on our blood as we sleep. For good measure they even inject us with an anesthetic, that prevents us from realizing we’re being fed upon. Milton Bradley boasted that this game saying it helps “build hand eye coordination in young and old alike.” Which is important, because in real life if you’re ever infested with bed bugs. You’ll likely want to throw out your mattress, your bed set, and any other furniture crawling with these little monstrosities.
14. Big John
Most kids find toilet humor to be utterly hilarious. Try telling a 5-year old a joke where the punch line is “POOP!” and they will instantly consider you a comedy God. With that in mind, it kind of makes sense how a humorous 90s relic like Big John could come into existence. In theory, a silly, toilet-based game should keep kids entertained just long enough for parents to have a drink and forget about the fact that their kids are playing with a game based on bathroom antics.
The object of Big John is to get rid of all the “scuzzies” in your scuzz bucket by shoving them inside Big John and then flushing. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that “scuzzies” are actually turds…except they’re barely disguised as turds. Parker Brothers could paint “scuzzies” green all they want but we know what the deal is. Anyway, once the toilet is filled to capacity with turds…I mean “scuzzies,” it burps and dumps everything back out. The burping part is the least offensive aspect of this game.
13. Hey Pa! There’s A Goat On The Roof!
I’ll admit, my knowledge of farm life is limited because I’ve been a city person my whole life. However, I don’t think I have to hit Google and do much research to guess that goats probably don’t end up on roofs that often. Nevertheless, back in 1966 Parker Brothers forged ahead with Hey Pa! There’s a goat on the roof! If this game had been a hit, then the obvious follow-up would have been Hey Ma! There’s a cow in the tree!
The game play is way too tedious for me to even bother getting into. It basically involved using a spinner and navigating around a farm playing board. You also use playing pieces that look like goats, while collecting tin cans until you can reach the roof of the barn. The player with the most cans wins—or something like that. “Hey Pa! My brain hurts!”
12. Peanut Panic
Here’s a ’90s board game with a subtle but creepy vibe. The premise is that you are a peanut trying to escape a peanut butter factory. The main obstacle you face is a complete lunatic who is half man/half dump truck. This mutant hell-beast chases you around throughout the game, trying to scoop you and all of you little peanut pals up.
Although the silly animated commercial doesn’t come right out and say it… If you are scooped up, clearly your fate is to be mashed into peanut-butter. Yup, all those cutesy little cartoon peanuts with adorable baseball caps are doomed. As you can see, the title of the board game is very appropriate. An alternative title would have been Peanut Massacre or The Great Peanut Slaughter.
11. The Family Ties Game
Of all the ’80s sitcoms in existence, why on Earth would anyone choose Family Ties to adapt into a board game? To be fair, unlikely TV show board games have been a thing for decades. A-Team, All in the Family, The Love Boat, Saved by the Bell, the list goes on and on. Family Ties was a feel-good, topical sitcom about the Keatons: a typical suburban family with ex-hippie parents and a smart-ass conservative son played by Michael J. Fox. As successful as the NBC series was, there wasn’t a single thing about the show that screamed; “THIS NEEDS TO BE A BOARD GAME!”
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume many of you may not have even heard of this sitcom. And if you have, it’s probably through YouTube related clips pertaining to Marty McFly or obscure Family Guy references. Anyway, the point of the game is to get the entire Keaton family together for a family portrait. You also need $100 in savings to pay the photographer. But watch out, because Skippy, the bothersome neighbor, is always in your way! Don’t all of you hop onto eBay and Amazon all at once now to buy this pop-culture gem!
10. RoboCop: Ultra Police
Let’s jump from one end of the crazy spectrum to the other. If you thought, a feel-good 1980s sitcom was a bizarre premise for a board game, then how about a game adaptation of an ultra-violent, R- Rated movie? Parker Brothers’ 1989 RoboCop game is based on Paul Verhoeven’s blood-soaked, bullet-riddled, action classic. SIKE! That’s what they wanted you to think. This board game was actually based on the short-lived cartoon. Thus, it was absent of pretty much everything that made RoboCop awesome to begin with.
Once you remove all the rampant drug abuse, blood, gore, and social satire from RoboCop, the property is essentially neutered. What you end up with is a lame, kid-friendly board game where the point is to capture (not kill) bad-guys and collect as many “ultra hero medals” as you can to win. Granted, RoboCop in and of itself certainly isn’t a bad or crazy premise. However, taking RoboCop and somehow making it into a boring, watered down adaption certainly is grounds for being hauled off to crazy town. Or at the very least a flogging.
9. Tumy Ache: The Junk-Food Game
Here’s a subtly sadistic game with a premise that would work surprising well for a horror movie. The game is called Tummy Ache and it’s yet another weird ’80s creation cranked out by Colorforms. The reason why this game’s underlying premise would be fitting for a horror movie is because it basically requires players to overfeed a hapless character named “Tommy Tummy Ache” until he throws up.
Now, to be fair, according to the game-makers, the object of the game is to feed “Tommy Tummy Ache” his beloved Junk food without giving him a “Tummy Ache” that causes him to vomit. But we all know damn well the vomiting gimmick is the only reason anyone would be playing this game to begin with. Nobody buys firecrackers to admire the design on their wrapper. Anyway, players take turns using a spinner and shoving junk-food into Tommy’s mouth. If the food is placed improperly, then it spills out (hence the vomiting effect). At that point, you use your special “tummy ache pills” to make Tommy better so that the torture may resume.
8. Black Death
Are you by any chance interested in the plague? I’ll pretend you said “yes” so that I can move forward with my follow-up question. Would you also be interested in literally being a plague? In terms of crazy-a** premises, Black Death may very well be the leader of the pack. Each player in this game basically takes on the part of being a chosen strain of disease.
The map for Black Death is actually based on trade routes as well as the various populations of 14th century Europe. Since YOU are the disease in this game, the only way to win is to kill as many people as possible in the given population centers… How’s that for cheery? Good luck getting any of your germaphobe friends playing a game where your score is based on how many people you can infect and ultimately decimate.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like making a game based on The Titanic seems weird. More to the point, making a board game about a real life tragedy where 1,500 people perished just seems to be in bad taste. The game pictured above is just one of many Titanic games, as there are various others based on the same disaster. After all, why should James Cameron be the only person to make money off this historical event?
Regardless of the premise, Titanic board games do have fans who insist they are “fun” and have “educational value.” I’m not making that up, check out the Amazon review sections if you think I’m joking. In the 70s version from the company, Ideal (pictured above), players have to rescue passengers from their rooms and get them to lifeboats before the ship sinks. In the 1998 game, the surprisingly zany description from BoardGameGeek is as follows; “Gossip with other passengers, receive telegrams and collect all five pieces of your personal property to advance from the Second Class to the First Class section of the ship. But watch out, you might get put back in steerage or, worse yet, never make it to your lifeboat in time…”
6. Cold Feet
Where the hell do I start with this bat-sh*t inane “Squirt Game” from the ’60s? Literally, every single aspect of this game was strange from the box art to the actual mechanics of the game itself. For starters, the game came with a water gun, meaning it already contained a weapon that kids could use to drench anything and anyone. They could pretty much detach the gun and disregard the game altogether.
You play Cold Feet by using the spinner and taking turns firing the water gun. However, the gimmick is that the water gun only fires maybe once or twice out of every six times you pull the trigger. So, what we have here is a creepy family version of Russian Roulette. Players begin with five “tokens” and do their best to avoid getting shot in the face with water. The dad getting blasted in the face on that box art looks uncharacteristically happy to me. I can’t speak for every family, but spraying my father in the face with a water gun when I was kid would have been the equivalent of kicking him in the balls. Not a wise move.
Here’s a mess of a game with a confusing premise and equally confusing game-play. This is supposed to be an island adventure game where you win by rolling a higher number than the “boss.” Players are supposed to take turns putting tokens on map segments. Along the way, you apparently gain “special abilities” by rolling a die and beating the number printed on the token. Now, I know absolutely none of what I just wrote makes an ounce of sense. If you’re confused, reading about this, imagine how I felt writing about it.
Here’s a slightly more informative comment from a brave soul on BoardGameGeek who actually tried to play this wacked out game. “This is the most incomprehensible game I ever played. The rules were full of weird Bionicle terms. A paragraph might read “move your Fukioki into the Marto Fleemoid. If you Karbozoize the Actomimo then your Muzatoki will be Pebooized! Beware the Cruchies!” We tried to figure it out for about 2 hours and then literally threw it in the trash… that is a bad game!”
4. Town Dump
Game-makers clearly have some unique ideas about what they think kids find interesting. Goats, 80s sitcoms, bed bugs, the plague…it’s quite an assortment. Apparently Milton Bradley also thinks garbage might make a solid addition to the list of game premises. Town Dump is a an old-school board game that features a motorized bulldozer and is basically all about pushing garbage around.
Some of the earliest lessons kids are taught is “don’t play with fire,” “don’t eat off the floor,” and “don’t touch garbage.” This game, however, breaks all the rules and demands you play with garbage! Thankfully, it doesn’t require you to mess around with fire or eat off the floor. As far as I know it doesn’t…who knows what’s inside the dusty instruction booklet. Anyway, players take turns with the little bulldozer and try to push as much garbage as possible onto your opponent’s side. Once your opponent is overrun with trash—you win. Congrats, you buried your pal in garbage!
3. Hillbilly Feudin’ Time
Here’s an old-school Hasbro game that takes every stereotype about the South and thoroughly bundles it up into one mega package. Because who wouldn’t want to play a board game based off stereotypes?… Hillbilly Feudin’ Time had it all. Whiskey jugs, guns, toothless caricatures, an outhouse…you name it. The game is obviously the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone with the right sense of humor. And ultimately enjoys southern culture.
Obviously, there’s no way this board game isn’t offensive to some people in this day and age. The thing is, one person’s outrage is the next person’s comedy gold. YouTube comment sections which reference Hillbilly Feudin’ Time contain a wide range of comments. This game seems to inspire love, hate, rage, and everything in between.
2. Man Bites Dog
Here we have a game with a premise based on the famous expression which states a dog biting a man isn’t news, but a man biting a dog…that’s news! If you picture J. Jonah Jameson screaming that phrase at Peter Parker it’s way funnier. Aside from a man biting a dog being ‘news,’ it’s also a 2002 board game made by University Games. I could see something like this appealing to those who are into journalism and who also have an offbeat sense of humor.
How it works is players are dealt cards with words on them and a point value. Using the random words, you are supposed to come up with a creative headline that gains you the most points. Whoever reaches 500 points first wins the game. Crazy premise or not, this is probably the only game on this list I’d actually be up for trying. Heck, it might even be a good ice breaker for a journalism or advertising class.
There was no way on Earth to write an article about crazy board games and not include this popular horror game from the ’90s. Nightmare spawned several sequels, which I’ll assume were equally bat-shi*t crazy. Back in the day, all the cool kids got together, turned off the lights, fired up their VHS (you’ll have to Google that to see what it is) and synced up their Nightmare board game for a wild time. And by “wild time,” I mean a raving maniac known as the “Gatekeeper” screaming at you for an hour until someone either won the game or had to leave early due to soiled pants.
The board game is described as follows over at BoardGameGeek: “It is a race against time and the game’s host, The Gatekeeper. The aim of the game is to collect 6 of your character’s keys and then race to the center of the board; The Nightmare Square. If the tape reaches 60 minutes The Gatekeeper Wins!”
I’m fine with Gatekeeper winning really, just leave me alone and don’t eat my soul. Thanks creepy videotape actor.