‘The Worst Game Ever’: False Advertising?

Worst Game Ever

Last summer I backed a game on Kickstarter called The Worst Game Ever. Well, the game arrived in February and I’m formally lodging a complaint: it is, in fact, not the worst game ever, so maybe I need my money back?

At a glance: The Worst Game Ever is for 2 to 8 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about half an hour to play. It retails for $14.95 and is available now, or you can try the print and play for free. The length can actually vary a bit, just depending on the cards played (and number of players). I would say most of the game is safe for younger kids, though there are one or two cards that toe the line.

Worst Game Ever Components
Components: cards, chips, and a die. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components:

  • 100 cards
  • 1 jumbo six-sided die
  • 38 red plastic chips
  • 12 black plastic chips

The cards are okay, but not top quality: glossy finish, they shuffle fine but feel a little flimsy compared to some pricier games. Are they the worst cards ever, though? No, not really.

The illustrations are okay–kind of a sketchy style with just a few colors. What is great, though, is what the cards are about. Each one show some pet peeve about gamers or gaming, with a card mechanic that relates to it, and some flavor text at the bottom. I encourage everyone to read the title, the instructions, and the flavor text when they play a card, because it adds to the game.

The plastic chips are also pretty bare-bones–they might be the worst chips ever, but I think I’ve seen worse. Close, though. However, the die is great. It’s a big die and it’s quite satisfying to pass it around the table and roll it. Definitely not the worst die ever. One other thing: the rules are printed on a single folded sheet of paper–in plain English on one side, and in Pig Latin on the other.

Oh, and the box is a nice, compact size that actually fits the game. If this were truly the worst game ever, it would have come in a box the size of Ticket to Ride, with a huge cardboard insert.

Worst Game Ever
A few examples of the cards from Worst Game Ever.

How to Play

The rules are available in the print-and-play, but it’s pretty simple.

Everyone starts with 4 cards and 12 value in tokens. (The black tokens are worth 5 each.)

The goal of the game is to have the most tokens when the game ends–which usually happens as soon as any player runs out of tokens and is eliminated.

On your turn, you do the following:

  1. Ante: pay one token to the kitty.
  2. Draw a card.
  3. Attack somebody: Choose a player and announce how many tokens you want to steal. Roll the die. If you roll higher than your declared number, you steal the tokens from them. Otherwise, nothing happens.

That’s basically it. You can play cards anytime it’s appropriate–almost anytime, though there are some cards that require specific things to be true before you can play them. Some cards stay in play. The kitty just accumulates unless a card tells you to do something with it.

As soon as somebody loses their last token, they are eliminated–their cards leave play, they can’t play any more cards, and they can’t get back into the game. The end of the game is triggered, but everyone else can still play cards or use effects before the game end is resolved.

Worst Game Ever
Some silly cards: Misprint, Marked Card, and Blank Card (sponsored by yours truly). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

Just based on the rules, the game itself may not sound very interesting, but what really keeps The Worst Game Ever from being the worst game ever is the cards. There are so many really great cards, and the longer you’ve been involved in the hobby, the more of the jokes you’ll get. From king-making to hidden goals, if you’ve got a particular feature of games that you hate, chances are there’s a card to match it. And there are cards about the players, too: people who mangle cards, people who make little constructions with their wooden bits, moochers–they’re all in there, too.

The game does have a little of the same flavor as Fluxx and We Didn’t Playtest This At All, two other games in which the cards themselves can change the rules from turn to turn. In fact, Asmadi Games sponsored the “Unplaytested” card, which lets you play the top card off the deck without looking at it first.

That was a brilliant strategy for the Kickstarter campaign, by the way. Backers could pay extra to sponsor a particular card, getting their name (and sometimes a logo) printed on it. Or you could pay even more to create a new card if your pet peeve wasn’t listed. I couldn’t help myself: I sponsored the “Blank Card” (which does nothing) under Hoke’s Games, the “publisher” of my game Emperor’s New Clothes.

But if you’re not a fan of chaotic games, this is probably not for you. It’s definitely more of a casual, silly game than something that involves any deep strategy. Most of the fun comes in reading the cards and screwing up somebody else’s turn. It can be a little tedious sometimes if there are a whole lot of “Stays in Play” cards on the table, keeping track of the effects, but that’s what the “Sweep the Table” card is for, right? And, of course, the nature of the game is that the first time you play, you’ll spend a lot of time reading the cards in your hand to find out what they do.

The one house rule that I introduced was swapping the turn order to Ante, Attack, Draw. That way, you draw your card at the end of your turn and can read your new card while the other player starts their turn. It speeds the game up quite a bit, so people aren’t waiting for you to read your card before you roll the die.

At any rate, The Worst Game Ever is certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever played. It is, in fact, pretty fun, and it’s a fun way to kick off a game night, particularly when I’m still waiting for people to arrive. It’s easy just to start, and deal in new players in the middle of a game when they arrive–sure, it’s not totally fair, but the game is crazy and unbalanced anyway.

In short, if you’re looking for the worst game ever, you shouldn’t buy The Worst Game Ever.

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Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.