In between reading high brow discussion about game design theory and pontificating about the relative lack of immersive narrative in today's games, I spend a lot of time making fun of games. Other than bad box art (which is like shooting fish in a barrel) and games where the other players around the table are just decorations which have nothing to do with the puzzle you are working, my favorite target is stupid board game names. Many are pretentious, attempt to draw attention away from the content of the game, or are otherwise misleading in some funny way. Mostly I just like to make fun of stuff, and that definitely extends to board game names.
So, without further ado, here are some board game names I think are ripe for ridicule.
1. Toboggans of Doom
Despite looking totally freaking awesome, the name is misleading in a bad way. The game appears to be car wars with sleds and uses some kind of odd dice based bidding mechanism to build the sleds with all sorts of gadgets to help you in the race. This sounds completely awesome and I can't wait to try it. But you know what I thought of the first time I heard about this game?
Yeah, this doesn't exactly leave the coolest initial impression. Of course, it did get me to look the game up just to see if it was really about hats, which made me realize it was an awesome game of dueling sleds, not a game about evil winter headgear.
2. Conflict of Heroes
I remember the first time I sat down to play this, my buddy says "which side do you want?" and I responded, "I'll play the Americans." "It is Germans and Russians," he says. Huh? Nazis versus Commies, and it is called Conflict of Heroes? I guess lesser of two evils was already taken as a wargame name?
It makes more sense when you realize that it is the name of the system more than this specific game.
I am looking forward to seeing the sequel at Origins this year.
3. Small World
No explanation necessary.
4. Overly Pretentious Names
Sort of a catch all, but there are a TON of these out there. A Castle for All Seasons comes to mind. Princes of Florence is the classic. This technique be somewhere in the first chapter of the game designer's handbook. If your game is a bland retrofit of long since overused mechanics, or if the theme is something totally unengaging and mind numbingly boring like building a castle or sticking statutes in your garden, then you can make it sound more important than it is by referencing royalty. Uh, yeah, this game isn't about collecting VPs, it is about building your empire, so we shall call it Dominion!
5. Untranslated Non-English Titles
Die Fugger. I mean really? You didn't want to translate that? La Citta. The City wasn't sexy enough? This makes sense sometimes, but other times is just silly. It takes the pretensiousness and condescension of so-called eurogames to a whole new level. These Games of Ours are so far above you plebes, you muggles, that we won't even translate the title! My favorite examples are Euphrat & Tigris and Durch die Wurst, which despite being published with a translated title and being widely known by that name, still gets the german treatment from game snobs everywhere. It sounds so much more sophisticated, aloof, and superior that way. Untranslated non-english titles are like driving a toyota prius. Sure, you might have a perfectly good reason for it, but the many smug assholes that came before you ruined it... so you will be pre-judged.
6. Blatantly perverse references
This is more of an issue with older games from the 70's and 80's, but there were a lot of head scratchers that even as kids we knew were filthy dirty and perverted.
Check this one out, I actually owned this as a kid. Years later we found it in a closet and had a laugh, then I thought of it again about a month ago when I was listening to a rap radio station on my way home from work and I swear the guy said something about balls a poppin.
There ain't much to say about this. I hope this article of mockery inspires some of you to mock and ridicule some game titles in the comments section. I'm off to pop a few balls.