Asshat Backstabbery. Two words that are universally understood despite the fact that they do not exist in any legitimate dictionary, anywhere. I’m listing five board games that feature deception and cutthroat strategy as a key way of getting a leg up (or a knee on the throat) of your opponents. These are games where being mean and pitiless are expected but more than that, you can benefit from capitalizing on an opponent’s weakness. Lifelong friendships are ruined, families divided, and marriages crumble.
This might be a list of board games
for you to seek out or a list of games
for you to avoid. You’ll have to
decide that for yourself.
Of course, you can win games that feature asshat backstabbery by playing straight – it is not mandatory that you, yourself, be an asshat or backstabber but it definitely helps and it’s fun. Nor is this about games that feature a traitor, which is a very different, more subtle mechanic. I’m talking about games where the rules simply allow players to be an asshat or backstabber, even a cheater, and reward you for it.
This is not a review of the games, nor is it intended to teach you how to play them. It’s just a list with short explanations as to why the game is on the list in the first place.
Here, in reverse order, are my TOP 5 BOARD GAMES THAT FEATURE ASSHAT BACKSTABBERY
5. Tammany Hall
In Tammany Hall by Pandasaurus Games, all the players are competing for area control of New York City in the late 1800’s, attempting to be mayor or to be the most politically persuasive. Granted, to play the game, you have to look past the theme of politically exploiting immigrants as they get off the boat, but once you see them as just differently colored cubes and not immigrant Italians, Germans, Irish, and English the cubes are represented by in the game, the less you feel like a scumbag. Just a game, right? And it is historically accurate, in its cultural insensitivity. So, that is a profoundly asshat part of the game, right there, and it’s not one I celebrate.
The backstabbery is amazing and comes in the negotiation and blind bidding by the players for control of contested areas in Manhattan. “Bid nothing and let me have this warren and I’ll bid nothing and let you have that other warren, later,” but then, I don’t have to honor my word. Ganging up on the player that is in the lead is also commonplace and opportunity for backstabbery abounds… a plethora of backstabbery, if you will.
4. Cosmic Encounter
In Cosmic Encounter by Fantasy Flight, each player is the leader of an alien race with 5 planets, attempting to occupy 5 of the other player’s planets at once. That means that you have to fight, barter and negotiate your way onto at least 5 planets outside your starting planets while trying to keep other players off of your own planets. Simple but so, so very, so very harsh.
Add to this asynchronous alien powers, open negotiation, random deck draws, and the fact that your word given can be easily forgotten. The game can get very mean, very quickly but is so sweet to win.
Blackmail the printer. Threaten the innkeeper. Bribe the priest. Welcome to Revolution! By Steve Jackson Games. Each turn, players bid for control of different territory via a very smart blind-bidding mechanic taken from rock, paper, and scissors – Force beats Blackmail which beats Bribery. The asshat circle of life.
At its heart, this is an area control game using blind-bidding (all players bid resources and then reveal at once, winner take all) – players are attempting to gain “support” (aka victory points) from having the most influence in each area of the city in revolution and of course, winning the confrontation. Players can make agreements to work together. Players do not have to honor agreements to work together. Oh my. Backstabbery abounds.
2. Sons of Anarchy – Men of Mayhem
Based on the TV series, Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem by Galeforce Nine, players take the role of rival motorcycle gangs out to control territory and reap the monetary rewards by assigning gang members and resources to claiming, defending, and fighting for money, contraband and guns.
A game about motorcycle gangs fighting for money, drugs and guns just seems real and prime for this list, does it not?
On the table, it’s simulated but heartless and cruel affair. Deals are made and broken, often with the dice deciding the outcome. What could be more backstabbery than rolling dice to determine the outcome of anything? I was backstabbed…. By my own dice roll. Gasp!
1. Illuminati Deluxe
In Illuminati by Steve Jackson Games, you play one of the shadowy, conspiracy organizations whose ultimate goal is total global domination. Your network of sinister agents will attempt to infiltrate other organizations from Drug Cartels to Comic Book Collectors. With asshat backstabbery and some lucky dice rolls, you will crush your rivals and achieve your goal of dictatorship that spans the globe.
I played Illuminati in the 1980’s when it was a pocket box game. At the time, I had become a self-proclaimed expert at the game even though I had not read the absurd trilogy of books on which the game was based but this game is one of the most ruthless games you could ever play. Breathe deeply and smell the backstabbery. Inhale the asshat (eeew).
Now, the deluxe version of the game (with expansions) is available and offers everything the earlier version did with bigger, colored cards and improved art.
Conspiracy theories make for a great theme that is under-utilized. Illuminati and the expansions really do an excellent job of bringing it to the fore and exemplify the absolute best of Asshat Backstabbery in board (or card) games.
So you may be asking, “Why does this list even exist?”
That’s a fair question. Asshattery and Backstabbery is a universal language but that is not to say it is for everyone. Some find such analog games that allow it abhorrent. This might be a list of board games for you to seek out or a list of games for you to avoid. You decide, but I gravitate to games like this because I think they have more social interaction than the typical eurogame or even amirt(h)rash games do. Or party games, or family games, or social, bluffing, deduction games.
Yet asshat backstabbery can exist in any game genres, and that is what makes it pronounced – it enhances interaction between players, albeit negatively, as they all try to backstab each other at the same time. Monopoly could have easily made it on this list but I prefer not to do my asshat backstabbery in a roll and move game.
I know I’m not alone in enjoying these sort of games but most of us like to keep out of the light so we cannot be easily identified. I’ll just wait here, quietly, in the shadows until it is my turn.
Speak your denigrations aloud or in whispers but we will hear and remember.
We will. (fnord)