Lots of board games from the 20th century just plain suck. Monopoly and Risk are positive-feedback games where the first person to gain a slight advantage inevitably becomes the runaway winner a couple of tedious hours later. In Candy Land the winner is determined when the deck is shuffled – players make no decisions (other than the wise one of burning the game and burying the ashes in salted earth). And calling out random numbers in an attempt to score a hit in Battleship is, as Steven Johnson points out, "about as mentally challenging as playing Bingo."
The board games below all suffer from similar problems plaguing the ones above. But they also have one or more additional qualities -- an inane theme, offensiveness, bad illustrations, unintentionally funny cover lines, or an ineffable WTFness -- that make them worthy of note, or at least mockery. Let the fun begin!
1. Pie Face (1968) "click... click... click... Whoops!..." Dad and son seem inordinately determined to make a mess on mom and daughter's faces in this uncomfortable cover photo.
2. Gomer Pyle Game (1964) Transogram, makers of this execrable TV show tie-in game, should have called it quits with its most famous game, Tiddledy Winks, which at least required skill to win. According to Charlie Claywell, "the game is played by rolling the dice and each player tries to finish first so they can salute Sergeant Carter."
3. Ice Cube (1972). This sadistic game undoubtedly inspired many a young sociopath to pursue a career in the CIA or Chicago Police Department. Ice Cube uses little men made of real ice (that you freeze before playing), which players punish for no reason other than to take pleasure in their suffering. Instruments of torture include a device that dumps salt on them and another that splashes them with warm water. Players can also submerge the characters in a warm bath or sadistically place a hot metal cylinder on their head. This is the strongest evidence I've come across to support the long-held rumor that Dick Cheney moonlighted as a game designer 45 years ago. (Check out this excellent post with many photos of Ice Cube at Tracy's Toys.)
4. Blow Football (1950) Though the cover image depicts a game in the vein of an Adam Sandler movie ("unlovable loser controls the outcome of pro sports events with a small magic whistle") the truth about Blow Football is even worse. Inside the box are a couple of cardboard straws, a rubber ball, and two pieces of bent wire. You know, this sounds better than an Adam Sandler movie.
5. What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls (1966). Girls can grow up to be anything they want to be, as long as it's a model, actress, stewardess, ballerina, nurse, teacher, or secretary. Bonus: tokens designed to instill shame in girls, ages 6 and up.