So Bad It's Horrible/Tabletop Games

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"[S]aying that this game should be burned is an insult to fire."
Jason Sartin, in his review of FATAL

You know those old board games and card games you keep in your closet or attic? might want to keep a few of those in your closet, lest somebody sees them and tries to use it against you in court...especially if it's one of these.

Important Note: Merely being offensive in its subject matter is not enough to justify a work as So Bad It's Horrible. Hard as it is to imagine at times, there is a market for all types of deviancy (no matter how small a niche it is). It has to fail to appeal even to that niche to qualify as this.

Examples of So Bad It's Horrible/Tabletop Games include:

Tabletop RPG

  • FATAL is, hands down, the all-time reigning champion of horrible RPGs. The rulebook consists of 900 agonizing pages of poor mechanics, a massive number of ill-defined stats, violations of common sense, and a total contempt for basic human decency. For example, one of the most basic rolls in the game is 4d100/2-1. That's right, roll a hundred sided die four times, sum the results, divide in half and subtract one. For all seventeen of your stats, and anything else requiring a bell curve. The creators, on learning the flaw of this system, decided to "improve" it to 10d100/5-1. For the record, if you are using real dice, that requires 20 d10 rolls. Character creation takes a while in this system, especially since (at least in the first version) each stat had four sub-stats (requiring more than a hundred dice rolls), and at one point it calls for a 1d10,000,000 roll. For the record, that's either 8 d10 rolls (one per digit), or one die that would be better for crushing Indiana Jones than for getting a random number. Practicality is thrown out the window in favor of vulgarity and offense, a quality not helped by the creators' claim that only white, non-Christian people inhabit The Verse and their constant flip-flopping between claims that it's either "controversial humor" (like the set of weapons whom cursed its users into becoming implausibly distasteful racist stereotypes, that was swiftly axed in the "reprint") or historically and mythically accurate (which, by the way, it utterly fails at being). Skills tend to be pointless and mundane (urination) and statuses are often every bit as bizarre as they are tasteless (fruit growing out of one's privates, a "scratch'n'sniff" vagina appearing on one's forehead, getting aroused whenever it rains.) The sheer amount of rules is ridiculous and makes the game incredibly difficult rather than giving it any challenge; to calculate the results of sex, one must solve quadratic equations. But you don't have to believe us: just see McLennan and Sartin's review if you're still tempted to learn more... (NSFW)
  • deadEarth, a post-apocalyptic wasteland RPG, claims to be better than all other post-apocalyptic RPGs of its time (it was published in 2000)...but it falls flat on its face with horrible chargen mechanics and mutations — er, "Radiation Manipulations" — that make no sense. Characters can be killed by Radiation Manipulation during character creation, which is made worse because strict rule interpretation limits a player to three character sheets ever. The skill system is incredibly convoluted, and since you have to pick your skills before you roll your Radiation Manipulations, you'll be picking those skills without critical info about how well your character can use them even if he lives to be played. You can read up on the specifics here.
  • RTG released a Dragonball Z RPG. The execution was just as ludicrous as it sounds — stat blocks for the characters from the series had attacks that required rolling upwards of thirty dice...and that was just for the Saiyan Saga. The book itself was poorly written and poorly laid out, and it suffered from a lot of filler devoted to only marginally relevant subjects, such as customizing action figures. Three sourcebooks were released (with more cancelled), but the system was horribly suited to DBZ. The creators took a system with expected stat values between 1-10 (involving rolls of only 3d6 to resolve checks) and fed stats in the hundreds into it. "Power levels" amounted to nothing more than MP, but were used as the basis for gaining XP from a fight. Ugh.
  • Empire Of Satanis, a game billed as being as being a mix of Lovecraftian horror and Satanism. What it actually contains is a nonsensical, derivative setting which has a puerile take on evil and horror at the best of times when it isn't just plain stupid. What makes it particularly bizarre is the designer, one Darrick Dishaw, a member of the 'Cult of Cthulhu' who claimed that he was "kicked out of the church of Satan for being too Satanic." His primary method of advertising the game consisted of yelling about how evil and artistic it is, using sockpuppet accounts to post positive reviews and, when all else failed, placing a curse on the people who disliked his game. A review can be read here.
  • Racial Holy War, another member of's Unholy Trinity on Awful Games. The title speaks for itself, but the concept warrants a fuller explanation: in the future, the minorities have conquered the world under the guidance of their Jew masters and reduced whites to a few small resistance pockets. But now the whites are going to strike back...and you're going to play them. The material seriously reads like someone who just finished the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and didn't feel up to tackling Mein Kampf. That's before you get to the horrible, broken, unfinished rules, including, but not limited to complete omission of rules regarding player-character attack resolution.[1]
  • The Spawn of Fashan is a classic example from the early 1980s that has become one of the standards by which execrably bad tabletop RPGs are measured. It was an incomplete release — even though it had an example world, it didn't include enough in that sample for full use of the system. It took a long time to create characters and run combat because the stat tables were poorly organized and poorly labeled.
  • Wraeththu: The RPG "adaptation" of Storm Constantine's fantasy series about post-apocalyptic mystical mutant hermaphrodites with flower-like genitalia (no, seriously) ended up not realistically portraying the setting of the books at all, casting the player characters as pretentious and glamorous sociopaths, and going out of its way to be as unhelpful to the novice GM as possible. Of note are the gutwrenching mechanics: Among other transgressions, chain mail transfers a statistical immunity to flamethrowers. Details here and here.

Darren MacLennan: I think that the next interaction between Storm Constantine and Gabriel Strange is going to involve Storm delivering a flying spin kick to Gabriel's windpipe. You could not make their work look worse if you actively tried.

  • Dungeons & Dragons module N2 The Forest Oracle has every single problem a published module could have:
    • Poor editing all around, with third level NPCs that have only have the HD of a second level character and the HP of a first level one and attack with weapons they don't own.
    • Railroading all the way.
    • Area descriptions describe what isn't in a scene (there are no secret passages in the fireplace).
    • The PCs are railroaded into captured by Orcs who... give them an axe (to cut wood) then largely ignore them.
    • A fey is unable to break a magical sleep effect on her friend, even though it just requires shaking them. In return for this assistance, she gives a solution to another problem she could have easily done herself.
    • There's a dungeon that's a straight tunnel with some side corridors. Despite this it's assumed the PCs stumble into every encounter despite avoiding them being literally "go in a straight line".
    • A high level Druid tasks the players to kill a few Goblins he or one of his guards could nuke in their sleep for no reason at all (not even "he's busy with something else" or "it's a test").
    • Gypsys with absurd levels of magic who force the PCs to do a task they could easily do themselves if not for super convoluted reasons.

Board Games

  • The newer version of 13 Deadend Drive. The premise behind it (a bunch of characters attempt to bump each other off before Midnight to get the inheritance) is a great one and had been done well before, but the execution in the remake is horrible. The game takes three hours to set up and is filled with very small pieces that are easily lost and broken. The rules are almost incomprehensible. The worst part? If whoever controls the cat can get her out of the house, which is fairly easy because it takes a while to be able to bump off characters, then they've basically won right there.
  • Games-Workshop's ancient board game Chainsaw Warrior has a plot so Badass, it hurts. (Basically, it's Mad Max with a chainsaw.) A shame that the mechanics were similarly painful.

Card Games

  • Kult. Scrye magazine once published a checklist of the game and its sole expansion "for when the subpoena comes". The game featured art that stretches the meaning of Gorn. Instead of being turned sideways, (which was copyrighted) cards would be placed face down...with counters already on you'd better remember what the text on that card was!
  • Spellfire, a CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons made in the Follow the Leader rush after Magic: The Gathering popularized the concept of collectible card games. Unfortunately, several factors helped kill the game — bad rules; artwork recycled from Dragon Magazine and old book covers; and very rare/powerful figures and items whose art were photographs of dressed-up employees, mundane items, and/or poorly made models. When your cards being as flimsy as photo paper is the least of your concerns, you know you're in trouble.
  • In comparison, Super Nova was benign. Players drew from a single communal deck, but there was originally no win condition...which was fixed in errata. The artwork wasn't very good either.

Other Games

  • The collectible trading game BreaKeys; the main gimmick was literally breaking your opponent's game piece when they lost. BreaKeys pieces apparently came in bags of 20 for $20, which could be wasted in less than a minute in a game. Because the weaker pieces would always be the first ones to break, the law of collectible games, in which the rarer the game piece the stronger it is, does not apply here. Furthermore, the broken plastic pieces were fairly sharp and could cause messes and small injuries. You can watch CR review it here.

  1. In short: you can't hit anything. Other gems: Players can be debilitated by body odor and will accept bribes to not attack during combat.