The 6 Most Frustrating Board Games of All Time

If board games are supposed to be fun, how come so many of them have frustrating gameplay?

We often recommend media and products we like. If you buy anything through our links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

We've all been there: the Monopoly game with family isn't going well. Dad has an ironclad grip on the most expensive property while Mom is slowly fleecing you for cash left and right.

In that moment of pure, unbridled hatred, you may be tempted to flip the board—and even claim that the game was rigged—before storming out of the room, leaving behind a scene straight out of Apocalypse Now. 

The rage that comes with certain board games—most often older ones—should be written into a warning label slapped on the box. And moments like this got us thinking: which board games are the most frustrating? 

Here are our picks for the most frustrating board games of all time that are somehow still popular and in production.

6. Battleship

Battleship is a stonewall classic, a game for ages past and years to come. But that doesn't mean it's a perfect game. Oh, far from it.

That feeling when you constantly miss your hits while your opponent consistently lands theirs? That can get your blood boiling and even get you checking for secret mirrors or hidden cameras.

When opponents get lucky, it can feel as though they're cheating—and sometimes they are cheating. The design of Battleship relies on the honor system and makes it open to petty play, given that anyone can simply move their pieces to avoid defeat.

The entire point of the game is that you can't see the opponent's board, and that breeds distrust and contempt. Suspected cheating could lead you to revenge cheating as well. It's all around not healthy.

5. Monopoly

Ah, Monopoly. The most iconic of frustrating board games. The one that has more twists and turns than a bad TV drama.

You can spend hours building up an empire, racing against others who are doing the exact same thing, in a battle mostly involving luck and fortune. It can be exhilarating, exhausting, and utterly soul-crushing.

After an hour, tensions have started to broil. After another hour, someone may have stormed off in a huff, leaving behind a legacy of heavily mortgaged properties and minimal cash. All of that only makes the final stages all the more competitive for those remaining. 

Monopoly can be brutal as the competition comes to a head and one player lays down the final killing blow against another, eliminating them from the game and leaving them crying in a corner.

4. Frustration

Frustration actually isn't too overly annoying most of the time. However, because of its name and its core reliance on chance, the game can inspire a certain amount of blinding rage when all goes wrong. 

Played using dice that are encased within a spring-loaded plastic dome in the middle of the board, the object of Frustration is to get your pieces around the board faster than your opponent. It's simple.

The most annoying part of the game is that it's more aggravating than it has any right to be, causing players more anger than might be expected at first glance. Even the child on the box looks a bit angry!

3. Operation

Unlike the colorful patient who lays on the box's operating table, Operation is a game of delicacy. Players need calm nerves and dexterous hands to be the best at performing mock surgery.

This poor patient has seen it all during his decades undergoing the knife: the two-handed techniques, the beads of sweat, even the morons who get dressed in full scrubs to play the game.

And, almost always, the frustrations of its players. This time, the frustrationg doesn't come from random chance or the brutality of other players—it's frustration at oneself.

The sheer concentration required to do well at this game can leave you more mentally exhausted than you would've believed when first picking up those tweezers, and the dreaded buzz of failure can be traumatic.

2. Scrabble

There's nothing worse than not having that one tile you need to complete a triple word score, especially when everyone else is raining down tiles and words as if they were directly related to Dr. Johnson.

The frustration of Scrabble is another one that comes down to randomness. While not being able to play the words you want is the challenge of the game, the way things play out can lead to a full-on board flip. When nothing goes your way, it's hard to stay calm.

And that's the most baffling part: it's just Scrabble. You're not supposed to be agitated by a word game. And even as your blood boils, you can hear a small voice in your mind: "Calm down, bro, it's only Scrabble."

1. Chess

Chess is a game of patience, dignity, and pure elegance. But when you're only five moves into the game and already facing down defeat by a family member or close friend, it can be an aggravating affair.

Unless you learn how to properly play Chess, it will always remain frustrating. It's not a game you can play casually. Chess is so old now—so ingrained in world culture—that anyone who's willing to play is probably leagues ahead of you, or vice versa.

The thought of being good at Chess comes with extra significance, therefore added pressure to win. There's a glory associated with Chess that isn't there for other board games, and that makes losing all the worse.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Game Night

We've created a nifty PDF that highlights common behaviors that shouldn't be tolerated during game night, which you can print out and stick on the wall and use as a reference for all players who fall out of line.

Download this printable cheat sheet and you'll never have to directly confront anyone about their behavior. Just point at the sheet! And if anyone fights back, just tell them whatNerd says they're wrong.

Trending Like This

The 20 Best Mobile Board Game Apps to Play on Your Phone

What Is “Theater of the Mind” in Dungeons and Dragons?

The 10 Best Complex & Heavy Board Games for Epic Gameplay

The 7 Best Board Gaming Podcasts for News, Reviews, and Fun

The 10 Most Beautiful Board Games With Charming Artwork

How to Play an Evil Character in D&D (Without Losing Your Friends)