10 board games that are too complicated for their own good


Board games have a reputation for complexity. Compared to other games, they shift the burden onto players, forcing them to remember how each round works, keep track of resources, remember the relevant rules for each situation, and more. Many games are aware of this and limit how complex they get.

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Other games don’t deal with such things. They load the player up with complex phase orders and resources to keep track of, and have rulebooks full of edge cases and exceptions for players to remember. Some players enjoy the intricate nature of these games, but for many it simply detracts from an enjoyable gameplay.

10 The campaign for North Africa is notoriously detailed

War is a complex thing. Likewise, war-themed board games have a reputation for complicated rules, especially when trying to be accurate in their simulation of reality. Few make it that far The campaign for North Africaa game notorious for its ridiculous playing time, the length of its rules, and the level of detail it attempts to replicate.

Described as a logistic game rather than a strategic game, The campaign for North Africa tasks players with managing the military efforts of the entire North Africa campaign in World War II. Recommended for ten players, it tasks each player with managing the logistics for one arm of their military. The rules, which are expected to last around 1500 hours, go so far as to require the Italian side to have water ready to cook pasta.

9 Magic Realm blurs the line between board game and roleplaying game

Recreating the character-driven, adventurous feel of an RPG in a board game is many gamers’ dream come true, and several board games have succeeded in this endeavor. While games like Gloomhaven are engaging and entertaining despite their complexity, sometimes games stumble and create an overly granular experience.

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magical realm remains a notorious case. It focuses on complex systems of characters, strengths, weaknesses, rivalries, and player-chosen victory conditions that can make simple understanding a task. Also, building alone can take several hours, and the rules are notorious for being vague and open to interpretation, despite their vast scope.

8th Shadows Over Normandy doesn’t take time to explain itself

Sometimes games can have extremely entertaining and well-designed systems that are almost impenetrable to new players. This is the case in Shadows over Normandya game that takes on the frantic war game Heroes of Normandy and pits his allies against Nazi cultists and the Lovecraftian abominations they invoke.

Those who have learned the rules of the game recommend it as a fun wargame that doesn’t waste its Cthulhu-like presence. However, the rules assume that the player has both Lovecraft’s fiction and knowledge Heroes of Normandy itself. It starts off with technical jargon from the start and doesn’t pause to help players get started with the game.

7 Twilight Empire is poorly explained

Even intuitive and well-designed games can seem overly complicated or complex if their rules don’t explain them in an easy-to-understand way. Twilight Empire has become a popular sci-fi game notorious for its sheer length – with games traditionally lasting 90 minutes per player – and how difficult it can be to figure out.

Although the basic rules are intuitive and easy to learn, Twilight Empire piles exception after exception on the player as a result of faction effects, technologies, rules interactions, and more. Coupled with poorly explained mechanics, including some players not understanding how to win, the game has earned a reputation for complexity.

6 Magic: The Gathering can be difficult for new players

As the most popular card game in the world Magic the Gathering apparently does not repel all newcomers. Although it attracts players, it can be difficult to play or even understand in a person’s first rounds. Although the basic rules of typing and playing cards are easy to follow, there is much for a gambler to consider.

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Almost every map has its own set of rules, many of which create exceptions to existing rules or require players to memorize a glossary of keywords. With so many overlapping and sometimes conflicting effects chafing at the game’s best rules, many new players probably won’t understand much of what’s happening during their first few games – especially in more open formats like Modern or Commander.

5 Mage Knight falls short of its desired simplicity

Mage Knight is a game that really tries to make itself quick and easy to understand, in order to limit the amount of players who have to refer to rulebooks or character sheets by printing each game piece’s stats onto its base. Despite this, it has become notorious for its complexity, which can baffle new players trying to learn it.

Players don’t have to look in the rulebooks for their unit’s stats, but they do for almost everything else. With a large number of interactions between almost all rules affecting a unit’s statistics and its possibilities, the game does not flow as quickly as it would like.

4 A world at war stacks system upon system

One way to make board games overly complicated is to add mechanics. If a player can get comfortable with core movement mechanics, interacting with other units, and deploying new units, but then needs to learn a few more to get into the game, they may choose to play something else.

A world at war falls into this trap. The most common guide for players is to learn the game by playing individual scenarios, each introducing different systems without combining them into a whole. Between land movement and combat, naval movement and combat, research, economy and more, the game can be too much for players to keep track of.

3 Arkham Horror is Lovecraft at its most dense

One of the classic horror board games of all time, Arkham Horror puts players in the shoes of investigators racing against time to stop the terrifying monsters of the Cthulhu Mythos from entering the world. It’s become a popular part of board games, but even fans find its complexity notorious.

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No single rule is difficult to understand, but the game is notorious for how many rules it has at any given point in the game. This forces players to keep track of a massive amount of information. Eldritch horrora newer version of the game with streamlined rules, has been well received because it reduces how much a player has to think.

2 Terra Mystica is very freely formed

Although a game can easily falter with overly structured rounds, structure can be invaluable in helping new players understand the rules. One game that largely stops there is Terra mysticaa game known for how free and unstructured its actions are, allowing players to take multiple actions at almost any time.

Combined with its abstract subject matter, number of additional game rules, levels of mechanics affecting each other and each move, Terra mystica can be a lot to process. It becomes more intuitive after a few games, but players often struggle to keep up at first.

1 Advanced Squad Leader is incredibly detailed

As the scope of a game decreases, complexity often increases. Advanced Squad Leader is a classic example of this, focusing on the details of combat between a handful of individuals rather than the crude approach of many battalion or army level games.

Although the game has a dedicated fanbase, it’s known for being complicated in almost every way. Its rules are lengthy, full of jargon, and full of interactions and edge cases. Even with players learning one system at a time, the game is so packed with granular detail that, despite the quality of the game, it can be a chore to learn.

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