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08th May 2019

Ranking childhood board games from least to most satisfying to cheat at

Frustration is just spicy Ludo

Ciara Knight

Frustration is just spicy Ludo

Think back to the simplicity of childhood. You’d lay the groundwork by having a quick strop first thing in the morning, then beg your parents to take you literally anywhere other than the insufferable boredom of being at home, eventually settling on being allowed to invite your friends over for a rousing board game session sprawled across the living room floor.

Obviously, the entire success of the board game session rested on your chances of winning, which were significantly increased when you cheated. Some games facilitated cheating wonderfully, making it an unavoidable inevitability, but others required a large amount of determination, strategy and sleight of hand if you really wanted to succeed.

If you were the type of child that didn’t cheat during every board game, maybe give this one a miss. Get back to your successful and wholesome life which involves doing the big shop at Waitrose, having financial security, job satisfaction, a wonderful support system and an honest, clean life.

Everyone else, you may proceed.

12. Ker-Plunk

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Respectfully, Ker-Plunk can fuck off. They’ve made it very difficult for people to cheat at this game and that in itself merits ridicule. It was always your most boring friend who suggested playing Ker-Plunk, the one who was really into collecting leaves and conkers, liked to read in their spare time, had a healthy relationship with their parents, etc. Ker-Plunk had too many rules and regulations, you had to go in blind every time, pulling a straw at random and hoping for minimal marble displacement. The only opportunity for cheating came when you had to rotate the tube so that the opening at the bottom faced the next player’s tray. If you gave it a bit of a nudge, they’d get landed with a marble massacre, but it was always very obvious to everyone involved exactly what you were doing. It’s a supid game for stupid people. There’s no satisfaction in winning and very little satisfaction in cheating because you rarely got away with it.

11. Connect Four

Very much a last resort board game, it’s the kind you’d play at school when all of the other games had been taken and you were left with either Connect Four, or satan’s asshole of board games, the aforementioned Ker-Plunk. Unfortunately, Connect Four requires forward-thinking, something most children (and many adults) have little desire to engage in. It was a true sign of genius when your opponent worked out how to snooker you, whereby they’ve committed a sinister act in setting themselves up with a two-move win-win option. Wherever you dropped the disc, they were going to make a line of four. You were powerless to their triumph. So you challenged them to a rematch, vowing to give them a taste of their own medicine, then failing to work out how to perform a similar manoeuvre and knocking the whole thing over in rage, deeming it as “shit”, “stupid” and “boring”. You couldn’t cheat. You were too stupid. Still are today, if we’re being honest.

10. Frustration

A garbage game for garbage people. Frustration is just spicy Ludo. When you strip away the smoke and mirrors in Frustration (basically just the fun dice-popping device in the middle), it is an incredibly average game. It’s not even called Frustration in America, they call it Trouble. Trouble. JFC. When playing Frustration, it very quickly becomes apparent that it’s a game of endurance, meaning you simply have to persevere with the boredom until a winner emerges, the enthusiasm for which wanes drastically depending on whether or not you’re winning. To cheat, you had to deliberately sabotage your intelligent reputation by pretending you couldn’t count, adding in an extra space or two during each turn. Fellow competitors would internally debate whether you were a complete thicko, or simply very blatantly cheating. Either way, you didn’t come away looking great.

9. Hungry Hungry Hippos

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Cheating in Hungry Hungry Hippos was more about strategy than outright rule-breaking, which didn’t give the same sense of satisfaction that you got with just outright sabotaging the game. To force your opponents into submission, you had to develop sharp reflexes and a very strong hand. Upping your protein intake as a child was tricky to do, but possible. You joined an underground gym and worked on your hand muscles, practicing with nonsense tasks such as painting fences and waving to strangers until your sensei felt it was the right time for you to tackle Hungry Hungry Hippos. When you nonchalantly challenged your sister to a game, you’d strategically hammer the lever with such force that the entire table would shake. She’d look on in awe as your hippo ravaged its way through the marbles, leaving nothing in its path. “You’re cheating”, she’d shout. A row would ensue, Mum would have to break it up. Still counted as win, though.

8. Scrabble

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Not exactly the most invigorating game to play as a child, you typically played Scrabble when your babysitter (who was no fun whatsoever) came over and she simply wanted to have an educational time whilst also getting the unbridled high that comes with beating literal children at a strategy and intelligence-based game. She’d hit every triple word score on the board and laugh at your blatant dissatisfaction with proceedings. So you’d cheat, as best you could, by eyeing up specific letters in the tile bag and then reaching into that exact spot to secure your intended tile. Then you’d make up fake words and insist that your household unfortunately wasn’t in possession of a dictionary, so your 21-point ‘Flambougie’ word couldn’t be discredited. It was more about manipulation and braille-like abilities, cheating in Scrabble, but still, who’s laughing now? Still you, because that babysitter died.

7. Twister

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An absolute howl of a game, but quite tricky to cheat at. It’s broken down into two areas, firstly you had to volunteer to be the one to spin the arrow, strategically getting it to land on favourable movements for your body and mind. Secondly, you had to very subtly manoeuvre your hands and feet onto coloured circles that made life easier for you. If you were engaged in an uncomfortable stretch, you simply moved into a better position while everyone was distracted by somebody else failing to contort their body into an inhumane position. Nobody’s going to remember that your left hand is supposed to be on red since three turns ago. You’d toss in a few groans of discomfort for flavour so nobody would wise up to your cheating ways. Problem was that if you got caught, being labelled as a Twister Cheat was a pretty damning situation to find yourself in. It’s nice to win, but is it worth risking your reputation over a game of basically stretching?

6. Battleship

Literally the only game you could tempt your dad into playing and by Christ did he make you pay for it. He’d spend minutes, nay tens of minutes deciding where to hit your board and then readjust his strategy with every missed opportunity. Cheating was so easy it was frightening. All it took was a quick declaration of wanting to pause the game, leaving the room for a “bathroom break”, then returning and getting a quick glance at your opponent’s board as you sat down. No more, no less, just a good old fashioned cheat. Then your fellow Battleship enthusiast would be forced to sit back and marvel as you appeared to mysteriously guess the positioning of every ship, one after the other. “How can I possibly cheat, I can’t see your board?”, you’d protest. Fools.

5. Trivial Pursuit

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Is there anything better than cheating and fooling people into thinking that you’re actually very smart in the process? This is what we in the board game business refer to as a double whammy. Not only do you earn the respect of your peers by winning the game, you also trick thick them into regarding you as a genius, despite all academic results pointing to the contrary. Who says a 7-year-old with perfect eyesight shouldn’t know that the first president of Colombia was Simón José Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolívar Palacios Ponte y Blanco? Cheating in Trivial Pursuit was a cinch so long as you had 20/20 vision, the ability to read things upside-down and a quizmaster who failed to conceal the answers at the back of the card. “How did you know that?”, they’d ask. “Just did”, you’d reply with a knowing look to the camera, breaking the non-existent fourth wall in the never-ending sitcom that is your tragic little life.

4. Guess Who?

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Guess who’s a big fucking cheat? It me. It really me. Guess Who? seems like an uncheatable game, but much like its Battleship companion, you simply need to get a glance at your opponent’s board to see which character they’ve chosen. But herein lies the beauty. You can’t make an accurate guess as early as you’d like, because that’s going to seem suspicious. So you’re in the tricky situation of having to let the game run its course, safe in the knowledge that you can swoop in at the end and usurp your opponent when it seems like they’re getting close to finishing the game. It’s the perfect crime, so long as you don’t get caught having a gawk at their board. You’ve got to resist your urges and sit on the winning character for as long as you can hold your nerve, exercising a level of restraint you don’t quite recognise in yourself. You never finish a game of Guess Who? feeling like the same person you were before it started. Never.

3. Monopoly

Monopoly is a satisfying game to cheat in, but it’s also a bit too easy to do so. Simply, you must get your hands on as much cash as possible by insisting that no one person will be the designated banker. Instead, everyone must handle their own funds, which leaves the situation rife for interference. When it comes to your turn to collect £200 after passing ‘Go’, you slip an extra couple of notes into the equation, claiming that you find £100 notes boring, instead desiring a mixture of smaller notes for reasons you’d rather not get into. Everyone is eager to win, so you carry out the doctored transactions quickly and inaccurately, pocketing well over the alleged £200 fee. You’ve got to practice your sleight of hand in the days leading up to the game, as well as picking the right attire (something with baggy sleeves) so that everything can be as seamless as possible. More money = more property = more wins = more respect. Simple.

2. Cluedo

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There’s two levels to cheating in Cluedo, each of which are deeply satisfying. Firstly, you can weasel your way into the role of being the person that puts the winning cards into the envelope, meaning you get a chance to look at the inevitable outcome and fast-track your way to the end, simply killing time between the beginning of the game until a reasonable amount of time has elapsed before you can make an official guess. Alternatively, you can get a glimpse of everyone else’s cards by insisting that everyone sit on the floor to play the game. At the end of the day, we’re only human. It’s hard to keep your notes covered as well as your cards at all times. Something has to give. It’s all just a waiting game. Cluedo is begging you to cheat. It’s a disservice to the institution of the game if you play it honestly. Murder is a jester’s game anyway.

1. Operation

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Remember the wholesome childhood activity whereby you would simulate operating on a human man in the most unsanitary conditions, being careful not to touch the edges of his flesh so as to avoid electrocution and certain death? Ah, the 90s. Operation was the most satisfying game to cheat at because it required a certain element of genius. To cheat at Operation, you needed to rig the game well in advance, knowing the ins and outs of the mechanical system involved. You needed to know that if you shifted the cardboard cover a millimetre to the left, the board lost contact with the battery and would no longer beep if you touched the metal parts. That was the discovery of a criminal mastermind and a seasoned cheating professional.

Onlookers would marvel at your unsteady hand failing to set off the buzzer despite blatant touching of the metal rod off the sides. “Just have the magic touch, I guess”, you’d boast, resting heavy under the weight of your lies. Parents fantasised about you paying off their mortgage when you inevitably become a rich surgeon as a result of your steady nerve and even steadier hands, only to feel the full brunt of disappointment when they learned that you had been cheating the entire time. You magnificent bastard, why did you have to come clean? Rule #1 of cheating at board games: Never admit to your crimes. You’re soft. Everyone says it. Get out of my sight, you make me sick.