Board games have a darker history than you might think.
I spent a horrible afternoon crawling through the strangest corners of the internet looking for the most offensive board games I could find, because I had much more important things I was supposed to be doing at the time, but desperately didn’t want to.
Behold, the fruit of my labour.
What the world really needed was another spin on Monopoly. Ghettopoly was an ill-advised bid to make a kind of ‘black people’ urban Monopoly, which was rather fittingly sold through Urban Outfitters stores until someone realised what a terrible idea that was.
The half-hearted game used stuff like pimps and drugs to somehow make The Shittest Board Game of All Time™ a tiny bit worse, and was eventually pulled in 2003 for being too stupid.
I must confess that I can hardly find any information at all. I spent weeks in the national archives and trawled through every private collection and public library in the country and couldn’t find a scrap of info about the golden oldie.
I even Googled the name and everything.
Looks quite racist though, doesn’t it?
The Cake Walk
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘cake walk‘? No, me neither, but I’ve been told that it’s a thing.
During the era in which it was still OK to have slaves and stuff, sometimes Cake Walk events were held. These were a kind of party, where all the slaves dressed up like white folk and paraded around like the lah-di-dah aristocracy.
The person who did the best impression of whites was awarded a cake.
Anyway, apparently there’s a board game about that.
Little Black Sambo
This game is about a boy, who is little and called Sambo. And he’s black.
The theme is something about him being naked, and having to claim back his clothes one at a time from a bunch of tigers.
Not the greatest recipe for a game, which was probably even quite offensive when it came out in the ’50s.
Life as a Blackman
I am not a black man, so I don’t know what life is like as one.
If I were to use this game as some kind of proxy for what it might be like though, I’d be able to discover that life begins in the military, Glamourwood, the ghetto or in Black University. The rest of my life would be made up of random dice rolls, and if I roll enough sixes I’ll eventually reach Freedom.
This insensitive game from 1999 sounds like it’s mixed up all its stereotypes and all its centuries, and comes across as somewhat racist as a result – despite its allegedly noble intentions.
Darkies in the Melon Patch
It’s a super alarming name for a game, but in researching this article I discovered something that makes this game the most racist of the entire list.
Blacks & Whites
Almost definitely designed to make a political point, Black & Whites is probably the least fun board game to actually play. White players start with a million bucks and can buy property wherever they like.
Black players get ten grand, and are dramatically limited in what they can do. The random ‘chance’ cards are nearly always stock dividends and other lucky things for the whites, with unfair jail sentences and costly bills for the black players.
Just like real life, right?
Lots of Little Boys
Worryingly, there are too many games that relate to varying numbers of children described using a very racist term. There’s this set of five, which you seem to have to shoot with a toy gun.
Then there’s a set of four, again featuring a rifle of some kind.
Then there’s this game, featuring a full ten. Ten, sadly, appears to be a very popular number for the genre but also appears to feature in literature.
In fact, I only today learned that Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None’ was originally called this too.
Let’s end this now, and never speak of any of these disgusting and unpleasant games again.
Especially as there are so many that are worth talking about, which is exactly what we’ll continue to do here on Best Play.