Board Games

A common scene in our household
A common scene in our household

My husband and I have always played a lot of games. In the gravy days, back when we had TIME, we mostly played games in group setting — with friends. But lately, board games have become one of our primary date activities. That’s what we do when we want to spend time together.

Board games (and I’m not talking Monopoly here, people) fall into various categories. There are epic ones, quick ones, medium ones. There are hand-builder games (Dominion), resource games (Agricola – I first played this while in labor with Thane), spatial reasoning games (Richochet Robots), screw-your-neighbor games (You’ll probably disagree with me, but screw-your-neighbor is usually a defining feature of our games of Catan), strategy games (Memoir ’44) and party games (Werewolf).

There are games that play best with 6 or more people, and there are games perfectly balanced for 2. (Although it seems like most of MY favorite games are best with 3 – 4 players.)

Lately, Adam and I have been playing lots of Dominion, Roll Through the Ages and St. Petersburg. We’ve been playing so many games lately, that I’ve started to see and perceive patterns in what makes a game fun for us, and how we’re different in our makeup.

For example, Adam has a slight edge in Dominion, I dominate Roll Through the Ages, and he completely trounces me in St. Petersburg. Reliably. I have a slight edge in Memoir ’44, but that one takes so long to set up we rarely play it. All four of those are games we both enjoy playing.

What’s the difference? Adam is a perfectionist – an optimizer. He will take as long as he needs to figure out the absolute optimum strategy and apply it. I’m more of a good-enough-er; an executive decision maker. I go with what seems like a pretty good idea, make my decisions quickly and change my strategy midstream if it seems appropriate.

Neither one of our personalities is better, not even for game playing. I enjoy games that overwhelm him, like Race for the Galaxy and Agricola. He doesn’t like these games because he can’t really map out all possible outcomes and plan accordingly — there are too many and the fellow players at the table get impatient. He hates Catan because his careful planning usually gets spiked by the moves of other players in a way that feel malicious.

It’s been fascinating to watch how RELIABLY he beats me in St. Petersburg, even though I’m really trying my best, haven’t made huge mistakes, and have a competent strategy. In that game, night before last, the difference between competent and not making mistakes vs. perfectly optimized was a mammoth 30 points.

We’ve played a lot (a LOT) of games together to notice the differences between our decision making styles. I’m glad we have, though, because the styles hold true whether it’s in a board game or in life. I would (for example) win many more games if the scoring included the speed with which decisions were made. It always takes him a lot longer to decide what he wants to do, because he’s weighing all his options carefully. The same holds true for, for example, buying a computer. He’ll investigate all the options. I’ll find one that seems pretty good. Sometimes the difference between the third one on Amazon that seems reasonably priced and has high ratings and his careful research is nil — I end up with the same computer he finds after weeks of investigation. Sometimes it’s terribly significant. I begin to wonder if he should be in charge of some of our more major financial decisions. Or if, alternately, choosing a mutual fund for our IRAs might paralyze him with choice.

What about you? What kind of decision making process do you use? Have you discovered truths about yourself by playing board games?

The training starts early
The training starts early

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