Attending the WBC this August gave me an excellent opportunity to meet people who have different styles of playing boardgames. This led to some interesting conversations on the ride home as Russ and I swapped stories about the different styles we encountered. We spent a good deal of time talking about the problem with “the perfect move” style, a way of playing that is agonizingly slow and deliberate. This is different from analysis paralysis (AP), where one is so overwhelmed by his choices that he is incapable of playing through his turn until someone prods him.
“The perfect move” style frustrates me to no end. I have discovered that it really cuts down on interaction at the table, especially in two-player games. Table talk, joking around, and discussion of the game itself can dry up completely as one person contemplates his move for an unacceptable amount of time. I get the feeling that a “perfect mover” is seeing the game in an entirely different way than I am; he is looking at it not as a chance for two or more people to have fun while competing with each other, but as a sort of brain puzzle that morphs with each turn. I am only serving as a sort of “adversarial intelligence,” an intellect that is presenting the perfect mover with various challenges.
To illustrate this a bit more fully, I’ll tell a quick story from the WBC. I played a war game against an highly skilled opponent. After a few turns, it became clear that I was no match for him, and he could have quickly crushed me while losing a few units. However, wishing to play a “perfect” game, he took no risks at all, and instead moved so deliberately that the game dragged on for four or five more turns than it should have. A game that could have ended in 90 minutes took three hours to complete. This is one of my favorite games in my collection, and yet this particular session felt like a trip to the dentist.
Playing a board game is an experience that offers us three things: a chance to hang out with other people, compete in a friendly manner, and get better at the game itself. However, analyzing a situation to death usually allows one to get better at a game at the cost of the other two, social interaction and friendly competition. I think that play-by-email (PBEM) play can help those who have the “perfect move” style, because more time elapses between turns. If you’re reading this, and you know you fit into the “perfect mover” category, try something new: take a few risks! You may find your enjoyment of the game increases greatly as you make a risky move which turns into a brilliant maneuver or concentrate more on the conversation that goes on around the table. If all we are looking for as gamers is a challenge, we can always go pick up a single player video game. Let’s not spoil the fun of board games by ignoring the other people around the table for the sake of the “perfect game!”