Analysis Paralysis: The Enemy of Board Games
Welcome to the first in what will be an ongoing series: Board Game Lingo. In many articles, we use all kinds of gaming jargon that a newcomer might not understand. Some are self-explanatory, while others may make no sense at all to the outsider. In any case, for today we’ll be starting off with everyone’s favorite delayer of games, Analysis Paralysis.
We all know that guy. You know, that guy. The guy that, when it’s his turn in any game you play, takes ten minutes to make his move, analyzing every possible outcome of every possible action. He sits, ruminating, thinking, pondering, while the other players around him try to endure this time of inaction, each one slowly breaking until Facebook and Twitter feeds start glowing around the table. That guy might be one of your close friends. That guy might actually be that girl. That guy might even be you. Whoever that guy might be, he has fallen to the great enemy of gaming, Analysis Paralysis.
Analysis Paralysis is the curse of over-analyzation. It’s when somebody is such a perfectionist about their moves, that they have to be absolutely sure that no mistakes are being made. It’s the tendency to second guess every single one of your ideas. It’s the proclivity to take your turn and then quickly say “no, nevermind!” and then take your pieces back and do it again. In other words, it means taking absolutely freaking forever to take your turn. If left untreated, analysis paralysis can at best kill the momentum of a game, and at worst, permanently dampen the spirits of the players, sometimes robbing them completely of their desire to play again.
But fear not, for not all is lost. If Analysis Paralysis is your sickness, then I am your doctor, here to prescribe you a list of treatments that may or may not help to solve the problem.
#1: Set a timer
One of the easiest ways to combat Analysis Paralysis is to put everyone on the same playing field by putting a timer on the board. It’s essential that this timer applies to everyone, so you’re not just singling out that guy. Setting a turn timer makes sure that nobody gets stuck in paralysis, because even if you’re not that guy, almost everyone does it every once in a while. The trick to setting a timer is to be disciplined with it. Everybody must obey the laws of the timer. When it buzzes, boom, that’s it. Done. No more moves, nothing, nathan, nada. The player must make their decision then and there, and the game continues. If everybody can condition themselves to respect the law of the timer, then with the right group, your games will be just lovely.
Downsides to the timer? First of all, well, it doesn’t always work, and if it doesn’t, it usually only makes the problem worse. What if the person is so ingrained in their habits that the pressure of a timer doesn’t do any good? The most likely result is that they’ll take forever, get timed out anyway, and then get frustrated that they had to end things so prematurely. In a worst case scenario, they will blame their loss on this. If the other players are good at taking their turns, then the afflicted player might be the only one that ever gets penalized. With the right group, a timer can solve a lot of problems, but make sure you know who you’re playing with – your group will have to decide for yourselves if the timer is right for your paralyzed player.
#2: Set a penalty for long turns
One of my favorite fan modifications is the “longest turn” card that some people made for Catan. Yeah, you know about the Longest Road and the Largest Army, but now there’s a Longest Turn and you lose points for it; that’ll show you to take nine years to take a turn! In all seriousness, you don’t necessarily need a physical component that docks people for taking a long time, but if your group is up to it, it might not hurt to enact some kind of consequence for taking forever each turn.
Penalizing people for taking longer turns is probably something you could only get away with if you’re playing in a group of people who know each other weird. If that guy came to a random board game meetup to befriend new people and then got shunned for thinking too hard, well, that’s kinda sucky. Who do you play with? Would they be okay with lighthearted consequences? If your group can take it, the “long turn penalty” could potentially be an effective (and slightly humorous) solution to your analysis paralysis.
#3: Plan Ahead
Although this might be something that people tend to do without thinking, some people don’t, choosing instead to fiddle with their phone, engage in conversation, or just get get distracted. Something that can help any game group, no matter who you are, is to make it clear in the beginning of the game that you should be planning your next turn as it comes. In most games, It’s not hard to discern your general strategy for your next turn, and if you have a general idea of what you want to do, unexpected moves from other players may change your course a little bit, but if you’ve already thought about it, you’ll be more prepared should something change.
Castles of Burgundy is a game that benefits highly from this. So much so, in fact, that the game’s rulebook actively encourages you to roll your dice before it’s even your turn, and then figure out what you want to do! It’d be nice if more rulebooks encouraged this, but in any case, it’s something that players can do in any game. Make sure it’s encouraged in your group.
#4: Just talk about it
You might have a situation where you have someone in your group that takes eons to complete their turns, and yet they’re good company that you want to keep around. If the above two methods aren’t viable options, well, it’s always good just to talk about it. An otherwise fun game can be ruined if there is one or multiple people that stretch it out into absurd lengths, and if it’s an issue that’s legitimately affecting the morale of the group, it might be best to just bring it up. It might be a mistake that the person wasn’t aware they had, or it could be something they’re very aware of, but perhaps they’ll be more self-aware if they know. If nothing else works, trying to talk it out might just be the best option.
Hopefully, your game sessions are free from serious analysis paralysis, but beware, for it can strike at any time. If it’s a serious problem in your group, hopefully you’ve learned something that might fix the problem! Have any thoughts? Be sure to voice your opinion in the comments!