The objective of almost any game is to be entertained, engaged, or ideally, both. But, this isn’t enough for everyone. Even though you can have plenty of fun when losing, if it happens in a row or even worse, constantly, it can quickly take its toll. Add friendly teasing and win-hungry friends avoiding to partner with you, and the spirit dwindles. That’s where we come to the topic of heuristics. Although present many fields, in psychology, the heuristic technique represents problem-solving and judgment-making on the fly, quicker and more efficient than typical methods. We’ll try to translate this into practical tips as we show you how to be good at board games.
1. Learn the rules
A step-by-step guide to getting better at board games doesn’t exist, but learning the game rules is pretty close. This isn’t hard nowadays, since you don’t need to hunt manuals in physical forms. Find an official website or developer’s website, reach out via webchat, read wikis, join forums, or try to search for individual answers. If you’re juggling multiple games, consider writing the rules down, whether physically or electronically. Remember, having a solid foundation allows you to build upon or on top of it, and in this case, both notice things happening and understand why they happened.
2. Be present in the moment
Chatting, laughing, and jumping in with a clever remark are all part of playing board games. And while fun, those activities are very distracting. So if there were steps to be good at board games, staying focused would be among the first. Of course, no one can stay laser-focused for hours. At the very least, attempt to predict the opponent’s next moves, and decide what you’re going to do next before relaxing.
3. Put personal relationships aside
Being good friends with someone, or even part of their family or their significant other shouldn’t matter. You’re in it to win it, and if winning requires occupying their territory, taking money and resources, or having to sacrifice them, do it. They might be upset at the moment, but after all, it’s a game, not real life.
4. Set clear goals
Setting short-term goals that, when combined, mold into a large goal, e.g., victory, is a key to improving at board games. That’s because small goals prevent you from being overwhelmed and constantly feed positive energy when things go your way. This also ensures you aren’t thrown off the balance if one of your plans falls through. Simply, use a different path to arrive at the same destination – winning the game.
5. Be good at basic arithmetics
The ability to make quick calculations is crucial for some games. We’re talking about those where card numbers are equivalent to damage, where the card number in a deck is limited, or where the end goal is to reach a certain point number first.
6. Put interesting achievements aside
Yes, it’s fun to own all countries on the map, collect this amount of gold, or focus on making a fun shape out of territories you own. But if it isn’t going to get you closer to finishing as the winner, what good is it? Don’t let having fun distract you from taking the shortest path to victory. Ideally, you want to combine the two.
7. Pay attention to other players
You can notice habits, “tell signs” about next moves, patterns, and anti-patterns with all players. As to not get overwhelmed, focus on the top player, or two to three leading players. After all, if they’re ahead, that’s who you’ll need to either slow down or pull ahead off. Patterns are especially important, since seeing strategies that repeat with success, means you can either utilize them directly, modify them for your own goals, or defend from them.
8. Play alone and with others, as well as on different mediums
Playing a game with the same circle of friends stops being beneficial in terms of learning after a while. Join a different group, try playing alone, look for the game on the Internet if the board game is an in-person one, and vice versa. Also, play different versions of the game. For example, switch between the PC, browser, Android, iOS, or Nintendo Switch. Different graphics, color palette, slightly modified rules, and a new player base might not only reignite your passion for excelling at board games but also spark new ideas. Video games also have the benefit of allowing you to skip the shuffle, set up, gathering up, and hang-ups in the middle of the game for bathroom or food breaks. Playing more games equals per hour means you earn more experience without spending more time daily.
9. Consume content revolving around the game
We know this sounds contra-productive, but you don’t always need to play yourself to become a better board game player. There are plenty of online and offline resources you can utilize – written guides, recorded game sessions, content creators who record tips and tricks. Nowadays, podcasts and audiobooks have taken over the world. Let them play in the background even if you can’t fully commit or have to listen to it in chunks. Trust us, your brain will retain some of the information.
10. Diversify playstyle every once in a while
Don’t blindly copy something you’ve seen or heard. Instead, analyze something the other player said or demonstrated, and apply it in your playstyle. See how it feels and how far it takes you. Of course, reserve it for less-important or casual gaming sessions.
11. Pick a favorite game
Look at becoming skilled at board games like an athlete preparing for a competition. They are usually competent at other sports, and play them as a hobby or even in lower brackets as professionals. However, they select one sport they’re best at and focus the majority of their effort and time on it. So can you – pick a board game to be “your thing”, and use others for fun, to win amateur competitions, or to keep your mind sharp.
12. Teach board games
Giving instructions to be good at board games can make you a better player yourself. Some things that come to you naturally might not be as clear to other players. Learning how to share your knowledge in the simplest way possible forces you to look at the game from different angles. This might require additional research, making you study simultaneously.
13. Know the end is approaching
Being concerned with time running out is a great motivator for turning the game over in your favor. Also, in games where a card or tile can only be used once, you can pull off the last-moment win if you utilize your arithmetic skills. To clarify the point, if you remember the numbers, icons, or pictures that have been used, you can narrow down the list to the ones that are left. This allows you to predict the last set of moves each player will take in the few remaining turns. Then, you either know you’ve won ahead of time, or can plan a last-minute counterattack.
14. Analyze the game at the end
This is often known as “post mortem review” in administration and management. This business application carries over to board games perfectly, regardless if you won or lost. Think about what you did that was good, as well as what you did that wasn’t, and whether you should stop doing it immediately. Don’t be too quick to disregard stuff, though, just pay closer attention to the success rate. Like in business, some strategies only need a slight alteration to take off and produce better results.
15. Don’t be scared to ask for help
We’ll add more practical advice to this guide in the future. For now, as closing words, we’d like to remind you that everyone started somewhere. Asking for help, especially people you play with and look up to, might seem like a sign of weakness. But don’t disregard the possibility that a student might overtake the master someday.