Modern board games are not just about luck; they require a strategic mindset and some types of skills most people wouldn’t normally associate with board games. In this quick guide, we go over 12 areas you have to hone to win against any board game geek.
In this article:
Build an Engine
In a board game, “engine-building” is when a player builds up their capability to produce a particular type of in-game resource, and they can then convert that resource to victory points (or whatever metric is needed for the victory condition). That’s an example of a simple two-step engine, but sometimes a game requires you to build an engine that is three or even more steps.
Here are 10 of the best engine-building games out there.
Building a reliable engine that other players can’t mess with is the best way to win almost any board game. The earlier on you establish it, the better. You can then spend the rest of the game, improving it even further.
Watch the Best Player
Every board game has a player who begins the game as the favorite to win. Try to identify that player before the game begins, and watch them closely WITHOUT LETTING THEM KNOW YOU’RE WATCHING. Not only will you pick up early pointers as to how to play properly, but you’ll learn early on how to counter their strategy.
As the game goes on, someone else may take the lead. At that point, switch your focus and begin watching the leader. Figure out how to block them from winning. If you keep anyone from getting out ahead of the pack, you have more chances to do so. That being said, you should also…
Fly Under the Radar
If at least one of your opponents is a true board game geek, they will be looking to block the better players from getting what they want in the game. Because of that, you should try and make it seem like you are not a threat to win.
Try to keep as quiet as possible while avoiding big plays. If someone remarks that you’re not a threat (and they will if you’re doing this right), don’t pipe up and correct them.
Time Your Strike
Again, you don’t want to appear as a threat for most of the game. But when the game is a few turns from being over (or however much time you need to execute the plan you’ve built up), that idea goes out the window, and it’s time to secure your victory. By that point, all the other players will probably be winding down and won’t be able to stop you.
Focus on the Victory Condition
Before you start, make sure you’re clear on how to win the game. By getting victory points? By collecting a specific set of cards? By moving across the board the fastest? Whatever it is, figure out how to accomplish that and prioritize it. Don’t focus on in-fighting and other personal goals that don’t ultimately help you win.
For example, there are a lot of territory expansion board games like gamer favorite Twilight Imperium that allow players to battle each other to slow each other down, but battling doesn’t really help anyone towards victory. In games like that, the winning player usually avoids those “red herring goals” as much as possible and only focuses on getting victory points.
Focus in One Area
Modern games usually offer players more than one area to excel in during the game, and all of those areas can lead to victory. In those cases, you need to focus on one of those areas and go all in. Do not try to be a jack of all trades, or you will end up spreading yourself too thin and not excelling at anything.
Don't Be Nice
We don’t mean that you should try and be a jerk on purpose. In fact, you should be as nice as possible to the other players around the table so that they are more forgiving towards you.
What we mean is that you should not make in-game decisions that are not optimal for your strategy so that you can “avoid hurting feelings.” Because you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, this is a game, and everyone knows that. Don’t hesitate to crush your significant other’s plans if it’s the only way for you to win.
If you need to patch things up after a vicious play session, here are 12 great co-op board games.
Build for the Future
If you start building towards a future objective before it’s even on the other players’ radar, you may end up saving a lot of time.
When it comes time to complete the objective, other players might see you’ve already made significant progress in that area and so won’t even attempt to chase after you, figuring you could easily outpace them if they tried. Since they don’t even try, you’re guaranteed the objective victory without doing anything more.
Once you’ve formulated your plan and determined the exact steps you need to take to pull it off, you can go on auto-pilot to complete those steps. At that point, you can switch your conscious focus to protecting the plan at all costs.
Identify how your plan can go awry, including how the other players can derail it and how the game itself could get in the way with random events and such. Without detracting from what you’re doing regarding your primary plan, try to prepare for these potential obstacles.
Play Until the Last Turn
If you’re playing right, you shouldn’t end up exhausting the last of your resources (and bringing your victory plan to fruition) until the very last turn of the game. Turns are often the most valuable resource of all, and it’s a colossal waste to wrap up your strategy with a few turns left. Diddling around for the last few turns is not the path to victory, especially if you’re playing against a dedicated board game geek hellbent on winning.
Watch for These Strategies
Keep an eye out for other players using the strategies on this list, especially the sneaky ones like flying under the radar or building towards future objectives. If you see them trying to pull a fast one, take a mental note they are better than they let on — possibly a board game geek in disguise.
Being a board game geek doesn’t mean you’re a nerd, contrary to the popular Hollywood depiction. Instead, a board game geek is good at critical thinking, long-term planning, self-assessment, and social manipulation when they want to be. Follow these tips faithfully, and you can become a board game geek too!