Conquering the tabletop, or how to win every board game.

Wow your friends, humble your enemies, and reign supreme at your next gathering.

Multi-player video games are dead. Let’s face it.

The last good multi-player game was Halo 3. And unless you’re willing to put up with the cesspool that is the online gaming community or you can time travel back to 2003 for a classic lan-party, gaming with friends just ain’t what it used to be.

Enter the board game. In slumber for so long, this ancient art form is enjoying a recent renaissance that this author is very excited about.

If you grew up in the 80s, board games were the pinnacle of family-friendly entertainment. Every family had a hoard of board games, safely locked away lest pieces go missing, ready for game night.

Now I’m no expert at board games, but I have a trick or two up my sleeve which might prove useful the next time you draw a card or roll the dice.

1) Preparation

I know what you’re thinking. Only nerds read the rulebook ahead of time. Well guess what. Nerds win games. A lot. And if you’re playing a board game, you’re probably a bit of a nerd at heart anyway. Just embrace it. Or if not, go play a sport or something.

2) Play the board, play the player

Every board game is different. Each one has its nuances, its objectives, victory conditions. Veiled secrets that only reveal themselves to the most seasoned players. You cannot tailor a strategy to fit multiple board games.

People however, are all the same. They get nervous on the verge of victory and reckless when they have nothing to lose. They have patterns of behaviour which can be studied and used against them to predict what they will do in every situation. Use it to your advantage.

3) Know yourself

Just like people have patterns of behaviour, so do you. As a player it is important to keep your emotions in check in any serious board game. Got a bad roll? Smile and pretend it’s what you wanted all along. Train yourself to reveal as little as possible to your opponents.

Critically, it’s important that you don’t make the amateur mistakes outlined above. Don’t get reckless when the chips are down. Persevere through. Similarly, when you’re winning, don’t start playing your cards close to your chest to try and secure the win. Doing that leads to mistakes. Play freely, but cautiously.

Most importantly, don’t let your emotions get the better of you in any situation. A bit of life advice here from yours truly.

4) Know your phases

Every strategy game in existence has three broadly defined phases. The Start game, Middle game and End game. Each phase has to be played differently but all have equal importance.

How you start any board game is crucial. Decisions you make on the first turn will impact you far down the road. Mistakes made could be costly. Opponents will be probing you for weakness. Focus on keeping things neat and tidy. Don’t look to win games early. Unless you’re playing with rank amateurs, that will rarely be the case.

The middle phase is where your skills and knowledge really start to shine. Stick to your strategy, don’t get tempted into mistakes and in time you should be setting up your end game.

Towards the end, it becomes less about strategy and skill and so much more about psychology and holding your nerves. You have to actively plot and plan to finish your opponent while making sure you don’t make any mistakes of your own.

Don’t forget, on the other side is a living breathing human who has their own strategy to win. Find out what it is quickly and snuff them out. No surprises now.

5) Lady luck decides

All games have an element of luck to them. The more strategically focused, the less luck is involved in the game. But it’s always there.

Maybe your opponent didn’t see your gambit. Maybe you rolled a critical hit at just the right moment. Whatever the case may be, luck plays a huge role in board games.

So beat yourself up over a bad loss. If you lost fair and square, then it’s back to the drawing board. But if you got beat on a lousy roll, then remember that when averaged out, luck goes both ways. So eventually you’ll beat them. You just need to set up another game night.

The advice above might seem generic and maybe not as helpful to any specific board game. But trust me, at the end of the day all board games come down to a set of fundamentals. If you have those fundamentals down pat, well you’re on your way to becoming the king of the tabletop.

Want to learn more about board game strategy and what life is like @ WhatToGeek? Check out this documentary on our lives:

James Tan

Spock. This child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth. Now, what do you suggest we do....spank it?