I know the feeling. You play a bunch of board games and you never win. It can really put you in a slump or make you want to quit board gaming altogether. You express your feelings to others and all you hear is that you just need to “play more to get better,” but I know that doesn’t always work. How do you even get good at strategy board games?
I grew up hearing that “board games aren’t about winning, they are about having fun.” This is true, but I also know that being beaten every single game is NOT FUN.
How do you get better at strategy board games? There are a few things you can do. Mimic the best player in the group and focus on what he/she is doing and try to learn from them. There is a reason they are always winning, so try to be better than them. Make sure to read and deeply understand all of the rules and different scenarios of the board game. Take time to really practice and think out different strategies. Lastly, understand WHY you lost the game and what you can do next time to avoid it. If you really want to win, then you will put in the effort to come out victorious.
Strategy board games do not have to be difficult to conquer. There are necessary steps you can take to become a better board game and get better at strategy board games.
How to Become Better at Strategy Board Games
Those are just a few ideas to get you thinking. I’ll go over them in full detail and will also explain different strategies when it comes to different types of games.
Mimic the Best Player – Learn to Read People
There’s always that one guy or gal in the group that always wins. You glare at them and hear them gloat everytime they get their last victory point or move their pawn across the finish line. You think to yourself “just one day that will be me.” But that day never comes.
If there is someone in your group that always seems to win, then you need to be better than them. It’s easier said than done, I know. They may just be naturally great at board games or they may have skills that you are lacking. Take a second to think about it. How come they are always winning?
It’s time to dig deep and discover what it is that is keeping you from winning the game. Your opponent is doing something better than you, so you need to throw a wrench in their plan. Odds are that they have mastered this one skill. That is, the skill of reading people.
The key to becoming the ‘best player’ is to be great at reading people. I bet you that this is why this person in your group keeps winning over and over again. They are reading your every move and are always two steps ahead of you.
You need to consider and understand the motives and actions of other players in order to adjust your play. Stop focusing on yourself. You need to see what other players want/need and then you need to block them from achieving it. This can lead you to great success and a potential win, if you play your cards right (see what I did there).
Here’s an example. You have probably played ‘Ticket to Ride’ at least once in your life. If you haven’t, well, shame on you! Only joking, but you should definitely play it! The objective in Ticket to Ride is to match up different playing cards of the same color in order to put down trains and connect different locations on the map.
Each player has at least two objectives of locations they need to be connected. As you play, you can begin to see each person’s objective as they place their trains down on the map. The strategy of this game is that you need to catch on to their destination and block them from achieving the fastest route, thus causing them to have to place even more trains down to reach their destination.
Odds are the people you are playing against are only focusing on their destination and not worrying about others. This is where you can really swoop in for the kill and control the whole game. You just need to be smart and be able to read the people you are playing with.
It does take practice, but try it next time you play. I guarantee that you will find that you have a better chance of winning this way.
Make sure to fully understand the gameplay and read the instructions
I know that the instruction manual to a board game can be long and boring, but this is one of the most important aspects to becoming a better board gamer.
A board game manual can be intense. My first thought when looking at the manual is “Woah, that’s a lot of words!” But after a lot of staring and burning a hole through the pages with my eyes, I begin reading front to back. Sometimes I read through the instructions multiple times. GASP, could you imagine?
You need to read the instructions and understand them like the back of your hand. Why? Because in order to master the game, you need to internalize every rule and intent of the game to understand the flow of it’s mechanics.
The creators made instruction booklets detailed for a reason. If you want to master a game, then you need to understand every single possible outcome and scenario of the game. This is all outlined in the manual. At least I always hope it is.
I cannot imagine playing a board game without even understanding it. You need to know every path to victory and consider what actions would be the best to take given the certain situation. THIS IS CALLED STRATEGY!
Far too often, people ignore the fact that you need to win most games by having the most points, not by having the biggest pile of money or the most land. I understand that some games call for this, and that’s why you need to read carefully to understand the game’s intent.
Your focus should be on achieving the most points or the winning factor of whatever game you are playing. Every single step or action that you take should be a step towards achieving victory. You should never do anything just to do it. That would be a waste.
Ok so that makes sense, but how do you know what steps to take? Well, READ THE RULE BOOK. The rule book will literally tell you what you need to do to win. Unless it’s a crappy rule book. If that’s the case, then look for a different one online. You can find some really great strategy guides online.
Knowing the rules of the game and what resources are available to you is so important. If you internalize the rules and resources of the game, this should greatly inform you of how exactly the game is intended to be played. Once you play the way the game is intended to be played, then you are on a set path to victory.
Game rules can be either simple or comlex. A lot of games have many different strategies. Therefore, you must learn to decide which ones to employ at which time and be willing to change strategies mid-game if necessary.
Learn to love game booklets and read them like you are learning the recipe to your momma’s homemade apple pie. You wouldn’t want to mess up that family recipe now would you?
Play Solo and Become A Better Board Gamer
Ok, so I said before that playing a game over and over again might not work. But it can work if you are doing it the right way. One way to improve your strategy and gameplay is to play the same game over and over again, trying out different playstyles and paths to victory. This will help to find and internalize what strategy will work best for you.
You don’t need your friends (or enemies) to play with you every single time. I go over in another article why playing single player board games is a great idea, and part of this reason is because it gives you a chance to practice and get better at the game!
Even if it’s a game that you can’t play solo, then play as every person in the game. This removes the pressure of playing against others and the need to win. You can play the game how you want to play it and you can try out different moves to study the gameflow.
I once set up a whole board game in my basement and was playing every turn by myself and against myself. My mom came downstairs and thought I was crazy. But hey, it helped me improve my gameplay!
You want to get better right? Then you need to be willing to put in the effort to practice and learn.
Just Talk it Out
If your friends are board game fanatics like you and are willing to help you succeed at board gaming, then talk about the game with them.
Get a feel for what they are thinking and how they are being successful. Dig at them and get them to share their secrets!
Another great thing is the Internet. So many people are in similar situations like you and are seeking help online. You can watch playthroughs on Youtube and many creators have even made strategy videos or guides on specific games. Watch them!
Look up online discussions for a particular game and join in on the conversation. Have a specific question? Just ask, and I bet someone will answer.
Be Confident About Your Every Move
I was like you. When I started playing board games, I sucked. Every single game I played with my friends, I lost. It started not being fun anymore. My friends even started losing interest in playing with me because there was “no competition.” Ouch.
I knew I had to change something within myself to make it fun again. I found that I lacked the self-confidence in taking bolder moves and always went for the “safe bet.” This made me scared to take risks, thus losing every game I played.
I noticed that my opponents were taking risks and were always one step ahead of me. How did they do that?
Most people need to understand that a big portion of succeeding at board games is engaging in certain aspects of the game and taking calculated risks. You may have found a strategy that you are comfortable with, but it’s not THE strategy to win the games.
Don’t be afraid to change your strategy as a winning player always balances strategyand tactics in their decisions.
Some players can lose sight of the winning conditions and the path to victory can be easily obscured.
I hope you were able to gain some insight on how to become a better board gamer. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below!