19 votes

Advice for people terrified of board games?

Most of my friends and my husband love board games- the more complicated, the better! My whole life, many board games have given me pretty bad anxiety to the point where I pretended I hated them rather than admit I was just scared.

Over the past few years, I have found a few games I don't mind playing- mostly cooperative (Sentinels of the Multiverse, Betrayal at House on the Hill) or anonymous ones (Cards Against Humanity, Jackbox Games). I still have a hard time playing strategy games like Catan or Ticket to Ride; games which involve guessing what others will do like Rook or The Resistance make me want to die.

A lot of times, my friends just want to sit around and play board games, and I'm trying to build up a list of games I like to play so I can join in. Any advice for getting used to them/learning to play in advance, or games that are fun for serious board gamers, but still sort of low pressure?

Thanks!

34 comments

  1. [6]
    Ganymede
    Link
    I've felt similar anxieties and honestly, the only way I was able to make progress getting over it was just playing. Being okay telling people that I was new to playing these sorts of games and...

    I've felt similar anxieties and honestly, the only way I was able to make progress getting over it was just playing. Being okay telling people that I was new to playing these sorts of games and that it was going to take me a while to pick it up.

    Sure, some people may be jerks and take advantage of your novice, but people will also help coach you. Over time you get more comfortable in the space of focus and things get, not easier exactly but at least less uncomfortable.

    Also whenever I'm about to play a new game I like to watch how-to-plays on YouTube.

    14 votes
    1. azulez
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This is pretty true; I used to feel this way. I think it's associated with fear or failure in competitive environments. I learned to pretty much just 'stop giving a fuck', win or lose - (sorry for...

      This is pretty true; I used to feel this way. I think it's associated with fear or failure in competitive environments. I learned to pretty much just 'stop giving a fuck', win or lose - (sorry for the cliche). I often go into them assuming I'm going to lose, but still trying things out and sometimes just deciding to go after people who messed with me (though in good spirit!).

      I try to strike a balance of taking the mechanics seriously, but not taking the game itself or its results personally. You might consider breaking into 'competitive' games with larger elements of chance to reduce some of the pressure.

      All that said, cooperative games are still by far my favorite genre. I prefer to work with my friends so we all succeed -- and -that- said, playing a pvp game together and having fun is also another definition of success! You never fail if your goal is to learn and have fun learning.

      Editted addendum: Oh! Totally echo that senitment - learn/prep, watch a video of gameplay. There are tons of youtube tutorials which are fantastic complements to the manual. Things that will give you the flow and the underlying concepts.

      5 votes
    2. [4]
      Petril
      Link Parent
      Thanks! No, I'm definitely not worried about them taking advantage of my skill-level aside from a couple, and that thought doesn't even bother me. It's more of an irrational fear of doing...

      Thanks! No, I'm definitely not worried about them taking advantage of my skill-level aside from a couple, and that thought doesn't even bother me. It's more of an irrational fear of doing something new/something I'm not good at. I don't mind actually losing one bit; but thinking about doing something I'm not an expert at sometimes gives me heart palpitations. It's really dumb and doesn't make a ton of sense.

      The gameplay videos on YouTube is a great suggestion! Thanks!

      1 vote
      1. azulez
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Still very with you on the fear thing.. I would say look at the meta of dealing with exactly that situation. Learning on your feet in front of people is absolutely a skill in itself, and...

        Still very with you on the fear thing.. I would say look at the meta of dealing with exactly that situation. Learning on your feet in front of people is absolutely a skill in itself, and developing your tool-set will help you in the long term (potentially outside of games) - and paying attention/learning from that is something that carries across all games; getting familiar with the sensation and that it's ok to not know what you're doing. Important thing is being able to center and find direction, work on things incrementally. It's about developing that process.

        Heck, you're already developing it by asking. :]

        Good luck! And remember, it's just another experience.

        1 vote
      2. [2]
        Emerald_Knight
        Link Parent
        Is it a fear of doing something you're not an expert at, or doing something you're not an expert at in front of other people? It sounds to me like it might be the latter, a form of performance...

        Is it a fear of doing something you're not an expert at, or doing something you're not an expert at in front of other people? It sounds to me like it might be the latter, a form of performance anxiety, but I don't want to assume anything.

        1 vote
        1. Petril
          Link Parent
          It can be both. In this case, it's definitely in front of other people. Fun little tidbit, though, I have no problem speaking in front of people. Never have. shrug

          It can be both. In this case, it's definitely in front of other people. Fun little tidbit, though, I have no problem speaking in front of people. Never have. shrug

  2. [5]
    burntcookie90
    Link
    Play co-op games! Hanabi is a great starter, pandemic is tougher but fun since you're working with your team. Competitive games where you're not actively against each other, like Splendor, let you...

    Play co-op games! Hanabi is a great starter, pandemic is tougher but fun since you're working with your team. Competitive games where you're not actively against each other, like Splendor, let you get your feet under your to figure out game mechanics. You may not win, but you'll get a good feeling of accomplishment as things start to happen.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      LoanWolf
      Link Parent
      Seconding Hanabi as a perfect co-op game for you. Though it's not my favourite, something like Flash Point as well. And agreed, look into games that have indirect player interaction or no player...

      Seconding Hanabi as a perfect co-op game for you. Though it's not my favourite, something like Flash Point as well.
      And agreed, look into games that have indirect player interaction or no player interaction as a jumping-off point until you're more confident. Things like NMBR9, Flamme Rouge, Fabled Fruit, Sagrada, or Super Motherload.

      4 votes
      1. Petril
        Link Parent
        Thank you! I'm looking forward to learning more about these!

        Thank you! I'm looking forward to learning more about these!

    2. [2]
      Petril
      Link Parent
      Thanks! Luckily I'm not too worried about winning. I think if I had to put a name to it, I would be worried about having to make decisions by myself which might make me look foolish. (I'm...

      Thanks! Luckily I'm not too worried about winning. I think if I had to put a name to it, I would be worried about having to make decisions by myself which might make me look foolish. (I'm embarrassed even reading that back.) I like co-op games more because I can ask and check my thinking.

      Thanks again!

      1. cancel
        Link Parent
        Hanabi is a fantastic game, but there are lots of moments where you feel the pressure of "I need to do what my teammates want / expect me to do" - though I would recommend the game to basically...

        Hanabi is a fantastic game, but there are lots of moments where you feel the pressure of "I need to do what my teammates want / expect me to do" - though I would recommend the game to basically everyone to try because it's just that good, I'm not entirely sure based on this post that you'll enjoy the experience relative to other things that have been posted in this thread. Also, table talk is explicitly disallowed in Hanabi because the game is all about induction - "ask and check my thinking" would be banned within the game at least for most groups (though it happens a lot after the game is done!).

  3. [2]
    Catt
    Link
    Maybe try to play more simple competitive games, such as Valley of the Kings and Jaipur. Their mechanics are relatively simple, so there isn't a lot to keep in mind and there is an aspect of...

    Maybe try to play more simple competitive games, such as Valley of the Kings and Jaipur. Their mechanics are relatively simple, so there isn't a lot to keep in mind and there is an aspect of chance that I personally think helps to keep the game light.

    4 votes
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      Thank you! I'll look into those. I definitely like games with an element of chance; they take some of the pressure off.

      Thank you! I'll look into those. I definitely like games with an element of chance; they take some of the pressure off.

      1 vote
  4. Omega
    Link
    Start getting into lore; get fascinated by the actual mechanics; start saving money; develop your imaginary loadout; spend a lot of money on the thing; prepare them; fail; prepare again; finally...

    Start getting into lore; get fascinated by the actual mechanics; start saving money; develop your imaginary loadout; spend a lot of money on the thing; prepare them; fail; prepare again; finally set up; play for 25-45 minutes; get beaten by your friend; repeat from "start saving money"

    Congratulations! You learned the majority of how Warhammer matches play out!

    2 votes
  5. [2]
    notlogic
    Link
    I have tons of different board games, many or most of the ones mentioned so far in this discussion. I'm one of the few people who enjoys them all. Everyone has their own tastes in what games they...

    I have tons of different board games, many or most of the ones mentioned so far in this discussion. I'm one of the few people who enjoys them all. Everyone has their own tastes in what games they like, and that's okay. One thing I enjoy doing is, whenever I have a group of friend over, trying to think of which game (if any) all the people present would enjoy. If there isn't one then I don't recommend playing a game.

    Perhaps, rather than trying to 'like' games you don't enjoy, you could just expand on the games you do enjoy so that when all your friends are over there are more options available that all people know and like.

    Someone else mentioned Pandemic, which I will second. It's co-op (players vs the board game/disease). Find several like that and I think you and your friends will have a great time.

    1 vote
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      I think we got Pandemic as a gift for our wedding. I should ask my husband about playing it! Thanks for the advice!

      I think we got Pandemic as a gift for our wedding. I should ask my husband about playing it!

      Thanks for the advice!

      1 vote
  6. [2]
    jeff
    Link
    I've had a long history of playing and enjoying quite complicated board games, but at this point my pool of potential gamers is family and co-workers who are way more likely to participate in and...

    I've had a long history of playing and enjoying quite complicated board games, but at this point my pool of potential gamers is family and co-workers who are way more likely to participate in and enjoy lighter fare. So I tend to look for games which have fairly simple rules, but some depth of strategy. Games that are easy to teach and learn, and can be played by most anyone, but which still allow for some thinking for those players who want to dive a little deeper into thinking out optimal moves or non-obvious strategies. Seems to work well for everyone.

    One example is Cottage Garden (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/204027/cottage-garden), 2-4 players. The rules are fairly simple, with several YouTube "how to play" videos available. Everyone's choosing pieces from a central pool, but gets to play on their own board, which I find to be a lower stress game mechanic...kind of a "group solitaire". And once you play through it you realize there's a bit of depth to it, and if you want to, you can put in some mental effort to think through the possibilities for your next several moves and optimize your choices.

    1 vote
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      Thank you for the input! I'm glad to have a bunch of games to try!

      Thank you for the input! I'm glad to have a bunch of games to try!

  7. [2]
    johnlawrenceaspden
    Link
    You might want to try to work out what it is in particular that's responsible for your "ugh field". Do you have the same reaction to sports? Do you like e.g. playing tennis? What about something...

    You might want to try to work out what it is in particular that's responsible for your "ugh field". Do you have the same reaction to sports? Do you like e.g. playing tennis?

    What about something like chess (one-on-one competition but you know everything) against poker (chance, and bluff)?

    If you can work out the particular thing that you don't like, and work out why (probably a bad experience a long time ago), and how to fix it, then you might end up changing your life.

    1 vote
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      I think it's just your average run-of-the-mill anxiety. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse. I know my strategies to combat it when I need to, so It's been great getting suggestions of...

      I think it's just your average run-of-the-mill anxiety. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse. I know my strategies to combat it when I need to, so It's been great getting suggestions of co-op games I can try!

  8. [2]
    Meowstro
    Link
    There's generally a winning strategy to each type of board game if you're struggling with mechanics. Resource games typically can be won with getting any type of resource generation, basically a...

    There's generally a winning strategy to each type of board game if you're struggling with mechanics. Resource games typically can be won with getting any type of resource generation, basically a slow buildup by being able to purchase more victory points a turn, where you get to a point that you can practically buy half the board in one turn, and then cash-in victory. (It's susceptible to a good blitz play, but that usually means the opponent is really really good at that game, and you're probably screwed anyways)

    Deck-building and drafting games can usually be won with some sort of cascade effect, where you can draw more cards and extend your turn almost infinitely.

    Push your luck type games, I usually mitigate the chance of failure as much as I can, then push to an extreme.

    I would suggest some co-op games, since it sounds more like you're not a fan of adversarial games. Stuff like Pandemic would be good. Harry Potter Hogwarts battle is another fun one (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/199042/harry-potter-hogwarts-battle)

    Of course, these are all general strategies and different games may not support the strategy due to their quirks.

    1 vote
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      Thank you! And I love Harry Potter, so I might have to try that one out!!

      Thank you! And I love Harry Potter, so I might have to try that one out!!

  9. Pibbman
    (edited )
    Link
    I'd check out Letters from Whitechapel. It kind of is and isn't a cooperative game. It is based on Jack the Ripper. One player plays as Jack and you try to escape the clutches of the police, which...

    I'd check out Letters from Whitechapel. It kind of is and isn't a cooperative game. It is based on Jack the Ripper. One player plays as Jack and you try to escape the clutches of the police, which is played by everyone else. Police can and should cooperate together as you try and corner Jack and guess where he is.

    It can be very intense but it is exhilarating.

    1 vote
  10. elf
    Link
    The games people have suggested so far are good, and from the list of games you do like it seems like you have a solid understanding of what you enjoy (co-op, anonymous, and I'd add to that...

    The games people have suggested so far are good, and from the list of games you do like it seems like you have a solid understanding of what you enjoy (co-op, anonymous, and I'd add to that heavily "flavor" based or humor based.)

    So instead I'll say that it's ok to have strong preferences in terms of what board games you like! Not everyone is going to be into competitive stuff. Personally one of the reasons I like games is I can develop a mastery of them--so for me, if I can go through an entire game without making mistakes, I find it boring since that means I've already learned everything there is to learn about playing it.

    Try keeping in mind that screwing up is part of the process of learning. And, if you're playing a competitive game, no one else will mind if you make a mistake! If you don't mind losing, as you said, you haven't even hurt yourself by making a mistake.

    And, while I don't know you or your group, it might help if you ask other people not to give you advice or comment on your play? That could end up adding to your anxiety, paradoxically. On the other hand, maybe the complete opposite would help--tell everyone that you're new to a game and want help choosing moves. Maybe play with your hand face up (if that's relevant to your game) and trust that the rest of the group will use that information to help you, rather than metagaming with the info.

    1 vote
  11. chocolate
    Link
    Don't make your goal winning the game. Make your goal understanding the game.

    Don't make your goal winning the game. Make your goal understanding the game.

    1 vote
  12. [2]
    evye
    Link
    I wanted to say first that I understand the anxiety. There are some friends whom I love dearly but could never play board games with because they get competitive and edgy and it weirds me out....

    I wanted to say first that I understand the anxiety. There are some friends whom I love dearly but could never play board games with because they get competitive and edgy and it weirds me out.

    Tokaido is a very relaxing, low-stakes, easy to understand game for beginners or for seasoned gamers. You may also enjoy Muse or Sagrada, which focus more on art and creating things.

    1 vote
    1. Petril
      Link Parent
      I just played that!! I had a girls' weekend and one of my friends brought it. It's definitely not my typical kind of game, because I still had to compete against others, but the art was cute and...

      I just played that!! I had a girls' weekend and one of my friends brought it. It's definitely not my typical kind of game, because I still had to compete against others, but the art was cute and the game seemed low stakes. It would be fun to play again.

      1 vote
  13. [4]
    UnderwearNinja
    Link
    There's an overwhelming number of game "types" out there too. Like "deck builders" and "euros" and I don't even know what they really are. I have found that Splendor is a super easy "Deck Builder"...

    There's an overwhelming number of game "types" out there too. Like "deck builders" and "euros" and I don't even know what they really are.

    I have found that Splendor is a super easy "Deck Builder" style that people pick up and enjoy quickly.

    Love Letter is another great game that probably has a "type" but I find it super simple to teach/play for just about anyone as well.

    1. Qis
      Link Parent
      Nah, dog, Splendor's not a deckbuilder. The lingo comes over time as you immerse in the hobby, which you don't have to do to enjoy the games. Once you've played a few hundred games they fall into...

      Nah, dog, Splendor's not a deckbuilder. The lingo comes over time as you immerse in the hobby, which you don't have to do to enjoy the games. Once you've played a few hundred games they fall into broad categories.

      1 vote
    2. [2]
      QuellSpeller
      Link Parent
      For a deck builder you'd be talking something more like Dominion, where everyone starts with the same deck of 10 or so cards and buy cards from a market to upgrade their deck as the game...

      For a deck builder you'd be talking something more like Dominion, where everyone starts with the same deck of 10 or so cards and buy cards from a market to upgrade their deck as the game progresses. I would recommend Dominion for OP though, it's often described as multi-player solitaire so it avoids a lot of the conflict they seem to avoid!

      1 vote
      1. UnderwearNinja
        Link Parent
        I feel like Splendor operates about the same as Dominion where you collect cards, then do stuff with those cards. It's also really easy to learn, and unlike Dominion you don't have to read/learn a...

        I feel like Splendor operates about the same as Dominion where you collect cards, then do stuff with those cards. It's also really easy to learn, and unlike Dominion you don't have to read/learn a bunch of cards to figure out how to play. Granted it's only 10 at a time, but people I've shown both too seem to pick up and enjoy Splendor really quickly.

        Your comment made me look up the terminology though, thank you for that! According to Board Game Geek, Splendor is "set collection" and it shares "card drafting" with Dominion. Hence the similar feel, but Dominion clearly involves a Deck.

        1 vote
  14. UserFriendlyRobot
    Link
    It's okay to lose. I'm the worst at board games, but I really like them. Usually I only play with close friends and just everyone being together is worth it. It's kind of reassuring that there are...

    It's okay to lose. I'm the worst at board games, but I really like them. Usually I only play with close friends and just everyone being together is worth it. It's kind of reassuring that there are somethings that you can't just go connect to a server and play with strangers.

    If you have a group of dedicated friends who wont get mad play axis and allies an hour a night over the course of a month. I only done this once but it was magical.

  15. Goat_On_A_Table
    Link
    You're definitely not alone, I've seen a ton of people feel like you do. My personal theory is that the games LOOK more complicated than they ARE. And you, a fully functioning adult who...

    You're definitely not alone, I've seen a ton of people feel like you do.

    My personal theory is that the games LOOK more complicated than they ARE. And you, a fully functioning adult who understands plenty of things in the course of living your life, have no idea how to understand them.

    If you're not the kind of person who enjoys reading rulebooks, I highly recommend YouTube. Boardgaming is becoming super popular on streaming, and you will undoubtedly be able to find plenty of accessible videos of people playing whatever game you want, some instructional and some for fun.

  16. merick
    Link
    I'm in a similar position, even if for different reasons. Never played a lot of board games mostly because none of my friends were into it, so I never got into it myself either. Recently got...

    I'm in a similar position, even if for different reasons. Never played a lot of board games mostly because none of my friends were into it, so I never got into it myself either. Recently got together with some people and we play Tabletop Simulator together every once in a while. Really enjoying it, but the crazy strategy games where you have think 5 steps ahead of everyone else are not my thing. I've been enjoying some simpler ones like Terraforming Mars and some "less serious" ones like Munchkin.