9 Life Lessons We Learned From Board Games

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We play board games for many reasons, whether it be to put our critical thinking skills to the test or to simply share some laughs with a few friends. But that’s not all we do when we sit down to various glorious tabletops and start popping out cardboard chit after cardboard chit.

Board games offer many opportunities to discover more about ourselves, our friends, and how we interact with others. Whether competitive or cooperative, board games teach us lessons about the real world, and what we learn from them can be valuable assets to bring to any social interaction.

Being behind doesn’t always mean that you’re losing.

The tide of a game can turn at any point, and sometimes you can see the change coming where other times the shift is a complete surprise. In many cases, the winner is determined and points are counted at the end of a game, so you can never truly know where you stand. Anything can happen in a game, and someone else’s decision or strategy could drastically change your prospects.

Taking a different path sometimes gives you the best results.

Take the road less traveled by, and it could make all the difference. Robert Frost knew his stuff, because it’s so easy to get stuck in a routine or to follow the bandwagon. You get comfortable with a certain pattern and suddenly it’s impossible to think of alternate routes, even though this pattern may not be the best strategy. Sometimes it’s best to make yourself think outside the box; if anything, it will surprise other players and give you the upper hand.

The dice can roll either way. Don’t blame yourself.

So many games feature random chance as a method of determining outcomes, and this often means that no amount of genius strategy can make a difference. If we’re being honest with ourselves, doesn’t the randomness offered by a pair of dice simulate life better than a vacuum unaffected by chance? Even the best preparations can miss the mark due to unforeseen circumstances, and you can’t blame yourself for an outcome dictated by fate or by the roll of a die.

Overcoming analysis paralysis is challenging, but not impossible.

In life as well as board games, we can be faced with so many choices that we suddenly freeze up, unable to make a decision. We think having more choices must be better than having less, but it can make it impossible to move forward. As a result, your strategy falls apart and your progress halts. Getting past this paralysis involves narrowing down your options and keeping calm in the face of pressure.

You don’t always need to think of the perfect solution to a problem.

If you find yourself suffering from analysis paralysis, remind yourself that the “perfect” choice, the magical strategy that will surely give you victory, may just not be there. Or even if it is there, you would be better off settling for the idea that you can actually see rather than spending more time and effort trying to find the ultimate solution. Sometimes going with your first or second idea will help you move forward better than if you did find the “perfect” strategy.

What happens on the tabletop, stays on the tabletop.

Some friends can be ruthless in games and even be massive poops at times, but try not to let their in-game behavior influence your out-of-game perception of them. When they laid waste to your entire army and forced you off the board, it didn’t mean that they hate you and will never respect you as a human being. They only wanted to win, as you did. Another option is to just not play games with them. Still, learning which friends fit in which circumstances is essential: some will always find the humor in a situation where others will put blinders on and only think of victory. Knowing your friends better can help you shape your gaming experience—and life—for yourself.

Find the information relevant to the task at hand and weed out unnecessary clutter.

This one is fairly straightforward and can encourage effective note-taking skills. When examining a board or listening to a lecture, you can’t memorize all of the information. It’s extremely difficult to take stock of everything and then come away with one clear, prevailing idea. Playing board games gives you a relatively low-stakes way to practice finding essential information and disregarding the excess stuff that will only weigh you down.

Know what you bring to a group and when to let others take the spotlight.

This lesson applies to collaborative games just as well as any group projects and challenges faced in life. It’s important to know how to best coordinate everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, be it determined by stats on a character sheet or by sheer life experience and knowledge. When someone has a plan that sounds like it could work, let him or her try it out and orchestrate it. Working in a group means knowing equally when to take charge and when to step back.

Being a good loser can help you face the next challenge with expert calm.

It’s important to accept failure graciously and not get too bogged down in the details of your loss. Yes, if only the dice had rolled your way and not Jim’s, or if only you had thought to move your footman one combat zone over, things could be different. But you can’t change the past, and the best you can do is to try to learn from any mistakes you made and to accept that you may not have actually done anything wrong. Taking losses in stride is key to coming back to the next game unfazed and more ready than ever.

What life lessons have you learned from playing board games? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image credit: Pip R. Lagenta/flickr
Image credits: Disney,  Wikimedia Commons, misomeru/tumblr, NBC

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