In the last year, I’ve begun to get back into board games after a long, hermit-like hiatus. In doing so, I’ve begun to realize that there are two basic approaches to board games – and the differences between the two can affect your enjoyment of the experience, the games you choose to play, and even the company you choose to keep.
The first category is one I’m well-acquainted with, because it’s my own play style. As long as I can remember, I’ve never been someone who worried about winning a game; for me it was much more important that everyone was having a good time. Thus, I might sell a Monopoly property for far less than I should, or deliberately act a little suspicious so the true Cylon isn’t revealed too soon.
This isn’t necessarily the superior approach. Since it’s all about fun for me, I don’t take games particularly seriously, which can be infuriating to someone who is. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants regardless of the game I’m playing. Perhaps as a result, I actually do fairly well at games that require you to think on the fly, but not as well at ones that require actual strategy. And who knows? Maybe I’ve lost out on valuable real-world skills like bargaining – people always liked to take advantage of my generous Monopoly prices.
The alternate approach is, ironically, one utilized by most of my friends. It’s not all about winning for someone like this, either, but it’s the challenge that’s the fun. Thus, you’re doing a disservice to both yourself and the other player by not taking it seriously and giving it your all. After all, if you’re going to only play halfway, why bother?
People who prefer this approach do best in established groups where everyone is on-board with the same level of intensity. They will likely monster a Shiny Happy in a game of strategy, but they might get easily frustrated by games that rely on chance, because there’s no way to improve. In a group where everyone is giving it their all, everyone will probably have a ton of fun. However, in mixed groups, or in casual social situations, they can come across as too intense or fun-sucking.
Now, you might wonder how I, a Shiny Happy, handles playing games with a group of mostly Deep Thinkers. To be honest, it starts with a little bit of compromise. I know that if I agree to a game of Settlers, I will have to prepare to take it seriously (unless it’s, say, Settlers with beer as a commodity). I know what I’m getting myself into, and I know not to get too silly if it’s not that kind of game.
However, I also have games on-hand that don’t require much thought and where silliness is encouraged. I might suggest one of these ‘party games’ if there are more Shiny Happies there, or even if they aren’t, just to mix things up once in awhile. These sorts of games are typically fast and simple, so they’re a good way to break up the marathon stretches and clear out the cobwebs for everyone.
Depending on the company, I might not suggest certain games at all. Why play a game if you know it’s not going to be fun for everyone? You can always have a separate game later for those who enjoy it, or, if you have enough people there, split into groups and have a few games going at once (just be aware of the varying lengths of games).
Honestly, I think it’s most helpful just to be honest with yourself and others about what sort of player you are and what you find fun. And to understand that the opposite approach is not the “stupid way” or the “wrong way.” I’ve seen more than a few rolled eyes in my time, and that sort of lack of respect and understanding is the true downer, not the play style. Oh, and remember: no one is a textbook example, everyone makes exceptions, and these do not fall along gender lines. I may consider myself generally a Shiny Happy in almost all types of games, but I’ve raided almost every week for years now. And any casual tendencies are certainly not because I’m a girl.
What about you? Do you consider yourself a Shiny Happy or a Deep Thinker? Have you run into conflict due to varying play styles? How do you handle game nights when you have varying approaches? Let’s compare strategies!