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How to get better at board games

This post was last updated on January 18th, 2023

Today I’ll be talking about something different.
I usually cover board games reviews, but this topic is also interesting: How to get better at board games?

For most people board games are an alternative way to enjoy the spare time together with children or friends, and it is not important to win or lose but to have fun.

I totally get that point of view and I generally agree with it, but on the other hand, I’m quite a competitive person and most of the time I don’t like losing.
It also strongly depends on the game I’m playing. For example, when I play Tokaido I don’t care if I win or lose, I just enjoy the game despite the outcome.

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I think there are ways to improve your ability at playing board games and here are my top recommendations for you, with some examples from my personal experiences:

#1 – Focus on the game

First and foremost, this is the most important advice to get better at board games: be focused on the game while playing it.
I have seen so many people with their head in the clouds while playing.

If you start a game and you aim for victory, you can’t let yourself be distracted by what surrounds you. Otherwise you made your first step on the losing path.

#2 – Talk about strategies and ask for feedbacks

This is something that I really enjoy doing and I do it quite often with my friends.
Discussing the different strategies each player has taken throughout the game is crucial to understand other people’s way of thinking.
Another important point is asking for feedback. What could you have done differently? What didn’t work on your last turn? Those questions can only be answered by the people that are playing with you.

#3 – Play solo

Playing solo games that are meant for 2+ players is an amazing way to step up a notch your skills.
This allows you to play it in depth and to take your time to think about different winning paths, without having the pressure to come up with a strategy during the actual game with your friends.

I used to play World of Warcraft the board game on a solo mode (even though is not 100% recommended because it’s a crazy long game) and just playing solo a few times allowed me to understand the best way to build up my character, with the result of increasing my winning ratio.

#4 – Try different games

Never get stuck on a single board game genre.
You should try to play a lot of different games that require unique ways of thinking.

Your mindset will definitely be pushed to different directions, making it adaptable for a lot more various situations.

#5 – Understand why you lose

Why did you lose at that game? Was it a strategic error or perhaps just a bit of bad luck?
This is super important to get better at board games, as you can avoid the same mistakes only if you know what you have done wrong.

Knowing your weaknesses and understand how to improve them will only be beneficial.

#6 – Always have a plan B

When playing a game something that really gets underestimated is the power of the opponents’ turn phase.
You could take advantage of it by thinking of a plan B, or even a plan C, that you could follow if your main strategy won’t be achievable for whatever reasons.

Instead of staring at your opponents’ faces while waiting for your turn, thinking about different winning paths is definitely a better choice!

For example when I play Smash Up, 99% of the time I think about my next move, trying to come up with 2 different approaches based on how opponents play the current turn.

#7 – Read online strategies

On the web, there are plenty of reliable forums or websites that publish daily strategies for our favourites board games.
Reading those articles or watching videos is a wonderful way to learn and get better at board games.

Personally I find very useful BGG and Reddit, where you could find some interesting strategies.

This blog will soon have a strategies section too, in which I will talk about tips and winning strategies of the board games I like. Stay tuned!

#8 – Don’t get yourself stuck into tricky situations

Knowing when it’s time to shine or when it’s time to be more hidden is crucial in some games.
If you’re leading the board, other players are more likely to see you as the common enemy to defeat, making your path to victory more difficult.
Staying in the shadow and hit when the opponents’ can’t come back is usually a good idea!

The perfect example of explaining this point is the board game Smallworld.
If you’re leading the game, it is very common that the other players will try to destroy your army to stop you. It would be a good idea to play a bit safer until a certain point of the game, where you can then go all-in and any opponents’ comeback would be too late at that point.

#9 – Read the cards carefully and understand them

This is kind of an obvious one, but not so much in some cases.
If you’re playing board games that involve the use of cards, take your time to read them carefully to avoid missing opportunities.
In some games playing a card at the right timing is fundamental to win.

#10 – Play games for beginners first

When you start playing board games is very easy to get stuck into games bigger than us (Gloomhaven coff coff..) or even worse getting annoyed by them.
What I’d suggest is to try to start with some board games that have an easy learning curve and really try to master them.
Then you could slowly move onto something more difficult.

I have written an article featuring the Best Board Games for beginners that might be useful!

#11 – Try different characters

This tip is very much related to Role playing board games.
When it comes to choosing our hero, we are usually inclined to pick up our favourite or the one we know the best.
I found really useful to get out of my comfort zone and try different characters. It was difficult at the beginning, but I have slowly improved my skills.

When playing World of Warcraft the board game I used to pick the Druid and really enjoyed it, but my game soon became predictable with the result of winning fewer games.
I then decided to change my hero swapping to Rogue or Paladin and I finally saw the game from another perspective, which helped a lot.

#12 – Look at opponents strategies and learn from them

In most of the board games there is one winner and a bunch of non-winners.
If a person wins the game is because was better than you in 99% of the cases, and from that person there is always something to learn.
Studying the opponent’s way of playing should benefit your game enormously.

Me and my friends used to play Smallworld and I probably never won a single game!
I then started to study their way of playing and I finally understood what I was doing wrong: I had the habit of changing too many races during the game.
By fixing this behaviour, I finally managed to win my first game and it was very rewarding!

#13 – Playing with strangers

I used to play board games with my usual group of friends and after playing with the same people, week after week, it became very easy to read their mind and anticipate or block their strategies.
Everything changed when I moved abroad and I had to find new people to share my hobby with. It was a total game-changer! I wasn’t able to read anyone’s mind anymore.

The amounts of defeats I had to face literally blew my winning ratio away.

Playing with strangers definitely helped me to get better at board games and I can’t recommend this enough!
If there aren’t any places nearby where you live, you could try to play online. There are plenty of websites where you can play for free, such as Board Game Arena.

And that is it!
Hopefully, some of these recommendations will be useful to you as they were to me. If so, please let me know which one of these has helped you out the most.

Catch you on the next article!