We've all been there before. It's game night and two couples and a single friend get together to have a few drinks and play some board games. Bill and Suzie attack each other first, get competitive fast, and pretty soon they are sabotaging each other relentlessly at every opportunity. Meanwhile, Cindy can't seem to make any progress while Jack and Diane form an unbreakable alliance to crush everyone else. Isn't there another path?
It doesn't have to be this way. When you're looking around the table, contemplating who to assassinate in Secret Hitler, you should be thinking about finding those damned fascists. Not worried about whether you'll be sleeping on the couch if you choose your love, or alienating your friends if you protect her over them every time.
There Are No Spouses In Board Games
At Nonstop Tabletop, we believe that there are no spouses at the tabletop. Here are the definitive tips to make sure your game dynamics aren't unduly influenced by pair bonding.
Tips for Avoiding Table Top Couple Trouble
Don't Be Too Nice To Your Friends
When the first opportunity to attack or sabotage arrives, couples are faced with a dilemma. Going after friends first can seem mean-spirited. After all, your friends invited you over, made food and are generally nice people. Surely your significant other will understand if you attack him first, right? Unfortunately, he's likely to reciprocate with gusto. The volleys continue and accelerate until the only thing that matters is defeating your spouse. At any cost.
Bill and Suzie didn't intend to compete solely with each other, but one thing led to another and now there is blood in the water. Winning isn't as important as making sure the other loses. Don't fall into the trap of always attacking your spouse first. Look at the strategic value of each target and choose accordingly.
Don't Automatically Form An Alliance With Your Spouse
On the other end of the spectrum, it can be tempting to form an alliance with your spouse. After all, you're a great team in life; why not during board games?
During a game of Risk, Jack will set up shop in South America and Diane will take North America. Somehow, despite a woefully under-fortified border, their knowing glances indicate that there won't be any Venezuelan troops marching into Central America any time soon. All of the other players end up in a quagmire in the Middle East as Bill and Suzie repeatedly go on suicide missions just to make sure that the other doesn't get one single freaking turn with a continent bonus.
Meanwhile, Cindy holes up in Australia, hoping that she can just hang on until the game ends. As tempting as it can be, the night will be more fun if you choose your alliances based on strategic circumstances, not who you share a bed with. Your friends will thank you.
Play a Cooperative Game
Ever since Pandemic infected (in a good way) tabletop sessions around the world a few years ago, there has been a steady stream of excellent cooperative games released. There's nothing quite like the feeling of working as a team to stop a global epidemic in its tracks or escape a spaceship filled with snakes. When everyone is working together as a team, unfair alliances and couple competitiveness don't get a seat at the table.
What Happens at the Table Stays at the Table
All spouses should make a pact not to let wrongdoings over the board bleed over into the real world. Social deduction games like Secret Hitler or One Night Ultimate Werewolf are built around deception and cutthroat tactics and aren't as fun without them. Make a pact ahead of time that the night's overall winner owes the loser a thorough backrub. It might just lead somewhere.
Get Casually Competitive
If you've had any of these problems before, use that knowledge when curating the board game selection for the evening. Even if it's not full-on cooperative game, it may be better to choose a competitive game that doesn't allow for alliances or direct sabotage between individual players. Puzzle games like Sagrada and Qwixx are competitive, but don't feature attacks that feel terribly personal. Each player is racing against the others, but the games are more about executing personal strategy most effectively, rather than harming the other players.
Competitive games like Coup and Love Letter offer opportunities to attack other players, but they are so fast and light that the ramifications of those attacks is usually forgotten within minutes when the next round starts. It's hard for alliances or grudges to get much of a foothold when rounds speed by with fun, light, addictive momentum.
Just Have Fun
Board games are supposed to be fun, right? Regardless of who wins or loses or who attacked who, what could be better than a night with your sweetie and your mutual friends, sharing the adrenaline rush of shuffling cards, rolling dice and moving wooden tokens across a game board? Throw in some tasty beverages and life doesn't get any better. Just don't let your choices be affected because your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend is sitting next to you. Remember, it's only a game and There Are No Spouses in Board Games.
- Article by The Happy Strategerist, who is wondering if Board Game Psychology could be a real field of study.
What's the worst atrocity you've committed against your spouse in a board game? Let us know in the comments below. Also, check out our expose on The 10 Types of People Who Ruin Game Night.