Boardgame anxiety


I wanted to see if this is a thing with other people. I’ve built up a smallish boardgame collection over the years (not least through watching SUSD) based on the promise and excitement of the medium. I’ve not ultimately played them many times (other than party/group games like Skull, Codenames etc) and in some cases not at all. I’ve not really got a group that plays boardgames. So my issue is two fold:

I get anxious suggesting to friends that we play a game, particularly asking them to commit to a few hours to learn/play a bigger/complex game. If I do manage to get something to table (for example, a boardgame night with my wife) I get so anxious about the decisions in the game, and making a wrong one, that I’m not even sure I’m enjoying it. The latter in particular is the curse of the perfectionist.

Is this something others have dealt with and what advice do you have? Thanks for reading this long!



Welcome. I’d say a lot of us on here own more games than we can conceivably play.

My (hugely unhelpful) tip is that I always lose to my wife in games, so there isn’t much point in perfection!

I think we all enjoy games in different ways; for me it’s social, plus a puzzle with a bit of competition. I know others really strive to play perfectly or to win and that is how they enjoy the hobby. Working out who you are (which may be different depending on the situation and the game) should help your enjoyment.

Co-op games are (imo) a good way to get a balance between playing a game and not striving to play perfectly to beat someone.


Welcome to the site!

There’s often a saying in this hobby of ours, roughly:

It’s easier to turn boardgamers into friends than it is to turn friends into boardgamers

If your friends are already inclined to play boardgames, then it’s a fairly easy thing to explore. Many of my longtime friends have been video gamers and, in many cases, roleplayers for decades – it was a matter of showing them a boardgame and assuring them it’s more interesting than they might give it credit.

If your friends aren’t particularly geared towards gaming, that’s okay too! I’ve found that the “average person” I encounter isn’t against playing boardgames, the real friction lies within the “let me teach you the rules, it’ll only take 30 minutes” – most non-hobbyist boardgamers I’ve met will play just about any game I put in front of them… they just don’t want to have to learn new rules.

So, start small! Ticket to Ride is a big investment in learning to someone who’s never played a modern boardgame.

Regarding your perfect-play-perplexity, for me, it’s a matter of remembering that boardgames are here for us to have fun. And if a game gives me anxiety… well, I’m likely to let that game go (find a new home for it) and move on to a game with more smiles.

That said, sometimes you want that anxiety in your play.


I think the key is understanding why you are playing the game. If you are playing with competition foremost to mind, then anxiety over optimising moves and performance is entirely understandable.

Anxiety over pulling others into board gaming is understandable, but I agree with @pillbox - most people will be up for playing a game, but the learning process is potentially daunting and off-putting. The trick is to match the games with the players, be it a theme that you know will resonant, or something lighter so the investment overhead is lower.

Worth remembering that we learn by mistakes, so sometimes you’ll learn more about how the mechanisms of a particular game work by just throwing caution to the wind and seeing how it pans out rather than agonising over decisions.


Very much this! Set yourself a top goal for the evening, and if that’s “Get my friends together and make sure they enjoy playing a game so that they’ll play more in future” then remember “Me personally winning that game” isn’t the top goal anymore.

Laughing and having a good time (even if you lose or don’t play perfectly) can mean more game nights happen later on. Anxiety over the best plays can wait for when you have a dedicated friend who wants to be your boardgame nemesis and who you MUST DEFEAT and you both enjoy that :slight_smile:


Welcome @Noopacity! Have you considered your own comfort levels with respect to the games you’re choosing to put on the table? Further to @pillbox’s comment about simple games still presenting a hurdle to new or non-gamers, I think it’s always worth thinking about your own comfort levels first.

While you obviously have the advantage of being eager and willing to learn and play, consider the burden you place on yourself as host: now you must teach, while maintaining attention and hopefully sparking interest, and making sure you aren’t getting things wrong. You will probably have never played yourself, so your “expert” knowledge isn’t likely to be much more than a manual read and a video watch, so questions from players or edge cases that arise might stall the game.

You might be a perfectionist, and it’s a common trait—analysis paralysis is a well defined term in the hobby—but there’s an awful lot going on in a learning game and I wouldn’t necessarily worry too much about those lockups yet. As “host”, my best immediate advice would be to try to consider the experience of the other player(s) since boredom is a killer for “next times”.

Consider playing your multiplayer games solitaire. Myself and several others around here frequently run two- or multi-handed solo games, handling individual players turns and getting a good handle on the mechanics. This is usually to get a good understanding ahead of a teach, but some of us, myself included, do it for fun (hello @yashima :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)! This can really deepen your understanding and allow for a more natural rules explanation, plus open your eyes to gameplay options to suggest to new players on those cramp-inducing first turns.

Analysis paralysis, rules lockups, basically any kind of unwelcome delays are absolute mood killers, particularly during that critical first game. So, further to the initial point: consider your own comfort level with complexity at this time. If you’re trying to table a big crunchy game, you might be overwhelming yourself and damning any prospects for next time. And irrespective of weight, do try to play a game by yourself first. It’s frequently more fun than you might expect and it does absolute wonders for ensuring that first game goes as smoothly as possible.

Finally, a simple one: if you are trying to get people that don’t normally play back to your table, be prepared with a game you’re eager to replay for a while. Rules fatigue is real, and if you show your players a little repeat play, eventually you’ll hear that wonderful sound…

…“so what else you got?”


Hello and welcome!

Many of my friends are playing boardgames but only a couple are hobbyist gamers. And even those mostly do want to play what is familiar and so my collection–especially with recent in person gaming troubles–has a pile of unplayed games. Especially the more complex ones.

I have spent many an hour playing solo-modes or multi-handing my games… and some of them I really enjoy quite a bit even without friends to join in. It also helps to get to know the games better so I am more comfortable with teaching them and knowing if a particular game is the right game for those friends. Matching games with friends is… non trivial and yet to me great fun and then again frustrating because sometimes the result is “I do not have a local group to play Oath with”

It is difficult as @pillbox suggests to convert friends into gamers. But if they are at all willing to play, there is a chance that you may just need to choose your games wisely to pull them in. I would try quick and simple games (Lama Dice is on my list to try with friends) or games that are more an activity rather than a game (Dixit or Concept come to mind) or party-games like Codenames that are designed to be a quick teach and have a laugh together. I say: be patient with complex games. I know which handful of my friends is up to one of those… sometimes. And not all of them are local so… sometimes online boardgames can help out with that particular thing :slight_smile:

And once I played more games in a different medium, my–similar to yours–game anxiety got less as well. Just because we spend a lot of time thinking about games doesn’t mean we get to practice as much as we’d like. The more games I play, the more I get to the point where it is about the playing more than anything else. Also I find cooperative games quite helpful with that.

edit: thanks @VictorViper for the solo-shoutout :wink: See my post further up!


Welcome, Noopacity! Pleasure to have you here, grab a seat and your beverage of choice, make yourself at home. The community here’s very nice, you’ll see.

Lots of really good advice here, I don’t think I have much to add to it, honestly. Introducing new games is tricky. Too heavy and you risk scaring them away, too light and you risk not holding their interest. It’s definitely an art, not a science.

As for analysis paralysis, I know I’m gonna lose against my wife anyway, so I tend to not get it much. :wink: Seriously though, I think starting with lighter games and working your way up will help with that, as you’ll gradually be introduced to more and more options, instead of being thrown into the deep end right away. Coop games can also be a good way.


Welcome @Noopacity - I recognise the anxiety of introducing games to those who you don’t know will like it.

I think the only thing I would add to the amazing advice above- as owner of most of the games and explainer of almost all of them - is that I rarely actually play to win, especially when I am sharing a game for the first time.

This will not come as a shock to those of you I have played with through the forums, but my tiny mind can’t handle all the environmental factors plus the playing side. So don’t sweat it, leave the AP behind and concentrate on everyone having a good time and understanding what they are doing. Then they’ll come back!


I definitely get self-conscious about it.

There is a phenomena that happens both at regular game nights with the game group and at conventions with strangers: groups are slow to suggest or commit to a game. “What do you want to play?” “I don’t know, what do you want to play?” And so on. I think it stems from no one wanting to be imposing upon the others. I also see the same thing happen when trying to decide where to go for lunch.


I like find that having an idea about what I want to try (trying to get one specific sexy combo to hit) to work keeps focus. I also don’t really care about the Other people that much while playing. Selecting a game is a different issue and a bit of stress.


When I’m being Game Demo Guy I often play open or semi-open; I may show my hand, but I’ll definitely narrate my plays. This helps to show some of the possibilities without simply listing them.


Thanks for sharing this. When it comes to select a game for your friends, be sure that it is really, I mean really extremly unlikely that they will be done with board games, just because you choose the wrong game.

Be open about it, say that you aren’t sure if the game you chose is the best fit, but also say why you think it could be a good starting point. Like this, they see that you put thought on it and that they aren’t just here because you need a certain player count, but you want them have fun too. I also think that they would aproach more open minded.

In general: explain why you like your hobby, not why you like a particular game. The most “I think I should try it” responses I get when I explain how fun a board game evening was rather than how intersting a certain mechanic (theme/winning condition etc.) is.


I’m completely blown away by all the thoughtful advice. Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time.

It’s certainly feels a big ask to invite people round with the promise of games, take an evening, and then realise everyone’s overwhelmed/bored. But you could apply that to any social event you’ve taken responsibility for! The limited experiences I have had with friends have been good, so I guess I just need to take confidence from that. Certainly the most successful game has been Quacks of Quedlinburg, which is a great combination of accessible and being a gambling game, gets around my perfectionism. Something like Azul ticks the first of those boxes, but definietly not the second, though that’s also gone down well!

Have also done some solitaire, which has definitely helped. I’m also on BGA and have had a great time with things like Love Letter and For Sale but have not yet veered into anything more complex, so perhaps it would be a good time to check something new out.

Many thanks for all the welcomes. I have actually posted here a couple of times before, but for some reason, I couldn’t find ant evidence of my account. On one of those occasions I was asking for tips on what to take for a week away with friends and all the advice was equally helpful. I ended up with a massive Ikea bag of games and we mostly played Skull…


There’s almost always people on here willing to play async games on BGA. If there’s some thing you especially want to try just make a new post and see who’s interested :+1:


I totally get this and I think it’s normal. Often finding people to play games with and teaching and enjoying a game is tough for me!

With non-gamers I play with a very relaxed attitude, and play simple games, save the serious thinking for the serious gamers. I play with my wife a lot and try to wait until she starts winning or I play with some weird strategy, but most importantly I play quickly so she doesn’t get bored!

Sometimes friends of ours get good at games (Azul springs to mind) but aren’t very interested in anything else, which I sort of understand. They’ve put in the effort to get good but don’t want to expend the effort again.

I could write loads about trying to play games with friends but fundamentally I’ve decided the best solution for me is being in a local games club. There is nothing better than turning up with a bunch of people who just want to play games and don’t have to be slowly tempted into the hobby with a bunch of subtle manoeuvres! If you can, join a club, it’s worth the effort.


I find that when we tell people we’re gamers they either give me a funny look and change the conversation or want to know more about it.


Hi @Noopacity ! I’m very late to the welcome party, and as an avid soloist can really identify with all you have written.

We do a lot of play by forum stuff here as well, so if there are any games that you want to have a test game of, I’m sure we could find some volunteers.

(Past games have run from everything from the mind, to utterly complex stuff including Blood on the clocktower and Pax Pamir 2)


Or someone thinks you mean d&d… not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Welcome back to your new persona @Noopacity. I only have a few friends I can get to play games, my partner plays most of them with me. I’ve found that short games lower complexity Games are a better sell as people can get to grok the game and then play a hand.

A good license/table presence can help too. I’ve got a few people to play the game of thrones board game (which I would say for non gamers is pretty long and complicated) just based on the license, and they’ve enjoyed it.


This is often hugely important with people who don’t (yet?) think of themselves as “boardgamers”. (And I think we’ve talked about this in some other topics.) To me it’s a tableau-builder; to a non-gamer it may be that bird game with the feeding box.