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How To Avoid Quarterbacking In Board Games

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Quarterbacking is a big problem in cooperative games. If you think that you’ve never experienced it, there’s a good chance that you’re the one doing it. For those that don’t know, quarterbacking is when one person takes over all of the decisions in the game, telling each player what to do, just like a quarterback in American Football (probably, I don’t understand the rules of American football). You end up in a situation where one person is playing a solo game with a bunch of other poor souls to move the pieces for them.

This usually happens when one person knows the game better than the rest. Every time you try to make a move, they’ll chime in with a better alternative. Ultimately, this makes for a pretty boring game for everybody apart from the quarterback. It also sucks for any new players that are trying to learn the game because they don’t really understand the moves they’re making, they’re just doing as they’re told.

The question is, what can you do about it? Do you just kick these people out of your group? Before you tell them it’s not you, it’s me, try some of these methods to stop quarterbacking and make cooperative games cooperative again.

Let People Make Mistakes

You’re introducing your favourite game to a bunch of newbies. You watch in horror as you see that one of them is about to make a less than optimum move. Before they can make the mistake, you jump in and tell them what to do instead. Listen, I get it, it’s frustrating watching people mess up when you can see a much better strategy. But if you want everybody to enjoy the game, you’ve got to let them make their own moves.

When you stop interfering and let people mess up, it gives them a better chance to learn the game. A bad move that puts you on the back foot also means that you have to pull something out of the bag on your turn, so it makes for a more interesting game for you as well. And bear in mind, a new player with a fresh approach to the game could be using effective strategies that you never considered, so don’t be afraid to let people make moves that you wouldn’t do yourself. It’s vital that you manage your facial expressions too. If somebody can see you visibly wincing as they make their move, you may as well be shouting at them to make a different move.

The Person To The Left Rule

Keeping your mouth shut and letting people go wrong can be a good strategy, but cooperative games should have some discussion between the team. The problem comes when one person steam rolls that discussion. My favourite way to get around this is the person to the left rule. It’s simple, you can only get advice from the person sitting to the left of you, and they can only give advice if you ask them for it. Seat people strategically so new players have somebody that knows the game next to them, and make sure that you’re giving advice without telling people exactly what to do. This is a great option because it gives people the chance to work the game out for themselves, but if they’re totally stuck, they can get a bit of direction.

Highlight Problems Without Giving Solutions

Most cooperative games are problem-solving exercises. You’re either trying to stop the game from beating you, or you’re working out the most efficient way to generate points and complete objectives. Quarterbacking becomes an issue when one person tells everybody else exactly how to solve those problems. Why not try highlighting the problems without giving solutions instead? Don’t say, you move here and do X,Y and Z. Say, we need to achieve X and Y, and stop Z from happening, then let people decide how they’re going to do that. It’s a small distinction but one that makes a big difference.

These are all good ways to deal with the quarterbacking problem without breaking up friendships (although sometimes people just can’t help themselves and you should think about missing them off the invite list next game night).