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Board Games Without Too Much Downtime

One fairly common complaint is that board games have too much down time. People get bored waiting for this next turn to come around. And I can get that, especially for a few types of people. If I can decide what I’m going to do on my turn and then I have to wait 15 minutes for another person to take their turn, then do mine in a minute, the disparity can get annoying. Or if you aren’t interested in board games as much, maybe more of a video gamer the time between turns can be longer than you might want.

So how do you keep this from happening?

Now, I could talk about analysis paralysis players here, but often they can cause some of the problems. But I just want to touch on that type of player briefly. It’s hard to remove downtime for any game that they are playing. It is going to be somewhat incumbent upon that player themselves to fix the problem simply by having an internal clock and being aware that they need to make a decision. And even then, it can be hard for some analysis paralysis players to make a decision.

The other big thing that you can do is play game where everyone takes their turn at the same time. Or at least there are things that people do on the other players turns. There are a lot of roll and writes that I’ll be using as an example here. Welcome To…, MetroX, Railroad Ink, Criss Cross, Second Chance, Dungeon Doodle, and more, all have players doing things at the same time. Then there are games like Ganz Schon Clever, Twice as Clever, and Clever Hoch Drei for games where players take actions or use dice on their opponents turns. For a non-roll and write game, would be something like Dice Forge where you are rolling dice every turn, even when it’s not your turn.

But You Want to Play Other Games?

There are a ton of board games out there, though that aren’t great for people playing at the same time. But it’s hard to not play some games in your collection because they don’t work for everyone in your group. So how do you get them to the table?

For me, I think it’s about creating time and space with the people you want at the table for that game. Fairly often, or the goal anyways, is to do a couple of board game nights a month, as well as some of my campaign stuff. I look it my board game nights as two different groups. There is a casual group where I focus on games with limited downtime or limited strategy so that we can chat through them for at least a little bit of the night. Then I have another game night where the point is to play a larger game. And that group, I tend to pick players who can get through a big game in a night. I know that some games would just not work in a night with some people, and no real knock against those people, but knowing the audience is important.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

The challenge can arise, however, if you don’t have a ton of people to play with. And to get these other games you have to play with people who get distracted or take a very long time on their turn. There are a few things you can do to help.

Set the Expectation that you are there to game.

Too often the confusion arises because people who show up to play games distract themselves with non-gaming things. Now, I’m not a stickler on this one, I don’t make people turn off cellphones or keep them away from the table. But the expectation is that people might glance at their phone, but no scrolling of Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook while playing a board game at the table, no playing an app game while you play another board game. The majority of the focus should be on the game and the people at the table. Just doing that will mean you don’t get as much downtime as people won’t be as likely to miss when the turn moves to them.

Set the Expectation that you try and win but winning isn’t everything.

This focused more on those analysis paralysis players. But it can be for competitive players as well who might try and quarterback other peoples moves in a cooperative game. Games work best when all the players are trying to win. But winning shouldn’t be everything. So having some chit chat around the table, letting people take their turns, and not taking too long on your turn to get the perfect turn help a ton with the downtime. I’m not always the best at letting chit chat happen at the table, but my goal is to never slow down the game, especially early game, with long turns. Maybe if there is an important decision if I try and win one way or another way, I might take longer, but make decisions faster, most of them don’t matter that much.

Play a Variety of Games.

This one can be the hardest thing for some people. They are stuck with only liking certain types of games, and I talk about playing the bigger games. But sometimes you need to just play those littler or lighter games with no downtime. Yes, someone can AP over what to do in Welcome To… but not nearly as much, and there is overlap in players doing actions. Also, when a player is creating downtime, it stands out more so than just then taking a turn amidst a lot of other turns that they are taking longer, if everyone is always waiting on them. And this can be a learning experience for other games as well. But sometimes just go towards games that help remove it.

Those are just some thoughts on downtime in board games, it certainly is something that can push some players away from board gaming who might be interested. So when thinking about your games, think about how you can limit it and how it can be made more fun as you play for everyone at the table.

What are some of your favorite games with no or little downtime?

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