There’s this joke on the internet that if you want to date a girl from South Korea, the best way to impress her father is to defeat him in Starcraft. What if the girl’s father is a boardgamer? How are you going to impress him? I’m a father of two teenage daughters. They have not started dating yet, but it will come. My version of the Starcraft test will obviously be boardgames. What will be my evaluation criteria?
Does he lose with grace? Or does he sulk? Become bitter? Heaven forbid does he lose his temper over losing a game? A person overly fixated over winning and losing is an unhappy person. When playing games you will win and you will lose. Get over it. If you keep getting robbed in The Settlers of Catan, or you never roll the number you need, just laugh about it.
Does he take games seriously? Okay, he’s sitting down to play a game with the girl he wants to charm or the girl’s father whom he wants to impress, but is he doing it just to please them? Does he feel like it’s an obligation? If he’s sitting down to play, he’d better do it properly and take it seriously. If he’s just humouring me, it’ll be obvious from a mile away. It’s no fun for anyone. But if he plays a game giving it his full concentration and putting in his best effort, then it is a sign of respect for the opponents at the table and also for himself. I want to see him learn the rules patiently, and try his hardest to win. A person who takes whatever he does seriously is a trustworthy and reliable person. If he plays Agricola and avoid that wood space just because I’m desperate for wood, I’m not going to be happy. That’s an insult – going easy on me.
Does he let go? When the game is over, it’s over. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve won or you’ve lost. Don’t gloat. Don’t complain about rules played wrong or how bad your luck was. What’s important is you’ve had fun with fellow players. Twilight Struggle is a heavy strategy game, and takes much effort and energy to play, but it does have some luck because of the die rolls and the card draws. Sometimes there are poor luck swings. That’s life. It happens.
Does he have a sense of humour? Playing games is about having fun. A healthy sense of humour makes playing boardgames much more enjoyable and memorable. People with good humour are generous, easy-going, cheerful, witty, and know how to appreciate life. They can turn chess into a party game.
How sharp is he? How well does he hone his mind? By observing how he learns and plays, I can tell how he thinks and how smart he is. I take notice the kinds of questions he asks. I watch the strategies he experiments with. When I explain Ticket to Ride and locomotives, does he ask whether the locomotive counts as one or two cards if he draws it from the draw deck? A smart guy may not necessarily be a nice guy. As a father, I always want the best for my daughters. Why not a smart and nice guy?
Is he kind? You learn a lot about a person by watching how he behaves during a game. A game is real life miniaturised, transferred onto a safe platform. It is where you show your true colours with no fear of retribution. Within the game world, you can be the ruthless competitor, but never forget to be kind. If the boy’s opponent makes a careless mistake which is easily undone, does he point it out and let the opponent undo? When he plays does he care that everyone is having an equally good time? This is not a role that we only ask the host to play. Everyone at the table should be responsible for making the session an enjoyable one for everyone else.
Does he pay attention? One thing I cannot stand is people talking on the phone for a long time in the middle of a game. Or scrolling through social media while playing. Even if the active player is taking a little long to complete his turn, and there is little you can do to plan for your next turn, why not chat with the other players or discuss strategy? Playing a boardgame is communicating, socialising and building relationships. Giving people your undivided attention is basic etiquette.
It seems I’m writing a cheat sheet for my daughters’ future suitors. If you reading this article are one, that means you have put in some research effort. Then you deserve to find this cheat sheet. Well done and good luck. Just remember I won’t go easy on you. You have to beat me at Sekigahara. Start reading the rules now!
Perhaps next time I’ll write about using boardgames to assess girlfriends for sons.
Categories: Random Thoughts