Board Games and Real World Experiments

Wednesday, 28 November 2012   |   Creative Thinking

Board GameSome people see board games as simple games where you roll a dice and move a piece along the squares.  Basic games played by young kids.  Others think of them as complex role playing games played by geeks.  To take these views is to miss out on all that board games have to offer.  Nowadays, board games come in all shapes and forms and often have very interesting game mechanics.  As a friend pointed out last weekend, to succeed in these games requires a fair deal of flexibility in your approach and some real creative thinking.

As an example,  last weekend we played a game called Modern Art. The game is simple yet the game mechanics lead to some interesting approaches.  The basis of the game is that you are trading art and aiming to have the most money at the end of the game.  The value of artwork changes depending on how many pieces by that artist are in play and there are a variety of auction types.  Very soon we realised there were a variety of tactics coming into play.  Some were obvious whilst others were more subtle.  For instance it was very easy to work out the theoretical maximum value of a piece of art and from that, how much a maximum sane bid would be.  It was also easy to see who was gunning for which artists to be the most popular and to try and counter those if necessary.  But then there were sneakier tactics such as one of our friends who won a game by holding back on buying art but ramping up auctions and then pulling out towards the end (by doing so they maximised the prices of pieces of art and diluted other players funds).  It was a risky approach as they had to know when to pull out so as not to win the auction but it paid off. 

The mechanics in these games get more and more interesting and can be seen as simple models of real world scenarios.  In playing these games there is the obvious and intended way to approach the game but creative people will often find other strategies that have interesting consequences. 

So what can we learn from this?

  • Modern board games are a fun and safe way to practice flexibility and creativity in your thinking.
  • Board games can be seen as simplified simulations of the real world and we can use them to observe what types of behaviour may arise.
  • This can be great for discovering new and better ways to go about doing things.  Maybe you have a project and you need to gain a deeper understanding of what's happening (what people are doing and why).  Creating a simple board game or challenge with mechanics that reflect your problem area could be a good way to explore.

So get out there and start having fun.  Board games are for everyone and if you open your mind to them they will open your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world.

What games do you like playing or what game mechanics do you find particularly interesting?


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