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6 Board Games That Helped Me Develop My Career

Ever since leaving university I have been on an interesting journey. My degree is in English Literature and Creative Writing; however, since graduating I have followed a purely mathematical career – managing to work my way up through various Digital Analysis roles to where I am now.

The strange thing is, I had to teach myself mathematics and statistics and analytical…stuff…and there is no way I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for a few core games that helped me get my head around various difficult concepts. Today, as a bit of a break from strategy guides and reviews I thought I would tell you about six games that actually helped me get better at my job.

#1. Catan

How This Helped: Negotiation Skills and Game Theory

Catan was not only one of the first board games I played, but it was the first that really helped me refine a mathematical skill. First though, before we move on to that, Catan is one of the best negotiation games for getting new players into the idea of bartering and making deals at a rudimentary level. It does, no matter what anyone says, help develop practical business skills in negotiation.

The second way though really opened my eyes up to how business analysis could be done. In fact, placement in Catan (or, coincidentally, games like Power Grid) can be treated the same way Starbucks or Costa treat opening a new store.

This is a bit complex to go into precise numbers here, or precisely how it works, but one of the reasons Starbucks and Costa always set up stores near one another is purely down mathematics and the division of space. The same can be said for gaming, and the mathematics behind why it is best to set up as close to the centre of any game board as possible is actually really interesting.

Believe it or not, that reason coffee shops are close to one another, why you should always place as close to the centre of a board game map for territory control, and online paid advertising strategies all share that one theory in common. Game Theory – it’s a real thing.

#2. Star Wars: Imperial Assault

How This Helped: Probability and Teamwork

Do or do not, there is no try – amIright?

Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a game which my gaming group spent the good part of a year playing through. Four of us played as the Rebels, with one player being the Imperials throughout the course of the campaign.

Firstly, what Star Wars: Imperial Assault taught me was teamwork and, more importantly, team synergy. It was the first board game we really played where everyone had their own characters, and yet it was still restricted to the confines of the board. This meant a logical, mathematical, and strategic approach to every move. Coincidentally, it also reinforced the concept that sometimes the best action is inaction.

Secondly, Imperial Assault really helped with the refining of our practical probability knowledge. I still remember a day where we were trying to work out which combination was the best, and what the odds actually were for rolling specific results if all the die were placed into a giant pool and rolled together. We found that we were getting faster and faster at calculating the probability and now have statistics stuck in our heads.

So, you have two dice, and you roll them both. What are the odds of getting a 5 or a 6 on one of the dice? It’s 20/36, so over 50%. Sounds wrong, but the maths are sound if you draw out all the potential rolls in a table.

SEE WHAT I MEAN?!? Cool, ey?

Teamwork in Imperial Assault

#3. Splendor

How This Helped: Self Belief and Drive

So, this one isn’t so easily applied to other people, but Splendor has a lot to answer for in my life. Firstly, it was the first game I have consistently won at – so much so my percentage win ratio is 92%.

Secondly, it was the first game I ever entered a tournament for. It was at the national level and I came 6th.

Thirdly, the resulting confidence boost really changed my life. What Splendor did was teach me that I could. Over the past year, that confidence has been vital to my own career development.

Coincidentally, this blog also started with Splendor analysis, and it was this blog that also helped me progress my career. Below is one of the tables I drew for that as an example of the way things have moved on since then.

Splendor Noble Strategy

Splendor Noble Strategy

#4. Onitama

How This Helped: Short-Term Strategy and Sequential Programming

If there is a game as simple to play, as beautiful to behold, and as enjoyable as Onitama then I don’t want to know.

Actually, I take that back. I do want to know, but Onitama is still a simply superb game. It is the perfect game for understanding short-term strategy and the deeper understanding of sequences within everyday life. Onitama is a great game for understanding that you need to think three moves ahead, as well as predict what your opponents are likely to do.

Understanding that sort of thinking really helps with (a) working out strategic movement within the digital analysis space in regards to how one thing will offset another (b) working out how one thing will affect another with (things like) Python script (c) working out how one thing will affect another within the general consumer market.

Of course, Onitama doesn’t teach all that on its own, however, the thinking it encourages is the same kind of thinking that helps refine the above skill sets.

Onitama, like Chess, is difficult to suss out too many moves ahead; however, it does also help develop short-term strategy. What is more, it helps come up with ways to defeat sequential short-term planning by encouraging you to develop strategies that your opponents will not see coming.

Also, the Tiger card is just awesome. I know this isn’t the article to point that out in, but it is amazing.

IMG_20171230_165613-1664x934.jpg

Onitama

#5. Twilight Imperium

How This Helped: Long-Term Strategy and Contingency Planning

Twilight Imperium. Ahhh. The epic space game is a great one for life lessons, and can help improve all kinds of strategy skills; however, where it really comes to light is with its teaching of long-term strategy and contingency planning. This is especially the case when you play as the Xxcha Kingdom.

Games this big, games like Twilight Imperium, that allow for more than one route to completion, that allow for the political side of the game, and that allow for backstabbing (as well as protection from that backstabbing) are great games for developing both long-term strategy and contingency planning skills. Contingency planning is a part of any strategic role, analysis included. You need to know what can go wrong in order to know what you can improve upon, to place a safety net underneath the project/business/website/whatever you are working on.

Twilight Imperium is a game that does just that. It is a game that encourages long-term strategic thinking, It is a game where planning ahead, keeping your cards close to your chest, and keeping in control of your own destiny are essential mantras to keep in mind.

When playing as the Xxcha Kingdom in particular, as mentioned earlier, their powers are based purely in the realm of politics (the same can be said for the Lotus Clan in Rising Sun). Needing to adapt the game to a pacifist one means learning to use all the tools at your disposal, what to trade and what not to trade, what to collect and what can be used as a political device is essential. It means planning ahead, and collecting ways to thwart your enemies behind the scenes – it’s about knowing what could happen, what probably won’t, but what you can do just in case it does.

For that, there are few games better than Twilight Imperium.

IMG_20180203_182758-1664x1248-1.jpg

I collected quite the collection of Notaries, and this was only midway through the game. By the end I held the Ceasefire for every nation.

#6. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong

How This Helped: Critical Thinking

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is one of a family of games known as Social Deception, in which the players all take on roles in secret, and must either find someone in their ranks or solve a case together. Social Deception games (which do have an unfortunate name) actually started to help my analytical career long before Deception, with the game Spyfall. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, however, helped nurture what Spyfall started with lessons in critical thinking.

There was an old adage when I was a school student, that the debating team would help you develop you as a human being, whilst also helping you get into a better university. To be honest, the debating team (of which I was a member for a short period of time) was nothing in comparison to games like Deception.

You see, the problem with the debating team was that they would always have you arguing about topics that you ultimately didn’t care about, or that were so far swung in one direction that you didn’t really stand a chance.

These topics, being allocated for discussion, do not teach you about debating. They do not really teach a student about learning how to argue with fire and passion and drive and a need for a logical argument for their own point of view. There is an argument here that complacency is the enemy of education.

However, if someone accuses you of being the Spy or the Murderer in a game of Spyfall or Deception, and you are neither of those things – if you are the Spy or the Murderer trying to get away with your deception, and solve your own puzzle whilst you are at it, yet people keep accusing you – if you are the accomplice or the witness in Deception: Murder in Hong Kong and you need to shift the blame or point out where the justice really should be – then THERE IS THE FIRE!

There is the argument. You have something to lose that isn’t just opinion. You have something to lose that isn’t purely academic. It is that moment, when the game is on a shoestring, that the passion really flows and you really learn how to stand your ground in a logical and rational way.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong review - investigator card.

The Investigator role card.

Conclusion: On this list…

It’s been a bit of an odd article today. It took a lot of thinking about, and even now there are probably ten more I could add to the list. I guess that is the point of this post though – that games are so much more than games. They help refine us as human beings, and undoubtedly, as the years progress, the games on this list will change.

So, now it is your turn. What games have helped you develop in life? What games have taught you life lessons as well as useful skills? Let’s chat in the comments below.

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(An Exploration of Board Games, RPGs, and Tabletop Experiences)

13 Comments »

    • Learning to lose gracefully is an important life skill!

      On a serious note – soft skills are way more important than hard skills. Look at the hard skills – yes, I can analyse the probability of dice, but without the skill of being able to see how that can be applied elsewhere it’s more or less useless outside of gaming. I bet you’ve learned more from games than you think you have 🙂

      Like

  1. This is a very cool post! I liked seeing how the games impacted you as a person/thinking which speaks to the style or rules of the games themselves. I might need to look back at some of your Splendor posts. I think it will be one of my next purchases now that I can get more than one or two people to sit down for some games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked it 🙂 ahh gaming groups are a great thing. Just make sure you can scale down occasionally as well. We’ve started having to do a lot of research into 8 player games! Haha.

      Like

  2. Blood Bowl is awesome for learning risk assessment and prioritization. It’s weird turn mechanic is responsible for this. When a Coach has their turn, they can keep moving/activating pieces until they run out of moves or fail a die roll. Most movement of your pieces doesn’t require a die roll, but doing something like blocking or picking up the ball does.

    With new players, they often immediately choose the more risky option of performing a block or trying to pick up the ball. If they fail the roll, which happens pretty often, then their turn is over. Seasoned Coaches will move key pieces into good positions first and *then* take chances with die rolls.

    That has helped me a lot with project management in general, spotting what obstacles might arise, determining the safest chain of events to line up, and knowing which points could lead to utter catastrophe. All crucial.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome! And, reading that, I guess it has also helped you with the management of expectations and some practical mathematical skills as well? Wargames, skirmish games, and games like Blood Bowl are amazing for that. Thanks for sharing

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I’m with David that I don’t think I’ve played a game that I could point to and say “this helped my career.” But they have helped keep me sane, which is important for a career!

    And I don’t think I’ve heard the phrase “social deception games.” I’ve only heard “social deduction.” Is that a regional thing or am I just completely blind?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re the same thing. Maybe it is a regional thing. Maybe it’s something I’ve got completely wrong 😛 I’ve heard both (I think), of which I think Social Deduction is probably more accurate. Maybe, just maybe, they are two sides of the same coin? There’s a thought…

      And hey, keeping you sane is vital to your career 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Heh. EverQuest is the game that got me started on the path to where I am now where part of the job is managing & overseeing all the IT in a mid-sized workplace. Over the years I had to teach myself how do do the computer and networky things. Luckily I have a great tech for the crunchy stuff!

    Like

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