Board Game Terms: Analysis Paralysis

All this week we’ll be taking a look at some of the jargon used in board games. If you’re new to gaming, you might like our piece from last year explaining the terms used to describe different types of games. This week we’re concentrating on terms used by more dedicated players to describe characteristics of games and gamers, particularly ones that can be controversial or problematic.

Today’s term is analysis paralysis, sometimes shortened to AP. It’s not a gaming-exclusive term as such but rather describes the state of being so caught up in analysis that you struggle to make a decision for fear of making the wrong one. In gaming this becomes a big problem when it slows down the game. It’s particularly significant because making decisions (rather than luck, dexterity or physical or performing skills) is often the key element to modern ‘hobby’ gaming.

Analysis paralysis can be used in reference to a particular player, but this is often unhelpful as it can create a feedback loop that puts the player under added pressure: not just to make the “right” decision but to do so quickly. It also creates a big risk of a passive aggressive attitude by the other players which can destroy the social element of gaming.

Instead the options are either to avoid playing with said people or to concentrate instead on whether a game itself is at risk of producing paralysis analysis. Possible strategies include:

  • Look for games where there’s a lot of scope for recovering from the ‘wrong’ decision (such as Castles of Burgandy) rather than, for example, games such as Caylus where the game can be won or lost by setting a good early groundwork;
  • Go for games with an inherent time pressure such as Escape: The Curse of the Temple or Magic Maze where players are forced to favour quick decisions over the mythical perfect decision;
  • Look for games described as having ‘simultaneous action selection’ such as 7 Wonders or Roll For The Galaxy which will minimise the time other players are sat doing nothing and waiting for the AP-prone player to make up their mind.

Do you suffer from analysis paralysis or play with such gamers? What are your tips for overcoming the problem?