How To Win At Board Games

How To Win At Board Games
Image: BoardGameGeek

Winning isn’t everything. You don’t have to be competitive to enjoy your time spent playing board games. However if you are, it helps to have a flexible plan of attack to apply to games that can help you get the upper hand.

Here are a handful of helpful tips to get you on the right path when it comes to crushing your foes under heel or simply avoiding languishing at the back of the score track.

Work Towards The Victory Condition

It seems obvious but the simplest way to win at board games is to focus on the victory condition. Most modern board games are goal-orientated. Even seemingly unfocused ‘point salads’, games where practically everything earns you points, still have an overall goal: Earn the most points. Other times the goal could be the first to achieve a certain milestone, control a specific piece of territory on the board or deceive the other players in some way.

Once you know what decides the winner, it’s very simple to devise a plan that works towards it. Then it’s just a matter of staying focused. When deciding what to do each turn, you can dismiss quite a few options simply because they aren’t working towards your overall goal.

If the aim of the game is to have the most points, take actions that earn you points. You can painstakingly work out how many points per turn you’re earning or take the simpler approach of casually deciding which actions earn the most points as you take them.

It doesn’t really matter, the point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

What’s The Value Of A Dollar?

It doesn’t matter if it’s turn order, resource chits or cards in hand, everything is a resource and every resource has some value.

Taking a bit of time to work out the relative value of each resource lets you work out what you need to collect while focusing on your overall goal. This isn’t some complicated thing where you put together a spreadsheet and meticulously decide that gold is worth 3.2 wood but more deciding that gold is more valuable than wood so you should prioritise gold when possible.

This comes from an important lesson that most Magic: The Gathering players learn: One is not zero.

In Magic, you start with 20 life and lose the game when your life total is reduced to zero. New players instinctively protect their life total instead of realising that it is another resource that can be spent.

Cards like Necropotence and Dark Confidant let players trade life for additional cards. These cards are typically more valuable than the life lost to draw them and helps reinforce the idea of relative values of resources.

After all, as long as you have at least one life you haven’t lost the game so you can use your life total as a resource to spend. One is not zero.

Play More Games

You don’t get better at something by not doing it. If you want to win at board games, you should take whatever opportunities come your way to play them. Whether you’re playing the same game over and over again or constantly trying new games, simply playing games helps build knowledge that can make it easier to win in the future.

Heavy games like Agricola and Twilight Struggle reward frequent play. The more familiar you are with the game, the better equipped you are to handle whatever the game wants to throw at you.

There are also plenty of shared mechanics and concepts between board games, lessons learned from one game can easily be applied to another.

Placing workers on the cog in Tzolk’in to be used in future turns requires a level of planning that is just as useful when playing another worker placement game like Village where planning the deaths of your family can have huge benefits at the end of the game.

Becoming familiar with the overall feel of games will go a long way towards winning more often. Plus, you get to spend time playing board games which is a pretty rad activity.


  • I always struggle to win with people that know me because I tend to get group targeted early on. This is likely due to how I play video games with my mates, so nothing can be done about it.

    Forever losing Catan 😛

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