Analysis Paralysis—the Gamer’s Bane

Take Your Turn

In every gaming group we all have that one friend: he knows how to play, he knows what he should do, but he’s so worried about making the right choice that his turn takes several minutes. Maybe you’ve threatened to time his turns, maybe you avoid playing certain games with that friend. We call this condition “analysis paralysis” in our game group. Unfortunately, the nicest folks have this challenge. No matter how you look at it, though, analysis paralysis can bring a fun game night to an end.

Analysis paralysis has its perks, of course. When the player takes their turn, you can learn about their strategy, and see new ways to win. But is it worth it to have games constantly stagnate? Sadly, no. A 30-minute game like Machi Koro can become an hour and a half, and longer games like Rattus Cartus are hidden when that friend joins the group.

So what can be done? Not a lot, sadly. The first step is to talk to the player about it while you aren’t in the middle of a game. Most of the time, players either learn to take faster turns, or they don’t. But there is a better way, and it’s often included in games: Sand timers.

Foxnovo's sand timers
Foxnovo’s sand timers

Some games use them as a core mechanic, including Taboo. Because it’s a race to get enough correct answers, the timer is the only thing that determines turn lengths. Some games have timers, but most players ignore them altogether, such as Scrabble. With these games, it’s easy to enforce the timer when needed, because most players don’t need long to play their word.

Sadly, many other games don’t have time limits, and it can be difficult to introduce timers without making someone at the table feel picked on. That said, most reasonable players understand that when they take too long it affects everyone else. We like to use a cheap set I found on Amazon that have time increments. This way, players have a visual reminder of how long they have to take their turn, but can have appropriate limits for any given game.

Other possible solutions include timers on your phone or microwave. The best thing you can do is to integrate what works for you. I prefer sand timers because they don’t make noise, and it’s easy to see how much time the player has left. Other folks dislike the slightly inaccurate time kept by sand timers, so your mileage may vary.

If timers aren’t a good choice, stick to quick and simple games like Martian Dice and Machi Koro, to keep things moving quickly. Avoid games with nuanced choices like Lanterns or Rattus Cartus, which can bust the energetic bubble of fun of game night.

As a last resort, it’s not the worst thing to do to drop someone from the game group. I’ve only had to do this once, but it made our whole group happier. Games that roll smoothly are a lot more fun, and you can play more games when nobody is locked into 3–5 minute turns. Use your best judgement though, because friendships are always unique.

Happy gaming, folks. If you have any suggestions of other games that go quickly, please feel free to comment!

Rory is a newly appointed stepparent to two awesome geeklings. He also writes for mental health awareness at Terminally Intelligent.