23 December 2013

Ruthless Civility

Conflict can be a lot of fun.  It can also make some people really uncomfortable.  I'm talking about conflict in board games, mind you.  You definitely want to choose a game that aligns with the players' desire for conflict.

Conflict is a type of interaction.  Many of the most fun games keep the players engaged even when it is not their turn, often by allowing them to trade with or respond to actions taken by the turn-taking player.  Plenty of games provide player-to-player interactions without conflict, including interactions that can be mutually beneficial, co-operative, or at least not outright hostile. In other games, this engagement comes in the form of falling under direct attack--that's a conflict.  Some conflict roils beneath the surface and can be far more subtle, such as laying claim to territory on the board that limits the options available to another player.

I have found that some players have difficulty separating the conflict in the game from real life emotions.  For example, I've seen a(n unnamed) mother express extreme psychological displeasure in having to attack her opponent (and real-life child) with a volcanic repeating arms pistol (in Bang!).  Fortunately, there are plenty of board games that have player-to-player interaction yet do not require (or allow) players to single out individuals for a thorough thrashing.  When playing with loved ones, sometimes it is better to keep the conflict games in the closet.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

The theme surrounding a conflict can matter a lot too. Among people turned off by that sort of thing,

1) An explicitly race-themed game like Labyrinth or Formula De

has less upsetting conflict than

2) A build-something game like Puerto Rico or Agricola where you can claim a resource someone else needs for their foozle

which in turn is better than

3) Games where the conflict is explicitly violence- or criminal-themed

"Bang" and "Cash and Guns" are explicitly for people who don't mind shooting people in the course of their games.