One of the key selling points about board games is that they are a great catalyst for face-to-face social interaction. Besides just having something to do while hanging out, these games can steer the conversation in directions that it normally wouldn’t go if you were just talking on the couch watching television. Some of my favourite games that spark a unique social interaction include Lords of Vegas, Cash ‘N Guns, and Space Cadets. Other games, while great to play, don’t necessarily add to that social dynamic. Certain games actually take that away in a weird way. Case in point, Splendor and The Resistance.
Let’s start with Splendor. The 2014 Board Game Geek Game of the Year is a very tactical experience in which players are collecting cards and gems in hopes of being the first to 15 prestige points. During the course of the action, players are generally fixated on the main play area and their own collection of stuff, thinking hard about what their next moves should be. I like the game a lot for how fun it is to work its economy, but it also has a knack for sucking the life out of the room. People are so caught up in plotting out their next moves that very few words are exchanged during play.
The Resistance, while a great party game for large groups, can suffer from the complete opposite problem. It is a game that thrives on social interaction, particularly as it relates to weeding out spies and selecting the right team to go on missions. Once people start to throw around accusations, the game can screech to a halt as people endlessly yell at each other. In cases like this, I find it really important to have at least one person try and police the drama, as it can spiral out of control and ruin the game for everyone else.
I can imagine things going the other way in The Resistance too. Played in a group with passive players who aren’t confrontational by nature, and this game could be really dull. It needs some human interaction to add excitement to the experience, but not so much that people lose sight of why they’re arguing in the first place.
Each game is going to spark a different level of social interaction. Also, the amount that it generates isn’t necessarily equal to how good the game is. There’s no perfect balance, though I generally prefer games that get me interacting with others in unique ways.