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Several of my gaming friends are victim to more or less chronic analysis paralysis, which can drag down even the simplest of games.

We've occasionally used an hourglass to combat this, but it tends to aggravate the slow-playing contestants and doesn't work well in interactive games (such as when trading in Settlers of Catan).

What kinds of countermeasures to this common issue you have found to be effective?

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14 Answers 14

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Gentle prodding is probably the best suggestion, but if that doesn't do the trick sit them down after the game and let them know what they're doing. A player that over analyzes every move generally isn't much fun to play with, and telling them that (nicely) can help.

If that doesn't work, try practicing with some simple games (for example poker). Once they get used to making faster decisions, it often translates into other games, especially when combined with gentle prodding.

As a final resort, try playing timed games, where the impulse to think long and hard about a decision is countered by a running clock. Good examples are chess/go with a timer, outburst, trivial pursuit, and cranium.

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I should note about poker - I didn't mean that the game is simple to play at an advanced level, only that it's easy to get into and to play with others at about your level. –  tryaria Oct 19 '10 at 22:49
    
I recommend that you talk to them before your session instead of afterwards. Then you can always refer to that talk during the game to make them understand, but do it gently. "This was what I was talking about prior to the game." –  AndSoYouCode Nov 4 '11 at 14:05
    
I highly recommend Space Alert –  nornagon Oct 24 '12 at 4:46
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In our group we have the same problem. Usually we urge everybody to think ahead. So when it's your turn you don't have to think of everything at that time. That usually works pretty well. Of course things can change during the other person's turn, but in most games, thinking ahead and keeping everyone's attention on the game definitely will speed things up.

Another problem we sometimes have is that someone constantly has to look stuff up because he is not 100% sure of the rules. Playing a certain game on a regular basis will solve that problem though.

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+1 i find that at least half of delays come from people goofing of when it is not their turn, and then needing to reimmerge themselves into the game each turn –  Andrey Feb 16 '11 at 14:57
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Allow the unnecesary praise: What a nice question.. gotta love this site.

Anyways, I will add my bit to the list of answers already. After reading this question I realized that I suffer from this as well specifically when there is a speculation determining the cost of oportunity of doing (or not doing something).

Just being aware of it already had a positive impact in a couple of games. In recent games of Mage Knight - a rule intensive , unpractical game - it helped a lot because making a decision considering the rules/possibilities I knew didnt compare to the rules/possibilities I did not know.

I guess It's because I added my freinds' enjoyment to the decision making formula. So tellng this to players who are not aware, helps.

Hello my name is nestor and im a paralyholic.. ;)

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I think once people get experienced with a game, they get better at the game and take less time. If people understand the rules, they're going to be much better at decided what to do. Be polite about nagging them to move. If you badger someone to much, they're not going to want to play again. Some games, like chess are naturally going to be slow. If the other players in the group are fast, hopefully they'll learn to step up pace after a few playthroughs.

If you're teaching someone a new game, let them ask you questions and don't make the environment so competitive where they have to make the best possible decision each time.

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True, experience brings speed. And nagging on beginners / about new games in general is not really a concern - this is more about players who can have an endless internal debate in Ticket to Ride... –  lavonardo Oct 19 '10 at 21:54
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This is true to an extent but definitely doesn't solve the problem; we have one person who famously takes a long time to make decisions, whether it's a new game or a game we've played dozens of times –  Michael Mrozek Oct 19 '10 at 21:58
    
In Ticket to Ride???? The Ticket to Ride games I've played generally go pretty well with occasional pauses while people consider a strategy decision or take train tickets. –  ICodeForCoffee Oct 19 '10 at 21:58
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To add a contrarian voice to the debate: I often find that as I understand a game's strategies better, I spend more time thinking about all the pros and cons. So I'd say I'm generally quicker if I don't yet know the game very well. (This is after figuring out the rules, though.) –  Erik P. Oct 20 '10 at 17:40
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A simple solution not so far mentioned: Allow takebacks.

It doesn't always help completely, but it often helps a lot, and is the approach written into the official rules of Mage Knight. Simply allow players to retract their moves so long as no information point has passed and encourage them to play out their action rather than engage in an extended internal debate, and things will often go better.

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Welcome to B&CG! –  Pat Ludwig Oct 25 '12 at 20:04
    
Thank you very much. –  darch Oct 25 '12 at 20:09
    
This is how we play - no moves are permanent until there's been some change in information: as long as you haven't yet rolled a die, drawn a card, or asked if a player's going to react to a situation, it's fine, and it means you can do the moves as you go. For example, when expanding in Risk, people can just put one troop in each territory to get a feel for how far they're going, and then they arrange the unplaced troops before starting their conquest. –  Samthere May 7 '13 at 13:47
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So a good solution for this has been known for a while. The "Chess clock". For any old board game do this:

Determine the length of the game you'd like to play. Divide by the # of players. Double the time. Each player gets that much time for the game.

If the time is exceeded, that player loses the game. If the game would be 'ruined' by him leaving in the middle, he can either play out his turns (without a chance of winning) or other players can take turns finishing his turns (round robin or random player takes his remaining turns)

This solution is superior to a turn timer because it allows you to take more time when necessary, but really results in faster turns since people want to 'save up' more than use the whole turn time.

There are several smart-phone apps that can be used for this purpose, even the default timers will do.

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Although this doesn't offer a magic solution to your problem, I'd like to share a coping strategy:

I got "bushwhacked" by a few AP players at games I played at BGG Con in November. I was too tired to politely handle the situation by attempting to change the AP players' behavior, so I did what I could to make it easier for myself: I carefully analyzed the board, got out my notepad, wrote down my next move(s), then spent extra time having friendly conversation with unoccupied players, figuring out additional advance strategies, and jotting down assorted ideas in my notebook.

I suppose my answer to your problem is (if you can't get the AP players to speed up, and you don't have enough game options that don't cause AP) to use the time to plot your next move, and spend the time chatting with the other players. After all, you're (ostensibly) friends, so you should have plenty of stuff to talk about.

One other option: Set up a simple side-game, like Zombie Dice or M:tG, and play it while you're waiting. If you do this, I strongly recommend jotting down ideas for your next move so you don't end up slowing the main game down.

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I think part of the answer is that you have to play the same games with different styles of game play (see below, speed games). We all succumb, at one time or another, to the min-max problem. Said another way, in many games, there actually is an optimal solution that can be calculated decisively at certain points (especially near the end). But calculating it in ones head can be a slow process for some.

The best solution (in my opinion) in those situations is to just work with the player. You'll all learn more about the game and be able to make the decision faster next time. They'll have the satisfaction of knowing they scored the best they could (or at least others agreed with them). In fact, if done right, everyone can have a maximum score. (Doing this gets much harder as the number of players increases -- consider it a group challenge. And, recall, it's just a game and it'd be silly for someone to win or lose because of a mere accident or true mistake.) (Some games are well suited towards this style of group play. Highly recommended with the significant other, too. ;) )

As for the type of game, mix in play of "speed games" where everyone has to take fast moves. Compare to a 2 minute speed chess game -- it's a completely different game when played that way.

This can balance full, thoughtful, strategy play with intense, and sometimes silly, action play.

If someone is the only one affected by the "rules of speed" they'll feel picked on or just won't have as much fun. Everyone, at some time or another, probably takes a long turn. Another solution is to just have a limited number of "long turns" -- this way, the slow thinker or optimizing player can plan for one turn (or so) a game and the rest of the group can go refill their drinks and snacks.

Finally, as others have said, unless it's chess, game familiarity will almost always speed everyone along. Give new players a chance. Play "open discussion" games. Open it up so the "slow" player can ask for advice and receive fair, honest answers. If it's a constant problem, the person is probably just unsure of their moves and boosting their confidence will go a long way.

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Fingertip drumming, tapping your feet and frequently asking "Is it my turn yet?" will help resolve this issue in future game sessions.

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Not really so. Many people will find this behaviour rude and treat is as simple whining. Its horribly annoying when you need a moment to think and someone interrupts you with tapping or "is it my turn yet?" –  K.L. Apr 29 '13 at 12:22
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I admit, it was more of a tongue in cheek answer. Truth is, it really depends on the game and the group of people you're playing with. I think external 'maximum think time' policies are terrible funkillers (unless it's built into the game itself). –  Powertieke May 3 '13 at 19:01
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Not a solution for everybody, but Andy Looney (of Looney Labs fame, inventor of Fluxx and Icehouse pyramids) solves his frustration with waiting for other people's turn by playing Andy Vs. Everybody. He plays multiple games against dozens of opponents at once. Everyone else sits in a ring of tables around him, and raises a flag when it's his turn. He in turn runs madly around to raised flags, takes his turn, puts the flag down, and then moves on to another table. The rest of the players can have all of the analysis paralysis they want; he's got plenty of other games to play!

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I'm a slow player myself, and I often used to play games with a person who is a very quick decision maker. It would driver her completely bonkers, which wound me up, etc. Eventually we settled on a solution where she would read a book while I was thinking. Of course it's not ideal; I wouldn't recommend it to everyone and it won't work for groups of more than two people. But for us it rescued gaming.

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We've tended to favor games that have either cooperative decision making or simultaneous decision making, instead of sequential decision making where your turn will rely heavily on what the previous players did.

  • Race for the Galaxy is good because, while not cooperative, everyone plays simultaneously. You need to start each turn together, which means you need to wait at the end of the turn for everyone to finish, but you don't have a point where one slow player starts and finishes a turn while everyone glares at him
  • Pandemic is perfect because it's a cooperative game, and the way we play there almost aren't individual players -- it's like there are 4 of us controlling 4 pieces as a group, and none of us particularly owns one piece. We make all the decisions as a group and whoever is closest to the piece will move it, so it's impossible for one player's turn to bog down the game
  • Dominion can be good, but is risky; we've had success with it because we've tended to play only the base game, where most cards don't affect the other players. That means the slow player can draw their next hand right after their turn ends and spend the next three players' turns deciding what to do, and their decision won't be substantially thrown off by the other player's actions. This isn't a perfect solution, and we've still had a number of turns where people took forever, particularly if they play cards that cause them to draw other cards, but it works sometimes
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I'm not sure how your answer relates to the question. Not all games involve cooperative decisions making. While games with cooperative decision making may not suffer from this problem as much, your suggestion is not to play games without cooperative decision making? –  ICodeForCoffee Oct 19 '10 at 21:55
    
@ICode Essentially yes. I guess it depends how you interpret the question; I thought he was looking for suggestions of games that don't suffer as much from this problem, but you could also say he's looking for suggestions of how to lessen the problem in games that already have it –  Michael Mrozek Oct 19 '10 at 21:56
    
Good suggestions. Have heard positive things about Epidemic and will check it out. Also, we've used the same form of speedup in Dominion already, and it works well with the base game. –  lavonardo Oct 19 '10 at 21:56
    
Dominion requires you to draw your next hand immediately, as there are attack cards that affect it that other players can play (Militia, Minion, Torturer, Goons...) –  Powerlord Oct 22 '10 at 15:47
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@Powerlord ...yes? –  Michael Mrozek Oct 22 '10 at 15:48
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In my circle of friends, our Settlers of Catan games started sprawling uncontrollably, so we started playing with a clock that gave, I believe, one minute per turn and saved our spare time to use in future turns. (It also handled the switchback start for initial placement. We're all software engineers so writing our own wasn't especially difficult.) After playing with the clock for a few games we got the hang of how to speed the game along, especially thinking and planning ones' next move between turns.

(It also helped that we all had roughly the same level of experience with Catan, so no one felt especially overwhelmed by the idea of jumping unprepared into the game.)

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Hum the Jeopardy tune once you feel someone has gone too far!

Seriously, it works :)

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Jeopardy is not broadcast here - but a domestic gameshow tune would probably work just as well :-/ –  lavonardo Oct 19 '10 at 21:53
    
@lavonardo Sorry about that, I haven't watched it for years, but I think the tune is stuck in every American's head. Sounds like you have the right idea though! –  Pat Ludwig Oct 19 '10 at 21:56
    
If I actually hummed the Jeopardy tune, the people I play with would take twice as long! –  Elliott Jun 29 '11 at 22:44
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Countdown would work if you're in the UK - youtu.be/pfa3MHLLSWI?t=1m3s –  Tom77 Feb 4 at 8:07
    
Jeopardy countdown is just the last 30 seconds of the Minute Waltz :) –  barrycarter 13 hours ago
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