Are You "That Couple" When It Comes to Board Gaming?

You take out your newest board game, with a gleam in your eye. You know everyone's been waiting to play this -- and you got in on the Kickstarter. But suddenly everyone's averting their eyes.

"I don't know, Tom. It's a little late."

"It's 12:00. Noon."

"Well, I have to get up early for school."

"You haven't been in school in eight years."

"OK, fine. Truth be told, we hate playing with you two."

Oh no. You've become "that couple."

Who Is "That Couple"?

If you're a part of "that couple" you might not even realize that "that couple" exists. But everyone else knows. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • You or your partner always seems to win games against others when playing together, but you don't seem to have as high a win rate when you're playing separately.
  • You or your partner has been "learning to play" common games or gaming in general for over a year.
  • You or your partner regularly attack other players for attacking one of you, even when it isn't advantageous to you.
  • You or your partner will hold back on collecting resources or completing quests and tasks so the other can collect them.

When you play against "that couple," one person always takes a supporting role. Even though everyone is supposed to be playing the game separately, one person is shuffling all their resources to another, attacking all of their enemies, and essentially escorting them to victory. Often, the person in the supporting role is actually the better player -- leading to the weakest player winning. There's nothing anyone can do about this; it can be nigh impossible to win a competitive game when a single person has the resources of two players.

Everyone  hates playing with that couple, and it's not because they aren't supportive of your relationship. It's because it's not fun. And it adds a weird undercurrent into the air, because everyone will assume that:

  • One of you will throw a tantrum if you lose, so the other person is protecting everyone else.
  • One of you is so emotionally fragile that they can't bear to lose, so the other person is protecting them.

Neither scenario is fun to play with. And neither may be applicable to your relationship, but it's easy for people to be a little petty when one person is twenty victory points up from everyone else. 

How a Board Gaming Couple Can Join "Couples Anonymous"

The truth is, many people become that couple by accident. It's simply a habit; you're always doing things for your paramour, so it seems natural that you should try to help them in a game. In some cases, it happens because one partner really isn't into gaming, and the other partner is trying to make it fun for them. It happens because you naturally consider yourself a team. 

Some players are perpetually in a state of gaming infancy. Three or four years can pass, but they're still "new at gaming" and still "just learning" while the other player coaxes them and walks them through it. Again: humans are a creature of habit. If we don't have to learn, we simply won't.

But there's good news involved: it's easy to break out of being that couple. Just lock eyes with your partner and say "Let's go all out this time." Or hell, rip off your shirt and shout "I'm taking you down!" If your partner has any issues playing a game fair and square, you should probably be playing a couples counseling game -- and Fog of Love doesn't count. 

If you're someone dealing with that couple, there's also an easy solution: cooperative and team-based games only. It doesn't have to be unpleasant playing with a couple and you don't have to ice them out; you just need to make sure they're on the same side.