Making a decision is hard. There’s a finite right/wrongness that is attached to each decision and no one wants to feel like they took the wrong path, especially if it means they didn’t fully flesh out the probabilities and possible outcomes that could occur due to a decision.
We’re all prone to it. I’ve spent roughly four months trying to convince myself to trade in my car (that is until someone slammed into my parked car last weekend) and I still haven’t pulled the trigger. My fianceé goes from a piece of coal to a diamond due to the pressure of choosing an ice cream flavor from The Charmery.
More specifically, analysis paralysis (AP) is when one spends a long period of time evaluating options in regards to making a decision. It’s typically seen as over-analyzing. This can be viewed as a negative in the board gaming world as it can cause game run times to escalate and balloon up well past the recommended play times. There are stories constantly being posted to Reddit and BGG about games of Terraforming Mars and The Castles of Burgundy taking untold hours to complete as players antagonize themselves over the optimal play.
Typically, players get one action when they do something in a board game and you want that action to count. Making a wrong decision can set you back, derail your plans, or completely eliminate yourself from winning contention if you make the wrong move (like grabbing a waitress first turn in Food Chain Magnate). As this action isn’t just an immediate effect, the analysis runs deeper as players try to gauge how this will impact their play, their opponents play, the board, and future opportunities. It’s a lot to take in honestly.
How should people combat AP? There are a few options. Ignoring games that slow players down is one. It’s harsh and we do buy these games to play them but I’m not interested in a Viticulture game lasting over three hours.
I have seen some people mention adding a timer to games where players tend to analyze their turns a bit too much but I personally feel like that may exacerbate the stress and decision making. I haven’t personally tried it but if a player is having difficulty making a decision with a near infinite (not really but you know what I mean) amount of time, how are they going to make a decision they’re happy with when ham-stringed by a clock?
One remedy that I can vouch for is talking out your turn. You don’t need to tell us the who/what/why/when/where/how of your action but typically saying something like “I’m using this six to pick up these four chickens and then I’m using this three to place this mine” tend to keep everyone on track.
If you’re a player that takes awhile to plan your turns, own it as well. I have no problem with people planning out what they want to do and if it takes them a full sixty seconds to decide which route to take, so be it. Would I like all turns to commence within seconds? Of course! That’s unrealistic however. I don’t expect my group to play Terraforming Mars as quickly as Rachel and I do. We’ve played it fifty times and they’ve played it five. All I ask is that players just be aware that it’s happening and don’t mind a little joke now and then to keep the mood light. No ones intelligence is being insulted.