Analysis Paralysis: Every Board Game Player’s Worst Nightmare

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“It’s not that I enjoy winning, it’s just that losing feels terrible.” At some point in our lives, we’ve all had thoughts like these running through our heads. As human beings, we are hardwired to experience occasional moments of doubt, feelings of insecurity, or nagging thoughts about whether we should have done something differently. 

We can’t always shake these feelings off or define them, but they’re definitely there – that “what if” feeling that we all know too well. The nature versus nurture debate is a heady subject and I’m not a professional in the field by any measure. But, what I can tell you is how all of it is related to our favorite topic – board gaming. Let’s talk about a phenomenon known as analysis paralysis.

What Is Analysis Paralysis?

Analysis paralysis is the act of over-analyzing or overthinking a situation to the point where a decision or action is never taken. Sounds simple, right? Well, not necessarily if you think about it. See what I did there?

The term was first used in H. Igor Ansoff’s book “Corporate Strategy: An Analytical Approach to Business Policy for Growth and Expansion.” It has been associated with the business decision-making process since the 1960s, but we can see it expressed through narrative in various works of human history, such as Aesop’s fables and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Nowadays, analysis paralysis has made its way into our everyday vocabulary and has become a widely known phenomenon that can occur in numerous situations, mundane and serious alike.

There are various speculations about the nature of analysis paralysis. Most of them revolve around having too much or, in some cases, too little information. Psychologists suggest that the root cause of analysis paralysis is anxiety, as we fear making the wrong decision. On the other hand, some theories propose that certain human traits, such as rigid thinking, perfectionism, people-pleasing, lack of confidence, and even empathy, can make individuals more susceptible to experiencing this state. Empaths, who would have guessed, right?

So, how does all this affect our Tuesday board game night

Dune Imperium Board
If your friends suffer from AP, be prepared for a long game of Dune Imperium.

Analysis Paralysis And Board Gaming

Let’s take a moment to remember how losing feels. Done? Great… Well, not exactly. It sucks, right? On this, we can all agree. We’ve all been there at one point, and statistically, we tend to lose more than we win since most board games can only have one winner. So why do we care who wins or loses?

We care because we feel that we did something wrong and that ultimately we are to blame. Add a multitude of rules, too many options, and player interaction, and we can easily become overwhelmed with the amount of information we need to process during our turn in a board game. 

This leaves room for analysis paralysis to slip in. In these cases, people may refer to it as being “AP-in,” and it’s perfectly normal for some people to regularly experience it. In other cases, bad game design may also contribute to analysis paralysis. Therefore, it’s important to explore how smart game design can help minimize this problem for players.

Not all of us are made with the go-with-the-flow mindset or like to do things without thinking too much. Some are just built differently and they may prefer to strategize, focus, and do the whole Yomi thing of reading their opponents’ next moves. If a player in your gaming group takes a longer turn, especially in strategic board games, it does not necessarily mean they are experiencing analysis paralysis. However, if you notice that the player consistently takes a long time every turn, then you may need to have a conversation with them about it. 

Brass Birmingham board
There’s no room for doubt if you want to be the pioneer of the industry in Brass Birmingham.

How To Spot Analysis Paralysis When Playing Board Games

I understand that downtime can be boring or frustrating for some players, but it’s important not to criticize or rip on AP players. Doing so doesn’t help and can make things worse. Let’s instead focus on how we can spot if someone is struggling with this and how we can help them beat analysis paralysis. After all, that’s what game nights are all about, we play games and have fun with our friends, right?

So, if you are not sure whether you are experiencing AP, here is a list of potentially stress-related symptoms that you can try to identify. These can help you and your friends.

  • Ruminating thoughts
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea

Ways To Overcome Analysis Paralysis In Board Games

There are a few ways to help yourself or your friends play faster and stop taking long turns. However, the main thing to remember when dealing with analysis paralysis is that it’s never as bad as you might think

Try to stay in the present and make step-by-step decisions. Once you take that first step, everything can change, and you may realize that the play you made wasn’t as bad as you thought.

You can also try setting a deadline for yourself. I know this may sound silly for board games, but hear me out. If you’re an AP player, try giving yourself a time limit. Some of the more complex games have longer turns, so you can use other people’s turns to help manage your time. This may help you play faster and finish your turns in a timely manner.

Additionally, try breaking the thought pattern with something else, like throwing some dice randomly or shuffling the cards. This may help you reset and make a better – or at least quicker decision.

Remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes and ask for help. Getting a second pair of eyes can be helpful. Just one person is enough to break the loop you’re stuck in and maybe confirm something you already thought about. This goes the other way as well. 

If you notice that your friend is struggling, instead of worrying and thinking, “Oh no, here comes analysis paralysis! Board game night is officially ruined”, try talking to the other player and being helpful. Assist them in analyzing their move and see where they are stuck. It may sound cliché, but you would be amazed at how just a little bit of a different perspective can go a long way.


Having analysis paralysis while tabletop gaming can be unfortunate for both the AP player and everyone else. Luckily, it’s not the end of the world. Try to identify when it happens, stay in the present, make step-by-step decisions, set a deadline, or break the thought pattern. Talk and work together as a group, and you will see that there are some things in which everyone can win. Good luck, and be there for each other.


What are examples of analysis paralysis?

Classic examples of analysis paralysis can range from major life decisions such as purchasing a new home, to more mundane choices such as deciding what to eat for dinner. In the context of board games, analysis paralysis is often triggered by having a multitude of options to choose from and information to process, making it a common issue for some players. 

What is the root cause of analysis paralysis?

According to psychologists, anxiety is believed to be the underlying cause of analysis paralysis, as the fear of making a wrong decision can have a paralyzing effect. Many theories center around having either too much or too little information, and some believe that certain human traits, such as rigid thinking, perfectionism, people-pleasing, lack of confidence, and even empathy may be the root causes.

How do you escape analysis paralysis?

Escaping analysis paralysis is no small feat. Start by identifying it and then try to stay in the present, take it step-by-step, set a timeline for yourself, or break the thought pattern with something else entirely. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to talk to someone from your gaming group and discuss the move you’re considering. Remember, it’s okay to lose, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!