Your Move

Title: Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us about Life

Author: Joan Moriarity & Jonathan Kay

Completed: July 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: This book had been on my To-Read list for a couple of years but took a while to get to the top. It was a fun look at table-top/board games and how we can develop skills through gaming to help in other areas of our lives. It was also (maybe even more so) a quick introduction to a large variety of games. One of the authors helps people find games to play at a game cafe. Parts of this felt like the conversation she would have with you, if you weren’t able to provide her with any feedback about your interests. The book explores different games and different types of games. As far as a book about the benefits of gaming, I think Reality is Broken does a better job, but this book got me excited about going out and playing more games which seems like exactly what it was intended to do.


  • I believe this truth applies to nearly every game. If you are an absolute perfectionist, there is no room for fun. Likewise, if you are too bored or lazy to even bother trying, it spoils the game for the whole table. To enjoy play, to be playful, the freedom to fail is as essential as the will to succeed.
  • almost every Eurogame is designed so that final scoring comes only at the end of the game, after some defined milestone or turn limit so that every player can enjoy the experience of being a (nominal) contender until the final moments. If this sounds somewhat Euro-socialistic, that is because it is
  • pre-twentieth-century, track-based games tended to share one thing in common: your goal would be to lead a virtuous life. This, too, was abandoned by game designers in the postwar period in favor of material wealth.
  • Whenever you sit down to play a game, whether you realize it or not, you are entering into an unspoken agreement with your fellow players. There is no universally agreed-upon text for the play contract. But if there were, it might include these basic precepts, which flow from our discussion of the magic circle in the book’s first chapter: 1. I agree to abide by the rules of the game as I understand them; no cheating. 2. I agree to take the game seriously enough to make a sincere effort to win; no throwing the game. 3. I agree to not take the game so seriously that it will affect my real-life relationships with my fellow players; no behaving like a jackass. The problem is that the second and third points sometimes come into conflict.
  • One of the main reasons some bosses micromanage is that they do not have a lot of work on their own desks. Give a boss something to do, and she will tend to give more autonomy to her minions. Likewise, minions who are tired of being told how to tie their shoelaces may rebel against corporate higher-ups by hoarding data within their fiefdoms and throttling the flow of information. The boss cannot micromanage a department she cannot fully survey or understand.
  • playing games really can provide important lessons for people running companies. In particular, cooperative games such as Pandemic teach us that group dynamics can get more complicated, not less when people are trying to co-operate rather than compete. This is important because most businesses, NGOs, government agencies, social clubs and even families can be thought of in some way as cooperative projects, even if real life tends to lack the well-defined rules and victory conditions you would find in a cooperative board game.
  • Critics of capitalism often decry the “greed” that animates successful entrepreneurs. The real problem, however, is not the amount of money made by people at the top; it is the systematic suppression of people at the bottom. The real-life equivalent of the Monopoly player who has to mortgage all his money-making assets to pay his debts is the hand-to-mouth day laborer who, unable to pay his car insurance, loses his car and, unable to drive to his job, is unable to pay his rent.
  • To experience the board game version of this kind of misery vortex in Monopoly is to appreciate the advantages of the welfare state, which, when it is functioning properly, does not just take money from rich people and give it to poor people. It also softens the iterative feedback dynamics within the system so as to ensure that minor nudges—a lost job, a criminal conviction, a divorce, a medical setback—do not create feedback effects that ultimately produce a full-blown personal catastrophe.
  • While we all know that medieval Europeans had metal pots and swords, few first-time Greenland players will know that Indigenous hunters used a remarkable device called a seal scratcher to simulate the sound of a ringed seal clawing its way through an ice sheet, thereby signaling to other seals that the coast was clear. Greenland is full of marvelous little discoveries like this.
  • the only way to get really good at Scattergories is to become a horrifyingly inhuman engine of misery and suffering. In other words, the most effective way to play Scattergories is to harm your opponents in real life. The game encourages, indeed, demands that its players violate the magic circle. For this reason, Scattergories is not merely a bad game and unhealthy for your relationships. From my point of view, as someone who considers the play space sacred, it is sacrilegious.
  • As a Jew whose ancestors were slaughtered by the Nazis, I know something about the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Hitler and his minions. I will admit that it has felt strange to take the German side in a war game but even that sense of unease has its educational side. Notwithstanding the monstrous nature of the Nazi regime, the young men who took up arms for the regime were flesh-and-blood human beings whose manner of warfare shaped the history of Europe. They, and their ways, deserve study for their own sake.
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