Want to REALLY know someone? Play a board game

Playing board games is a great way to test startup cultural fit.

What’s the fastest way to get to know someone? I mean REALLY know them?

Play golf

With its highs, lows, elements of luck and skill, the game is a metaphor for life itself. Want to test someone’s patience? Teamwork? Integrity? Nothing compares to spending 4 hours together battling that little white ball.

I. Love. Golf.

Unfortunately I decided to work in tech and not pharmaceutical sales. So I don’t play often with work colleagues. As a friend once told me …

Tech doesn’t do golf.

He’s right. As much as I love the game, I have to admit it isn’t exactly startup friendly. It is expensive, harder than hell and takes forever — not quite compatible with entrepreneurship.

Fortunately the second-best activity for getting to know someone is startup friendly: board games.

A golden age for board games

Mika told me about The Full History of Board Games by Peter Attia. Its one of those amazing gems I find on Medium. He traces the history of games from Ur to Settlers of Catan, complete with pictures and history. I didn’t realize board games were so popular:

Within the past few years board games have gone through an explosion of growth. In 2012 The Guardian went as far as dubbing it “A Golden Age for Board Games”, stating board games have seen a growth rate as high as 40% year over year. It’s also quickly becoming one of Kickstarter’s most funded project categories.

Who knew? I guess I assumed everyone was sitting around playing games on their phones and iPads.

What playing a board game teaches you about someone

I’ve played board games my whole life. My fondest childhood memories are playing Monopoly and cards with family and friends. As a pre-teen I was a Dungeons & Dragons nerd (big shocker, I know).

In the “dotcom” 90s I started playing board games with work colleagues at The Motley Fool. I soon discovered how much you could learn about someone over a few hours of strategy games.

Is he someone who needs to read every rule before starting? Or is he a “let’s learn as we go” sort of player?

Can she bluff? If not, what is her “tell”?

How competitive is Robert? Does he really want to win for winning’s sake or is playing along enough for him?

Is she paying attention to what Doug is doing? Will she adapt? Or is she really this focused on her own (doomed) strategy?

After a few hours you know who is a bad loser … a gracious winner … a good partner … fun … competitive … clever. You can see who doesn’t understand probability, risk and return. You can tell who has strong opinions, weakly held.


I can imagine playing board games together as part of a hiring process. It seems like a good way to test cultural “fit” during a trial period.

I would pick a brand new board game — one that nobody knows so we’re all starting from the same point of ignorance.

Trying to win a new game when you don’t know the rules. Sounds a lot like startups, doesn’t it?

Game on!

Photo credit: kennysarmy


Originally published at ScribbleIQ Blog.

Like what you read? Give Kevin Dewalt a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.