Social Experiences in Board Games – Part 1

On each Friday of the past two weeks, I’ve experienced various board-games with varying degrees of accessibility and lessons to be learnt.

Rhino Hero

Starting off in week 1, we played ‘Rhino Hero’, which is a rather simple game, aimed at children of ages 5+. In short, it’s card stacking with a twist.

The understanding of this game was simple. Deal the ‘roof cards’. Take turns playing a roof card and use the ‘building / wall cards’ to build the stack higher and higher. The aim is to play roof cards with a Rhino icon, so that the next person must move the Rhino figure onto the appropriate roof card, in the attempt to have them be the ones to make the stack fall over; resulting in them being the loser. The aim of having other move the Rhino, I believe to be key.

Among Thieves

The second notable game in week 1, was ‘Among Thieves’. This was a major step up in competitiveness, compared to ‘Rhino Hero’.

This was the introduction of my favourite board game mechanic or theme, ‘social deduction’. “A social deduction game is a game in which some or all players’ roles are unknown to some or all others, so they must use logic and deduction to figure out the roles of others, and/or they must bluff to keep players from suspecting their own role.”

While Among Thieves had each player knowing what roles everyone else had, the deduction came into play through ‘honorable / dishonorable’ tokens. These would all be revealed at once, to see who wanted to pursue any given ‘mission’ honorably or dishonorably. The results of a mission varied, with a larger payout going to those who were dishonorable while others were honorable, or no payout if everyone went dishonorably. Hopefully you can start to see the idea of strategy being born here, in juxtaposition to ‘Rhino Hero’.

Ultimate Werewolf

Throw away the board, but keep the ‘social deduction’. ‘Ultimate Werewolf’ is a large scale game. It’s both simple, as well as has a lot to teach in regard to social engagement & design in games.

4 Werewolves, multiple Villagers and one ‘Seer’. The goals are to either have,the Werewolves kill off as many Villagers as possible to the point where the number of Villagers matches the Werewolves, or have the Villagers kill all the Werewolves. Killing a player is done by voting, with the Seer having opportunities to gain knowledge of who-is-who and subtly encourage votes and their outcomes. All this resulting in many conversations, betrayals and moments of social deduction to be had.

Initial Take Away

Board games, or perhaps even gaming in general. Derives from and heavily includes, social interaction.

“How can electronic games be designed so that collaboration is a worthwhile, interesting, and attractive option?” (Zagal, Rick and Hsi, 2006), this is a great question tackled in ‘Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board games’. Social interaction and design in games can teach us how to interact with our peers, at a young  age, “Children’s social development affects their ability to establish good relations with others and follow social roles” (Türkoğlu, 2019). The Effect of Educational Board Games’ engages with children and the social lessons taught in various games.

The ability for games to enhance social experiences and teach societal lessons, is incredible. I believe that the potential for this should not be underestimated, as well as for board games to be encouraged in many learning environments.


 Türkoğlu, B., 2019. The Effect of Educational Board Games Training Programme on the Social Skill Development of the Fourth Graders. İlköğretim Online, pp.1326-1344.

Zagal, J., Rick, J. and Hsi, I., 2006. Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board games. Simulation & Gaming, 37(1), pp.24-40.

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