Meet your teacher: Economics teacher finds joy in board games

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Provided by Dean Lizardo

Upper school economics teacher showcases the myriad of board games he enjoys playing, whether it be with friends, family or his advisory. “The big draw to me is that board games allow you to connect with people in ways that you normally wouldn’t be able to,” Lizardo said. “Because sometimes we’re just looking at a screen or playing video games, you don’t actually get to see or talk to these people.”

by Arely Sun, Winged Post Lifestyle Editor

Behind his desk, upper school economics teacher Dean Lizardo keeps a stash of board games, stuffing the cubby of his tall bookshelf full of multicolored boxes. 

“It would probably be pretty clear once you walk into [my classroom] that I like to play board games—I do it a lot with my advisory as well,” Lizardo said.

The first game that sparked Lizardo’s interest in board games was Carcassonne, a simple tile-laying game modeled after a city in France. After enjoying his experience with it about 10 years ago, he discovered boardgamegeek.com, an online forum for fellow board gaming hobbyists that consolidates reviews, images and videos of over 101,000 games.

“When I discovered that website, I was like ‘Oh, my goodness, actually more board games out there than just the stuff that I know’” Lizardo said. “And then from there, it just took off. I was like ‘That’s a really cool hobby, and there’s a lot of stuff there.’” 

Beyond his own enjoyment of the hobby, Lizardo’s favorite aspect of board games is the social connection made by playing with others. He cherishes genuine memories created over game nights.

“The big draw to me is that board games allow you to connect with people in ways that you normally wouldn’t be able to,” Lizardo said. “Because sometimes we’re just looking at a screen or playing video games, you don’t actually get to see or talk to those people.”

An ongoing tradition surrounding board games Lizardo greatly enjoys is playing an election-themed game called Making of the President with his wife every four years. In the game, players are assigned the roles of former presidents and compete to win the imaginary election.

“Every election night, as we watch the returns roll in for an election, we actually play that game, so that’s a really cool recurring memory that I have with my wife every four years or so,” he said.

Another special memory of his was going to test play games made by the designer of one of his favorite games, Ultimate Werewolf.

“We were actually really close friends with [the designer] and his wife, and we actually got to play test some of the games that he was really seeing,” he said. “That’s a pretty cool memory to meet board game designers and help them with their games.”

In addition to werewolf and mafia-esque games, Lizardo’s current favorite is Suburbia, a city-building game where players try to place different parts of their cities optimally to try and get the most points.

“If you’re familiar with, like SimCity or any city-building games, Suburbia is basically a board game version, where you build out your own city,” he said. “It’s really cool art too, and it’s really fun, and it’s easy to teach.”

Lizardo also uses games such as Pit, which replicates the process of bidding, to illustrate concepts of supply and demand as well as monopolies to his economics classes. Despite his knowledge in the subject and experience in playing board games, he jokes that he often doesn’t win because he tends to overthink his actions.

“I do know that ultimately, when you play games, they’re optimal actions, and they’re efficient actions,” he said. “Maybe I think too hard, and that’s why I can’t actually win these games.” 

While most are familiar with mainstream games such as Monopoly, Lizardo views them as less exciting since they rely solely on luck-based mechanics such as dice-rolling and don’t emphasize decision-making and strategy as much.

“With mainstream games, the mechanics or the things that you do in the game are simple. With Monopoly, you roll the dice, you move and you’re forced to do whatever you’re supposed to do,” he said. “With some of these other board games that I play, there’s a lot more decisions that you can make–it’s not just the luck of the draw.”