Friday, 31 August 2007

mindset when playing

What should be the attitude, the mindset, when playing boardgames? Do you play mercilessly, trying to win at all costs? Do you play nice and just try to make sure everyone has fun? Do you go as far as cheating to try to win? Do you treat different players differently, being nicer to some (your spouse, your girlfriend, or someone you are trying to charm) but tougher on others (other players perceived as being stronger, or your spouse?!)?

When I play, I generally do my best to win. I do exploit mistakes or weaknesses of others. I work hard to win. I don't go soft on my opponents. I expect the same of my opponents. We should all do our best. In fact, This is a matter of respect to your opponents. It is when you do your best that you get the most enjoyment and excitement out of the game. It is the battle of wits that I enjoy in boardgames. Immersion into the theme of the game is nice, but it is the competition in a risk-free world that is fun.

That's the general rule for me. Here are the exceptions.

Sometimes I do play nice. E.g. when playing some games with my wife, like Ticket To Ride. We have an unwritten agreement on the playing style for this game. We prefer not to intentionally block each other, and only focus on connecting the cities we need to connect. Blocking others in this game is perfectly legal and is also a valid strategy, just that it is not "nice", especially when you are the victim. By playing nice, we do lose a bit of the tension of the game, but we are OK with that. But when we play Carcassonnne, we play pretty mercilessly.

Another situation where I play nice is when teaching new games to people. I don't intentionally try to lose. I don't intentionally make bad moves. But sometimes I don't think too much and don't try too hard to come up with the best move. I play a little more by gut feel and a little less by careful planning. I will also point out any obvious mistakes made by the new player, I allow him/her to take back his/her move, I give some strategy tips, but not too much. A new player should explore the game and enjoy the process of exploring the game.

One thing that I do when there is a rule dispute, or some rule ambiguity, or some detail rule that I cannot remember or cannot find quickly in the rulebook, is that I will decide on the interpretation that will disadvantage myself, or will advantage my opponent. I just want to get on with the game and I do not want to be stuck in a rule argument. I can always check back the rule later. No point allowing a minor rule to spoil the fun. But of course if it is a rule with huge implications then I will try to find it in the rulebook to get the right answer.

I seem to talk more about the exceptions than the norm. Seriously, I play to win. But as Reiner Knizia says (gosh, I'm sounding like a worshipper), “When playing a game the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”.


dan daly said...

Hello, I came across your blog today looking for information about the game Crusader Rex using google. It's a very nice blog.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thank you, Dan. I write this blog mostly as a personal record of my boardgame hobby, but I'm happy that there are others who find it interesting.

Crusader Rex is a good game. If you like it, you may want to try Hammer of the Scots too (same designer). His coming game is War of the Roses. Head to for details of these games.

Han said...

When I play with Hiew in a multi-players game, i will always target him as he should be the stongest player since he know the rules well.

But I cannot begin to tell you how many times his wife win thus in a 3-players game.

Or how we lose and became last while gaming with newbies.

or the one time we play a 5-players Viktory II where the 3 players are attacking me right from the start and Hiew ignore my plead for help .... good time.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Han, that was indeed a painful game of Viktory II for you. It was totally about the metagame, you being the victim because your secondary school friends know you much better than me.

Most funny was still when we played For Sale with them. Till now I have no idea why two veteran gamers came 4th and 5th in a 5-player game of For Sale with 3 newbies.