#201: Having Fun While Losing


It is a strange thing for one’s hobby to be utterly infused with a nominally competitive structure. I would venture to say that knitters, for instance, devote precious little thought as to whether they can knit more or less well than their fellow crafters. Perhaps it is different for scrapbookers, I don’t know, they seem like a ruthless lot.

01:16 AYURIS: Aristeia! (Alberto Abal, Jesús Fuster, & David Rosillo, Corvus Belli, 2017)

Games Played Last Week:
04:20 -Città-Stato (Simone Cerruti Sola, Giochix.it, 2021)
07:04 -Uprising: Curse of the Last Emperor (Cornelius Cremin, Pawel Mazur, & Dirk Sommer, Nemesis.Games, 2021)
15:34 -G.I. JOE Deck-Building Game (T.C. Petty III, Renegade Game Studios, 2021)
17:16 -Bitoku (Germán P. Millán, Devir, 2021)
22:58 -Steamwatchers (Marc Lagroy, Mythic Games, 2021)
29:44 -Regicide (Paul Abrahams, Luke Badger, & Andy Richdale, Badgers from Mars, 2020)
30:58 -Boonlake (Alexander Pfister, Capstone Games, 2021)
38:18 -Shards of Infinity: Into the Horizon (Gary Arant, Justin Gary, Ryan Sutherland, Jared Saramago, Mataio Wilson, & Jason Zila, Stone Blade Entertainment, 2021)
39:49 -For Science! (R. Eric Reuss, Grey Fox Games, 2021)
41:43 -Niagara (Thomas Liesching, Zoch Verlag, 2004)

News (and why it doesn’t matter):
43:34 Riftforce expansion: Beyond
43:57 Instead of sci-fi → fantasy, Aeon’s End → Astro Knights
44:30 Ravensburger investing in GameFound
45:45 Slain: Warlord Games’ cavalcade of talent

47:05 Topic: Having Fun While Losing

Happy that Galaxy Trucker got a mention.

Bemused by the results they reported of over half their respondents only having fun when they win.


I was trying to describe my reaction to hearing that - bemused is absolutely the right word. I really can’t get my head around the idea that people might play multiplayer games regularly with the knowledge that they won’t have fun unless they’re winning.


If I play games with more than two players most of us are going to lose more than we win, so it’s been one of my considerations for a while that the game should still be enjoyable when one’s losing.

I tend to like games in which I can still build or achieve something even while I’m losing – one might say towards the “race” end more than the “direct conflict” end of the scale I’ve just made up. So maybe I’m hopelessly behind, but I can use the remainder of the game to practice my tactics for next time. (It seems odd to accuse Euros of having too much conflict, but I get quite frustrated by that sort of Euro where the leading players can end up rotating the important shared resources between them.)

When there is direct conflict, I like a relatively short time span between the moment of knowing I will inevitably lose and the end of the game – which is why I still love Onitama. (One can do this with a tradition of resignation, but really only in two-player games, and if I’m sufficiently outmatched I may not know when defeat is unavoidable anyway.)

When I was trying out new games every month at a boardgame café, I noticed that my own opinion of a game tended to be much higher if I’d won on my first play. So now I try to compensate for that.


I play to play. I don’t play to lose but I rarely play to win at any cost. I play to make “fine moves”. I play to explore the game space and to make “combos”. I get miffed only when I don’t get to do that because I got boxed in, that’s when I lose my enjoyment of the game when my choices are suddenly limited. It happens to me but rarely. Usually, when I played badly. Most times I can see what I could have done better. I get a bit miffed with myself then.

I win often enough that I do not mind losing or even getting trounced in a few games–especially when I am playing against people who know the game better. Especially when learning, losing is just part of the process. As long as I can see what I could have done better, I don’t mind. In some cases winning and losing may have to do with luck. Even games that allow for luck mitigating… and that’s fine. A few rare games where I’ve given everything and felt I played well and still lost… those did make me feel a little stupid for a moment or two. But the only thing I remember that qualifies is last year’s losing streak in Tash Kalar.

And then there is how my partner hates losing...

Last night on the drive home we had a long long discussion bordering on a fight about how I “always destroy everyone” at games. Destroy in this case meant, I was 7 points ahead of the rest in our game of Beyond the Sun and that my partner only made 2nd place because I suggested his final (very fine!) move. He repeatedly said the game was not balanced well and I nodded for a bit but felt unable to blame Beyond the Sun for him giving up when he couldn’t get a cheap slot for a level 2 tech in round 3.

I have now spent the better part of my free morning trying to write out my thoughts on this–because I have a lot of them. But when I put them down it makes the issue too real. My partner is the most sore loser I know. And I win too often and there are debates about it every time. He knows he is a sore loser, he says it’s him and playing against me makes him feel stupid (he’s not, definitely not). He still indulges me by playing with me but it rarely ends with fun on both sides. I blame the pandemic for a lot of this (but not all of it) and spare you more details.

PS: coops and party games and game adjacent activities (Dixit, Concept) are helpful.


I know it may not seem like it now, but I find it helps to think of the all-too-common alternative: a partner who has absolutely no interest in games. Whenever I find myself jealous of people who found a gaming partner, I remind myself that I’m relatively lucky to be with someone who enjoys Dixit, and that’s not nothing.