Complaining players (especially the ones who win)

How long is the train ride from Oregon?
Just curious :slight_smile: I’ve been using more trains lately (actual trains, not train games ) …

Maybe we need to create a self-help group :slight_smile: My partner tends to not win games though–but winning or losing makes very little difference at this point.

Our friend put her finger on it though: he makes a plan, and if anything interferes with his plan–which is easy because his plans tend to be narrow and very specific–he starts moping around and declaring the game “brittle” or even “bad”. It used to be far less pronounced but… overall stress level is still pretty high. So recently, I have resorted to solo-ing even more than before. Luckily, we have a bunch of boardgame loving friends… and in a group setting he still plays along.


I think this is quite common. I have encountered people getting very grumpy when playing Brass because it’s “too dependent on what you draw” and they “can’t do anything”. My experience is more that they can’t do what they want and have a hard time shifting focus.


I kinda want to test myself on this with Pax Pamir 2nd, because from what I hear the person who most easily abandons their plans and goes with the changing circumstances can do very well.


As long as you abandon your plans at the right moment! There’s nothing like switching allegiances from a “hopeless” faction only to have someone else turn it around to brighten your day :laughing:


My first game of Terraforming Mars felt like that: here’s a thing you could do, but only if you get these other cards, and you are probably not ever going to see those cards but in any case you have to commit to it now. (It didn’t help that we believed the rules, which say that drafting is not recommended for early games.)

I’m not normally a “lay out my plan in turn one and stick to it” guy, but I felt much more “cork on the seas of fate” than I usually like when I’m not playing Arabian Nights.


@RogerBW Should we make a new thread about these gamers who get grumpy about these aspects if games? I have a player in my group who exhibits many similar traits and it’d be nice to have some discussion in it’s own space


This sounds like a case for myers-briggs! A textbook ‘J.’ I’m surrounded by some extreme J’s too and am working through a 20 year plan to increase their comfort with flexibility and spontaneity.


We’re nerds, we can’t help it :wink:


My biggest problem is players who complain/tune out during the teach and then protest during play when something comes up.

We’re going to play this tomorrow, would you prefer to read the rules yourself? No.
During the teach, distracted, getting water. Making comments and sounds of oh my gosh, this is taking forever.

Then, during the game, “Wait! That’s a new rule! You didn’t tell us that.”

“Yes… I did.” (I’ve rehearsed this to a certain extent and I know for a fact I used the exact same words).

“You keep changing the rules on us!”



This thread is a personal attack against me and I do not care for it.

Joking aside, I have found myself in these positions before: grumpy or outright upset about how a game is going, regardless of how well I’m doing in the game.

To some degree, I can describe it as an emotional reaction to a change in how the balance of the game goes. Often when I’ve found myself in these situations, the game state would be heavily biased in my favor and I would be leaping ahead in terms of winning or advancing my position compared to other players, which is an endorphin trigger; then, as a result, any time the game would correct the balance, those endorphins would fade and, even if I were in a superior position, the game wouldn’t feel as exciting. And watching other players advance their positions faster compared to mine would be frustrating.

I really struggled with this for a long time. I won’t say I’m immune to it now, but I’ve worked on it in a couple of ways. Firstly, I have worked on finding the joy in the game itself, rather than winning or losing. As such, I have very little enthusiasm for games with low quantity or quality of decisions (I could rant about this as it relates to the contemporary euro design space).

Additionally, I try to focus on the people around my table and ensure each person is having fun. It’s always been true that the people having fun around the table are more important than the game; but the older I get and the fewer friends I have, the more important it seems.


I do grump sometimes, and I do hate myself for it. I don’t think I get to the point where I whine all game though, and I don’t think I upset other players?

But I do notice how some people go out of their way to be pleasant to play with, always upbeat, always positive, and I know I am not that.

I do worry that my difficulty in finding opponents is not only because I always want to play highly interactive brain burning long games. But it could just be basically that.


I regularly play with someone mentioned previously in the Recently Played Boardgames thread who displays their negative emotions loudly over and over. They’re also very good at blaming a game for their bad play. The thing that got me thinking of them in this thread is

This definitely hits my memories. The plaintive wail of ‘there’s nothing I can do’ is regular. I particularly remember this in a game of around 160 point final scores when this grump was stopping them do anything and I just snapped at them as they had a 26 points move available. They took the turn and carried on grumbling that there were no good options. It made it obvious to me how much some expectation of wanting to a particular thing blotted out all reality and chance to explore options. They’re also good at running the one algorithm in a game over and over so won’t play many games differently play by play. The most annoying bit though is the whining in game about how bad their position is. I’ve lost count of the number of games won when people go easy on them due to the complaining.

This is good it’s nice to see it’s not just people who don’t have much going on in life and over value winning but some other personality traits can influence.

And while I will complain about them it’s nice to hear people’s partners struggling as I don’t think their a bad person and I slightly put up with bad game behaviour for other reasons so it’s good to hear I’m not alone! Nor is @lalunaverde but he’s a better person than I am so he just let’s it all wash over him.


I try not to be Complaining Guy.

I get irked by some features of games:

  • X has clearly already won, the rest of us are just marking time and there’s nothing we can do about it.
  • because X and Y are playing better than me, there’s nothing at all I can do, because they’re locking up the essential spots (vs “I know I’m going to lose, but I can at least have some fun doing the thing”).
  • I want to do obvious thing A (e.g. “walk over there”), but I can’t because I haven’t drawn the A-enabling card this round. (Wildlands.)
  • a constant parade of “OK, I’ll do D” “you can’t because P and Q” “OK, I’ll do E” “that doesn’t work because L and M” – sometimes this is a sign that I or other players haven’t sufficiently internalised the rules, but I tend to stay clear of games that have a lot of that sort of interlocking mechanism. (I got that feeling about both Mage Knight and Oath from the forum games here.)

and I try not to play games like that, but sometimes it’s what the group is playing and I don’t want just to sit out… fine.

Given that in an N-player competitive game N-1 of us will be walking away losers, I try very hard to pick games for my collection which are fun to play even if you’re losing. (Even if I’m the best player in the world, I want my friends to come back and play again.)

The people I’ve mostly played with, and I’ve assumed this is standard British gamer though clearly there are exceptions, tend to be quite self-deprecatory and sarcastic., (@Lordof1 and I were trying out some trash talking in our Ashes game last night. We’re not terribly good at it.) I hope that doesn’t get interpreted as complaint.


This is why I am a strong proponent of ending a game with a winner if everyone is happy to end it. (this is before I took up 18xx, where it is a common practice on many 18xx groups). Still remember that game of Res Arcana, which is a pure Euro resource-conversion efficiency. We know who will win and it will take 2 more rounds before it’s over. We end it. No hurt feelings. We played another game and avoided wasting time


Learning rules by ear is really the pits though. I must admit I love the old queen stuff which seems to religiously adhere to a “here are three options, do one of them”. It makes listening to explanations much easier.

I think I like to fall into the category of “hoping this one idea pans out” but I’m never good enough to maths it out to the end and it becomes a mess usually by the end of round one.

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Oh wow, yes, all 4 of those. I don’t complain (because everyone having a good time is too important) but I’ve rarely any interest in playing the game again.


This is both a game trait and a player trait. Gamewise, snowball games (Monopoly, Risk, Catan with Cities & Knights) are fun to WIN, not fun to play. I find other games (e.g., Caylus) the same - fun to win. I think this is because they are primarily games of denial, so the dominant emotion is stress, and it’s fun when things are going your way but frustrating when not.

One of the only hard criteria I have for games in my collection is, is it fun to lose?

Also a player trait, though - I divide my other gamers into those who like to play and those who like to win. My father and wife are both in the latter category. For those who are here to play, you can throw new games at them and higher complexity games, and they are just happy to be there and explore the system. For those who are here to win, I have to stick to simpler games or to a small set of familiar games. They want to stay on familiar territory where they are confident they are doing well, and get disproportionately disoriented with new systems or complex interactions where they don’t feel in control of the session.


Der Weg ist das Ziel.

I am definitely not immune to getting a bit grumpy, I try my best to not let it show. I am deeply embarrassed when I do and regard it somehow as my personal failing that I am unable in that moment to take a step back… but it happens to all of us I suppose. Watching other people be sore losers really drove home the point to me that I had to get over that. When 4 people play a competitive game, chances are I am not the winner at the end.

There are games that make it hard on those who are on the losing side and I have vowed to try my best and “call” games early when appropriate. But Everdell for example keeps you in the game–unlike Terra Mystica you don’t pass when you end a season you just continue on. Yesterday, was also a learning game and on top of that he was winning–not by much, just 71, 69, 68 and 48 (but 48 had more fun than 71, go figure)–I did not want to end the game early.

Absolutely. I just play one more game and hope that by playing more and more and more I will eventually get better and yet sometimes when I play (apps mostly) games that I know really well, I get the worst scores despite that. I just go with my hunches of what might make a good move and when another one comes along… I change my plans. My partner tries to math it out and lands in AP hell that is then wrecked by the other players at the table. Then he feels like he wasted his efforts… the end.

The ability to pivot takes a lot of played games… and I think this is the point where it becomes obvious that between me and my partner boardgames are my hobby and not his.


From a social point of view, I absolutely love games where no-one has any idea who has won until you count points at the very end.

Everyone has a 99% good experience, and there’s not enough time to dwell on any upset before a new game.


I think “traditional” games tend to be firmer on the play-to-win - consider e.g. chess competitions where all that matters is the win/loss. And two-player games, similarly. (I really like Air, Land & Sea for the way you can bail out early and take a minor loss, or stick it out in hope of winning but lose harder.) I suspect people whose formative early gaming careers had a lot of that sort of thing may be more focused on the win.

One difficulty with calling a game: a new or poor player may not realise how hopeless their situation is. (E.g. any of you who play chess would almost certainly beat me, but it might take me a while to notice how much trouble I was in.)