by Globus the Elder
“There are many victories worse than a defeat.” – George Eliot
Something a little different this week.
Conceding is hard. There’s an ego attachment that is difficult to overcome. This can be offset in shorter games, because of the opportunity to start over and try something new. Novelty and unique experience is what we play games for, and shorter games allow us to lessen the ego attachment.
Longer games have a much deeper investment, both of time, and as an act of creation. Novelty is separated by sessions, at best, and more likely months, as some games can take the better part of the day. Some games are capable of lasting twelve hours, like my most recent involvement in a six player game of Axis & Aliies: Anniversary Edition. A particular game with a particular group will lend itself to a particularly long game, as in a fifteen hour game of Twilight Imperium (Admittedly, we don’t always take optimal turns, but six player A&A at ten minutes a turn is an hour per round).
So, with this investment, there may reach a time where the probability waves begin to collapse into a reality wherein you cannot win. Most games have only one winner, and the likelihood that it’s you decreases with the number of players, and your fortunes (At the start of a six player game, assuming equal skill and a balanced game, you have seventeen percent chance of victory).
Every action taken by all players from this point forward are skewing this probability. If you like the game, you may have even thought up your plan in the previous week. Maybe you have a new strategy or tactic you want to try, and your imagination has begun to fill in details about your upcoming triumph. In this case, your ego attachment has begun before the game has.
Fate, being fickle, may have other plans. A dice roll, or other random element, may cause an event to turn in a negative way. A player interaction turns out in a way you, or they, had not intended. Your ally sees their own path to victory without you. Diplomacy is a game that is infamous for ruining friendships, as for any one player to win, they have to rely on another player who is trying to win. Sometimes, your ally may simply feel that their current needs and situation more important right now. Maybe you’re just not as good at the game as you think you are (I am not as good at Twilight Struggle as I think I am).
There are games, like A&A and Game of Thrones, where, through mistake and/or misfortune, a player can be trapped with no hope of victory, but may still be involved in the game. This is probably the worst situation for everyone, as that player becomes either motivated to become a kingmaker, granting another player victory, or lose interest and become distracted. If that player leaves, there is a power vacuum, totally distorting the game. If they leave and are somebody’s carpool, that becomes very awkward. So, they stay, and unless they start playing with something else in between their turns, they begin an experience I consider the gaming equivalent of a day at the DMV.
In a two player game, you can concede relatively easily, but as you add the additional players, you can start to feel the guilt of negatively affecting someone else’s experience. Other players who are competing for a potential win, and whose quantum probabilities have increased, have no desire to end the game. Some players will not retire as long as they can conceive of a potential path to victory, in spite of any evidence or argument (“Let’s play it out, and see what happens.”). This person is riding their ego investment, and it can become more pronounced as they see themselves snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
So, when is it okay to quit? There’s a cost/benefits analysis question each group has to ask. It helps if each player knows what they are getting into, that they know how long the game is likely to take, and what is expected of them. The longer the game, the more taxing it will be. If a game has particular conditions, like the situation of the Russian player in A&A, that require a particular play style, it is important that that player be of the temperament to handle that play style. If they are not, because another player desires to execute their plan, then that has to be taken into consideration.
We try to play games because we enjoy games, and when “get to” becomes “have to” without a suitable reward at the end, it can make that game less likely to be played in the future. It can be difficult to know when you’re beaten, or when the energy you’re putting into a game is less that the satisfaction you’re getting out of it, or when riding your ego investment becomes being dragged along by it.
Know when to concede. Know when to let others concede, even if that means you won’t win. You can play again, or play something else, and you will be better served by doing so.
Weekly Blog Schedule.
Friday - Bi-Weekly
Saturdays - Monthly
A Gloomhaven Campaign
First Sunday Of The Month