The Jaded Gamer

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My Pet Hates #1 - Single Play Strategists

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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"She said the same thing about waffles."
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Gawd bless the genii at xkcd:

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This reminds me of one of my all time major pet hates in the board gaming hobby.

If a game is not fun, I'm quite happy for people to make their conclusions about that game after a single play, after all your gaming time is precious and I'm not some crazy self flagellation proponent!

One thing that makes me absolutely livid, however, is the habit people have of assuming their first play experience (or limited experience, in the case of games like Chess and Go) is enough to sum up the game's strategic merits and shortcomings.

Often these arise, as in the cartoon, from a justification of failure to win. There is a point after the game where a chat about how you felt the game was is enjoyable - but don't assume that just because your strategies didn't work in the game you just played...

a. The strategy you tried will never work
therefore...
b. the game is fundamentally flawed

After all, while you may have the wrong end of the stick, part of the journey with any new game is to find these things out. The world is full of people parroting the old adages about a game being "broken" or "the <insert wooden cube type here> strategy is overpowered".

If I haven't played the game multiple times, I'll try(!) not to fall into this trap. Rather than the above explanation for the failure of your naive strategy, I would tentatively submit these, more reasonable explanations:

a. You chose an inefficient or substandard strategy
or...
b. You played a good strategy but at a substandard level.
or...
c. Your strategy is good in combination with another one, but you missed the connection
or, simply...
d. you took a chance and it didn't pay off

None of these alternatives is embarrassing. After all, you are just getting to know the game and different people do this at different rates.

There's an old truism in gaming that "when both players are of equal skill, the winner is determined by luck or first player advantage" and since this may be everyone's first game, skill levels should lead to far more luck determined outcomes than skill.

For example: my experience with Twilight Struggle has been an increase in streaky luck as we enter the late war, simply because we do not know the cards as well. This means that relative skill is closer and luck takes more of a hand.

Perhaps a judgement of the game's strategic shortcomings are a misguided attempt to explain bad luck? The motivation for this? Good old childhood entrenched embarrassment avoidance! (see preachy earlier posts)
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