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Subject: Staying Chill at the Game Table rss

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Jessica
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Does anyone else struggle with staying chill at the game table? Did you have trouble in the past? What do you do when you start to feel frustrated, or find yourself having a bad turn, or even an entire bad game?

I've got a problem staying relaxed and having fun when playing competitive games- I guess you could say I'm a poor sport? I get frustrated when I don't do well, or feel like I'm not doing well during a game, and it's hard to keep from showing it as my frustration grows.

It's particularly bad when I can 'see the writing on the wall' during a long winded game, and I realize I'm so far behind (Or feel like I am) that there isn't any catching up. That happened when we tried Scythe for the first time on Saturday. I have essentially no experience at a game like Scythe, but realized partway through the game that I was behind enough I would not catch up- so the rest of the game was essentially just waiting to lose. I was so disappointed in myself for playing badly, that I practically ruined the game for my husband and our friend.

Today we played two rounds of Red Dragon Inn, a game which I find infuriating most of the time. I never seem to have the cards I need to block incoming attacks, but everyone else can definitely block all of mine! Today my husband managed to throw three cards out to block one attack I kept trying to push through. I mean, what are the odds? So frustrating!

I hate feeling this way- I don't want to get frustrated at games, and I certainly don't want to ruin the game for others. It's the worst, and I know it's a problem, and I'm trying to work on it. I know at least some of the issue is that I frankly need more experience at playing competitive and strategic games; I'd certainly feel better if I felt I were playing competently. But my frustration makes it difficult for me to enjoy the games while I play them; I naturally want to avoid them because of this. Yet, even worse is that I really WANT to play competitive games! I love the idea of strategizing, commanding forces, out thinking the other players, all that stuff. I want to get into these sorts of games more! I really loved the way Scythe played, and want to play more if it and others like it- but that didn't mean I wasn't grumpy the whole time either.

Can anyone offer some advice so I can properly enjoy wrecking others and getting wrecked in competitive games?
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Chris Graves
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I have been a poor sport my whole life. A small part of why I play games is for therapy to help me learn how to be a better sport. I'm proud to say I've done very well, even though I get grumpy now and then...can't be helped. When I would lose, I would personally feel like I am a stupid moron. I was heaping that upon myself. Do you think you have underlying feelings attached with losing? Is there something deeper that causes you to get so frustrated? Maybe examine that a bit. For me, I've just come to the realization that I am a smart person, and I do many things well, but the people I play with are just smarter at strategy and games than me. That takes a huge load off my shoulders from the outset and allows me to have a fun time. I would also set short term goals that are achievable. For example: "I want to score more victory points than I did last game", or "I want to come in second place", etc. Good luck to you!
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Joe Van Overberghe
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I think you are going at it a little from the wrong perspective. Sure winning is fun, but the probability of losing is generally much higher. This is especially true if your current skill level is the same or less as everyone else.

What you can do is turn the game into a study of how others are doing it. Analyze their strategy. Take the games that you are losing to test different strategies that you see them using. Try and put a different spin on it. There is never a wasted game, just an opportunity to try things that you wouldn't/couldn't do if you were vying for the win. Will that mean you will win more games? Not at first, but part of becoming skilled is the ability to take a less than ideal situation and turn it. You will eventually start to win more games (maybe) but the one thing you will do is learn that there are ways to make things more interesting than just winning and losing.
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Greg
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Learn to play Go.

After you get consistently pummeled by 7 years old kids, it's hard to take yourself that seriously.
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Kirk
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I highly recommned a good glass (or 3) of Pinot Noir during game time. During particularly trying times, an XO Cognac.
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Shawn Harriman
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Brunnstag wrote:
Does anyone else struggle with staying chill at the game table?
Yes, absolutely.

Brunnstag wrote:
What do you do when you start to feel frustrated, or find yourself having a bad turn, or even an entire bad game?


Deep breaths, think about butterflies and daffodils.
Seriously I try my best to focus on positive, constructive things.


Brunnstag wrote:
It's particularly bad when I can 'see the writing on the wall' during a long winded game, and I realize I'm so far behind (Or feel like I am) that there isn't any catching up. That happened when we tried Scythe for the first time on Saturday. I have essentially no experience at a game like Scythe, but realized partway through the game that I was behind enough I would not catch up- so the rest of the game was essentially just waiting to lose.


I feel your pain here. Try not to think of ending in last place as losing.
Each game, if we focus on learning how to play the game or getting better at said game, it helps.

Brunnstag wrote:
I was so disappointed in myself for playing badly, that I practically ruined the game for my husband and our friend.


Don't beat yourself up for making a mistake. Anyone who claims to have never done something like this is not being honest. We have all done this.

Brunnstag wrote:
Today we played two rounds of Red Dragon Inn, a game which I find infuriating most of the time. I never seem to have the cards I need to block incoming attacks, but everyone else can definitely block all of mine! Today my husband managed to throw three cards out to block one attack I kept trying to push through. I mean, what are the odds? So frustrating!


I avoid playing games that make me feel this way. Sometimes just not playing is the best chance you have (Talisman and Relic I am looking at you.)

Brunnstag wrote:
Can anyone offer some advice so I can properly enjoy wrecking others and getting wrecked in competitive games?


I try to glean any positives I can
I am almost to 100 plays of Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar and I regularly get thrashed.
My best tool is to focus on what the winners are doing and learn as much as I can from each game.

I also quietly rejoice when I have pounded others into the sand in a game.

Enjoy the wins (quietly, politely.)

Learn from the losses.

Try to keep in mind that when you are gaming there is a one legged Norwegian famer trying to plow in January, and you are sitting in a warm comfy place with (likely) good company.
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Dan Ridge
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I'm the first to admit I have a ton of games and I lose, lose, LOSE just about every time I play. I have a tough time planning ahead, I'm lousy at predicting other players actions, I can't roll dice to save my life, and juggling numbers in my head hurts like hell. I am a good sport though and even if I'm dead last I'm having a good time with my friends. I never go into a game expecting to win but I will try different things and experiment to see what happens and if it turns out to be a good idea then blammo, I feel like I already won! Frustration comes from being fearful of making a mistake, or not recognizing a more efficient move earlier, or lady luck giving you the middle finger. If you can just focus on having fun no matter what crappy move you made and enjoy the moment you might find that gaming can once again become relaxing and stimulating at the same time. Being competitive doesn't mean you have to beat everyone else, you just have to beat yourself.
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Dianne N.
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I agree with Joe, I think you need to change your mindset.

You say you want to strategize and command forces and stuff, so if you know you're not going to win why not turn it into a game of learning? I don't mean by watching others (though that may help), but try some crazy tactics since you're not going to win anyway - think of "what if I did this" type things and try them out on a small scale. You just might surprise the others at the table with a really great move, or learn something you can use in the future. If you're not into this, you could just go based on points and try to do better than you did the last time you played, which is a sign you're learning better strategies.

Granted, when I try this for myself I usually end up losing worse than I already was, but even then I've learned something. Mostly it's about how NOT to go about a strategy, or how others will counter my thinking when I do try something. For instance, in recent 2-player game of Small World I was trying to see what would happen if I put a lot of my guys on defense in 2 lands, thinking that it was fail-safe. I was expecting the other player to go around or try conquering my races that were in decline so he could take over more lands and collect more points, but instead he took his entire turn to attack one of those lands and I lost half of my guys (and this was a 6 year old, imagine how infuriating THAT must have been for me). At least I learned what I can do in the future if someone does that in a game!

Also, try changing things up more. You say your husband was able to throw cards to block you on an attack you kept trying to push, but maybe he knows you well enough to know how you're going to play and is prepared to block it. I know my husband reads me like that all the time, I hate how he can get in my head.

Finally, in a game like Red Dragon Inn your character will determine your strategy and each character has certain attack types and certain weaknesses - it takes several games to learn this, though, and to determine which cards to keep and when to draw in order to play against each other character (or in Scythe, it takes a few games to understand the asymmetric factions and their strengths/weakensses).
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Keith B
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I played Cuba Saturday and knew I was out of it after the end of the second round. I jumped on a building too quickly and failed to get my engine going. While I lamented my poor choice, I handled my frustration by first acknowledging my bad play out loud, then making fun of my poor choice(s) the rest of the game. It makes others laugh which makes me laugh. Frustration gone.
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Richard Keiser

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Nope... never a problem.

It's just playing with toys.
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John Prewitt
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Board games? No.
Video games / sports? Yes (I can get angry).

but in board games I'm (usually) very relaxed.

OP: I think you need to play "fairer" [better] games or types that you're more familiar with. Someone experienced stomping you in Scythe is LAME and Red Dragon Inn is pretty lame to begin with. Go play Lost Cities or Lord of the Rings Confrontation or something where you have a tiny bit more control and you can learn quickly
 
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Chris in Kansai
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Think about the worst thing that ever happened to you and how that felt.
Then ask yourself why you're getting upset about a board game.

Perspective is your friend!
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Cannon Wolf
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If you feel you are getting beat because of skill levels in a particular game, why not play the game against yourself?
I've found that some solo sessions, even in games not designed for them, can help me better understand the different strategies in a game.
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Check out Clockwork Wars. It's a pretty darn good dudes on a hex map Euro'ish steampunk game. Quick and fun.
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The first step is admitting you have a problem and you did that beautifully. Seriously, that's great! Lots of people can't admit that they can be bad sports; it's fantastic that you are mature enough to do so. Puts you ahead of lot of folks on here.

I have no brilliant advice to offer. Other folks have offered what seems to me to be good advice: Study how other people play, see what works for them, use a losing game as a learning experience, etc.

I guess it boils down to two things:

1 - Most important, try to make winning matter a bit less. See it in perspective. As long as you're doing your best you're doing all you need to do. Who wins is really not important. Don't get me wrong: I like winning! However, over the years, I've learned to be a lot more mellow about it. How should you do that? I dunno, you know you best. Maybe try (and this would be hard) to examine why you're feeling the way you're feeling while you're losing. I mean, instead of wallowing in the frustration, take a mental step away and say "Hmmm, I'm frustrated, I wonder what about losing is bugging me so much? What things are coming to mind?" I know that's all psychobabble but it helps me when I am able to stop myself from getting caught up in the upset of the moment.

2 - Minor, try to get better. No guarantees here. I have a buddy, nice guy, who suffers a bit in both areas. He likes to play games, and he's smart, but he's not good at analyzing paths to victory. In his case I don't think this is going to change. Again, he's smart, he's just not game smart. You might be that. Or maybe not. So try, but don't assume that you'll automatically become the game master of your gaming community. And however good you get, there's always someone better. (In my case, it's my kid, at least at Ameritrash. At Euros I can beat him.)

Good luck!
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I legally own hundreds of polyhedral assault dice!
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Try sticking to just those games that you enjoy playing, win or lose.
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Matthew Bennett
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79strat wrote:
Someone experienced stomping you in Scythe is LAME


Scythe was new to all 3 of us. It's more that I'm better at recognizing patterns and understanding game mechanics, rather than what game we're playing.

I get pretty mad at some games too, but for me it's games like Legendary when it's a shuffle that puts 3 masterstrikes in a row that infuriates me. I try to be understanding when she gets pissed, but then I don't want to make her play a game like RDI when she's not enjoying it either. She'll insist we play it though, as to not deprive me of my favorite game.
 
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Starla Lester
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Remember that, all things being equal, if you sit down to play with three other people, your odds of winning are at 25%. Those aren't great odds, so be prepared to lose.

Knizia, a game designer once said something like: winning is the objective, but it isn't the goal. You are going to lose sometimes, so play your best and enjoy the company of your friends or family. That's the real goal.

And don't mistakenly tie your self esteem into winning or playing as well as you think you should. Experience will make you a better player over the long term. It gets better, I promise. In the meantime, concentrate on making sure the people you are playing with are having a good time. If they are, you'll find that you are, too.

Good luck!
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Mark Langford
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George Patton "I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed"
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Pauly Paul
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As others have pointed out a lot of this has to do with perspective. My advice would be to try a drill down all the underlining emotions here. You're not getting mad because you're losing. You're getting mad because of how you feel when you're losing. It may seem like the same thing but they are different.

Anger is a secondary emotion that comes about from other deeper feelings. Ones like frustration, which you've already mentioned. However there is more too it. You're feeling frustrated because of what "losing" represents to you. There is something more there and if you can figure out what that is you're then in a position to change your mental associations to it.

It's like finding a wet spot on your ceiling. To say it's caused by water isn't accurate enough to do anything about it. You need to find the source of the water (broken pipe? Faulty siding? Leaky roof?). Even once you do, there is still the repair work itself that needs to be done and you may need to obtain the right tools for the job. But if you want to have long lasting results that is the best approach.

Totally as an example maybe the frustration comes from feeling stupid. Like you think you should immediately understand a game the first time or people will judge you. Maybe you feel like your husband and friends are judging your skills and putting a value on your worth. So you need to win.

Once you identify the feelings and thoughts you can then ask yourself more questions about it. Like do you hold other people to the same rules. Like do you think your husband is less of a person if he doesn't win? Do you value him less? Asking questions like this can help shift the perspective decreasing its power over you. Poking holes in the (self) argument and changing the inner dialogue, even if that dialogue is subtle or subconscious.

Hopefully that made sense.
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Mutton Chops
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Brunnstag wrote:
I've got a problem staying relaxed and having fun when playing competitive games- I guess you could say I'm a poor sport? I get frustrated when I don't do well, or feel like I'm not doing well during a game, and it's hard to keep from showing it as my frustration grows.

It's particularly bad when I can 'see the writing on the wall' during a long winded game, and I realize I'm so far behind (Or feel like I am) that there isn't any catching up. That happened when we tried Scythe for the first time on Saturday. I have essentially no experience at a game like Scythe, but realized partway through the game that I was behind enough I would not catch up- so the rest of the game was essentially just waiting to lose. I was so disappointed in myself for playing badly, that I practically ruined the game for my husband and our friend.

Today we played two rounds of Red Dragon Inn, a game which I find infuriating most of the time. I never seem to have the cards I need to block incoming attacks, but everyone else can definitely block all of mine! Today my husband managed to throw three cards out to block one attack I kept trying to push through. I mean, what are the odds? So frustrating!

I hate feeling this way- I don't want to get frustrated at games, and I certainly don't want to ruin the game for others. It's the worst, and I know it's a problem, and I'm trying to work on it. I know at least some of the issue is that I frankly need more experience at playing competitive and strategic games; I'd certainly feel better if I felt I were playing competently. But my frustration makes it difficult for me to enjoy the games while I play them; I naturally want to avoid them because of this. Yet, even worse is that I really WANT to play competitive games! I love the idea of strategizing, commanding forces, out thinking the other players, all that stuff. I want to get into these sorts of games more! I really loved the way Scythe played, and want to play more if it and others like it- but that didn't mean I wasn't grumpy the whole time either.

Can anyone offer some advice so I can properly enjoy wrecking others and getting wrecked in competitive games?


Firstly, since this is clearly upsetting you, I think it's worth taking some time to review, as objectively as you can, the purpose of playing games for you, as an individual. I italicize that "you", there because people have all sorts of different reasons for playing games - not just board games, but video games, sports, and so on.

So, consider why it is you are attracted to play these games: what is it that you enjoy the most about playing a game. You've already started this analysis, since you say "I love the idea of strategizing, commanding forces, out thinking the other players...". To me those are three very separate and distinct things: the analytical pleasure in planning; having power over elements in the game, and the destinies of the other players; and pleasure from being superior to the other players. I make no value judgement regarding the last one - human beings naturally make constant comparisons between themselves and others. But, in my experience, in a situation such as yours, where emotional distress is occasioned by losing, and behaviours that negatively impact others are evident as a consequence, it's the comparison between oneself and others, and feeling that one is coming up short in that regard, that is most likely to be at the root. Think about how much of your self-esteem is bound up in winning. Think about whether you feel you are diminished in the eyes of the other players by losing, and if so, why you feel that way. I would suggest it's highly unlikely that your fellow players would indeed think less of you, though.

If your emotional investment is such that you feel losing reflects badly on you as a person, it might be useful (as others here had said) to try to adjust how you think about playing games. Someone else paraphrased in this thread the oft-mentioned Reiner Knizia quote on the subject of winning:

Quote:
When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning.


In other words, there needs to be a goal to provide a focus around which the structure of the game is built, but Knizia opinion seems to be that the play is the important thing, not the win. I'd strongly agree with that - not everyone does, of course, but to me it's the process of the game, watching it unfold and seeing my own influence on that process change the game-state, that truly matters. Perhaps, then, you could try to look on the game as, not merely a means to an end, but an ongoing process, where each action you take offers a discrete opportunity for "good" play, i.e. something that goes as you planned it, improves your position, and gives you satisfaction. That way, even if you're far behind winning the overall game, you can still have many small "wins", in that sense.

Good luck!
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Inappropriate Andy
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If you're getting angry/upset over a board game, I'd say the problem is not just the game.
 
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InappropriateAndy wrote:
If you're getting angry/upset over a board game, I'd say the problem is not just the game.


Which is what she's admitting to here and asking for advice about?
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Inappropriate Andy
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Razoupaf wrote:
InappropriateAndy wrote:
If you're getting angry/upset over a board game, I'd say the problem is not just the game.


Which is what she's admitting to here and asking for advice about?


My point was that as the problem is likely a more underlying character trait existing in many areas of life, it would make sense to look for a solution elsewhere than on a board game forum.
 
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InappropriateAndy wrote:
Razoupaf wrote:
InappropriateAndy wrote:
If you're getting angry/upset over a board game, I'd say the problem is not just the game.


Which is what she's admitting to here and asking for advice about?


My point was that as the problem is likely a more underlying character trait existing in many areas of life, it would make sense to look for a solution elsewhere than on a board game forum.


I've asked something similar here and have received relevant answers that went deep into the psychological aspect of my behaviour and helped me realize what was wrong with my personality. Jessica can find support here as good as anywhere else, really. And then take it to the next level if she feels the need to.
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Inappropriate Andy
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Razoupaf wrote:
InappropriateAndy wrote:
Razoupaf wrote:
InappropriateAndy wrote:
If you're getting angry/upset over a board game, I'd say the problem is not just the game.


Which is what she's admitting to here and asking for advice about?


My point was that as the problem is likely a more underlying character trait existing in many areas of life, it would make sense to look for a solution elsewhere than on a board game forum.


I've asked something similar here and have received relevant answers that went deep into the psychological aspect of my behaviour and helped me realize what was wrong with my personality. Jessica can find support here as good as anywhere else, really. And then take it to the next level if she feels the need to.


Fair enough, that is your experience and I can't argue that you've had success with it. My experience is that there are a great many people on the internet who like to play at amateur therapist and offer awful advice!
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