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Subject: Do you hold back when playing games with kids? rss

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Ethan Fisher
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My wife and I often have different philosophies about this topic.

How about you?

Choose as many as apply.

Poll
Do you hold back when playing board games with kids?
Always, I wouldn’t want to traumatize them.
Always, c’mon man. They are kids.
Yes, unless they are really arrogant
Yes, unless they are winning
Sometimes. It really depends...
Only if they are under the recommended age
Only if it’s their first time playing
Only if they are losing
Only for other people’s kids
Only for my own kids
Only for some other reason I will explain bellow...
NEVER! If they can’t stand the fire...
NEVER! How else are they going to get better?
NEVER! I bow before no one!
      174 answers
Poll created by Izaan
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Nathanael Robinson
United States
Cary
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I think it is important to give kids some breathing room when playing games that require more of them, are more difficult, and particularly when the game is new to them. However, I prefer not to simply hold back or just play poorly. Instead, I try to give the young player some advantage--a few more life points, for example--which I can then say they are getting because they are younger.
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Alexandre Santos
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This really depends a lot on context, how feasible handicaps are, etc.

It also depends a lot on the kids themselves, some thrive in adversity, others not at all.

I try to be create a situation where I can play to the best of my ability, but when I play with kids it's about them, not about me.
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Greg Byrd
United States
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I read this technique somewhere and enhanced it. I have a [Letter] Game system with my kids. 'A' Game means I always make the best move possible, 'E' Game means I always make the worst move possible. 'B' is 3 good moves, then 1 bad move, 'C' is 2 good, 1 bad, 'D' is 1 good, 1 bad. The kids tell me which Game they want me to bring.

The games are always equally challenging for me-it's just as hard to find the worst move as the best, and they get the chance of winning that they want.
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James C
United States
Alexandria
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byrdru wrote:
The games are always equally challenging for me-it's just as hard to find the worst move as the best

I could give you some tips on this, I’m a pro at playing the worst move!
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Nathanael Robinson
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Full disclosure: at this stage, my 13 year old son regularly destroys me. The person who really needs help is me.
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Stuart Holttum
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Southend on Sea
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The games that I have enjoyed most with my son are the ones where victory comes down to a final crucial roll, or card, or whatever. I tend to try to engineer the game towards that moment. At the end of those games, he is generally nearly as happy to lose as he is to win.

He is at the age where he would really rather be playing Fortnite with his friends. A board game with dad is something fairly rare - last thing I want to do is bring my A-game and wipe him out....how many more games will I get with him?

As I say - sometimes he wins, sometimes not, but I make sure it is as close as possible (unless of course, it is one of the few games where he is as capable as I am!).

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Gareth Pugh
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LEEDS
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This would be a very different conversation if you said "childish opponents" devil
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Peter De Carvalho
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Sometimes I sit my 2yo at the other end of the table and set up Lisboa just so I can crush her. Haha, the idiot can't even count past 3, so she doesn't stand a chance.
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Ethan Fisher
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Stu Holttum wrote:
The games that I have enjoyed most with my son are the ones where victory comes down to a final crucial roll, or card, or whatever. I tend to try to engineer the game towards that moment. At the end of those games, he is generally nearly as happy to lose as he is to win.

For better or worse, I also tend to have this approach. I play the game (as best I can) at an equal level with my sons. Sometimes I pull out something they wouldn't expect just to get them thinking but try to keep the spread between us such that one of them always has the chance to win.

It is a proud moment when I then see them using my own strategy against me. ^_~

BitsOWood wrote:
Sometimes I sit my 2yo at the other end of the table and set up Lisboa just so I can crush her. Haha, the idiot can't even count past 3, so she doesn't stand a chance.

Thanks Peter, you had my wife laughing for quite a while.
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Saverio S
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Sometimes the kid needs a nudge to think harder and to see the consequences of acting quickly with sloppy ideas.

Sometimes the kid needs to feel rewarded for the careful thinking available to her at her level.

Sometimes the kid needs to feel like the queen of the house, who is all powerful, and who can remove her parents at will.

Sometimes the kid needs to be reminded that she is not the queen of the house, that she is not all powerful, and that she cannot remove her parents at will.

Sometimes the kid needs practice being a good winner.

Sometimes the kid needs practice being a good loser.

Maybe someday she'll respond to a thread like this about how often to win in games against the elderly.
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John B
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I often will go easy when playing with my 5yr old. If we play 3 games of Rhino Hero I definitely let them win the first one, it boosts his confidence and maintains his interest in continued play. That makes me feel better. I would say it is at about a 50/50 win rate between us. As they get older I think they will win less until they are teens and begin to wreck me in games...I just assume this will happen.

Luckily he likes playing Flash Point with me so we are on the same team.
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Kirk Roberts
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I often "hold back" with adults.
It doesn't have to do with age, only with skill and experience in the game.
I want games to be fun. Getting crushed is (almost) never fun.

Note: this doesn't mean I try to make it so someone else wins.

It comes down to: I want people to want to play again.
I try to adjust accordingly depending on the players.
The enjoyment is in the playing, not the winning.

"Holding back" might mean I play suboptimally at times (as if I always know what the best move is, ha!), or give myself some artificial handicap. I like the latter approach because then I can "do my best" with a leveled playing field.

Edit: in cases of handicapping, I usually do that in my own head regarding what I allow myself to do within the rules of the game. But starting with different resources might be another way to handicap.
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Germany
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I prefer playing suboptimal to changing the rules in their favor. I think it's important to have the rulebook as point of reference, and I have to follow it as well. Since I don't like games that have a single best strategy, playing suboptimal can also mean that I will just try a new strategy or explore something uncommon. Since I know the games already, I have a unfair advantage anyway. Actually, I do that too with grown ups (not intentionally making a bad move, but instead of doing a tournament-strategy, I'll do a fun one, like going for a luck-dependent combo)

In general, I let them win the first game and play my best the second or third (unless I am too far in the lead).

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Ethan Fisher
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kirkroberts wrote:
I often "hold back" with adults.
It doesn't have to do with age, only with skill and experience in the game.
I want games to be fun. Getting crushed is (almost) never fun.

Note: this doesn't mean I try to make it so someone else wins.

It comes down to: I want people to want to play again.
I try to adjust accordingly depending on the players.
The enjoyment is in the playing, not the winning.

"Holding back" might mean I play suboptimally at times (as if I always know what the best move is, ha!), or give myself some artificial handicap. I like the latter approach because then I can "do my best" with a leveled playing field.

I feel very much the same way. After playing games for so long, it is rare that I have an intense desire for winning. Rather, my goal going into most games is that all the players would enjoy the experience (and hopefully each other).

That said, I do have a group of gaming friends that I never hold back with. We all like to push each other to the next level and enjoy when one of us comes out on top in a way (or with a score) that we hadn't thought possible.
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Kirk Roberts
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Izaan wrote:
I do have a group of gaming friends that I never hold back with. We all like to push each other to the next level and enjoy when one of us comes out on top in a way (or with a score) that we hadn't thought possible.
That's great!
I tend to be the teacher at the table and joke about how it's bad form for a person to introduce people to a game and then beat them at it. Once enough people know the game the gloves come off!
 
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Paul Gillespie

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Never. I may try an alternate strategy (if we're playing 7 Wonders Duel I might go military instead of scientific) but I won't hold back. Never have, and my kids love playing board games and now beat me almost as often as I beat them. It's a much more enjoyable experience now all around.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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Cedar Rapids
Iowa
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Only until they learn the rules of the game then it is every man for himself. The best way to learn is by going full force in order to teach them a lesson. In my experiences with my nieces and nephews they catch on quickly so full bore is the only way to go. The only thing to make sure of is that they don't get cheated or start cheating.
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A Balley
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I frequently help a child or inexperienced adult think through the strategy implications of various moves, if they are interested in hearing my advice, but I don't hold back or play sub-optimally. Many players who are new to a game try to learn the game by watching an experienced player's moves. If I play sub-optimally (outside of my normal sub-optimal play...perfect I am not), I am not helping them learn the game. In a learning game, I will play my best, but if people are interested, I will explain why I am doing the moves I am doing.

I also like to announce up front that a game will be a learning game. We will all help each other learn the game, and it doesn't matter who wins. None of this involves intentional sub-optimal play, however.
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A Balley
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On the flip side, I would not like to play a game in which another player is intentionally holding back. I would much rather get beat soundly by a good player playing their best than barely lose to (or even win against) someone who isn't trying. This is true in board games, sports, or anything else I might do.
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I rarely hold back, but I will give them advice when I think they don't realize what's happening. For instance in 7 Wonders Duel if I was approaching a military or science victory I might mention that they want to watch out for it so they can adjust their strategy.

I will also maybe 1-2 times a game help give them a tip if I see an obviously bad move like the time my daughter was going to discard instead of build a yellow card in 7 Wonders Duel that gave her 6 coins for free.

I also preach that it's not about winning to them. In fact one time my 6 year old was upset and I played a turn for him in Quest for El Dorado. While he was getting over being upset he drew a great set of cards that would allow him to win the game. I told him he should come play because he could win. He looked at me and said "it's not about winning, it's about having fun." I couldn't help but be proud...of course then he got up and won the game too!
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Ethan Fisher
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balley40 wrote:
I frequently help a child or inexperienced adult think through the strategy implications of various moves, if they are interested in hearing my advice, but I don't hold back or play sub-optimally. Many players who are new to a game try to learn the game by watching an experienced player's moves. If I play sub-optimally (outside of my normal sub-optimal play...perfect I am not), I am not helping them learn the game. In a learning game, I will play my best, but if people are interested, I will explain why I am doing the moves I am doing.

I also like to announce up front that a game will be a learning game. We will all help each other learn the game, and it doesn't matter who wins. None of this involves intentional sub-optimal play, however.

I have often taken this approach when teaching people a new game (especially adults). Instead of deliberately making sub-par plays, "going easy" takes the form of helping other players examine their choices (or my own).

I have had many instances where we will rewind a game a turn or two and look at the moment the game was won or lost and give them a chance to "try again" with renewed insight. Of course I would only do this if the person wanted to give it another shot (and everyone else at the table agreed). ^_^
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Scott
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The other day I crushed my 3-year old in Animal Upon Animal with him having all of the pieces and me having none. He spent the rest of the day in a fetal position, but that’s how you learn. What am I supposed to do - teach him how to play and incrementally ramp things up at a pace that works for him and his abilities?

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Don Hansen
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Cubman23 wrote:
The other day I crushed my 3-year old in Animal Upon Animal with him having all of the pieces and me having none. He spent the rest of the day in a fetal position, but that’s how you learn. What am I supposed to do - teach him how to play and incrementally ramp things up at a pace that works for him and his abilities?


You let him win now.... he will never move out of your house and get a job.
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Dan Renwick
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With both kids and my adult friends, I tend to try to help them with strategy tips and reminders to do certain things if they’re less experienced in a game than I am. For example, with a kid playing Pokémon, you might remind them to add an energy to a Pokémon every turn.

That will often allow them to be competitive, whereas they’d probably be crushed without the advice and help. It’s part of teaching them the game I suppose. After a while, of course, they’ll become good enough at the game that they don’t need the advice.

It’s no fun beating someone when you have a big advantage.
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