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Subject: Winning against the better half rss

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Steve Norton
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Ok, so about a month after discovering BGG my wallet is about £70 lighter and I think I have become a geek. It is now gone 1am and I am sat on the sofa in an empty living room reading Agricola session reports. Is there any hope for me?

cry

My story briefly:

Two months ago was my girlfriend's birthday. I was agonising over what to buy her and asked one of our friends if she had any ideas. It so happened that we had booked a cottage for a weekend away with a group of friends and so she suggested that I buy her a game that we could take with us. She told me to buy Rummikub. I have never played this game (perhaps I am missing out?) but this didn't really grab me. Being an internet shopper, I logged onto Amazon and read a handful of reviews for some ideas. Within half an hour I had placed an order for Bohnanza which people said was fun in a large group.

Anyway, Bohnanza went down a storm. The group liked it, my girlfriend liked it and I liked it. I felt rather pleased with myself. A few weeks later, in an idle moment, I searched for some more Bohnanza reviews. I think I just wanted something to read on a subject that had caught my interest. Anyway, I found BGG.

I read a lot of the threads in recommendations and quickly decided that I would treat myself to another game. My girlfriend enjoys playing games too (although perhaps not as obsessively as me) and I thought it would be nice to get a game that we could play together - Bohnanza's two-player variant didn't really excite us. I wanted something that was a bit different, that would work well with two players, and could maybe stretch to six players for when the chance arose. I bought Carcassonne with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion and immediately fell in love with it. The beaatiful components, the simplicity of the concept and the depth of strategy all blew me away. We played a few games together (and even tested out the six player game on our friends) and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, being slightly more obsessive than my girlfriend, I decided that I wasn't playing enough - so I started playing online. I played in just about every spare minute that I had and, unsurprisingly, got a lot better at it. I've now burned myself out on Carcassonne (for the moment at least) but I've made a problem - I keep beating my girlfriend. blush I think I had a bit of a headstart anyway because I have always liked strategy games on the computer and so I think my brain has been trained to think in the appropriate way. Coupled with my extra online practice, I seem to be unbeatable. This is bad because it threatens her willingness to play games with me.

I tried offering tactical advice, but that was not well-received - she didn't like getting help.

I tried making "subtle" hints when she overlooked a killer move. This was partially successful but not really sustainable.

I tried deliberately losing a game. This made her a bit happier (I think) - but she knew what I had done. And it didn't solve the problem.

What else is there to do?

Obviously I want her to win a few legitimately so that we can both enjoy our games. She is now cross with me that I have "ruined" Carcassonne by getting good at it.

Anyway, while the whole Carcassonne thing was going on, I continued to read BGG. I LOVED the sound of Agricola and knew that I had to get it. I always liked resource management games on the computer, I like building stuff and I like having to make a decision when there are lots of attractive options in front of me. I had thought that I would wait until Christmas, but I succumbed to temptation and my copy arrived two days ago.

Fortunately, my girlfriend seemed to be looking forward to giving it a go. We tried a game last night, but it was a bit late when we started and (much to my disappointment) we had to abandon half way through. Earlier this evening, we gave the game its first proper run through (playing the family version) and we both enjoyed it - me slightly more so. But I won. Quite convincingly.

Although I have only played one game, I know that I am addicted and I want to play more. My girlfriend represents my only chance of regular gaming (we live in the middle of nowhere) and I desperately want her to get into this. I've been really good and promised her (and myself!) that I will not "ruin" it by playing online or "practicing" with the solo version. But now I'm worried that by just reading about the game on BGG I will have picked up sufficient strategy to give me the edge against her. Have I "ruined" it already?

What do other geeks do about this? Anyone out there relying on a significant other for their gaming and getting whooped all the time? Or doing the whooping?

Whats a geek to do?

Yours concernedly,
Reggie

PS Before I get accused of being a cheapskate, I did not just buy her Bohnanza!
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Hugh G. Rection
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If she were truly the better half then she would be the one doing the winning.
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Johannes Åman Pohjola
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It sounds like your girlfriend works much like my own - a sore loser that doesn't want to learn strategies for games. I could just stop learning how to play games well, of course, but that goes against my nature. I want to immerse myself into things or it's not much fun.

What we end up doing is play more luck-heavy games together, where she still has a chance of winning even if I am the better strategist. San Juan is a pretty good example. As for low-luck games or more complex games where I would have too much of an edge, I simply play them with other people.

Maybe that's an option for you as well? I can't see how you could possibly both be satisfied with the experience of a less luck-oriented game if she doesn't want you to learn strategy, but you want to. You should either play other games, or simply do something else.
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UA Darth
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I've beaten my wife in the last 30 games or so. This is a combination of us playing at least 7 different games. I grew up with games. If the game is fun, losing shouldn't matter.

My best friend growing up played in ping pong tournaments. I literally won 3 out of thousands of games against him. It was a challenge and the wins were unforgettable.

But, losing on purpose? Sorry, but that is sad and insulting to your girlfriend.
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Matthew Chua
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I have somewhat of the same problem though probably not to the extent that you have described. I'm also the addict between my wife and myself, she plays but doesn't read up on games on BGG or spend time playing online. As such, I'm often the one improving at a game earlier and faster than her. How I have partially tried to mitigate the issue:

1. Get a wider range of games.
There will be games which your other half simply ruxs at. My wife doesn't get Taj Mahal or El Grande (games which I love), but I don't remember ever beating her at Power Grid (and this is without ever reading a single strategic article). She plays a mean Settlers too.

2. As mentioned, get games that are strategic but with a moderate luck element.
I'm clearly the better player at Ra, but the luck elements give her a good chance of beating me too. This encourages her to want to see the game at the table more. The more we play, the more she picks up from observations my decision-making process and strategies. Now, she is probably as good a player as I am.

3. Play in groups as far as possible.
Even if you end up winning, it isn't as brutal as if it was just 2 of you. She would probably beat your friends who are less familiar with the games and that would make it more pleasant for her since she isn't dead last.

4. Alternate between games you like and games she like
My wife and I have sessions in which I would choose a game I want to play and then she chooses one. I usually see this as my chance to get Race for the Galaxy to the table. She is getting better at it, but hates the theme. She also refuses to 'get' any of the strategies even though I have tried coaching her. On the other hand, she relishes getting Battleline to the table next, a game with some luck which I was better at initially but which she has kick my butt at for the last few games.

5. Theme! Theme! Theme!
The female species is often drawn by the theme of the game. The first time she played Agricola, she liked it cause it was fun planting different crops and keeping various types of animals.

6. Try not to gain an advantage over her if possible. Learn the game at the same pace.
As much I share your eagerness to read up everything on the game as I can on BGG, I have refrained from doing so for the exact reason you've highlighted. It spoils the game for her because I'm so much further on the learning curve than she is. I still generally 'catch' things faster than her but it doesn't distance us overly and she sees the new things that I've discovered and picks them up from me.

7. Try harder strategies in a bid to even things up
It's too obvious to throw the game outright but in games with alternative strategies, I may opt for the tougher, more challenging one. It keeps the game interesting for me yet gives her a slight advantage unless I successfully pull the strategy off. An example of this is the Military strategy in RftG. I never seem to get the right cards, boo!


These are some of the reflections I have from my gaming experience with my wife. Hope they come in useful. It is a indeed a wonderful thing to have a other half who shares out interest in boardgaming, even if they aren't as crazy about it as us

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Steph Mabie
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I'm in a similar boat as y'all. My wife was raised as an only child, with older parents and not too many friends, so she never learned how to game; I, on the other hand, had 4 siblings, and so family games were quite frequent, and could get extremely cutthroat while still being fun (well, for most of us anyway; eliminating people before their first turn was a popular strategy in Risk).

(1) Find her online or PC versions that she can play by herself (or with a person who she can't see) to improve her own skills, as you've improved yours. My wife stopped playing Scrabble with me for 4 years, while she played vs an AI program. Now, she can beat me on a semi-regular basis.

(2) Dice-games are okay, but they are as much strategy as anything else. Knowledge games -- specifically ones that *she* knows, as opposed to you -- are better options. My wife can stay even with me on Star Ward trivia-based games, and beats me at Harry Potter more often than not; but given any other trivia games, and we tend to play as everyone against me, to keep it even. On that same note, find themes and games she enjoys, so that even if she doesn't win, its something she likes.

(3) Make second- or third-best moves. Assuming you can identify which moves are best, don't make them every time; make moves which are slightly less good. Or, if you can, try not to analyze your position very long; make an instictive move, and leave it at that. My wife knows when I've made Bad moves. But she doesn't catch it when I don't make Great moves. If I do it right, we finish Carcassonne games within 20 pts of each other, about 50-50 as to who wins. If I'm not careful, though, I've beaten her by over 100 pts on more than one occasion.

(4) And, finally, the best thing I think you can do: Play Co-op games. Its something that I've started doing, and simplifies things significantly. Instead of you winning instead of her, you can both win together. Let her pick the characters she wants, and make sure that she has an integral part of the win. Whatever you do, don't tell her what she needs to do, but discuss what the options are and encourage her to participate in that. And there's enough games out there that if they are not outright co-op (Arkham Horror, Pandemic, etc), they can be fudged to become co-op with little trouble (BSG, Munchkin Quest, etc).

Good luck. You'll need it. ;)
 
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Ashar Foley
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As a bonafide member of the female species, I would like to say that it is not impossible to entice your better half into sharing your love of the game.
My advice is as follows:

You must continue to play together. She will get sick of the humiliation and repetition of losing, begin to take a page from your playbook, and eventually beat you at your own game using your own strategy. For example, my fiance used to edge his way into my unfinished cities in Carcassone. Due to his strategy, I lost every time...until I started to return the favor, and now I win at the same rate that he does.

Also, from your new and avid interest in gaming, I predict that, in a few weeks'/months' time, you will have accrued a healthy and diverse collection of boardgames. If you continue to play together, you will find that she will always win in some games, and you will always win in others. For my part, I hardly ever lose Age of Empires or Elasund, but I have yet to win Roads and Boats or Gloria Mundi (and I have to admit, Agricola is a challenge for me, too).

And finally, I think the previous poster is correct when he suggests that Theme! Theme! Theme! is the key to interest. But perhaps rather than picking a game on the premise that its theme would appeal to the female species, you could pick out a game together...or even let her have next pick. There is bound to be something to interest her.

And perhaps more finally, lay off the obsessive strategizing!

Good luck to you!
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Thomas Taylor
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A great man said it and I stand by it.

"Let the Wookiee win."
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Seth Brown
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I try to avoid reading strategy articles for any game on BGG until I've played it a few dozen times. Not only does it unfairly advantage you over your better half, but it also robs you of the joy of exploring the game for yourself and trying different things before you happen on something that works.

That being said, if you consistently beat your partner, you might suggest that *she* peek at a few strategy articles online for new games you acquire. If nothing else, this should give her an edge in the first game or two.

I also really agree with the person above who said try for more daring strategies. If you're likely to win with a safe strategy, try something risky. This way you aren't throwing the game (which I agree is insulting) because you're trying your damnedest to win with your strategy. You're just giving her slightly better odds that your strategy won't work. (As an added bonus, the off-beat strategies are often much more fun than the safe ones, win or lose.)
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Joe Grundy
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Steve, from your discussion I think it unfair of someone to categorise your girlfriend as a "sore loser". Even the most good natured soul will eventually wear out on "games" where they always "lose".

Other than that, having started from a similar position as you and your partner, I agree with most of what's written in this thread so far. My wife never gamed before we met, and now enjoys gaming regularly. (Though she still usually won't ask to play without a nudge.)

For a period of months, while you are working on developing a joint interest:

- If you have a game she enjoys or you think she might enjoy, NEVER play without her, never read a strategy article on it, or a review or report once you've decided to try it yourself. Put it out of your mind when you are away from it.
- Sample a variety of different games. In my case, for a long time the slightly sillier or outlandish themes with a dose of luck were more "fun", and more satisfying for both of us.
- Don't push a game on someone who really isn't interested. (Exception: sometimes their disinterest is explicitly based on one single false assumption.)
- Don't lose on purpose.
- Don't play her side as well as yours, beyond the first game.
- Possibly be willing to point out if you think she's overlooked a killer move YOU can do. (In games where you usually win.)
- Find some games you can handicap, or which are asymetrical in some way.
- Be willing (and pre-agree) to abandon any games that really aren't working for her.
- Hopefully neither of you are sore winners or sore losers.

Eventually you will find games she can win more often than not, and others where she at least has a decent chance. Some of those games may surprise you, so on more adventurous days try to sometimes explore ideas on the fringe of what might "work" for her.

My wife and I were really really enjoying San Juan, but I ruined it in a similar way. 50 plays against robots was enough to give me a permanent edge.


Most the games I rate well (7+) are games which my wife and I enjoy together, and most of those are usually played two players.
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(The Artist formerly known as) Arnest R
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play games with a handicap.

E.g. : you cannot play the last card you drew, you must play faster, you cannot score a particular number of points... whatever, as long as it is not game-breaker...

If your gf cannot live with it and you still want to play, she does not have to know about the handicap at all

 
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Russ Williams
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I also am more inclined to read strategy articles than my SO, and combined with my longer experience playing games, this means I win more than half the time. For us, there are several methods that help this not be a problem:

1. If I read a strategy article that gives me some concrete useful insights, I offer to tell her what I read and talk about it. (I don't push it on her, since sometimes she's simply not interested. Other times she's quite interested.)

2. I avoid playing our new games online with other people. It is fun discovering stuff with your regular partner. There are plenty of games which she and I don't play, so I can play them online if I feel the need to play something online.

3. While we're playing, we sometimes talk about strategy - usually about what has already happened ("Maybe I made a mistake, but I did this move X because otherwise blah-blah, which seemed worse to me.", etc), occasionally about what we're thinking now ("If I take this, then you can take that, which seems bad, so I'm going to take the other one..."), or doing a brief post-mortem after the game if there was some particular move or situation that seemed decisive ("I think you lost only because of that move Z which let me do blah blah".) Especially if someone played fine overall but lost due to one recognizable blunder, it might be encouraging for them to hear that they played well overall, and useful to hear what the problem was so they can be more alert about it in the future, especially if it's a good general principle for the game (e.g. "You always want to have a few dollars left at the end of your turn - never spend all your cash" or whatever). Remember that when giving critique, it's psychologically important to praise the positive things too, not just point out mistakes. And ask for feedback from her too - "I wasn't happy with my move here, but I couldn't see anything better. Did you see anything better for me?" so it's not an implicit situation where you're the superior mentor always teaching her. But remember that such strategic analysis isn't interesting for everyone! If someone just wants to play casually and doesn't care about improving their strategy, definitely don't push strategy talk onto them.

4. We both fortunately have mellow attitudes about winning (minimal gloating) and losing (minimal angry whining), and play for the fun of playing. It might be worth explicitly noting the semi-famous quote from Reiner Knizia: "When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." We both play to win, but enjoy the playing itself more than the winning.
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Steve Norton
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Thanks all for the advice. All great stuff.

I particularly like the suggestion to try some coop games (I had been looking at pandemic anyway) and maybe to try some more ambitious strategies of my own. I will also give her next pick of our game to buy.

My girlfriend is definitely not a sore loser - she enjoys winning (don't we all?) but she walks away from games with a smile on her face. I just know from my own experience that if I keep losing at something then that diminishes my interest. I wouldn't want that to happen to her.

I'm definitely not going to be playing any more of our games online (now that I've made that mistake once) and I will do my best to avoid reading stuff here on BGG. I've deliberately not read strategy articles but I'm pretty sure that I've picked up one or two ideas just from reading reviews and the like. That must stop too!

From a new-geek to the "vets" - thanks!
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