If you’re a very competitive player, then winning is all that counts. Depending on how ruthless you are, you will push for victory at all cost, as long as it is within the rules. Even if you’re less cruel, you will do what you can to win. Either way, ending a game in first place feels good. It not only proves that you played well, but that you’re a better player than the other people around the table. Yet, I often find that not winning or even doing badly in a game can be fun and here is why.

Generally speaking, being thrashed by other players is usually not a very positive experience. You want to have a good chance of winning. So if things don’t go your way, it’s frustrating and demotivating. It gets worse when you make obvious mistakes, but notice them too late. It’s these things that aren’t fun. They make you not want to play a game ever again. However, that’s not what I want to talk about in this article. I want to focus on those moments in a game that are exciting and memorable, even if they ultimately negatively affect your game or cost you your victory.

Memorable Fun

One of my favourite moments in a game is when another player executes an amazing turn. There you are, miles in the lead. There are a handful more turns left in the game and there is no way anyone else has any chance of catching up, let alone overtaking you. Victory is rightfully yours. That is until another player pulls off the impossible.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across it yourself, but there are games where you can create amazing combos. In my game group, there is one person who is known for their ability to chain actions together and snatch victory from right under your nose.

Only the other evening they accomplished what seemed like the impossible. We were playing a three-player game of Tapestry and one of us had already finished with a reasonable score. I was about two turns away from finishing myself and had a comfortable lead. I was quietly confident that I would win – and as many of you will know, I don’t usually win games. So you can imagine my excitement to have this elusive victory in my grasp. My friend then made a mistake, which cost them a good chunk of points. At that moment I thought I was definitely going to win. It was practically a certainty now.

Of course, it was not to be. My friend was cursing themselves for making such a stupid mistake. Yet, they pulled off an amazing combination of actions to win by one point. I was horrified, but also so very impressed by what they had achieved. I was sad that I didn’t win, but I also recognized the amazing feat that my friend had achieved. It turned what could have been an awful moment for me into one of awe and respect.

a close-up of the Tapestry game box with some plastic components on top (Photo courtesy of Stonemaier Games)
a close-up of the Tapestry game box with some plastic components on top (Photo courtesy of Stonemaier Games)

Bad to Fun

If you look at the situation from my friend’s perspective, you will have a journey of going from a bad experience to a good one. They were behind for a good chunk of the game, then made a silly mistake and fell even further behind. It didn’t look good and I reckon my friend was getting annoyed with themselves. Yet, they persevered and not only caught up, but turned their fortunes around and won.

Their journey will have gone from being hopeful early in the game, to eventually feeling frustrated and maybe a little cross with themselves, until finally the situation changed and their skilful chaining of actions gave them victory. So even though their negative experience of the game most certainly felt bad and wasn’t fun, their ultimate success must have felt extra sweet. The bad experience made the good experience especially meaningful.

I know, it’s not quite what I explained at the beginning of this article. However, I think it’s related. It’s a good reminder to all of us to not give up and try and turn things around.

Lucky Fun

Generally speaking though, losing against a worthy opponent doesn’t feel as bad as losing due to pure chance. I mean, you might as well flip a coin. Saying that though, there are games where randomness plays a big role, but they can still create memorable moments even when the luck is against you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery, but if you haven’t, then I suggest you get yourself this wonderfully simple, yet effective, mini mint tin game of dice rolling fun. On your turn, you literally just roll dice. There are three of them and at the beginning of each game, you randomly choose a number from 1 to 6 that is your target number. If any of the three dice show that target number, you get a certain number of points, represented by pretty little skull beads. The more dice show the target number, the more points you get. The problem is, you want to have exactly 15 skulls to win. If you go over, you bust.

It’s a really simple game and even though there are certain things you can do as a player to prevent an opponent from winning, they are pretty limited and ultimately you’re at the mercy of how the dice roll. Yet, this simple setup creates a lot of excitement. As you get closer to the target of 15 points, the excitement ratchets up. You don’t want to go over and bust. Of course, as is the case in luck games, you inevitably end up gaining too many skulls and losing it all. It’s technically an awful moment, because you pretty much lost now, but the excitement leading up to it really cancels out any bad feelings – and all of that happens within 15 minutes. What a rollercoaster ride!

What About You?

So how do you deal with mistakes or losing in games? Have you had any memorably terrible moments in a game? Maybe you’re not very competitive and don’t much care about winning. Even so, you may have experienced a frustrating situation in a game. How did you deal with it? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Buzzkiller by Alexander Nakarada
Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/5820-buzzkiller
License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
Artist website: https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com/

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