On Need v. Want, and Creating Good Adversaries

WEEK IN REVIEW

Another round of delicious gaming last week. Lots of Uchronia, MagBlast, NexusOps, Citadels, Small World, Quirridors, Thurn & Taxis, and of course, Ascending Empires. Taught a couple games, including Citadels and NexusOps. If you haven’t played Citadels, you really should try it out. A great 2- or 3-player game. And NexusOps is a great skirmish/dudes-on-a-board style game.

High on my list of good things from last week was being beaten by a new player to Ascending Empires. I was very happy to see such leaps and bounds in his game play. I shall have to play harder against him next time, and perhaps focus on knee-capping him as early as possible.

BEING DEFEATED IS A GREAT FEELING

First, there’s nothing finer than a player that wins a game, and that player isn’t you. They were able to read into, thwart, or outright ignore your strategy. That is key to moving forward – recognizing you didn’t make good decisions for the context. And being beaten is a clear way to acquire that knowledge – one would hope your adversaries would exploit your move.

Second, I am not angry when another player wins. If anything, I try to thank the player for revealing a better set of decisions within the context of the game environment, learn what I can, and move on. Of course, sometimes games are intense, and a trip into some fresh air and a chat is always a good way to disconnect with any frustration you’re having towards yourself or others.

THE SECOND CONCEPT OF COMPETITIVE GAMES

          Take what you need, not what you want.

In the throes of defeat, ask yourself: Did you take what you needed, or what you wanted?

In most direct competition games, you fight over stuff. Resources, territory, fake money, etc. The only fight that matters is the fight where you lose less stuff than your opponents. That is the core of ‘need’ driving game play. If you take actions that put you behind your adversaries in terms of points or position, stop and ask if this is what you need to achieve another step towards victory, or are you simply getting emotional and want to teach a lesson (I am totally guilty of this from time to time).

Wants are things of ego, and in my experience, they have no place in a competitive game environment as they are tainted by that ego and the drive to protect the ego. Fuck ego. All that matters is playing to win, and driving yourself and your adversaries into a deeper, more nuanced play.

Need, however, is complicated to understand, and can be confusing depending on what’s at play. I would define need, then, by saying it is the single best action you can take now that will move you closer to victory, and/or move your opponents further from victory. Hopefully, you can achieve both in same act.

MIRRORING STRATEGY

When you’ve shown an adversary how to pull off some kick ass move, or explained a synergy of rules, you should expect them to use those mechanisms against you, in game. This is the essence of creating good adversaries. And you as the experienced player should thank them when they pull off that awesome move, or make that awesome shot, and it directly changes your next move. The moment that that happens is when you can sit back and put a big grin on your face – for you have helped to create a better adversary.

There is a flip side to this coin: I’ve had players get pissed off when I use their tactics against them. Mirroring/copying is a great way to learn how to play a game. Your adversaries should be ready for any in-kind reply. If they are not, then your reply should encourage them to think about you as a more dangerous adversary.

AE Cult Talk – Aggressive Ramming

Speaking of mirroring strategy, I had a 3-player match last week where I rammed 10 ships off the board with only four of mine (over the course of several rounds). It was a tactic employed against me to great effect a few weeks back. So I took it and made it part of my toolbox of strategies. Using a pair of constantly in-orbit ships stationed within striking distance of my adversary’s home world, I was effectively able to negate ships launched into formation (2+ ships launched into orbit touching) from that home world with ramming and superior position. (see diagram)

From the positions shown, with two flicks, you could 1) align your ship to maximize the ram, 2) knock multiple ships off the board. It was a hugely successful tool that game, but only because my adversary continued putting ships into orbit. I don’t expect the same results next time we play.

DO NOT LOSE THE LESSONS OF FAILURE

In any direct competition game, implementing the same strategy over and over that didn’t work is a great way to lose. But its a clear advertisement for what is not working. Learn what didn’t work. Use that against your adversaries by not making the same exploitable mistake.

I have been incredibly guilty of stubborn-borne game play – continuing to repeat the move only to watch it continue to fail. Its in those times I need to remember to LET GO.

In fact, its in this very vulnerable place, to remember that it is not the time to get angry. Its a time to move yourself closer to victory – even if that means closer to victory in the NEXT game, because you have learned the hard lesson now. When you’re pissed off and you’re beaten into a corner, start asking questions about the game environment, and start learning where your strategy went astray. While losing a game, you have a great opportunity to try something different, even risky. What have you to lose if you’ve already lost? Luck doesn’t always favor the bold, but it doesn’t hurt to learn your limits in the risk-free environment of losing.

Often times, we put our anger on the other players, especially the player clearly winning. Instead, start watching what they are doing, and attack their flow. Screw with their plan, and you force them to think in smaller cycles/increments. Making moves that force your opponent to think short term will take their attention away from mid- to long-term strategies being employed, and this is especially useful in games that allow direct interference (or politics, unfortunately).

NEXT WEEK

More to come, hopefully a review/analysis of Citadels, and more nuances of gameplay.

Peace and good gaming!

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