Don’t Play to Win.

This has been a difficult week, and if you’ll excuse the self-indulgence, I wanted to post a small something that has come to mind recently regarding playing tabletop games positively.

As you may know, I play a lot of Warhammer. Warhammer (and wargames of their ilk) have a lot of stigma for promoting unpleasant behaviour. I was thinking about this, especially in regards to things to say to new players to help encourage positive play, and I came to a realisation.

Winning a game of Warhammer is easy. Having fun is not.

Seriously. If all I wanted to do was win, there’s so many ways to do it. It’s almost too easy, there’s so many ways. Only play against inexperienced players. Conveniently forget critical rules in my favour. Insist on re-rolls of cocked dice etc. for my opponent, while making my own rolls in as much secrecy as possible. Act irresponsibly – what’s called “slow play” in tournaments, for example – in order to frustrate my real life opponent and limit the time they have to make relevant decisions. Any one of these factors can increase the chances of winning an ‘even’ game of Warhammer pretty dramatically.

But of course, that’s not what I want. What I want is a fair, honest game where – win or lose – I can shake my opponent’s hand at the end, have a laugh over each other’s victories and misfortunes, and not get caught up in the minutiae of this rule or that for the sake of success. Even with friends, that’s not always easy! Losing isn’t inherently fun, in fact it’s difficult to contemplate and usually a bit heart-breaking. Maybe like me, you might only get to play once a month or so. All your hard work building, collecting and painting, in that moment, for naught. Likewise, we’re all only human – sometimes it’s easy to forget about your opponent if you’re flush with victory. Plus, a game like Warhammer with it’s dozens of dice rolls means winning or losing can come down to simple luck, more often than you’d like.

So, there you go. It’s easy to cheat. All it costs is the respect and well-being of your opponent. Nuts to that. If you’re going to strive for anything in play, strive to make sure everyone has fun. It might seem like that’s obvious advice, but actually, I think it bears repeating.