By Marucs T.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. As Captain Kirk once said, “How we deal with death is certainly as important as how we deal with life”. There is a simple truth here that does in fact relate to miniature gaming. That is that you will lose. Perhaps not today, or perhaps not against someone with no idea of what they are doing, but you will experience defeat. This is ok, it’s good for you.
There are a nearly infinite number of guides online to winning, list building, unit selection, and tactics. Far more rarely do we address NOT winning. Let’s face it, it’s a competitive game. One of you isn’t going to make it. Here’s how to deal with that, and if you really pay attention I can even show you how to enjoy it.
I like to think that I’ve made an art form of losing games over the years. Sure, I win some but I’m fairly sure I lose more. Part of this is my character. I am not a super competitive person by nature, and this is reflected in my gaming habits. If you ARE a super competitive gamer this isn’t a burn on you by any means. I’ve seen good losers and bad losers, as I have also seen good and bad winners. It’s an easy thing for a person to say, “relax buddy- it’s just a game!” as they skip to the winners circle but it’s a harder thing to accept when you have been beaten for the 46th time in a row by a guy who paints the corpses on his models bases to resemble your army.
The first trick is to laugh. When something terrible happens to your forces during the game don’t lose your cool. If the opponent chuckles, you guffaw. If they snicker, you He-Haw. Recently I attempted a hail mary pass at the final turn of a game of Infinity, trying to assassinate my opponents lieutenant and deny him victory. My first shot with a grenade launcher missed and deviated about half a mile to the left, landing directly on the only model on the OPPOSITE side of the board. That model happened to be mine, and she died in a burst of high explosive irony. I’m pretty sure I laughed harder at this turn of events than my opponent did. When a model performs in a spectacularly disappointing manner, I like to verbally berate them in front of their squad mates and describe the punishment they will receive later. Painting them pink, renaming them Corporal Fail-pants, etc.
The second trick is to never allow an impending loss to compromise your sportsmanship. Even in the midst of defeat, I will remind my opponent if he didn’t move a tank to a more advantageous position, or point out a rule in his favor they may have forgotten. In this way, I know that even though I lost, I lost honestly and fairly. I lost because they were a better player, or I chose tactically inferior models. I have never “softened defeat” by trying to be sneaky. It’s a capricious thing but you could say then that at least you “died with your boots on”.
The third trick I’ve found is to allow yourself to share in some of your opponents victory. A simple handshake or “good game” will accomplish this, but be honest with yourself. Did he have one brazen moment of glory that really turned the tables against you? Was there a one-in-a-million dice roll that they pulled off? If so, it’s time for the post battle 3 R’s. Recognize, Relive, and Respect. This gives them a chance to do the same for you, and in that you can regain some of your lost dignity. When you have just been soundly beaten it’s hard to see any bright sides, but if the other guy is telling you about how scared he was to take on that one unit, or how he was sure your Commander would slay his, it’s a reminder that you probably had some good moments too.
It’s only “just a game” if you don’t take steps to make it a great game, regardless of who won or lost. Now what to do if you mistakenly win a game once a decade….is a story for another time.