How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Losing

September 7, 2011

With Labor Day weekend over, it is time to regretfully close the book on summer. Camping, grilling, brewing, mowing the lawn: Every day was filled with joy. That is, until I sat down in the evening to play a board game with my wife, friends, or family.

And then I lost. And lost again. And then lost some more.

Like my beloved but hapless Minnesota Twins, I spent most of the summer getting thrashed by the opposition. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that every Memorial Day I declare a “summer of victory.” You may also remember that last year, the Summer of Victory III, didn’t go so well. However, it was nothing compared to the utter debacle that was the Summer of Victory IV: Actually, the Summer of Defeat, Don’tcha Know.

The overall number of games played went up slightly this summer, 43 compared to last year’s 38. Of these 43, I went 14-29, a .325 win average. This is a huge drop compared to last year (.447 average). In two player games, 26 in all, I went 14-12, again a huge drop off from last year, when I was 15-1-2. I attribute this to the fact that I was playing my wife a lot more, and she has proved stiff competition this summer, winning 8 of our 14 games.

The most popular games of the summer of loss were Hive (11 games played) and 7 Wonders (7 games played, no lie!). These are also the two games that Sara and I purchased together this summer, and we played them a lot. And it seems 7 Wonders is the new Carcassonne for me, as I have not yet won a single game of it. On the other hand, I finally snapped my 17 game losing streak in Carcassonne, winning for the very first time in the two years I’ve owned the game! That was a small bright spot.

In the end, I think this was a summer during which I learned to “stop worrying and love losing.” I don’t mean that I’m trying to lose, but that it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’m much more focused on playing games that provide a bit of fun and some tough decisions as well, but even more importantly, I am enjoying the company of those with whom I’m playing.

A warmer, fuzzier John? Perhaps. But I’m still declaring a Summer of Victory V next Memorial Day!

A Sense of Complacency

April 18, 2011

I had an excellent time playing Joe in Twilight Struggle last week. We talked about how we hadn’t played it nearly as much as we would like as of late. Today I’m looking back at my records and realizing I only played Twilight Struggle three times in 2010. More surprising, however, is the following:

Twilight Struggle, Dec. 2008-Mar. 2011
Total games played: 19 (14-5)
As U.S. player: 13 (11-2)
As U.S.S.R player: 6 (3-3)

What I like about these numbers is the percentage of U.S. wins! They are generally considered a bit more challenging to play, and this used to be even more true with the older version of the game, which is what we played up until late last year. On the other hand, it’s quite clear that I am not so hot playing the U.S.S.R. Another note on this is that most of my Russian wins came when I was playing against a less experienced player.

This brings us back to last night’s game. When we sat down, I specifically requested to play the forces of Communism, as I wanted to learn more about how to play them. With the exception of a few bonehead plays, I thought during the game that I wasn’t doing too poorly. However, it still wasn’t enough to stop Joe from winning on turn 9 after locking up Asia. Once we ended, we started talking over the game and then it dawned on me: I had been playing the wrong side. I  let several key opportunities to coup on the first action round and deny Joe military ops slide by. I  scattered my influence in several non-battleground countries. Worst of all, I  got into a few fights in which I threw more and more influence at a region, hoping to outspend my opponent, not realizing he had far more high-value cards. Lulled into a sense of complacency by my previous successes as a U.S. player, I played like the other side (though the board and the cards were screaming otherwise) and lost.

The lessons for the evening? First, when playing a game with asymmetric sides, try to play them an equal number of times so you’re competent at all of them. Second, have a clear idea about the strengths, weaknesses, and common strategies for the side you’re playing so you don’t look like a fool out there.

Third (humorous) lesson: Take the opportunity to ditch CIA Created when you can. I had a shot, did something else, and spent turns 3-9 holding onto that baby. Man I hate the CIA.

2010 Personal Retrospective

January 5, 2011

I managed to keep a record of games played throughout all of 2009 and gave the breakdown in an earlier post, and after a bit of number crunching, now present my 2010 personal retrospective:

Games played: 143
Wins: 70 (49%, up 3% from 2009)
Losses: 72
Draws: 1

Average time between games: 2.5 days
Best game month: January with 31 games played (due to Guatemala service trip and lots of card games)
Worst game month: August and November with 2 games played apiece (August due to master’s thesis, November due to special events I’m in charge of at work)

Two player games: 52 (36% of all games played)
Two player wins: 36 (69%, a 13% increase from last year!)
Multiplayer games: 91 (64% of all games played)
Multiplayer wins: 31 (34%, a 7% drop from last year)

Most regular two player opponents
1. Rick (11 plays, 5 wins)
2A. Russ (9 plays, 8 wins)
2B. Wife Sara (9 plays, 6 wins)
3. Brother Mike (7 plays, 6 wins)
4. Dad Rob (5 plays, 4 wins)

Most popular games of the year
1. Cribbage (15 plays, 8 wins)
2A. Chrononauts (9 plays, 2 wins)
2B. Washington’s War (9 plays, 9 wins)
3A. Carcassonne (7 plays, 0 wins)
3B. Mafia/Werewolf (7 plays, 5 wins)
3C. Pacific Typhoon (7 plays, 3 wins)

Games played for the first time: 13 (9%)

Not a whole lot of surprises here, other than I actually didn’t play many more or fewer games than I did last year. Considering the hectic nature of this year (medical issues, completing graduate school, first child born), I’m pretty impressed with how many games I got in. The only thing that really surprised me is that…I can’t win a game of Carcassonne to save my life. Go figure.

Oh, and because it’s a new year of gaming, time to throw down the gauntlet. Rick, I’m gunning for you. And everybody else…you’d better be gunning for me.

Tell us about your gaming breakdown in 2010 in the comments.

Rick’s 2010 Gaming Summary

January 4, 2011

After seeing John’s post last year summarizing his year of gaming statistics I thought it would be fun to track my plays in 2010. Here are the results:

Games Played: 313
Games Won: 168
Winning Percentage: 58%
The numbers don’t quite add up because games I play with my daughter are only counted as plays and not wins or losses and there were a few ties.

Best Gaming Month: January with 39 plays. More on this later…
Worst Gaming Month: April with 13 plays.

Best Gaming Buddies:
1. My awesome wife, Jess (170 plays)
2. My brother, Russ (40 plays)
3. John (39 plays)
4. My sister, Terri (37 plays)
5. David V. (21 plays)

Most Popular Games of 2010:
1. Carcassonne (46 plays)
2. Tobago (27 plays)
3. Small World (22 plays)
4. Manoeuvre (20 plays)
5. Memoir ’44 (18 plays)

Game I’m The Best At: Blokus (10 plays, 10 wins)
Game I’m The Worst At: Ca$h n’ Gun$ (8 plays, I’ve never won, 3 times I’ve been killed and my average place is 4 out of 5.5)

After my 39 play January I thought I could easily hit a play a day this year. With 2 young children and waiting for number 3 to arrive we had a lot of time to get 2-3 plays in each night. I made it a goal to play 365 times this year. After the slow spring months I realized this was going to be difficult. About half way through the summer I realized I would sometimes want to play a game just so I could hit my goal instead of just to enjoy a good board game. I dropped my goals and focused on fun. I still recorded my plays and was surprised to see I only needed about 50 more plays to hit 365. But I’m glad I worried about having fun instead of anything else.

After looking at the numbers I was surprised to see a couple of things. My 4th “Best Gaming Buddies” was my sister who lives two states away and I only see her a few times a year. Apparently we get a lot of games in when we see each other! I didn’t realize I had gone undefeated at Blokus. My challenge is for someone to beat me this year! A happy surprise was my first win of Here I Stand.

I wasn’t surprised by the number of Carcassonne plays. My wife and I got on a kick where we played every night for a couple of weeks. It’s also a nice easy game to teach new players (which I did 4-5 times this year). My lack of ‘skill’ with a foam gun was also not a surprise. I thought my gaming buddies liked me, but now I realize they just want to put a foam bullet between my eyes. But maybe 2011 will be different since I gave Russ the expansion for Christmas. Perhaps I’m better with a foam sword.

I’ve decided that one year of tracking all of my plays was enough for me. I still want to track certain games but for statistical information on strength of sides and best scenarios in games like Manoeuvre. I plan on using that information to follow through on a gaming goal in 2011: set-up a Manoeuvre tournament.

How was your 2010? And what’s your goal for 2011?

2009 Personal Retrospective

January 2, 2010

A year and a half ago, I followed the lead of Jason from the Point 2 Point podcast and declared a “Summer of Victory.” At the urging of my dad, I kept a spreadsheet of all games played between Memorial Day and Labor Day to see if I could declare victory by the summer’s end–and I did, winning 57% of the games I played. Eventually, the spreadsheet became known as the “Margin of Victory” record, and the fun I had keeping it updated eventually led to this blog.

I managed to keep a record of games played throughout all of 2009, and after a bit of number crunching, now present my 2009 personal retrospective:

Games played: 158
Wins: 73 (46%)
Losses: 86

Average time between games: 2.3 days
Best game month: August with 24 games played (due to the WBC)
Worst game month: March with 7 games played

Two player games: 50
Two player wins: 28 (56%)
Multiplayer games: 108
Multiplayer wins: 45 (41%)

Most regular two player opponents
1. Russ (13 plays, 10 wins)
2.  My brother Mike (12 plays, 8 wins)
3. My wife Sara (7 plays, 4 wins)
4. Joe (6 plays, 1 win)
5. My dad (4 plays, 2 wins)

Most popular games of the year
1. Cribbage (18 plays, 12 wins)
2. Manoeuvre (17 plays, 6 wins)
3. Twilight Struggle (13 plays, 10 wins) and Catchphrase (13 plays, 6 wins)
4. Small World (12 plays, 3 wins)
5. Here I Stand (9 plays, 2 wins)

Games played for the first time: 15 (9.4%)

Having crunched all the numbers, a few things surprised me. First, my overall win record is better than I thought it would be, especially considering I won only two games at the WBC! Also, I was astounded at how much Manoeuvre I’ve played, especially against my brother Mike. Last, I can’t end this post without mentioning how Russ needs to bring his “A” game this year!

Tell us about your gaming breakdown in 2009 in the comments.