Should You Ever Throw A Game?

24 June 2024
Everyone’s in it to win it when it comes to board games. Unless there’s a valid reason to throw in the towel…

Written by Jenny Cox.

Humans are hardwired for success whether it’s getting good exam results or guessing Wordle in one. Every so often, some smug billionaire will be quoted on social media about failure being fine… as long as you don’t give up. Playing games follows the same script. Of course, there are cognitive and creative benefits, but ultimately, you’re there to be the best. The master of the meeple. Anything else would make you a bad sport, a deviant who broke the contract about being competitive. Wouldn’t it? Are there actually times when it’s acceptable – advisable, even – to lose on purpose? Yes. And no. Perhaps you’ve dabbled before but felt uncertain about the ethics. Read on and clear your conscience with this handy tear-and-keep guide:

Scenario 1: An argument lingers 

Broadly speaking, these bitter situations are most likely to occur among siblings or spouses – the kinds of relationships where blow ups over trivial matters are forgiven. If you’d rather appease than antagonise, look out for signs that conflict is brewing. Side-eye comments that you’re getting all the luck? Dice destructively thrown at neatly arranged components? Abandon the good ship HMS Victory and start pursuing a loss by making it look as if your luck has turned. Take any gloating on the chin, reassuring yourself their success is down to you. Kingmaker.

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Scenario 2: Only one person’s played before

It’s games night and you’re sharing a new discovery with the gang, who are in for a belter. While it’s tempting to take advantage of such virgin fodder for a career best, resist. Play dumb instead. Consult the rulebook at every opportunity (bonus points if you struggle to follow it). And make silly mistakes while pointing others in the right direction. Under these circumstances, a deliberate loss will benefit everyone as your pals experience the game’s beauty rather than cruelty – making them more likely to come back for seconds. 

Scenario 3: Someone’s on a losing streak 

How long has it been since you last did it? Days… weeks… months?! Winning that is. A dry spell is miserable and witnessing one is equally painful. Letting a friend win therefore seems like a noble act. Yet it merely masquerades as a sacrifice. The rub is in how it makes you feel. Soft and gooey? Then this is no altruistic act. The bigger risk is the ‘winner’ finds out. They still suck and you can no longer be trusted. “What else have you lied about? I knew you didn’t like my new haircut!” Avoid.

Scenario 4: Children are participating 

Seriously. What were you thinking? Gaming with children requires a guide of its own. But you’re here now – let’s attempt to lessen the damage. This one’s a judgement call. Subjecting padawans to crushing defeats can turn them off for good, but always letting them win breeds monster incapable of handling disappointment. It all comes down to personality type. I suffered stinging losses as a child, made even tougher by my father’s smug catchphrase, “Thank yoooou! Thank yoooou!”. However… it did make me more determined to figure games out and therefore blossomed into a lifelong hobby. Thank yoooou, indeed, Dad.

Scenario 5: It’s half-past bedtime

Early birds know the eyelids are a flight risk during twilight sessions. Perhaps you’re not even in with a shot of winning – you just want to sleep. Technically, you’re going to lose anyway so all you’re doing is speeding up the inevitable. Put whatever energy is left into behaving like an imbecile and you’ll earn that ticket to ride to Bedfordshire.
Sweet dreams.

And there we have it. Proof that failure is fine – full stop, no caveats. Share that quote on Facebook. 


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