Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sunday Sermon: At what point should you concede defeat?

  
   
The Capitulation of Kars, by Thomas Jones-Baker, 1855.

This isn't something that I've had to deal with genuinely all that often in the recent past, mainly because I haven't played that many games. However, in the past few months I have been there to witness a number of interesting arguments and some etiquette issues that have gotten quite heated. It's not something that I for one have ever had that much negative experience with. I mean I've had people capitulate on me far too easily and early and just pack up because things haven't been going their way. That's fine I guess I don't mind that so much, although it's annoying that they don't want to play the game to its proper conclusion, I get that their heart isn't in it anymore and they just want to walk away. On the flip side I've never once waved the white flag unless my opponent has offered me that way out. I guess I realise that it takes two to tango, and I'm there just as much for my opponents enjoyment as I am my own. I feel it should be always the gamer with the upper hand who offers their opponent the chance to exchange handshakes, although it should always be by mutual consent.

Capitulation at Baylén, by Maurice Henri, 1895.
So what have I witnessed? Well the first thing I witnessed that shocked me was a young teenager walking away from a game of Warhammer Fantasy because his opponent had got off Purple Sun to devastating effect. It was his opponents second turn and he's only had one turn. I could fully understand his frustration and angst, but the thing was the game was far from over. Yeah sure it'd have been an uphill struggle to bring it back on terms, but a hard fought draw was not out of the question and still seemed more than possible. Doing so would have been a moral victory unrivaled as well. He though, "couldn't be arsed" as he so delightfully put it. This left his opponent fuming. He'd turned up to play a game, and now he was having to pack his stuff away after roughly 45 minutes and give his table up to somebody else because his opponent had in effect thrown a hissy fit. I had to say I personally felt this was just utterly terrible form, and I felt the need to say so. The young lad gave a shrug of his shoulders and said "I don't care".


When I expressed my dismay at his attitude to the assembled throng of more mature gamers they informed me it wasn't uncommon now. In fact they said his behaviour wasn't out of the ordinary for many people. Now I'll say this sort of weak willed capitulation does not sit well with me. I'm the sort of person who has 'beaten' my opponent by turn two at HoMachine in the past by achieving the objectives and offering my opponent the opportunity to switch the game to caster kill. Why? Because although winning is important to me, playing a game worthy of winning is more important. What this capitulation showed was a very different attitude, one that said winning is all that is important. Not the how, and be damned with my opponent and what they want. I had hoped it was an isolated attitude, I'll be honest; but I've witnessed it on multiple occasions now, even as far afield as Madrid in Spain in a Games Workshop there, where a mini tournament was taking place.

Capitulation de Madrid, Antoine-Jean Gros, 1808.

The 'premature early capitulation' though isn't the only issue to consider. I have witnessed at times others clinging on to a game long after it is over as a meaningful contest. They're aim seemingly to piss off the opponent, waste their time rather provide them with a challenge. I've had people do this to me, mainly in Infinity by hiding their last remaining stuff behind a wall waiting for me to hunt them down, and it's mind numbingly dull. It's the reason the game actually needed those missions we got in the Paradiso Campaign book. I've seen it too in Dystopian Wars, with a faster fleet just running away in the hopes that the club would close its doors, and they might be able to claim a 'draw' of sorts. Now I have more sympathy with those who refuse to give up. Wanting to fight to the bitter end, no matter how futile, is sort of an admirable trait. Certainly to us Brits, we're sort of stubborn and fatalistic like that. I sort of respect that attitude I'll be honest with you. However, I was again witness to a really quite petulant display of selfishness I couldn't quite believe.

Last Stand of the 44th foot at Gandamak, by William Barnes Wollen, 1898.

A game that had dragged on to 4 turns a side of Dust Warfare. The game was for all intents and purposes over by turn 2. The Allied player reduced to two units that had taken damage, while his Axis opponent had more than enough full units to eventually hunt him down and obliterate him with consummate ease. The Axis player looked at his watch and saw there were others wanting to get a game in. So he offered his opponent the opportunity to call it a day and pack up. His opponents response? "If you do that I win"... there were a few laughs, until we realised he was being serious. We all tried to reason with him to just step away from the table and just accept that he was beaten. All to no avail. They had agreed prior to the game to play a straight up pitched battle to the last man, and he was holding out for that. Two full game turns later his wish was duly granted. Sadly this didn't leave enough time for others to get a game in, and I had to wander why he would resort to such a display of petulance.

The Defence of Rourke's Drift 1879, by Alphonse de Neuville, 1880.

It seems to me that these two extremes of the spectrum are probably quite rare, or I hope they bloody well are. But, there seems to be an issue around when you should exchange handshakes nowadays that I have to say I've never really come across before. I know much of it is context specific, because at my house if you want to play to the bitter end I'm down with that. But, in a games store or a club, when there are others who need the table is it right to carry on long after it has ceased to be a contest? Yet on the other hand, is it right to throw the towel in before the game has even got going because things aren't going your way early doors? I've experienced this a lot with Mofaux and HoMachine in particular, this unwillingness to fight an uphill struggle because of a perceived imbalance, or bad luck. Have other people encountered such behaviour? Do you think it's acceptable and how do you guys deal with it? If you do face it. When should a player concede defeat? Honestly, I'm listening. Peace out!

37 comments:

  1. The game I mostly play right now is Flames of War. Their scoring system offers a chance for even an obviously losing player to make up at least a point or two by completely destroying an opponent's platoons. Being that I'm a stubborn sod, in tourneys I'll gladly hold out for the hope of getting those extras; but in friendly games, LGS table or not, sheesh, what's the point? I call arsehole-ism.

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    1. Dai, I'm sort of with you. I think it pretty much always depends on circumstances. In games like HoMachine for instance I've been almost knocked on my ass and then fought like a cornered tiger to try and get the caster kill off as the mission is not possible anymore. There's nothing wrong with that attitude if you can make a game of it, or indeed if both parties want to make a game of it. I'm never the one to throw the towel in though normally, no matter what. If I were in a club or a store and there were others after the table I'd obvious vacate the table if others needed it and the game was all but dead and my opponent agreed. I was just wandering what current etiquette is on this. It has been interesting to let the comments come in and not respond to them to see what others think. I'm fairly pleased to see that broadly speaking it's pretty much how I feel..

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  2. Luckily, at the store I play at there is so much room to play that even on the busy weekend nights it's not an issue for clearing off so someone else can play. But I think both of the examples you give, while sounding like opposite extremes really isn't. Both are a case of players with the 'I want only what I want'. Both wanted just to win.When the first thought he couldn't win easily he didn't care to play, when the second thought he could get an easy default 'win' by making his opponent stop the game, that was all he cared to do. Same problem: just wanting the shiny imaginary medal,even if it means nothing.

    I say, as long as there is some chance for both sides to achieve some goals,even if it isn't victory, and both are having fun, then game on. if one side is getting curb stomped and has no chance ..in some game systems, maybe all their anti-armor is dead and they're facing a slew of tanks they can't hurt, then no shame in surrendering. Many times in history commanders had to swallow pride to save the lives of their troops. But sometimes a game where you know you'll lose but you can force a Pyrrhic victory can be a lot of fun. Point remains to have fun.. but then, neither of the two you described sounded like much fun to play.

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    1. Yeah, I guess on some level you are right, I felt at both times really what was being displayed was an incredibly selfish attitude. I've never been that selfish or self-centered I guess and it just rubbed me the wrong way to see these sorts of things going on. That these examples have stuck in my head for some time now suggested to me it was not the norm, and I'm getting the impression that it isn't. That is a good thing. I think using fun as a pointer is a good idea. I've often offered opponents a way out of games that I've been trouncing them in, and it has ALWAYS been their decision. I've never pushed it. I don't want to grind somebodies face into the dirt repeatedly over a protracted period of time... unless they want me too.

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  3. Your point is well made and acknowledged. On occasion I have capitulated but always after both me and my opponent had come to the same conclusion: the game was lost to me. If possible I would claim psychological victories like when my Dark Angels lost but did capture the Fallen, but in the main it was agreeable to both players.

    What I think is most vexing is a game that can only ever end in a draw. Most regular 40K and WHF battles I've played were not scenario based and thus most often ended in a draw with no-one clearly ahead: I hate this!

    Nowadays I only play for fun, never a tournament and always with a clear scenario which makes sure there is no chance of a draw. This has enhanced my gaming experience enormously.

    Cheers Sander

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    1. Hi Sander,

      Yep psychological victories are something I go for when things are not necessarily going my way. I guess I have a healthy fighting spirit and would rather go down kicking and screaming. I do hate unsatisfactory conclusions to games, and often a handshake does feel like that if there was something still potentially to play for.

      But long winded games that grind to a draw are awful at times too. So I do think setting your own victory parameters on those sorts of systems is a good idea. Or at least I have found it to be. I think we all play for fun, but what we all deem to be fun is somewhat varied. :P

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  4. I'll keep going if there's something worth keeping going for. If I lose, but kill the stupid wizard who just Purple Sunned half my army, I'll go away happy. It's about meaningful participation in the game; if there's no meaningful game to be had after one or two turns, what's the point?

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    1. I acdept that if the game is no longer meaningful then there can be little point continuing. I do get that. And I get that losing half your army to bad luck or planning in one go is rather frustrating. Butin the first example there was still a game to play. He wasn't down and out and still had a lvl 4 caster himself. Just felt like he was spitting his dummy out because he didn't want to 'work' for a win or possibly a hard fought draw, which given what he had left wasn't out of the question. I've often re-set up after a few turns into a game when it's all over and started again if we could. Nothing wrong with that if both players agree to it.

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  5. There is an easy solution. Concede defeat, then start a new game up! We do that all the time. Better to reset and learn from your mistakes and get another go. We'll take a game to turn 2 many times if it's getting lopsided, do a quick run down of what happened then reset.

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    1. Yep. This is how my dad and I used to play when I was young. He'd kick my ass and then I'd learn a little bit more and we'd go again... and he'd kick my ass yet again. I eventually learned though. If you have the facility to keep playing like we did that's great. But if you are table hogging in a club or a shop? The etiquette changes somewhat. Does it not?

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  6. I dont think I have every capitulated a wargame in my life. I primarily play HoMachine (as you put it) and Infinity, and in both of those games there is always a chance to maybe pull it out of the bag. The games when you are down and crushed but manage to pull out that last minute victory is just glorious! (And gives endless bragging rights)

    When an opponent capitulates early (as has happened then something has put them on tilt) I'm normally the first person to start packing up and take the win, already looking to find my next game. I have zero interest in people dragging out a game where they are miserable and B$tching and moaning throughout.

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    1. I have, but it was many moons ago now when at a club. Specifically for me though it was again about hogging a table after the result was all but decided. I saw it as bad form to hog a table when the game was effectively over. Go away, lick your wounds and let some others have some fun.

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  7. I almost never concede. As long as it is still fun for both players and there is still a tiny chance of victory, I will go on. Thankfully, games are becoming more scenario based, so there will be less boring games.

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    1. Yeah, scenarios certainly help bring games to a more satisfying conclusion. Perhaps that's the key here, objectives that are attainable no matter what, perhaps even multiple routes to victory. Give people a reason to play on, a glimmer of hope.

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  8. On the other side, in a game as luck based as GW's after a pretty devastating first or second turn, you can save yourself from 2-4 more hours of pointlessly moving stuff around for a maybe a draw if you are extremely lucky, plus the headache the rules irregularities, complexities ectr will bring and really call it a day.

    First and foremost the game system must support the decision to play till the "bitter end", I would play till conclusion in an Infinity game with ITS scenarios at worse its an hour till conclusion, I would not commit to the 3-5 hours a typical GW game requires if half my army got luckily wiped out on turn one or two, the game system doesn't worth the mental stress to do so.

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    1. Interesting perspective on the GW stuff. I'll be honest again and say I haven't played much WFB or 40k of late... mainly for the reasons you describe. Perhaps there is something to the just walking away attitude I've seen in GW's of late. If it is so dire that the games themselves aren't worth carrying on with then I guess I'd question why you'd be playing them in the first place. If though a game is effectively over in whatever system then I see no problem with the hand shake if both parties agree. My concern is that people are walking from games before that point has been reached.

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  9. It depends on what game I'm playing. Some games put me more in the commander's state of mind than others, and in those games I can concede defeat, in effect retreating to save the lives of my toy soldiers.

    In other games the stubborness in me takes over. It depends on the opponent as well, if I percieve him to be gamey and wanting to win more than having fun I can become very stubborn and try to hold out for as long as possible even though I have no hope of winning.

    But I have to say one thing about the fellow who walked out on the game when hit by a Purple Sun of Xereus; I totally understand him. Magic in Warhammer 8th edition is seriously overpowered and I have been very near to rage-quitting several times because my opponent has got off a powerful spell early in the game. Seriously though it is broken; there is no tactical effort involved, just luck. The player who rolls two sixes first can effectively win the game.

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    1. Yeah... magic and WFB... that's actually the prime reason I walked from the game. There are other mechanical reason as well, but when I looked at magic in 8th I just couldn't see it being fun or engaging in any way. Maybe I'm being harsh on his behaviour, but I looked at what he had left and I felt it was still within his scope to do the exact same thing back to his opponent.

      As with most things in life though I'm not sure there are any hard and fast rules with this topic. It seems to me that quite often the decision is very much context specific. But the simple rules appear to be are we having fun / is there something in it still for both parties. That seems to be the general gist I'm getting from comments on here.

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  10. As others have stated, it all depends on what's going on at the time.

    My own, personal, thought on the matter is that if both players aren't having a good time, then it's probably time to just pack up. Because as you mention, games are about having fun. If it's not, then we're just two grown individuals playing "more-complicated toy soldiers" for no real reason.

    But when does that "someone's not having fun" thing come into play? It's never going to be the same at all points in time. It's like the volume of your conversation in a restaurant. Is there one, particular, decibel level that is acceptable verses one that isn't? We can all agree that you shouldn't be overly loud while out with friends, but to say exactly what that loudness is would be hard to put a specific number on. You should be able to talk with your friends and other people in the place should be able to talk to their friends and neither should bother the other.

    I've both conceded games and offered to let my opponent stop playing before the end of a game. It's not the most common thing ever, but it does happen. I don't think it's something that should never be offered or accepted. I, too, have been in games that I have clearly won and offered my opponent the chance to stop playing, but they played on, only to run away (like having 2/3 of the Witch Coven left and that's it vs. basically my entire Khador force. He kept running away into the corners of the board) and it's annoying as anything.

    If someone at the game table isn't having fun, I'd much rather stop that game and find something else to do that is fun than keep playing an un-fun game.

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    1. Yep. Wouldn't disagree with any of what you have said Polar_Bear. It's a judgement call. I was just wandering whether that 'judgement call' thing was starting to become a problem for some gamers / game systems. I guess I'm no closer to a yes or no answer, but what I am getting is that most on here have approached it fairly rationally and in a reasonable manner. That's heartening to read.

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  11. I think that these individuals need to be tracked at the organizational level and only allowed to play each other. Then the rest of us can have some fun.

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    1. Perhaps we could brand them you mean? That's not a bad idea. Might be a deterrent to poor behaviour as well. lol.

      Joking!!! Before people think I'm serious about maiming my fellow gamers.

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  12. At Maelstrom, the usual tournament rule was that if you quit a game, you scored zero, and the opponent scored maximum score for the game. The TO would probably want a justification, too. As you say, it's just rude to walk away from a game.

    The second example case, I wouldn't give up the game either. I'd say "ok, I'm pretty certain I've lost, but I'm taking as much of your stuff with me as I can before I lose".

    If I'm playing Warmachine, any game I take down the Avatar of Menoth is a win, regardless of the outcome. I hate that thing.

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    1. True dat.

      If I can still set myself some sort of objective and walk away from a game with some sense of achievement, I'll keep playing it. "I may have lost, but I killed that stupid Daemon Prince", that kind of thing. The games I've thrown have generally been those where the tempo of the game has been against me from the start and I haven't felt able to set myself an achievable goal to keep some sense of investment in the proceedings. That or games I shouldn't have started playing in the first place because, to pluck an example out of the air, heatstroke and a bad mood don't make for happy gaming.

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  13. There are dice and/or cards involved. It's not exactly "mate in 3 moves" explicit. Walking away from adversity in frustration is a sign of immaturity.

    I've convinced some opponents *not* to concede, only to have them pull off the win. Hey, I get to play so infrequently that I milk it for every last turn.

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    1. Yeah, I famously convinced a High Elf player not to walk from a game that looked totally dead... only to watch a series of unfortunate moral checks see my entire Dwarf army run from the onslaught of 6 Sword Masters and half a unit of Spearmen. Still rankles me to this day that the dice Gods deserted me so. Still, I've had awesome luck ever since. I too thought the first example was nothing but immaturity, but as Leif pointed out above, perhaps there was more to it than that. If a game system is that randomly harsh you have to be a special sort of person to be able to take that with a smile I guess. Perhaps they're just playing the wrong games?

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    2. I think there's a definite point to be made there, Mr. Frontline; you do need to be quite resilient to put up with "well, you rolled a double-six first and there goes a unit of your choosing" as a definitive feature of gameplay. Unfortunately, people get very attached to games, and continue to cling to them long after their tastes and needs have changed; sometimes they just can't get something they prefer to take off, since people get a bit huffy about not being able to use the WFB army on which they've spent a month's rent money...

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  14. The player in case 1 was 'the youth of today', the player in case 2 was inconsiderate.

    Player 1 - Things aren't going my way why bother, because that'll take you far in life, you've got to work at things, play enough games after your 'deathstar of doom' has been pruplesunned off the board and you'll get better or at very least learn that your army build is rubbish.

    Player 2 - It's all well and good trying to 'unlock the puzzle', in this case can you manage to keep your last 2 assets alive against a massive uphill struggle, but when doing so deprives multiple people of fun then it's not going to make you any friends. Next time you are down that club are people going to want to play you, or one of the guys who missed out because you were so busy trying to achieve the impossible. Oh look, no game for you tonight.

    I generally don't concede, but where it's depriving someone else of the table then accept it's not the time. If you've just started a game then possibly suggest a rerack if it's a highly unlikely calamitous event that has made it a non-game but if it's something that is actually not that unlikely (such as a purple sun through a unit) then you really need to rethink what you're doing for the good of both players.

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  15. Reading the article and then the subsequent comments, it's pleasing to see that most people who read FG's blog are taking the following stance: If someone's waiting for a table and the game is clearly over, let it be over and let someone else have a go. If not, and you're still enjoying it, then by all means make a game of it. In short, you all seem to know where the 'middle ground' is, and long may it continue.

    The only times it's ever really come up for me is when I've been playing 40K at Games Workshop; most of the scenarios these days have random game length that starts at 5 turns, but more than once I've been on the back foot all game, we get to the end of turn five and I'll say something like: "Look, there's no way I'm going to pull this back now; shall we leave out Random Game Length and I'll hand it over to you, and let someone else have a go?" There's never been any dissent, and certainly not from the people waiting for a game...

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  16. I tend to be a "Never surrender!" type of player myself, though sometimes this may simply mean moving all of my troops off my table edge to "safety". It should be noted that I've never had someone waiting for the table I was using. I've always played at people's houses, so it hasn't been an issue.

    I'm perfectly willing to go ahead and concede if it seems my opponent doesn't want to keep going. Since the wargame I play most these days is Commands & Colors, it's a rare instance that games really drag on. You get 'banners' for eliminating enemy units, and each scenario has a set number of banners a game is played to. I did play my first proper miniature wargame in ages Sunday night though, and I both my opponent and I decided to call it when it was clear he wasn't going to be able to pull out a win.

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  17. Munchkin, Evil Baby Orphanage, Malifaux, Warhammer, Magic the Gathering, even Monopoly (but not in first turn) I've dropped out of.

    It's never been a question could I win, but more what I'd be losing. Most "gamers" are (questionably introverted) males who's real satisfaction of the game isn't in the social interaction, challenge or hard fought victory, but in crushing someone! What exactly do you gain in arguing rules or playing until 6th turn when the soul of the game is dead? Do I need to be here so your Thrower can stop 2 squares from the goal, so you can toss the ball to a runner and thus earn 3spp's for the catch as well as the 7spp touchdown? Oh you want to foul my guys too... At what point does sandbagging the Munchkin near the finish stop being more fun then trying for the win yourself? Why aren't more people trying for the win? I hate wasting my time with people who don't care about me.

    If I start believing the only reason I'm there is so they can play with their toys, I'm outta there! Losses never matter, spending time with friends does.

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    1. I'll drink to that.

      The one thing that I've never liked about Blood Bowl is the implicit encouragement to churn turns for a safe win; well, that and the instability of the passing game. Similarly, there's come a point in Magic games where someone's effectively just playing with themselves, and at that point, I usually put a brew on and ask them to let me know how the game went when they're done. After all, I'm effectively a spectator at that point anyway, so...

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