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1,317 hits since 20 Mar 2017
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fullmetal201520 Mar 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Hello all

Little off topic but still game related. My group is very lets just say competitive, and in the past years it has caused several issues among the group. It gets to the point at times where I almost want to just say here is all my miniatures and projects and be done. We are all grown men, and of course no one every wishes to lose or be on the losing side, but its a game! So, I guess any thoughts or suggestions of similar situations from anyone? Just trying to figure out how to handle a sticking situation.


Jamesonsafari Inactive Member20 Mar 2017 9:22 a.m. PST

Find someone else to play with

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

Tell the guys what is concerning you and see if they have an answer.
Also try a gridded game which will really minimise arguments and give a quick conclusion. Tell the guys taht you ned something light to make you feel relaxed.I suggest it might be better for the group to change its ways rather than start break away groups. Also make sure it is not you, due to something that is bringing you down and making you a bit crabby?

Best wishes anyway

martin ( i can get a bit crabby and tired!)

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 9:44 a.m. PST

Maybe try bring up the topic, tell them how you are feeling,, and ask how you all can change the vibe.

Sometime we get so focused on the game that we forget it is all about friends.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

Play more scenario based games with different victory conditions for each player. That way each person can win a little bit perhaps. Play more uneven fights so that you don't have to worry about winning or losing, one side is going to win, one side is going to lose and then you can just have fun seeing what happens.

Eventually you'll have so much fun with the game that people will forget about victory.

Terrement Inactive Member20 Mar 2017 10:07 a.m. PST


wrgmr120 Mar 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

Our group is pretty competitive as well, however we all shake hands after the game, and say good game. It eases any tension and we all agree it's just a game.
Try instituting a hand shake.

I agree with the others, talk to the guys and say how you feel, see what they have to say. Probably some of the others feel the same way.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

All good advise. May I suggest also a deliberately light-hearted game as a break now and then? Teddy bear armies? Victorian science fiction? People can take Waterloo or Kursk seriously. Last weekend I was a cowardly Victorian who failed--just barely!--to kidnap a Martian princess. if you take that too hard, you really shouldn't be wargaming.

Might also rotate players so today's opponent is next week's partner.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 11:15 a.m. PST

Definitely have a talk with the group and let them know you're not having fun.

Might be worth looking into same-side/cooperative games or scenarios run "against" a GM.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

Maybe there are some like minded people in the group that feel the same. You can maybe run separate games together for the more relaxed type people at the meetings or splinter off completely with them and form a different group with a different focus. Is the group big enough where more than one game is played at a time? If so, set one up and see who is attracted to that style of gaming.
Some of the other suggestions are good too. Run some intentionally low key relaxed fun type games. If they still can't deal, find people to game with that suit your temperment more. I understand a lot of gaming is for the social aspect, but if that is not working with these guys, what's the point?

Norman D Landings Inactive Member20 Mar 2017 1:44 p.m. PST

In addition to the excellent suggestions above, might I suggest trying some cooperative games, with all players on the same side, vs 'reaction driven' opponents?

TMP's Herkybird writes rule sets which include reaction-driven opposition. You can download them free here:

Note that you don't need to switch to these rules – just lift the reaction-driven opponent rules and insert them into your favourite rule set!

Everybody gets to roll dice and push toy soldiers around the table – but nobody's parentage gets called into question!

Have fun!

awalesII20 Mar 2017 2:01 p.m. PST

1 – take a break
2 – set up an alternate night where one or more offending players cannot usually attend
3 – play more 1v1 games where you and your opponent play well together. not every night, but increase the frequency
4 – do more things at game night than game -- movies, beer, music
5 – play less games with less long term ramifications (one off scenarios vs. long drawn out campaigns).
6 – talk about what pisses you off.

Zephyr120 Mar 2017 2:40 p.m. PST

Announce that the winner of the game buys the (beer, pizza, whatever), then sit back and watch everybody try to lose…(Might be good for a laugh… ;-)

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

Find another group. If not, then go with pre-written scenarios with clear victory conditions. Break up the sides. Different groups of players on different sides. Breakup and don't allow cliques to form.

BattlerBritain20 Mar 2017 3:34 p.m. PST

I'd suggest just taking a break.

I was in a group a few years ago and multiple people would go to any length to win. The blatant cheating that would go on was just gobsmacking: Re-rolling dice, moving figures further than they should and not even hiding it, the list was endless. It was just jaw dropping.

After walking away it felt so much better.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 6:15 p.m. PST

If I were in your position …

Firstly, I would recognize that the reason so many games seem to be intensely competitive is that this is how the people in the group like their games.

Unhappily, it does not seem to be the way you like your games. By the way, it is also not the way I like my games. So I have some empathy with your position. But start by recognizing this is how they like to play.

So you have the choice of dropping out from the group. Well, maybe that's not what you want to do, because hey, miniatures gaming groups don't grown on trees. At least not in my area. Probably not in your area either.

So if I were in your place, and I didn't want to drop from the group, I would see my remaining choices as two:

a ) Find a way to identify the subset of people who like less competitive gaming, and then set up separate games with them.

or …

b ) Find a way to convince the group as a whole that less-competitive gaming is fun enough to replace some (if not all) of their over-competitive gaming.

As to the "talk it out with them" counsel, well if I were in that position I would not be too enthused about this. It might be a path to option a), but I would not expect it to be a path to option b). When was the last time you got a permanent positive change by asking someone that didn't want to do something to do it just "for you"? I have never found that to be an effective way to change someone's behavior, except maybe for very short periods of time.

Far more productive, I would think would be setting up some games that were, by their nature, not very competitive -- and try to ensure those games are fun. If you do this, you'll get a little of a) and a little of b) working for you every time. Easier to identify those who enjoy it (because they choose to play in your games), and over a few games most likely you'll get a growing number of converts to your way of gaming.

So how do you make a game that is less competitive, but very fun? In my own game-mastering I've succeeded in several cases, but I've also had some notable failures.

Things that I've tried that have worked, the best seem to be:
- Place more un-known factors into the game, and ..
- Come up with more than 1 way to be a winner. (Others mentioned this as well.)

I like to put a large dose of the unknown into my games. I think the gaming is better … much better. A large portion of the game is spend trying to uncover information, rather than trying to optimize minutia for an advantage in the dice.

The three key unknowns I work with are:
1) Players don't know the opposing forces
2) Players don't know the opponents' victory conditions, and
3) Blind set-up and movement during the game (I use chits, but there are several methods available).

I find that most hyper-competitive people seem to focus on optimization of who is half and inch around the corner, did you see me for more than 1/4 but less than 1/3 of my move / you didn't move far enough / well he can't see me / oh he can see you / oh I get a +1 because I'm unbuttoned / no you never said you were unbuttoned and it says on page 23, paragraph b(iii) that "a player declares at the start of the turn … ". That's the kind of behavior that really puts me off of a game.

I find that players who don't know the opponent's force, and who see only their suspicions on the board, play a very different game. It's not about optimizing my bucket of dice vs. yours. It's about "Oh crap I didn't put anyone covering that flank … do I need to move someone over there pronto?"

But beware, some people simply don't take well to imperfect information. They become frustrated and don't have any fun if they can't spend their time optimizing how the two on the left will target the two on the right (… no, not YOUR right, MY right, you know, including the one that is your company commander, although really I'm not targeting the company commander, 'cause the rules say I can't, but I'm just targeting the two on the right).

In my case, they seldom want to join a second of my games after the first one. I'm OK with that.

The other idea, as others have mentioned, is more than one way to win. Here I have found it useful both to think about how you construct your victory conditions, but also the possibility of being a "winner" even if you don't win the game.

At one big game I did at a Con, I set up some prizes, separate from victory of loss. I was fortunate enough to have GHQ provide me two gift certificates to give away (they "sponsored" my game). So I made 2 ways to win that were NOT who won the game. I had "most heroic unit" and "most kills". Then I had a set of victory points for the whole side that involved taking objectives, and how many kills minus how many losses from the original force. The "most heroic unit" was voted for by all the gamers at the end of the game, the only rule being that no one could vote for their own unit(s).

Even with intensely competitive gamers (you'll always get them at a Con game), it turned out to be a very good approach. It was a Prokhorovka game (gulp! Not an ambition undertaking at all!) covering the action on the north bank of the Psel. One of the victory points was for a bridge … 2 points if the Germans could capture it, 1 point if they could deny it to the Russians.

One of the gamers had an engineering platoon in SPWs (among some other forces). Seeing that his team was just not moving fast enough to achieve all of their victory conditions, he drove head-first through a company of Russian T-70s who were being shot to pieces by some Pz IVHs, and as the mortar rounds and an artillery concentration fell about their ears, his engineers rushed through the tanks up to the bridge, disembarked, set improvised charges, and BLEW IT UP.

He lost more than 1/2 of his force doing it. And he didn't kill a single enemy doing it. But he got that one victory point that put his team over the top for victory, and everyone at the game, on both sides, agreed that his was the most heroic unit. He basked in his glory, even though there was no rules-lawyering involved.

The prize conditions were consistent, but not matched, to the victory conditions. It worked. Everyone had a good time, including guys that I know (from other Con events) are hyper-competitive. Not a perfect game, but fun enough that both the competitive guys and the gaming for a good time guys all said they wanted to be in my next game too.

Just one approach. Consider or disregard at your discretion.

(aka: Mk 1)

Blutarski20 Mar 2017 7:07 p.m. PST

Great story, Mark. Wish I could have been there to see it.

On the larger topic – I've been gaming for fifty years – there just seem to be certain personalities who are not conducive to a collegial and friendly gaming environment. My solution has been to be friendly, smile and chit-chat with them away from the game table, but to avoid actually gaming with them.


Skarper20 Mar 2017 11:54 p.m. PST

You may find that there are one or two players who are overly competitive and just socially inept. Borderline Aspergers types maybe?

You may find it necessary to somehow exclude these people from your games. This can be tricky if you are a small club with small amounts of space. You may need to set up games at another venue and not invite these people.

Or you may need to just go solo and be done with them.

You can invite one or two compatible people to you home to play – but this basically assumes you have the space and peace and quiet at home.

I used to pretty much run our local group and didn't get much fun out of playing there. With hindsight I should have just made our spare room a wargames room and played solo.

Andy ONeill21 Mar 2017 3:55 a.m. PST

My experience:
Once people decide they like to play in a highly competitive way then it's they that have to decide not to.
I walked that route myself way back when I did tournament gaming for a bit. I eventually decided I didn't like playing like that.
I agree with Mark one person asking for change is unlikely to work.
I guess you'd probably be wasting your time.

Maybe take a step back from playing.
Start running experimental games.
Make the rules kind of vague.
Referee fairly. Go out your way to be seen to be FAIR.
"Sorry, but this is my game I'm running and we're playing this my way…".
This ought to start highlighting players who push the boundaries.
When you don't have tight rules then you need to invent reasonable interpretations rather than bend the words to your benefit.
They have to fit in.
Maybe they'll like a free form way of gaming.
Maybe they won't.

That's the groundwork laid and you will probably identify people are just not "joiners".
Ask people not to be too competitive if they seem to be.
Explain that your new rules just can't cope with pushing boundaries and you don't want to put people off them. You don't want to be called on to adjudicate when the reasonable interpretation ought to be pretty obvious.

If it says you move 6"
Then NO
you can't move 7"

If you have no turret on that STUG then no, it can't fire behind.
etc etc

Discourage rules bending.
Then discourage poor sportsmanship.

Then deliberately include mechanisms which depend on a certain level of trust.
Many of "my" ww2 skirmish games are attack defence.
I provide both forces – I decide what they get.
The defender has their side of models in a box.
The attacker doesn't see them.
The defender map deploys anything that isn't "obvious".
There's not a hard definition of obvious but players very quickly understand what it is.
If their tank is in the middle of that open valley then it's deployed.
A fairly common sort of thing is they'll say "how about if I deploy round the corner here in the village".
To which I might say something like:
"That's ok initially but infantry will probably spot that fairly quickly. Unless they have something else on their minds."
The attacker then deploys on whichever side they're attacking from.

With newer players I review the map carefully.
After a while I do so less carefully. Unless I notice someone I think might be cheating. Few players have. Most seem to get into the spirit of the game pretty quickly.
( IMO these are more enjoyable games than ones where everyone splits hairs and argues.)

I give sides "orders". The simplest would be something like "you must hold this village" or "you must take this village".
Sometimes their orders are totally impossible and they must realise this.
That's part of the game.
Usually the victory conditions are not at all clear.
There are some.
They don't know what they are.

The suspense adds a fair bit to gaming.
The "woolliness" discourages rules bending.
They don't pick their sides, so no min maxing.

Some people don't like it.
Even fairly competitive people usually see it as a reasonable approach and enjoy the games.

Some people have said they used to focus on min maxxing because they were expecting "the other guy" to do so. They hated that side of games and it's great that they don't need to worry about that.

Good luck.

fullmetal201521 Mar 2017 7:46 a.m. PST

Thanks all for the input. Sadly not a lot of gaming groups in my area, that play historical miniatures. Mostly magic and RPG's.

Sadly the game4 went fine, it was after the game that things went wrong. It all was over a player positioning his Puma armored car in the line of two players fire lanes, which they had the enemy in a nice cross fire. The puma player was just trying to get the big kill. Im running a western front campaign june of 1944. All players are on the same side working together. The thing is couple of the players are ex vets, and know tactics and I think they we over whelmed that some one would do such a move. Of course I tried to say its a game, not a total simulation. So, that's how the argument started, and now two are talking about pulling out of the campaign. I guess I just said its your guys call, but honestly its rather childish and its just a game!


VCarter Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

After read your entry above, my first thought was to tell the other players that they could keep firing, but there would be a chance they could hit the Puma in error (like if you miss by 1).

If they say they are holding fire, I would require them make a roll to prevent firing during the round it occurred.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2017 4:29 p.m. PST

Of course I tried to say its a game, not a total simulation.
That probably just makes it worse. The mere fact you post to this web site indicates you don't like to play "just a game" either, otherwise you would probably "just play" Risk or Axis & Allies or something. Consider how you would feel if the GM of your next WW2 battle introduced the Immortal Zombie Landsknecht Pike Corps or a dragon-mounted Fliegerkorps or Merlin the Wizard and dismissed your objections with "it's just a game". No, it isn't it's a particular type of experience you're aiming for, and some fantasies stick out too much.

Your description doesn't sound like over-competitiveness, it sounds like a problem suspending disbelief in the face of clear gamesmanship. All historical gamers have a threshold for suspension of disbelief. Consider how many of us are unable to enjoy historical dramas in periods we've studied we just know too much and the careless cracks and holes in the film experience are too irritating to allow immersion. I'd guess your vets probably have much higher requirements for proper battlefield chain of command, unit self-preservation, or maybe even physics.

You might get more traction by offering better rationalizations, making more ad hoc referee rulings to fix perceived problems, and instituting house rules to prevent known problems. That discussion about the rogue Puma should probably have resulted in a new house rule, or at least solicitation for ideas about how to nicely prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

If you can't reconcile the details and particularity desired by some group members with the speed and brevity others want, you probably just have to break up the group into the "lighter" gamers and the "serious" gamers. My gaming includes lots of overlapping circles because of such distinctions.

- Ix

Retiarius922 Mar 2017 4:34 a.m. PST

i like to run games at cons and locally and have bad things happen to sore sports and whiners, ie ill ask them to roll a die and something bad happens

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2017 12:25 p.m. PST

I mean, historically, there were plenty of impetuous commanders who inconvenienced or flat-out ruined plans by trying to claim the glory for themselves.

I might recommend a campaign approach where losing troops has long-term consequences, which helps curb such behaviour, but in the end, it's just a game and grown-ups should be able to cope with that.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2017 12:27 p.m. PST

>No, it isn't it's a particular type of experience you're aiming for, and some fantasies stick out too much.

I think this debacle stems from people not having the same expectations about the game, to be honest.

wizbangs30 Mar 2017 8:24 a.m. PST

They probably started in the tournament or Magic the Gathering environment where everything is equal, every rule is known so that it can be exploited and they know both forces. To these people, it is not a simulation or a hobby, but a game. I dealt with it for years in the Fantasy genre and when some one shows up with unpainted armies you know it is only a one-dimensional thing for them. I got labeled as a "paint snob" because I wouldn't play against unpainted armies. But there was wisdom to
It, as it revealed where their priorities are.

The best option I have found, as stated by Mark 1 earlier, is introducing uneven games and a lot of unknowns. A lot of randomness helps too. For example, we have an "ammunition check" House rule where, every 4 turns every unit that has fired rolls to see if they are out of ammo. Power gamers HATE this because it is random & out of their control (even if both sides have to abide by the rule). We do it for fuel in armored units too.

If they refuse to play with this kind of levity (despite the fact it is realistic), then you know they are hopeless and you need to part ways with them. If enough people do this they will find themselves alone or they move on to something else.

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