Why I Started Caring When I Lose

Back when I did my formative (WFB) gaming before I went away to university, the games I played had a narrative context. I used to play regularly against the same four or so people, and we worked out a backstory to our regular games which was advanced in one side or another’s favour when a game was won or lost. They were between more or less the same armies (because we didn’t have collections that were massively bigger than the standard sizes); decent-but-not-brilliant builds with some kind of vague theme (a minor Skaven clan, an undead knightly order and its men-at-arms, a High Elf citizens’ militia, stuff like that), named and backstoried units and characters (not that either of us could remember what the others’ pieces were most of the time, and declarations were still along the lines of “those Skeletons are going to charge those Clanrats there” – I think we could remember each other’s heroes’ names and that was about the limit). It didn’t particularly matter who won or lost unless someone lost so many games that the story really should be over by now (and that’s when we’d sit down and have a talk about tactics and some unit would be disbanded or some character would be executed in the story and some reinforcements would show up or something).

And then there was uni, and I ended up in a much larger gaming group with a much greater variety of armies where people tended to own larger and/or multiple armies, and so pickup games were the norm. It was quite hard to give the games against random armies any sort of context, especially since I was the only one doing it, and so I stopped, and I think that might be where I started giving a crap about winning the games, as a substitute for contextualising the results no matter what they were. I remember something similar happened with Warmachine: when I was only playing the same three people with small collections round someone’s house a backstory to the games sort of emerged, with particular units being tied to particular ‘casters, and defeats having an effect on the narrative. Then I moved up north, to a larger group with inconsistent attendance, in a shop environment where everyone had a couple of factions and a variety of options within their factions. The contextualising process just couldn’t happen in that environment, and without there being a contextual payoff to my losses I think I started noticing them more.

Not that I have a clue what to do about it, mind; I tightened my Cryx collection around an aesthetic and narrative that I like, and started doing an Agenda army for much the same reason, but I don’t think the environments I’ve spent the last couple of years playing in are appropriate for the approach I really want to take. Of course, I might just be kidding myself and I might want to WIN GAMES, but I don’t think so. I remember when I didn’t and I think I’ve worked out the difference between then and now. Then, any game outcome had an impact on the narrative, and that was the point. When there isn’t a narrative to impact, the outcome becomes the point, and it probably shouldn’t be.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

6 thoughts on “Why I Started Caring When I Lose”

  1. >I really like this entry. I am in the same state you were in with your small group. It's usually the same 3 or 4 people, although each of us has quite a sizable collection, it is generally all the same army. More often its just a matter of changing up the casters. We are really looking forward to MkII theme list for this very reason. But anyway, winning/losing isn't really that big of a deal to me. Although I do have plans for going to a few out of state events this year, and I know I want to have an army that wins, so I have since started to focus a little more on the winning part.

  2. >I think it's fine if you know you're doing it and you've decided to do it: it's when you start caring by accident and don't realise that your priorities have changed that you start becoming a bit miserable and not enjoying your games any more.Thanks for reading/following/commenting, by the way.

  3. >I was actually chatting with Matt about this sort of thing earlier today. One of the things I enjoy most about coordinating the WMHC2 at Lost Hemisphere is coming up with the fanfic/narrative as the lists expand. It just adds so much to my enjoyment of the game as I inject personality into models like Bradley & Ernie.One-of inconsequential games are fine and dandy, but there's nothing like the feeling of having a story unfold in your head.Thankfully, I've been doing it with Trollbloods, so any casualties can just "regenerate" between games :P

  4. >Maybe it's just me but the whole "I'm telling a story" thing bothers me unless it's in a setting meant to have one like a campaign. It bothers me when people want to tell stories and "this guy over here is Patrick and this is Phil". How come these guys never die? If I massacre all your long gunners why the hell should they respawn intact next game story wise?I consider it a game, if I want a story I'll read a book, not push models around.

  5. >@ Astray Penguin – we are, in general, talking about campaign games here. It might not be a formalised campaign with a map and territories and rules for supply lines and might be just as simple as "what do we think should happen next". I don't think the story thing works as well for random pickup games against any old body in the shop, which is why I stopped projecting my little stories onto those games. I just think that it was a mistake for me to play that sort of game at all. I should have stuck to campaigns, because they're much more my bag, and because with that context around games it's easier to think of lost games as setbacks rather than isolated incidences of defeat. @ gdaybloke – this is also the advantage of playing Cryx. Most of them don't stay dead, especially iron liches and that capacity to just have their minions build another body as long as their soul is still safely caged somewhere.

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