BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

EDITORIAL: Coping With Losing

4 Minute Read
Sep 21 2011

Sure, everyone wants to win every game, but knowing how to walk away from a loss with grace is the sign of real winner.

You’ve practised, practised, and practised some more. You know every army and unit inside and out, and are using your lucky dice. You’re ready!

Ninety minutes later you are woobly, woozy, and staring into the middle distance in disbelief. How did it happen, why are most of your models in the “dead pile”? Your opponent has a smile on his face and extends his hand like a graceful winner… What to do?

1) SHAKE THE HAND!!!  It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Queen of England or a total cheat, this is about you and your manners.  So give a good solid handshake and go from there.  Not shaking hands makes YOU part of the problem.

2) Smile.  It doesn’t matter that you have a gaping hole where your stomach should be.  Just tough it out and smile.  Trust me, it gets easier.  Think about the expressions of every Olympic silver medal winner up on those podiums. And they are being broadcast live to the entire planet!

3) Control Your Anger (~Yoda) Even if you’re sure you played the most horrific player out there, just keep your cool.  Hotheads at the tabletop get noticed and shunned.  Just stay calm, and go get mad in your car, or outside.  Trust me – in five minutes when you’ve had time to think about all the unpainted minis you need to finish to get your new rematch army in ship shape, the anger will be long gone.

4) Levity. Oftentimes it is that first 60 seconds right after a game is finished that determines if things go south or not.  Both of you are still mentally “in the game” and the potent cocktail of emotions is flowing through your brains.  In another minute you both will be returning to the normal world, thinking about new minis to buy, your next game, or what to eat.  A little bit of humor can go a long way in that first minute to break the tension and blow off some steam.  Try it, it works.

5) Bad Game or Bad Player?  I can remember a handful of losses that were some of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.  I can also remember some wins I would like to forget due to terrible behavior from the opponent.  Always try to seperate winning and losing in your mind from having fun.  If you had fun, you’ve achieved the goal of playing any game – congratulate yourself.  If you had a terrible time, whether you won or lost, consider your choice of opponents with more wisdom next time.

6) Were they Lucky or Good? Immediately analyse your loss.  Were you outplayed, or did the dicegods have fun this game.  Oftentimes you can do everything right, and have the other guy dead to rights, only to see abberant dice throw a monkeywrench into your plans.  If its the dice, laugh it off – what can you do?  If you were outplayed, offer to buy that opponent a cup of coffee and talk tactics for 20 minutes.

7) Ask for a Copy of Their List.  One of the most powerful tools for a gamer’s personal growth is a hard copy of armies that are difficult for you.  Once you are in a quiet environment, pull out their list and study it.  Tear it apart like a clock, trying to understand what makes it tick. You will be much better prepared next time.


8) Swap Armies.  You will often find that the best way to deal with a particular army or opponent you can’t overcome is to play their army for a few weeks, or swap armies and have a rematch.  Either proxy, or borrow one and give it a whirl.  Nothing comes close to helping you understand the strengths and weaknesses of an opposing list like playing it yourself.  Inversely, seeing how a really top shelf player uses your own army will give you ideas and insights that you may have overlooked.

9) Hit the Books.  Think about the loss.  What was the single unit, or rule mechanic that swung the battle?  Grab your army rulebook, theirs, and the main game ruleboook. Now read, read, read.  Oftentimes you will uncover some small detail or flash of inspiration when reading rules with a fresh loss in your mind.  Its strange, but I’ve discovered that its the losses that make me a better player, not the victories.

10) Sugar Cures All.  If all else fails, hold back the tears till you can stumble out of the door, and grab yourselves some Sadness Doughnuts.  Goatboy and Brent say they always do the trick.

~What are your tips for keeping your spirits up and being a graceful loser?  What was your most mentally challenging loss and why?  Bonus points for the best sore loser incident you have personally witnessed…


Author: Larry Vela
  • EDITORIAL: Behold the Future of Miniatures