Monday, 12 September 2011

The Loser's Guide to Losing

I know, I know.  Every bugger’s been over this before.  I don’t think there’s too much grand insight I can give on the subject; it’s all chewed meat.  Nevertheless, I’ve got to write something.  Otherwise I’d just look silly.

I’m not a particularly good loser.  This dates back to whenever.  Never liked losing, and so I never went for anything competitive.  This was also partly because I have a natural pre-disposition to believe that I would lose.  And I hated sport.  And chess.  And in fact, I wasn’t all that keen on playing 40k either.  I’d make lists and more lists.  That was my thing, but that was the Asperger’s talking, I reckon.  Number and tables. Of course, times change, you grow up and you view things differently.  When I got back into the hobby I actually started playing the game fairly regularly.  I’m still not a great loser, but I’m definitely better than I was.  This is partly because you gain greater perspective, greater self control and partly that you’ve lost so many times by adulthood that it loses a lot of its sting.

It almost becomes habit forming.  You develop strategies and tactics to explain away the loss of soften the blow.  Well; I did.  Because, well, I felt I needed to.  First tactic was the “you’re going to win” gambit, which seems like a good idea until you realise how intensely annoying it is to be on the other side.  It lowers the expectations for the game, so you’re opponent doesn’t enjoy it as much if you lose.  Or it seems disingenuous and borderline dishonest if you win.  I trained myself out of that one.  Eventually.

Another thing I would do would be to play as the bad guys.  Sounds odd, but then (as I saw it) the bad guys are meant to lose, so you can sort of feel better about it.  It was predestined and you’re only obeying Hollywood narrative.  I realise that sounds a little sad, but I’m nothing if not embarrassingly introspective and, well, if can look at yourself as a teenager and think that you weren’t a pillock, then you’re still the same pillock.  I feel out of the habit of using this psychological trick, mainly because I would design armies around stories and homebrew narratives, and my protagonists were normally, if not good, then at least creatively neutral.  I still design armies based on narrative now, at least at the start.  I tweak them as I play or adapt the narrative to better suit how they perform, or what units I like using.  Anyway.  Going off topic here.  Back to losing!

Harking back to perspective, one of the great anti-temper tricks I began realising (shamefully late in my life it has to be said) was to take the games less seriously.  That doesn’t equate to being apathetic.  If I was apathetic, I wouldn’t be near bankrupting myself on this ridiculous hobby.  Not really much else to say on this one apart from the standard bucket o’ clichés that’s normally deployed to combat disappointment.  Poorly, in most cases.

It also helps me to find a reason why I’ve lost.  When I was younger, it would equate to: “Well I’m just crap”.  But that’s an easy and slightly depressing way out of the question.  There are three main types of losses in this game from my current point of view:  Bad Matchups, Bad Dice and Strategic Mistakes.  Out of all of the above, the Strategic Mistakes is definitely the most useful, and the one that every losing player should strive for.  If you cock up, you’ll know why and where and you might (maybe) learn from it and not make the same mistake next time.  Doesn’t always happen though.  God knows, I’m a fantastically slow learner when it comes to my own idiocy.

Bad Matchups happen, and other than a redesign of the list, there’s nothing that can be done to improve matters there.  You can find some changes to make but they will, more than likely, open you up to marginally different Bad Matchups rather than permanently fix anything.  There is no ultimate winning army in the game, much as Matt Ward may be trying to make it otherwise (bloody Grey Knights!), and every list has a matchup that they would sacrifice a bullock to avoid playing.  That’s just how it is.  You just have to hope for the sake of your list and your blood pressure that your nemesis army isn’t de riguer at the moment.  Speaking of blood pressure, time to address the last type of loss.

Bad Dice happen.  It sucks.  And sometimes you want to grind each one of those treacherous plastic bastards into a fine powder.  There is nothing to be learned from a loss that is only Bad Dice related.  That’s why I try not to blame my losses on them.  It’s a copout and it doesn’t help me.  Sometimes though, it will happen and happen consistently and you want to break something.

The final thing to mention in this post ties in with a couple of the previous points I’ve made.  Learn to spot when you’ve lost.  Not just when you work out the scores at the end.  If you need to count score at the end of the game, then it’s been close.  Most of the time when you lose, it won’t be near the end.  Round about midgame most likely.  Or even the beginning if you’re particularly dumb or unlucky (I’ll let you decide which one).  The important thing to bear in mind is this: when you reach that point.  Abandon Hope.  It’s fantastically liberating.  It may sound defeatist, but it really isn’t.  Forget about winning.  Just concentrate on doing something fun.  Something stupid.  Something awesome.  Set a secondary target for your guys to knock down.  Even if they don’t do it.  Just clinging to the slim hope that maybe, just maybe, you can snatch a win out of this can often do more harm than good.  Especially in pick-up games.  You’re both there to have fun, not just to win.  In fact, I named my Dark Eldar army after this moment.  The Comedy of Despair.  It’s the ultimate in-joke I suppose.  The one that only you get.  Or would be if I wasn’t running my mouth off on the internet.

End of line.

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