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A few friends and I, on Friday nights, play board games and video games. It's enjoyable, and they're good friends. There's one small issue. I win too many of them. Far, far too many of them.

I've won all the games we've played on the last seven of eight nights. I'm trying to be a good player - I don't trample over others' successes, I don't rub it in, I give honest compliments on interesting play styles... but after so many consecutive weeks, it's starting to sound trite, even if I do genuinely mean it. They're interesting people to play games with.

We tried switching to video games - including games I've never played, like Mario Kart and Arms. I ended up winning a disproportionate number of matches of Arms, and (for how new I was) did well in Mario Kart.

It doesn't just happen at game nights. When I play Star Realms with them, I consistently get long win streaks. The last six games I played with one of these friends, I won. They won one before that, and I won what feels like another five or six before that.

I don't think anyone is going to overtly say anything - this group is too polite and kind for that. But I've noticed the group... avoiding playing these kinds of games, when I'm around. We usually end up doing something else. Which I'm okay with, but we all love playing games, and there has to be a way to get this to work.


I feel like I'm in a bind. I don't want my friends to lose interest in playing with me. Part of the fun of games is the social aspect, yes, but part of the fun is also the equitable chance to win, and I don't want them to feel like that's being crushed out.

Intentionally losing games feels manipulative, and there's no way they won't notice if I make obvious mistakes. Recently, I've started going with atypical strategies in games, to see if I can get them to work and give myself a slight disadvantage. I do, and so far, I'm winning no less often. I'm not playing competitively, either - gunning for a win and trying to shove others out of the game has never been a play style, or social style, that I like.

On the other hand, what can I do? I know this all sounds pretentious as hell, but it's a real problem I'm facing.

Is there anything I can do to keep game nights fun?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this has nothing to do with Interpersonal skills. Rather, try and get some specific help with games by asking on Boardgames.SE – JAD Mar 17 '18 at 19:56
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    @JAD It's definitely interpersonal. My question is, "how do I keep my friends happy?" – waxwatcher Mar 17 '18 at 20:36
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    I'll clarify. This isn't a problem that's solved by communication, as shown by the answers below. – JAD Mar 17 '18 at 21:45
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    Your friends have come up with a solution to your problem already - "and (for how new I was) did well in Mario Kart" Why does continuing to play games that are new for you not an agree-able solution? It sounds like you did not end up dominating in Mario Kart so I don't really see why this is still a problem? – Jesse Mar 18 '18 at 15:05
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Have you considered cooperative games (all players together against the board)? In such games, all players win together, or lose together - you'd be sharing either experience with your friends.

10

Golf has a handicap system to allow players of different levels to have fun together. I don't play golf, so I don't exactly know how it works, but I believe a similar system could work in your case.

For example, in a card game you could begin with less cards, or be allowed one card less than the others, or not use certain cards. Or have less max health points, stuff like that. Try to think about how to do this. You can always research if your favorite games have a handicap system in their rules.

The idea is that everyone should have fun. This makes the game harder for you, so it remains a challenge, and it evens the other players' chances to keep them interested.

Now, how to introduce this? Why not just say: "I've been winning too much, so why not play with a handicap like in golf?"

At this point, they should all be thinking about getting some payback already, so they should agree...

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    Handicaps might work, but they might also backfire. If the handicap isn't enough to make the game competitive, it feels even worse for the loser. – JAD Mar 17 '18 at 21:43
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    @peufeu An addition to this is environmental handicaps. Boardgames might be missing pieces for one player, some PC's are better than others... essentially there is often some bias already existing that you can exploit for a fun handicap. eg. giving the previous winner the broken controller was a favourite at my game nights. – Jesse Mar 18 '18 at 15:09
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    I'm not going to downvote this, because it might work in certain groups. With my boardgame group this wouldn't fly, however, it would come across as (not so subtle) bragging. As always: before taking advice from strangers on the internet, make sure you know the actual people you'll be interacting with well enough. – DonFusili Mar 20 '18 at 8:29
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You know game nights are fun when people keep coming back

As someone who has been on both sides of the situation, I think you are thinking about it too much. Don't worry about, your friends wouldn't have played with you this long if your winning a lot bothered them so much.

I played Counter Strike with a group of friends back in the day and we had this one friend who could consistently headshot anyone. He was a good sportsman, always trying to help you out with techniques when he could. He never handicapped himself when we played, either. Even though he'd be the best player in the game, we always enjoyed playing with him. We never would have invited him back if we didn't.

Nowadays, we play Catan with more-or-less the same group of friends, and the tables have turned. I try to be sportsmanlike by complimenting them on small victories like when they build a city or complete the longest road. To avoid sounding insincere when I compliment, I keep the compliment as short as possible, often just a "nice..." or a "well played, sir..." I avoid long compliments, they sound patronizing. When I critique a wrong move, I make it about the facts, not about them: "that city is on two 6s, that's gonna leave you vulnerable to bandits when they score"

If everyone is a good sportsman, everything is going to work out. If you switch games like you say, it may just be because they want to try something new, not because they think you're too good at winning them.

3

Another thing you can do is become the overlord. That means that you propose/allow them to gang up on you. I have been in that situation and in ended up in a house rule of "Lets first kill the overlord!" which is a fun proposal on it's own.

Another thing is to play games like the The others: seven sins Where all players are supposed to gang up on you.

Another handicap is time. You can make it your rule that you give your self less time to execute. It gives a disadvantage and you are not playing worse, just quicker, which is always more fun.

And you can try board games that do not support your strengths, for example bluffing or go full RPG where the point is not winning, but telling good a story, which might involve you loosing a leg for sake of drama.

And lastly, you can add a subsequent game mechanics that logs your victories and gives you handicaps for them in future games. Either in game (for each victory you have more then your opponent, you get one less card.....) or real world like we did in Starcraft BG where you have to make push-ups. The rule was as follows. For each unit lost, there was a fixed number of push-ups + the number of previous victories. And best of luck trying to come up with some cunning strategy after 50 push-ups ;)

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I don't agree with any of these answers, having been in this situation myself (on both sides), so here goes.

First - If you haven't talked to your friends, don't try and solve the problem without communication first. You've made a lot of assumptions about how your winning streaks come off to your friends, but open and honest communication is paramount to make sure that the situation you believe exists, and the situation that actually exists are one and the same.

There are a million solutions to this problem, but until you actually sit your friends down and figure out

  1. if it is actually a problem, and
  2. what the problem is, we can't help you as much as you'd like.

For reference, I go to BGG CON every year, I own about 600 board games, and play at least 2 nights a week, sometimes 3. I've played with people who are extremely competitive, people who are competitive but just flat out bad at board games, people who are "naturally" very good, and people who have to work very hard to get good at a specific, particular game. People come in all types. Even among your friends, it's unlikely that you are one type of player and all of them are all another, different type of player.

Here's some possible outcomes to communicating that you may not have considered:

  1. Some of your group may very much want to learn how to get better so they can pose a greater challenge to you. They may want you to discuss the strategies you use and how you seem to naturally find the best strategy.
  2. Some of your group may want to change the type of games you play, to better suit their goals (co-op, competitive but with more randomness, competitive with a good catch up mechanic)
  3. Some of your group may not care, and aren't as bothered by it as much as you think, but your assumption that it bothers them may be materializing as a change in your behavior that you aren't realizing.

I could recommend 5 games of every different type for you and your friends to try, but until you can actually tell us for sure that their experience is what you assume it is, none of these suggestions are actually going to work.

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A few years ago i had the same problem as you. I fixed it on two ways:

  • like peufeu said, give yourself a handicap. You don't have to announce this but try to do a extra challenge (so the other players don't know and maybe feel slightly worse about themselves if they win).

    For example, I played a lot of munchkin a few years ago. In this game you fight monsters and become stronger. One of the mechanics is that you can ask for help. I stopped for asking help and try to win that way. If I completed this challenge, I tried something else.

  • I made some new friends that were a little bit better in games. If you know somebody that loves games and is good, try to include him/her in the nights. This is of course your other friends like this idea as well. be aware, the new player is hopefully better then your friends. Try to play mostly against him so you drag him down. He will hopefully do the same with you. This way, the other players got a better chance on winning.
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As someone who is somewhat often in this situation, I suggest putting subtle handicaps on yourself. The keyword is subtle; you don't want your friends to know you're "throwing" the game because that often can make them feel worse. So sometimes you win as usual, sometimes you might win by a slight margin, and sometimes you'll just lose.

This will allow you to continue playing the same games with friends (as constantly playing new games isn't a sustainable strategy), give them a "fighting chance", and potentially open up a new avenue of enjoyment for you in these games.

Some examples of ways to handicap yourself:

  • In a game with character selection, selecting a random character, a character you're not good at, or a character that is simply not good
  • In a deck building game, specifically avoiding a certain card or a certain combination of cards
  • In any game, focusing on doing silly/fun/exciting plays over strategically valid ones

Keep in mind that you shouldn't be removing (too much) fun for yourself. Make sure you enjoy playing with the handicaps you put on yourself - don't make the game so hard for yourself that you dread playing it.

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