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Author Topic: Help! I've become too good!  (Read 4334 times)

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matiez

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Help! I've become too good!
« on: November 16, 2011, 10:59:54 am »
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Ok, so not exactly. Only rank 7 on Iso (can't seem to get past 10 :( ).

Long story short, I've played about 200 games more than my girlfriend. She's not the worst player in our group, but I consistently beat her in 2 player games. She has no interest in becoming anything more than a casual player. I, on the other hand, am quite cutthroat and have an extremely difficult time not being so.

I'm stuck on the concept of "If I can't beat BM, then why play?" when choosing strategies.

What can I do to make the game more competitive between us? Is there a good way to "play down" in Dominion, without it being obvious? And, how can I help my gf become better, without coming off as an asshole? ("Are you sure you want to buy that?" doesn't work too well with anyone. They bought, obviously they wanted it.)
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DsnowMan

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2011, 11:09:03 am »
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I suggest reading the Handicapping thread and the thread it links to. Lots of good ideas and discussion in there.
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Arya Stark

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2011, 11:26:33 am »
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sounds like she just wants to play to 'play' not win, we have girls that show to our game night like that, thats when you play with cards you don't normally play with & try to have fun
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Geronimoo

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2011, 11:35:33 am »
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I suggest if there's some kind of engine on the board, try to build it even if you know it will get stomped by the Big Money deck. Chances are you'll learn something valuable, your opponents will have more fun because they'll win more often and get a chance to do their thing and you might amaze them by pulling off something silly (like Golem into Tactician+Lab and then play another Tactician to get a 15 card starting hand).

My last real life game against a competent but casual gamer for instance I went for an Embassy/Hamlet engine to then buy 2 Treasure Maps and I got crushed by his simple Embassy+money, but I did get to draw my entire deck, find both Treasure Maps and then draw the 4 Golds in one turn.
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ChaosRed

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2011, 12:38:54 pm »
+1

With great respect to the Handicap thread, I actually think there's very bad advice in it.

The essential premise of the Handicap thread is that rather than helping your opponent to improve, you should artificially penalize yourself to provide YOU with more challenge. It is, in my opinion, a very self-centered approach, and worse, if you manage to win with the handicap you're only going to antagonize your opponent more.

What has helped me in this PRECISE situation with my wife, is to instead guide and tutor her and teach her what you've learned. If you see her make a bad buy, tell her, tell her why you think its bad. If she seems stuck or unsure on a turn, offer to play open-hand that turn, show her what you think might help her.

Sorry to preach here, but I JUST completed a game with my wife, where on turn 7, it was obvious to me I was going to win, based on what I was doing and how she was reacting to it. I pointed out to her that I was rushing a key card. I explained that some rush tactics have to be countered by simply  buying a few of the card the opponent is rushing. That failing to do that, will almost ensure I win.

So she did exactly that, and then won by 6 points, in a very close game. She was delighted. She was grateful. I got feedback of:

"Well I've seen you rush that card before, but I felt once you got ahead, there was no point in getting any of them. Now I know just getting a few of them, limits the points you wind up with."

If I had handicapped myself, this game would not have been nearly as enjoyable. Part of gaming is not just winning, its actually learning and becoming more adept with the game.

It's the old, "give a man a fish or teach him to fish" scenario.

Push the competition aside, and show your wife all the cool stuff you've learned. Help her get as good as you are, she'll not only appreciate the fact you are doing this, you'll find you'll create better competition for yourself in the long haul that artificially crippling yourself each match.
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matiez

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2011, 01:46:07 pm »
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Sorry to preach here, but I JUST completed a game with my wife, where on turn 7, it was obvious to me I was going to win, based on what I was doing and how she was reacting to it. I pointed out to her that I was rushing a key card. I explained that some rush tactics have to be countered by simply  buying a few of the card the opponent is rushing. That failing to do that, will almost ensure I win.

I have attempted to talk strategy with her. The typical response I have gotten in the past was "If you are already ahead, just stop buying/playing those cards". The premise being I don't HAVE to draw my deck every round and I don't HAVE to play that attack every round.

This is a combined issue of me playing like a jerk (last game I beat her with a Goons/KC/Quarry, netted 120 points on ~turn14), emotions turning end-game tactics discussions into arguments and lastly the lack of pre-game and mid-game tactical discussions. On the first point, I don't always play the strongest strategy, though there are times I can't pass it up (Goons/KC/Quarry, who wouldn't want to play that?). I do, however, always play to win.

I'm going to try talking about strategies before and during the game more, to at least let her know what I'm doing. That's the best piece of advice I gathered from that thread. In fact, I think ChaosRed was the one to suggest it in that thread, too. Also, I will go back to choosing less dominant strategies and getting them to work (YAY Coppersmith/Counting House).

I agree, ChaosRed, that handicapping myself by changing my starting hand or hers is not the way to go. That would get real ugly real fast.
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Octo

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2011, 02:14:20 pm »
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Oh man, that is ridiculous, ha ha - just stop being a jerk!! :) I did that with my gaming buddies via isotropic, sure, but they can take it and picked it all up super quick. That reminds me though, iso is different from real life - the sheer quantity of games you can play really quickly on iso makes it different. Face-to-face you don't get so many in, so they have to count a bit more otherwise they feel like wasted time. On iso it's so quick that it doesn't matter which sounds like what you're used to, so bear that in mind too.

Quote
I do, however, always play to win.
If this is causing a problem then just don't do it! Play to have fun! Play whatever way you can to make the other person enjoy it, because you get plenty out of dominion as it is already. You don't have to make comedy plays as such, just ease off the accelerator, at least until she can compete a bit more.

Regarding being the tutor - depends very much on the manner in which it's done and how receptive the person is of course. Most people are up for a little bit of advice, but if becomes a sizeable feature of every game ... well that might not be so fun. Certainly give it a go though, it seems to have worked for ChaosRed. The sheer volume of cards in Dominion make it hard for new comers unfortunately, you just simply have to play a fuck-load of games to get to know them all. Consider only using one or two sets maybe for a while maybe.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 02:20:23 pm by Octo »
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carlosthedwarf

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2011, 11:43:52 pm »
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I had this same problem with my boyfriend. I tried teaching him with the physical game, and he made a lot of foolish buys, and every time I tried to explain a mistake to him, he would get defensive and upset.

The solution: I introduced him to Isotropic. Once he wasn't playing against me, he got a lot more competitive and a lot more into the strategy of it. Within two days he was emailing me his game logs and proudly showing off how much better he'd gotten.
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dondon151

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2011, 12:04:35 am »
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If this is causing a problem then just don't do it! Play to have fun!
I don't mean to nitpick, but playing to win and playing to have fun are not mutually exclusive. I play a handful of other games very seriously and in those communities, there are always individuals who espouse this belief, and it frustrates me to no end to have to repeatedly explain that some people find it fun to play to win more than anything else.

I, particularly, find no enjoyment in a game where I have to purposely sandbag.
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olneyce

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2011, 01:25:06 am »
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If this is causing a problem then just don't do it! Play to have fun!
I don't mean to nitpick, but playing to win and playing to have fun are not mutually exclusive. I play a handful of other games very seriously and in those communities, there are always individuals who espouse this belief, and it frustrates me to no end to have to repeatedly explain that some people find it fun to play to win more than anything else.

I, particularly, find no enjoyment in a game where I have to purposely sandbag.
From context, the implicit meaning was 'play JUST to have fun.'  As in, even though you normally find it fun to be very competitive, you might still be able to enjoy the game for the simple mechanics of it, for the possibility to experiment. 

It's quite possible to enjoy playing to win and ALSO have the ability to enjoy playing less competitively.  I don't know anything about the mechanics of your group, but it seems like you're just as unwilling to accept the possibility that people could play just for fun.

EDIT: My own experience is that I very much enjoy playing competitively, and this occasionally makes it not-so-fun for my less game-oriented friends to play with me.  I therefore make a deliberate effort to employ more risky, or suboptimal, strategies when I play with them.  Once I commit to a strategy I play it to win, but I start from the premise that what I'm doing is less likely to win.  It seems to work pretty well.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2011, 01:27:29 am by olneyce »
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Octo

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2011, 04:30:40 am »
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Yes, that was more my intent, and dondon151 is also right in that they're not mutually exclusive. Generally I naturally just go straight for the jugular like the opening poster it would seem, and this is kind of what I find most ... well 'fun' perhaps isn't quite the right word - satisfying, engaging, exciting, stimulating, engrossing are probably better. But over the years I've tried to nurture the skill of relaxing about the winning side of things, partly because of the issues talked about here, but also partly because I used to get pretty worked up about winning/losing. Sure, I really enjoy playing competitively and often can be really competitive at times, but being able to play 'just for fun' (for lack of a better wording) allows me to play with people who normally just wouldn't bother (like my parents when I go visit for example), and that's nice. If I get hardly any competitive games ever though, then yeah, I'll probably not enjoy the game (as a purchase) as much as I'd like.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2011, 04:33:32 am by Octo »
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rinkworks

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2011, 10:32:03 am »
+4

The whole play to win/play to have fun thing is, I guess, inextricably tied to people's personalities.  Some people can differentiate better than others.  Anyway, I agree that they aren't mutually exclusive, but I strongly denounce the idea that they're the same.

I think a lot of people get so caught up in simulating and optimizing Dominion that they forget what a joy the process and creativity of it is.  The "Articles" subforum is full of cool combos that others point out (probably correctly) aren't better than something like Smithy/Big Money or whatever.  I'm not criticizing those posts, because this forum IS, to a large extent, about optimizing the game, and there is absolutely a place for that.  But I also think it's important not to lose sight of the fact that Dominion was created as a source of fun.  And let's face it, Smithy/Big Money is not that fun.

If I were to play in a tournament or something, and Smithy/Big Money is the best strategy on the table, I'll play it.  But when I'm home playing with my family, I'll pick something more interesting every time.  I still play to win.  But if I can try out some almost certainly substandard but innovative and at least plausibly competitive mix of stuff, I'll do it.  When intrinsically fun cards like Jester and Golem and King's Court are on the table, I find places for them.  Etc.  I'm still playing to win, but maybe my win rate is 3% less than it would be if I stuck to BM+X.  Somehow I don't lose sleep over that.
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ChaosRed

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2011, 12:00:29 pm »
+1

The whole play to win/play to have fun thing is, I guess, inextricably tied to people's personalities.  Some people can differentiate better than others.  Anyway, I agree that they aren't mutually exclusive, but I strongly denounce the idea that they're the same.

I agree. It's a matter of priorities really, and focus. To TRULY focus on winning, to really rise high in the ranks, winning must be singular focus. It's not quite as true in something relatively passive like DOMINION, but in sport, winning often means a singular focus, at the full-expense of recreation. Your winning BECOMES the fun and that victory is generally only enjoyed briefly at its culmination. The enjoyment is brief, because you must then singularly focus on winning the next one.

Note Lombardi's quotes on this subject, where winning is the breath of life and there's no time for "entertainment", your entertainment is your success and vice-versa, that's it, that's how obsessive you must be with winning to truly rise to the highest echelon. Most pro-athletes don't enjoy the game they play that much anymore, it becomes a job. It has to become a job, in order for them to succeed.

But I stray too far from the original intent of the thread.

I concur that advice to opponents has to be handled with etiquette and with some awareness of how your opponent handles/absorbs advice as a whole.

With my wife, what worked best was talking about a board before we started. I'd ask her what she thought about playing and then I'd point things out like, "you've reached for two terminals in the first two turns, remember when you did that last time and both cards collided?". Or nudges like, "maybe this board isn't that strong and money might be a better focus with just a few actions for support"?

I generally tend to ask questions, as if I am unsure myself (hey I often am), so it makes it seem that we're both helping each other out (and in a way we are).

Here's the thing, some people use DOMINION as a social exercise. In other words, it's the social aspect we enjoy most. For my wife and I, we play for an hour, shortly after dinner. The kids have done their homework, I'm well-fed, the chores are mostly done and we can relax and enjoy something frivolous. Dominion is a relatively fast, fun game. But when I played frequently on iso and read the articles here, I "artificially" vaulted ahead of her skills. This took away the central reason why we played, to just relax and have fun. It took it away, because my wife could no longer compete.

Now I can go back to focusing primarily on "winning" again. I shift the priorities. They are NOT mutually exclusive, but they are a kind of balancing act. How you tip those scales comes to personal taste and the personalities of your opponent. One soccer team I play with, is hyper-competitive. There's not much chit-chat at practice and practices are vocal when you suck or screw up. There's no mincing of words. Other pick-up games are friendlier. You distribute the ball to weaker players because you know they need practice. You tend to congratulate your opponents more when they play well (because next week they might be on your team). The priorities shift, and it produces a different type of game, that has equal value, but for different reasons.

Some people can't transition from one to the other. In particular some people see any competition as a singular, obsessive focus. I get that. I know people like that and they tend to be great players in any endeavor (and tend to be excellent workmates because I think this focus is tied to work ethic too). But I also really enjoy games where the competition is taken down a notch, where the beer and the pretzels come out and the amount of laughter during a game rises exponentially. That, for me, is an important aspect of gaming too.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2011, 12:30:30 pm by ChaosRed »
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Karrow

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2011, 08:10:22 pm »
+1

Ah,  the play to win conversation.  A timeless debate.


There's an old Buddhist saying.  When a glass is broken, you don't get angry because it broke, you get angry because you thought the glass would never break.

You will lose, and you will win.  So if you choose to only "play-to-win," you are choosing to be happy only part of the time.  Why choose to only be happy some of the time?

Me.  I simply want to play Dominion.  So it's great for me.  Win/lose/draw, it doesn't matter.  I want to play.  So when I play, I am happy.  And yet I also realize that any game could be the last I ever play.  So if I never play again, I am thankful for the time I had.

One friend of mine has to play to win.  We were playing Steam, and a few turns back someone moved the wrong point counter.  We all agreed something looked wrong, but it was too many rounds ago to remember what the right thing exactly was.  I start to push that too much time has passed, nobody remembers what happened, lets just play on.  So my friend threatens to just quit the game.  He would rather not play, than continue knowing his score was wrong (in the negative direction).  I stated, "you can move me down 10 points, (my point count was not one of the ones in question).  Heck, if you have to win so bad just move yourself up 20 points.  I just want to play the game."  This of course just infuriated him further.

Often when I play against people who must win, I find life much more enjoyable by just letting them win.  I also find it very humorous.  The joy, the pride of the accomplishment, the happiness, over what?  And if they realize I'm throwing games, rage, fury, anger, over what?  I throw games all the time, and they are happy.  So when I tell them I threw the game, why is the reaction so different?  It uncovers the truth.

And that is the big problem I often see.  Every must-win player will say "its for the love of the competition!  I love the challenge, and I enjoy improving my skills"  I call BS.  90% of them will brag about beating a new player or a young child.  90% of them prefer games they have better than average odds of winning at.  90% will not play a game if they are so outmatched that they will never win.  And God forbid if someone makes an honest mistake that causes them to lose, then game pieces start flying.  If it was for the love of competition, you would focus on games and opponents that you only win half of the time.  If it's for the challenge you'd focus on games you suck at and opponents who are better than you.  The 10% of must win players that do that, those are the ones who turn into pro's.

I really do feel sad at times for those who must play-to-win.  Winning is more important than friends?  Winning is more important than your wife/girlfriend(OP)?  Really?  If I was given the choice between winning the Dominion World Championship or playing Chutes & Ladders at home with my young daughter, Chutes & Ladders it is.



So anyhow, rant over.  Back to the original post.

Chose one.
A.  Get over yourself.  Change your "want" from away winning.  Change it to, "I want a happy Girlfriend."  Don't play Dominion in ways that piss her off.  Happy girlfriends tend to be much more giving in the bedroom.
B.  Get used to sleeping alone.
C.  Don't play skill games.  Focus on luck games that give the illusion of control.  For example, I find Battleships to be great.  After my last game with my daughter I looked proudly at my attack board and admired the ingenious and well executed attack pattern.  I had a perfect spacing pattern with just enough randomness and chaos so that the pattern would not be predictable to avoid.  It was amazing.  And the fact that my daughter still completely destroyed me by pure dumb luck is great, because she was happy as well.
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dondon151

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2011, 08:18:21 pm »
+1

I really do feel sad at times for those who must play-to-win.  Winning is more important than friends?  Winning is more important than your wife/girlfriend(OP)?  Really?  If I was given the choice between winning the Dominion World Championship or playing Chutes & Ladders at home with my young daughter, Chutes & Ladders it is.

Once again, and repeat after me:
Playing to win and playing for fun are not mutually exclusive.

There are many people who do not find it fun to have to stoop down to someone else's level in order for them to have fun.

The "90%" of people who relish rigging the odds in their favor are asshats. I have been active in a handful of competitive gaming communities before and there is not one person that I know who would not offer instruction to a clearly unskilled player if he was requesting it. I know I am, for one, not the kind of person who derives satisfaction out of winning boxing matches with punching bags, and if you know someone that is, well, then maybe you should reevaluate your friendship with that person.

I feel like that with Dominion, especially, when you reach a certain skill threshold, if you play for fun, then you will have a respectable chance at victory anyway because you just know the game that well. Aside from not wanting to commit that much time to the game (in my opinion, Dominion doesn't require a lot of commitment for one to reach a medium skill level), I don't see a legitimate reason for someone to want to remain a "scrub" and instead to force more experienced players to accommodate them.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2011, 08:33:05 pm by dondon151 »
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Jimmmmm

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2011, 08:27:08 pm »
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Playing to win and playing for fun are not mutually exclusive.
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ftl

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2011, 10:08:20 pm »
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Playing to win and playing for fun are not mutually exclusive.

Caveat - if it's a good competitive game, they're not exclusive. Fortunately, Dominion is! :)

However, it is very, very rare for a game to be designed so that that it's fun when a competitive and non-competitive player play against each other. I think the ways of doing that are - either for it to be very, very luck-based (e.g. Chutes and Ladders); or, have no scoring/victory conditions at all (go outside and play catch! throw the ball back and forth, no scoring necessary). I guess it's also possible when two players are playing against the clock or against some fixed goal rather than against each other - in golf or bowling or something, it's pretty easy to set up a handicap since the game not really interactive.

Dominion is not one of those, I think. As discussed in that handicap thread, I think all the handicap methods around aren't too good. There is no reasonable handicap that will let someone who doesn't notice KC-goons-masq beat somebody who does, without messing up plenty of other boards.

In the end, the viable solutions are
1) Play some other game which isn't competitive.
2) Teach your partner how to be good at Dominion.

The third possible one, playing down, is likely to get boring pretty quickly, I would guess.

Sidenote: Karrow, do you *realize* how condescending and unpleasant your post sounds? I don't appreciate being told that because I like playing competitively, that that means that 'winning is more important to me than my friends'. I don't think many people do.
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Mean Mr Mustard

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2011, 10:11:04 pm »
+2

I would humbly suggest that people with at-home partners that are not as interested in learning the nuances of a game like Dominion should buy cooperative games instead.  I have never been married and have largely been able to separate my fixations from my romantic life, but this whole discussion reminds me of a time about ten years ago when I lived with my very good friend.  Magic, FPS's, RTS games, whatever, I was always more driven to study the aspects of these games and so any new thing became tiring after I started pulling ahead in the learning curve.  Instead, I learned we could have a lot more fun playing Everquest or Baldur's Gate engine games on the PS2, anything really that required us to work together.  I could do all the things that I liked to do to improve my understanding of what we were doing and it was a boon to our experience rather than a distraction.

I know there are tabletop and card games out there that are either cooperative or simple to master.  Dominion is neither, and I think that by rising in skill far beyond your wife or friend or play group you run the risk of no one having very much fun.

As to the above posters that are implying that the drive to improve at something equals an inability to have fun unless you win are dead wrong.

Edit: posted at the same time as the above post, and says very nearly the same thing.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2011, 10:25:26 pm by Mean Mr Mustard »
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ChaosRed

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Re: Help! I've become too good!
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2011, 03:06:57 pm »
+1

I agree with Mustard, in that sometimes the solution is a more cooperative game. Personally, my wife and I play both types. This is a pretty old tradition, my grandparents were great bridge-partners (cooperative), but they also loved to play competitive card games against each other. The reason they loved both, was because playing cards was really an excuse to talk, laugh (and maybe have some tea and biscuits along the way). They did this for decades, until my grandfather passed away.

Playing with friends and loved ones is a very rich experience. I'd really caution anyone to become so competitive that they lose the ability to enjoy a game (even a competitive one) with their friends. I don't say to demonize anyone's play-style, only to encourage adapting your habits, so that you can enjoy it (which is exactly what Mustard did, he adapted in a particularly way).

Here's a small personal anecdote to illustrate this point one last time:

I just tested 100 games of my ridiculous fan variant of DOMINION. On that 100th game, there was an obvious combo on the board. My wife missed it, I saw it and I began to crush her (and this was obvious by turn 10). She got emotional. She felt she had failed me, because it was the 100th game and she felt she didn't have the skill to provide a competitive match. She was hurt. She likes gaming with me and she wants to game well, (not just so she can win, but so we can keep gaming, because she enjoys it). So we stopped right there. I suggested we take a coffee break. During coffee, I let her know the combo on the board was a "bit broken" and that in DOMINION learning which combinations are so devastating that BOTH opponents must reach for them is all part of the learning experience. I told her, the best way to win, was to "fight fire with fire".

So we restarted the same board, back to turn 1 after coffee. However, she did NOT follow my buys precisely. She picked up the strong combo, but she also picked up a third card for additional support, (while I stuck to just the combo).

That game ended 19-19, on a three-pile and an even distribution of curses, and an even-number of turns.

It was the perfect ending of our testing.

It's a game she and I still talk about too, because it came down to the wire. It turned out her additional third car, was one of her saving cards to reach the draw condition too.

This is how you can game with a friend, not win, but still, not lose. Not just because the game was ACTUALLY a draw, but because a brief pause in the competition, allowed the game to evolve into a better gaming experience (both competitively and socially) for both of us.

It's one of my favorite games of DOMINION I've ever played.
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