Moving the Goalposts - Thoughts on Recalibrating when Things Go Wrong
This entry was posted on August 14, 2021.
Gaming-wise, I think a great deal about winning and losing. I also enact my fair share of winning and losing on the tabletop [but that's a slightly different story!].
As a general rule, I rather enjoy losing. Every loss on the tabletop is a chance to learn more and - at least if I'm playing as the 'baddies' - a chance to persuade myself that it's fine because the 'goodies' won this time! My losses sometimes give our Editor, Guy, a rare chance to savour tabletop victory, too.
I was struck recently, however, by a discussion online about a different idea; one that I'm sure isn't new, but is - in part - new to me: when a game is clearly going only one way, why not alter the scenario? - If your opponent's force is taking an unreasonable punishment, why not change the mission parameters or the victory conditions?
As an example, let's say your opponent's Napolenic troops whilst attacking an outlying village are suddenly and fatally outmanoeuvred by that your cavalry sweeping round the flank. Rather than them grumpily conceding the game early or having to watch their force being inexorably ground down, why not make an organic change to the game (it is just a game after all, right?) and simply make it into a new mission? Maybe now your opponent's task is to make a fighting withdrawal with minimal casualties or (if you're so inclined) to make a valiant last stand. That way the game can still be fun for both players and no-one has to go home disappointed!
If the Viking raid goes pear-shaped when they're dashed against the defenders' shield wall, maybe it's time for their commander to focus instead on snatching the highest value captive he can; when the last of the mechant vessels is lost to enemy action, maybe the escorts' mission becomes one of focussed vengeance instead...
...either way, whatever is decided, it has to be agreed upon. If both players can agree amicably to move the goalposts for the sake of telling a better story, well then maybe both players can change their stories for the sake of salvaging a great game from a one-sided trouncing!