Playing a game to win

I tend to avoid New Year’s resolutions. Not only do you often to fail to complete them but I know that my flighty nature and lack of focus makes resolutions a perilous prospect. One goal that I have for the new year is to focus on a game and attempt to become a better player at it. And not just a better player but to become a competitive player and perhaps win a store championship.

I am not a competitive gamer. I do not “play to win”. I am not sure the reason for this but I am more often interested in the social aspects of gaming than I am at winning. I also lose a lot of games. One reason for this is that I often ignore effective builds for “fun” builds. I get more enjoyment out of winning with interesting or odd builds than I do with just winning.

So this goal not only involves a lot of work in terms of researching, playing and testing a game but also in coming to terms with playing a game in a manner that I don’t normally do. One way I hope to address this latter issue is to read and absorb David Sirlin’s online book Playing to Win. It is an interesting book in that he describes a “scrub” player that resembles a younger version of myself. While I may not react in the same way any longer, I still have a problem with what Sirloin describes as artificial rules in a game. Not playing the game as it is presented but trying to play it in some sort of arbitrary “fair” manner.

This still comes to bear when I am playing, especially in games like Warhammer 40,000 Conquest, where I often don’t mix factions or use card combos that I think are “cheap”. It is difficult to determine why you think something is “cheap”. It is fairly easy to determine why another player might think the same (or at least convince yourself of that) but the introspection required to ascertain your own reasons why you think a combo or card set is “cheap” is often difficult.

Not that this is really required at the moment. I am going to attempt to divorce myself from those arbitrary limitations and try to pursue a winning strategy. The main issue is just attempting to pick a game that I can do this with. The Getting Started section of Sirlin’s book deals with this process and after reading through it I have, initially, narrowed my options down to four games: Yomi, Puzzle Strike, Doomtown Reloaded and Warhammer 40,000 Conquest. There were a few other games that I would have liked to add but they don’t have a large enough possible poll of opponents either face-to-face or online.

Yogi and Puzzle Strike have minimal local presences but I can play both of them online. And soon I will be able to play both of them on my iPad. Doomtown will probably ultimately fail the opponent test as there are very few local players and not a lot of online resources compared to Warhammer 40,000 Conquest. I may actually end up picking Yomi or Puzzle Strike as I really do find the central premise of Warhammer 40,000 Conquest strategy to be rather elusive at the moment. I suspect that much of this may be down to my lack of game experience. That said, I find Downtown a game that is easier to grasp the core concepts of.

In either case, I hope to make a decision by this Friday and then start playing.

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