Variant: Do you play for position, or only for the win?

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Anytime someone asks me if I play to win, I answer yes. I always try to be the ultimate victor. I’ll try desperate gambits near a game’s end (which fail more often than not), but if it’s my only shot at winning, then that’s what I’ll do. While it is nice to get second place, I feel like second place still lost. But, that is a view that is formed through playing primarily euro-style efficiency games. What about in head-to-head games or area control? Do you play for position?

This post is inspired by my recent play of Triassic Terror. There, I went after the person in the lead, doing as much damage as I could to weaken his position. Meanwhile, my other opponent focused on doing the most damage. So rather than damage the leader and weaken (though not knock him out), he attacked me because it would hurt my points more – even though I was the lesser threat. He felt that it was a waste to attack the leader if it didn’t lead to a knockout. And, as a result, the leader expanded his lead with each scoring.

So this week’s question is: do you play for position in an area control game? Let’s say you are in second place, and the leader is fairly entrenched — while you might be able to make progress against him, victory is far from certain. But, you can use your position against players in third or lower place to ensure that they don’t approach your score. In that instance, would you attack the primary player hoping for an unsure but possible victory, or would you content yourself with second place and work to ensure other players don’t pass you up?

For me, first place is always the goal. That means I target the primary player for destruction and also work to ensure that other players don’t surpass the both of us while we are fighting. Sometimes, this results in victory; sometimes defeat. And, sometimes a third player sneaks in and snatches it from both of us, but that’s the cost of trying to achieve victory for myself.

The other method, that of playing for and maintaining position, just seems so wrong. At that point, I’m essentially admitting that I won’t be the winner early on in the game. And then, why even play? Why play for second place? Ultimately, I suppose, all positioning is meaningless. When playing with your game group, it’s not as though there is any award for first or second place. There’s nothing to be gained or lost. So why settle?

What about you? Do you always strive for the top spot or are there times when you will settle and defend a lesser position?

There are 4 comments.

  1. FarmerLenny said on April 3, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I play for the win. I’ve tried some desperate stuff in games I wasn’t winning, and as you say, my last-ditch efforts usually failed. But there are enough of those moments of glory, when victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat, that I have to try for that every time.

    I’ll play for position if there’s some sort of out-of-game benefit based on position (e.g., cash or prizes); otherwise, I play for first.

  2. DNAmers said on April 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Nice post.

    For me, the deciding factor would be who I was playing against, and the general feel at the table. If it was a quiet game with little table talk — i.e. I was playing with strangers — I’d probably play conservatively to maintain my position. When playing online, this would definitely be the case … such games are usually not at all social, and securing second berth is almost always the stronger play, netting you more points for whatever ranking system is in place at your online gaming portal of choice.

    That said though, that isn’t how I prefer to play. I prefer to play face to face, with players I know, with banter and constructive criticism flying thick and fast. In such a game, players tend to commentate on the general flow of the game, each offering why it’s in each other player’s best interest to attack the leader. Part of the social gaming experience is corralling other players to your goals … in the instance given, selling the fact that the entrenched leader is deserving of every other player’s ire is a fundamental part of the game.

    In this same way, you can gauge where other players are at, and if you feel too many also-rans will be targeting you at second, you can play conservatively if needed … but I’ve found that this is rarely the case (and in those rare instances, more due to a personal grievance from a particularly nasty play, etc), and players at the bottom of the ladder are more than happy to help focus fire on he or she at the top of the heap solely due to their being there.

  3. carol said on April 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I play to win. It doesn’t always happen but that’s always my goal. And I hate it when a player who’s obviously losing throws his weight, by his moves, trades, decisions, whatever, behind another player, obviously trying to make him win. (Unless of course, they’re helping me win, which is totally fine.)

  4. CallmeMerry said on April 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I always go for the gold, but I find that patience is a wonderfully powerful trait to have in the vast majority of games. I constantly try to keep myself entrenched against other’s attacks while building my forces while providing openings against my foes so that those players always looking to maximize their damage will target them. Once they start taking the brunt of an assault is when I like to step in with a few choice actions (held in reserve if possible) to sweep in for a last minute grab at the lead. Essentially, my ability to position myself and manipulate the flow of the game is what allows me, more often than not, to come out victorious.

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