The Sickness of Campaigning

The third game in our current campaign went down last night. But that story is for later.

Campaign games are both great and horrible at the same time. We’re currently enjoying seeing how the story progresses, the ebb and flow of fortune on the battlefield, the fiction that is being created around the forces and their achievements. That stuff is all good.

What isn’t good is what the campaign is doing to us. And by us, I obviously mean me. I’m not by nature a competitive person. One of the reasons I love Mechaton is that you can build some stuff, play a game and it’s all fun amongst friends. I just don’t care who wins or loses, it’s just good fun with some Lego, a table, friends and a few beers. Now things are getting different.

I find myself getting angry when I have a poor run of luck on the dice. I find myself getting really, really concerned about coming out of the game with a good result. Worst of all, I find myself turning into a rule nitpicker. Like last night, right at the end, Richard had rolled a good Spot but hadn’t declared it before he rolled. We had a bit of a discussion and, because it could have meant the difference between winning well and losing badly, I insisted on the letter of the law.

That is what is known in detailed Mechaton terms as a dick move.

Sure, Richard should have stated the spot before rolling. In the end, it’s a damn game, what does it matter? Why was I so insistent that he follow the rules? Because I have become, through the simple campaign guidelines, invested in this series of games. That’s a great thing for a games design, to get people involved. On one level, it’s also great for our campaign. On another level (the one that I actually worry about), I don’t like the way it changes me as a player when I am at the table. I want this game just to be fun, I don’t want to be the idiot who gets upset over dice, who is finicky about rules.

The campaign will continue until the bitter end, but I’d suggest that I need to become less invested in the outcomes, for the sake of all concerned and because I am making the game less fun for everyone else.



9 thoughts on “The Sickness of Campaigning

  1. mechachronic

    I was totally getting the tummy-aches in that game, getting frustrated with myself and feeling pretty despondent at times. The game was a bit of a roller coaster, and I was definitely pretty heavily invested in the outcome. At the time I was pretty annoyed at the result.

    This morning, though, I’m much more philosophical. It’s going to be a hard road, but I don’t think the game is lost. And if it turns out I lose, then that’s fine. I think competitive gaming only works if you care about the outcome, so win or lose, it’s good to care about the game.

    My bigger concern is how the strategic concerns of the campaign are affecting my tactical choices. In the game last night, my best bet, once I saw the layout of the table, was to hang back and not engage at all. Attacking at all would be risking a lot for a slim chance of gain. In the end, the fact that I went half-heartedly into the attack meant I lost a heck of a lot more. I’m worried that the campaign rules make individual games less fun, rather than more fun.

  2. zeekhotep

    I don’t mind being out-thought. I hate being “beaten by the dice,” especially if I am effectively out-thinking the other player/s. Doing everything right and losing to the dice is part of every game that uses dice as a determining factor.
    I so feel your pain.


  3. mechachronic

    Oh no, what made this game sting was not that Malcolm was lucky. That was a just reward for some seriously sucky rolling early in the game. What hurt was that I was dumb. Malcolm had a good, but risky plan, and if I’d seen it coming I could have stopped it easily. But I didn’t see it coming.

    Basically I hate feeling stupid. At the time it sucked, but now I can be happy for Malcolm because I know I’d feel freaking awesome if I pulled it off myself.

  4. Joshua A.C. Newman

    I hate to say it, but Richard was within his rights. You don’t have to say who you’re spotting before you roll. You only have to say who you’re targeting. That’s because a spot doesn’t activate a defense, so it doesn’t matter.

    And the tummyaches, I know about the tummyaches.

  5. mechatonic Post author

    Aha, we’ve been playing it thinking that you had to decalre spotting in the same manner as an attack.

    On reflection, though, my dickery was un-necessary anyway. Richard wanted to target my undamaged mech (4 attachments). He had a spotting of four, so even if he had done maximum damage, I would still have held the objective.

    Which makes my objection to his choice even more stupid and pointless.



  6. Vincent

    I can’t now remember what the book says about declaring who you’re spotting, but I suspect that it says you should. We play that you don’t have to decide until you place the spot, and that’ll be in the new edition, but meanwhile I suspect you were playing by the book, Malcolm.

  7. Pingback: Campaign: Third Battle « Mechatonic

  8. Robert Bohl

    I know exactly how you feel, Malcolm. I have not yet felt that way with Mechaton, but it’s a feeling I often experienced with Magic the Gathering.

    I think it might be a play preference difference. Lots of people like competition with their friends. I (and maybe you) am (are) not one of them.

  9. Callan

    When we play warhammer RPG, you have to declare your using strike mighty blow, otherwise you don’t get it’s bonus. It’s only +1 damage, but you have to remember to say it. It’s surprising how often people forget to do it.

    I’d stop calling yourself a dick and look at it objectively – is the other person playing competatively? If so, then they’d want to do what’s involved to win, not skip things when its to their advantage. Your just not used to speaking gamist honour yet, and you stumblingly talked about sticking to the rules. When you get more used to it, you realise sticking to the rules is about the honour of beating the challenge utterly – not skipping bits. If he’s playing gamist, he’ll want that. You were not being a dick – you just not used to gamist play and haven’t thought about the honour involved much, yet. It’ll come to you, though. Unless your trying to block it out by beating yourself up/calling yourself a dick.

    If they aren’t – well, you’ve gone gamist, bless ya, but they are playing with little figures yet using all the gamist triggers, regardless.

    There’s not much point worrying about losing to people who only care about fiddling with the scenery and not about losing at all.

    Or if they happen to win, do they care about it then? But when they lose they just talk about playing with the figures and the imagined events?


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