I hear this statement a lot. In real life, I hear it from my husband who likes to know what I have in mind when I’m making decisions about relationships or life in general. It’s not my strong point. In the military strategy games that I enjoy playing, I’m starting to realize that it’s not my strong point there either.
I am a woman who likes political and military strategy games. I’m not from a military family and did not grow up with any male enthusiasts for the hobby. I seem to always be the only woman playing. My husband doesn’t even like it that much due to the complexity. But, darn it, I enjoy it. The hobby reminds me a great deal of chess. And, as with chess, I’m not very good at it.
I don’t mind losing. It’s the game play I enjoy. But after a number of times of losing horribly, I’ve started to wonder about why I’m just not getting it. Why do the Americans always fail to gain their independence when I play them? Why does England become Turkish? Why does Communism always win when I play the US? It seems to be one answer: the dreaded END GAME.
I’ve played at least three different games that have led me to this realization:
- Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation 1517-1555. This is a card-driven political. diplomatic and military strategy game that involves at least 6 players in the roles of England, the Ottoman Empire, France, the Hapsburg Empire, the Protestants and the Pope. I’ve written about it before, but the games tend to fold so suddenly that it’s hard to follow a full game from start to victory. I’ve noticed that the players that do the best are the ones who know exactly where they are going, what they want to accomplish by the end of the turn, and are fearless, but sensible, risk-takers. Victory is based on who gets to 25 victory points first with military conquests, New World explorations, building projects, etc.
- Washington’s War. This is a card-driven political and military strategy game that involves two players. I absolutely love it. It’s about the American Revolution and the sides choose either the Americans or the British to play. The emphasis is not so much on battle, but on the placement and flipping of influence one way or the other. However, battle can play a role. Reinforcements are managed and generals are selected. Combat units become more important as the game progresses and you need to start fighting for influence. The French enter at one point, but I rarely get there. Victory is based on who gains control of all the colonies or who has most control at the end of game.
- Twilight Struggle: Another card-driven game, but this one is much more political than the other two. In Twilight Struggle, the US and the USSR face off in the Cold War to determine who gets to control all the geographic areas of influence. We have to carefully use cards to add influence points, stage coups, pursue the space race and plan realignments. The winner is the one who gets the most victory points at the end of the game, reaches the upper limit of those victory points first or who does not trigger a nuclear war.
There are several lessons I’ve learned as I look back at my long-suffering “end game.”
One has to read those victory conditions to death and commit them to memory. I do not and I forget what I’m doing as my opponent carefully constructs his victory parade from the very first move itself. Of course, one can’t always plan for the unexpected, BUT one can play to offset the inevitable once it does happen.
Do start with your first move. It may seem like a long game and anything can happen, but I don’t know how many times I’ve banged my head against the desk because I messed up that first or second decision. Aargh!
Plan turn by turn. It’s not just the end game of the game itself, but the end of each turn as well. One needs to construct a plan with each set of cards one has and even plot them out to see where they’ll take you.
Read your cards carefully and be aware of everything they can do. NEVER make a decision, especially in diplomacy, without knowing what your cards give you in total.
Use the map. I am not a visual person so the map is often the last thing I look at until the end and it’s…hey! Wait a minute!
I would like to think these are Anna foibles, but perhaps it’s simply a function of the individuals I play against. If I played with someone more like me, would we be less single-minded, more experimental, less determined to win, more process-oriented? Would the “end game” be less important?
Of course, one can also simply say that I just need to pay more attention to the rules! We’ll see…