I love beginner’s luck. And I don’t mean that I love that I can win in a game I’ve never played before. No, I mean I love losing to beginners. That statement should make it pretty clear that I am not a sore loser. Nor am I an obnoxious winner. I just really enjoy the process of playing the game, and people who take it too seriously tend to rub me the wrong way. As long as we have fun, I don’t really care about the outcome. Sure, I will totally chuckle evilly when things go my way and not yours, and I will be happy when I win, but I won’t be a douchecanoe about it.
So, beginner’s luck. It’s an interesting thing. It might not exist, yet the idea persists. I remember playing a game many years back. I do not remember what it was and never will, cause I somehow my brain has shelved it as a mashup between Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Alhambra, which obviously doesn’t exist (Alhambra is the main suspect though). I won that game, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Maybe that is it? You just barely grasp the concept of the game and the basic structure, and by doing just that you don’t overthink it. And of course, you’re lucky. But any gamer can be lucky, and very very unlucky too. It is always fun to win when you have no idea what you even did to get there. You feel really accomplished and most likely want to understand what you did.
However, winning isn’t why I love beginner’s luck. No, it is playing an old favourite with a new person, and having them actually win – fair and square. It means that they have a much bigger chance at remembering the game fondly, even if they struggled with the actual gameplay. It means that they want to try again. Seeing my opponent light up as they realise they actually did it gives me such a nice feeling. Maybe it’s pride? I’m proud of them for understanding my roundabout way of explaining the rules, and for getting over that hump of confusion that you always face in a new game. Therefor I would never let someone win on purpose – that’s no fun for anyone. But I might help them in the beginning to get them to think in the right way. And really, how fun is it to win against someone just because they keep making mistakes only because they don’t know better? The reason you’re playing against this new person is because you want to keep playing the game isn’t it? The more people to play with the better! And if they’re not worthy opponents, the game is not worth playing. Beginner’s luck makes a player feel like a worthy opponent too. They’re venturing into a new world, but they’ve shown that they can do it – both to the veterans and to themselves. Naturally this only applies to games with luck elements to them. But then again, you wouldn’t even consider beginner’s luck for a pure strategy game, nor would you play it with greenie players.
It is of course important to remember that not all games are suitable for all people. Even easy games might involve the wrong kind of thought process. Take Ticket to Ride for example. It is not a hard game to play by any means, but someone I know, who is not a stupid whatsoever, cannot seem to grasp the concept of detours and always ends up feeling frustrated and defeated midway through. And someone else, who on the other hand has always said she hates games, very quickly got into TTR and managed to beat us all with glee. I have friends who take to a game like Fluxx with gusto (and immediately become conniving little buggers), and others who despite however many times we try to play it, make the game drag out forever due to the game play not gelling with their way of thinking. You just have to find the right game for the right person. And for me? Don’t even mention Risk. I refuse. And those abstracts… oh mama.