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Let them win: why you should let children win at games.

I want to begin by clarifying: I am not an advocate of mollycoddling children. Mollycuddling? Yes Coddling? No. When under pressure and outnumbered by whingy teens and moany toddlers, I have uttered the words ‘tough’, ‘life is hard’ and ‘get over it’. Often in the same sentence.
And, I still maintain you must let them win. More specifically they have to start by winning a higher proportion of games than they lose.
Losing at games is valuable and character building. We use it to foster resilience, but as adults competing against our peers we forget all too quickly what it’s like to play an imbalanced game. As the youngest in a family of four I remember well the people who always beat me and those who let me win. Much as losing is lauded as a necessary and useful experience, how many of us – hand on heart- enjoy a game if we know there is no chance of winning? If you have a game on the shelf which you never, ever win, the odds are it’s not your most played game. The building of resilience alone is not enough to motivate us to play. So, if you want someone to play with in the future, letting them win is essential.
By allowing children to win you are doing two things: showing them that they can win and modelling what good losing looks like (hopefully). Showing them that they can win keeps them motivated. It allows them to experience the joy of winning and allows you to reinforce the behaviour of a gracious winner. (Again, hopefully).
I am determined to instill these skills in my children. Losing can be disappointing enough but sitting there, nursing your bruised ego as someone victoriously dances around you thrusting a winning hand towards you with the words ‘In your face!’ is the last thing you need. No-one wants that gamer at their table. And for me, I want my children to be inclusive and included.
When you allow them to win, it also allows you to be a gracious loser. Congratulate them. Share their joy. Discuss how they won; let them give you tips, regardless of the fact you helped them win. Reset the board , shuffle the cards and show them that defeat can make you more determined than ever.
Of course, everything in balance. Don’t let them win every time. I have always viewed it as a sliding scale – as toddlers I made sure they won a good bit more than they lost. They had the best memory in pairs, the keenest observation skills in Dobble and were just generally luckier.
As they get older and more proficient, they win less. They don’t notice. They generally take losing in their stride because they know winning is something they can do. By the time they’ve reached the ripe old age of 12, I go for the win every time. With them being steeped in games since birth and having young, agile brains means I get more chances to model being a gracious loser than I might like. I might have been told off by a 10 year old for dropping my final card with the words ‘In your face’. That might have happened. I am only a person after all. But as long as we strive for perfection that’s alright, I think.
So, what happens at your table – are you hard-arsed winners, limp losers or somewhere in between? What balance of wins and losses have you “arranged” with your children over the years? Leave a comment below.

Come along and play some games at a Cards or Die event. I won’t let you win! Unless I lose in which case it was definitely to shield your delicate ego.
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Gobblin’ Goblins and the importance of biscuits.

I need to start this review by coming clean. People have understandable reservations about trusting the veracity of some reviews, especially when the reviewer got a free copy of the game. It is true, I did get a free copy but it’s worse than that. I won. I actually won. I even won the first game! All I can say is – bear that in mind as you read the review. My victory doesn’t invalidate the review but it may make it insufferably smug.
I’ve won all the badges!
This raises an interesting philosophical question which probably needs exploring in greater depth (lying on a couch maybe). Am I a naturally smug winner or if I won more often would I be less of a ** when I won?
** insert expletive of choice here.
Mmmm, scabs….
The first game was such a good first game with so much variety that at no point was the phrase ‘Who shuffled these?’ uttered. I think that’s a pretty good start.
Best Bits.
As we know by now, I’m all about the art and I love the art work on these cards. Not only are the Goblin characters beautifully illustrated – hang on, ‘strikingly’ illustrated- but the details on the cards are lovely. Erm… not lovely… brilliant. To quote Mark as he picked up White Dog Poo, “These are disgustingly specific”. Much as though many people reflect nostalgically about the demise of white dog poo, no-one wants it in their hand.
The descriptions of the food add to the entertainment of the game – especially if you read them in your best M&S* voice.
*careful with the letter order there – that’s a different kind of voice altogether.
All of the description is well crafted. Having banged on at kids for 17 years about ‘making every word count’ in their writing, I can say that every word on these cards has earned it’s place and I appreciate both the craft and the graft of that.
Sharks? With lazers? Deal me in. Show me where to click.
How do you win?
Well, as an accomplished winner I am uniquely placed to explain this. To win (as I did) your Goblin has to gobble the most cards but watch out; gobble the wrong colour or foods your goblin hates and you will lose points. Gobbling fave foods and biscuits, on the other hand, will gain you bonus points. Try to nom the extra tasty biscuit (like I did) to secure your victory.
A good, simple premise. However… your opponents will try to force you to eat foods you are allergic to, will snatch foods from your plate or even make you vomit up part digested foods. Goblins are not only gross, they’re also quite rude.
Action cards add enough strategy to make it fun and the interplay of the characters’ special abilities adds depth.
I also love that it plays up to 12 people which makes it great for parties. It is already getting lots of love at home and my son took it to his after school games club where it had an equally positive response. I can’t wait to take it to my upcoming events.
N.B. I am happy to offer tutorials but unfortunately, I can not guarantee that you, like me, will be a winner. I assume it’s still fun if you lose. Back it and find out!
It’s just about to be dished up on Kickstarter – and it’s already ready to serve as far as we’re concerned. Update it smashed the Kickstarter and is available for purchase.
You might also enjoy Arkosa.
Check out their website for more grossness:
Come along and play this at a Cards or Die event.

In which I reminisce about halogen days. Or something.

Like most people of my age, I was raised on board games. The sight of the MB logo makes me feel nostalgic and casts me back to an era when playing a game didn’t involve any electricity but did require other people, (unless your brother had tricked you into playing 52 card pick up again -a trick you’d think would only work once), when you could watch the news at the cinema and leave your back door open. Actually, I’m not *that* old. We were the proud owners of this piece of modernity:
I have been cataloguing all of my games.
What could have been a dull admin task has actually been a sojourn into my childhood.
Boggle was a family favourite: portable and quick to play. I remember playing Boggle with all my family – we all loved a word game. But what I hadn’t realised until I started working my way through my games again is that they had adapted the rules for me, as I was the youngest. And for all this time I never knew that you have to cross out the words that everyone got. My memory of playing with my siblings is that it was much more cut-throat. They were obviously nicer than I thought!
Although I do remember playing Escape From Altlantis with my eldest Sister who insisted that we ‘play nicely’. Escape from Atlantis is a game of survival. Each player tries to save their own Atlanteans whilst feeding their opponents to Sharks and Sea Monsters while Octopi lie in wait to destroy their boats leaving swimmers thrashing about in the freezing sea hoping that a friendly dolphin will protect them. ‘Playing Nicely’ pretty much destroys the whole game. Nowadays I’m a fan of a co-operative game but then, not so much.
Even friends of my siblings were not exempt from my demands. While Chris waited for my brother to douse himself in Old Spice or Brut and be ready to head to the pub, he would often sit on the floor and play a game of something. Chris once told me that if you open a golf ball acid shoots out and blinds you. He also once accidentally shaved his eyebrows off whilst trying to ‘even them up’. These odd tales and his willingness to play Perfection endlessly made him a favourite visitor. I remember the first time I played against him and when the timer ended he screamed in a very high pitched manner and clutched his chest. Excellent adulting.
Bank Holidays were for whole family games of Monopoly which lasted days and were played out lying on the flowery carpet in front of the gas fire with it’s coloured glass stones and swirling light effect. Age was a boon here, with the eldest always being banker and the youngest (me) being the first to declare bankruptcy or spent attention span.
My Aunty and my Mum liked to play card games and they taught me Gin Rummy, Pontoon, New Market and others I’ve since forgotten. We would sit in my Aunty’s caravan in North Wales drinking tea, listening to the rain beat on the caravan roof while we bet pennies on the cards. Aunty Terry always played to me, much to the annoyance of my Uncle. She would always promise to stop it and then wink at me conspiratorially. I learnt kindness from her, the fulfilment of victory but luckily didn’t develop a gambling problem.
So for me board and card games are comforting: a warm nostalgic glow like watching slow turning light through fire coloured glass; like watching the butter melt into a crumpet as I patiently wait for Pebble Mill at One to end; like marvelling at the fact that flowery wallpaper and a flowery carpet don’t necessarily match; the comfort of family with all the rivalry and love that comes with it.