Playing to Win: Wife's Perspective

This is a Guest Post by my Wife.

A few weeks ago, our Daughter was competing in a year end horse show for a local association. She competed all year long to earn points and this was the final show to determine who would go home with the Division Championship Award for the season. She held the first place position for several months, but two months ago a strong competitor of hers moved up to second place with only 11 points between them. The weeks proceeding the Championship Show were extremely anxious for me.

Our Daughter could lose all of her hard work in a matter of minutes at the final show all based on whether or not the judge liked her style of riding. We were kind of hoping that the other girl just wouldn’t show up. It didn’t matter how everyone else placed that day, our Daughter just needed to beat one person.

I lost sleep and spent much of my time figuring out the numbers in my head. I then began to realize that we had become so consumed with winning that it was stealing our joy from the game. Here I was, doing the math with ribbon numbers like I do with our financial budget.

The pleasure of riding just for the fun of it had turned into fear and anxiety. I was so concerned that her reputation for being one the best riders in the area would be tarnished. I actually thought people would gasp in shock and yet some would revel at the thought that our Daughter came in second place and not first place like she does most of the time. We were simply playing the game to win and not for fun anymore.

Have you ever participated a 40k tournament, and all that you could think about was how many points you would get with each win during the day? When did you stop playing for the fun of hanging out with friends only to play because your reputation of being the best was on the line?

At what point in society did our natural competitiveness drive us to anxiety over how we rank in the line up? Is it even possible to play the game competitively and still keep that feeling of contentment and pleasure?

If you knew that you needed a special piece for your army in order to maximize your effectiveness, yet you really didn’t have the money…would you buy it anyway just to make sure you could stay on top?

I don’t know much about the 40K gaming system, but I do know that in the horse world, the more money you have… the more you can show. This equates to the more points you can earn, thus ultimately winning more titles.

Regardless, in every sport, tabletop or not, there is a point in which all competitors stop playing for fun and start playing to win. I’ve learned that the two are rarely found in the same venue.

If you are wondering…our Daughter did win the Championship Title for her particular Division for the second year in a row. However, when the show was all said and done, there were only 3 points between her and the girl in second place. Talk about a close finish!

They both congratulated each other with smiles and laughter and as I stood back I breathed a sigh of relief, that is until she competes again next week, against the best in the state.

And there you have it guys, from the woman (in my life) in charge. Don't be scared, let her know what you think. - Ron

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Mrs Saikowski. I can understand how it feels when something becomes the complete opposite to fun...

    I used to really enjoy maths. Then in my final two years of high school I found myself hating the subject more and more... it stopped being fun learning complex equations. Instead it become a chore to memorise the different formulas.

    My hatred for the subject got so intense that I ended up changing what I wanted to do at University.


  2. There is something to be said for this, I was at a Warmachine tournament this weekend, I finished last but I wasn't bothered since it's not really my main game and my goal for the tournament was just to win one game (I failed).

    On the other hand I am good at 40k and am aiming for the top three when I play in a 40k tournament so I am a lot more focused. I put pressure on myself but that doesn't take the fun out of it. Sure when things go bad it does stress you a bit but then there is the joy of the fight back and pulling yourself up to get a decent finish.

    Playing the WM tournament was a nice change of pace and I didn’t feel as drained as I do after a 40k tournament.

  3. Back when I was in high school, I played 40k a lot against my cousin, and it was a lot of fun. Then, one day I decided I'd start keeping track of our records: wins, losses, etc. We did that for a while, but all of a sudden winning or losing "meant something," and the tension of playing the game rose dramatically. When I realized that, I tossed the records out, and things settled right back down to having fun.

    Nowadays I never play 40k competitively because I'd rather enjoy playing a friendly game than the rush of winning a game. Some people thrive on the competition aspect of playing for the thrill that winning gives them. Long ago I learned that competition is not why I play the game, so now I don't. I've learned that the less I care about who wins or loses, the more fun I have.

  4. Well, what you described will eventually happen to anyone who wants to ante up their game and play more competitively.

    One thing that helps keeping my friendly games stress free is to have two separate armies (or army builds). One should be your "fun" army that you play just for laughs and to have a good time and the other "serious" list is to use for tournaments and generally competitive playing.

    Treat those two armies as completely separate entities. If you associate only the "serious" one with the stress and anxiety that is related to competition you should be free to enjoy the rest of your other games with your "fun" army.

  5. I don't participate in tournaments because I have plenty enough fun getting together with the guys, beer and snacks.
    It's not just our society that's competitive, this is human nature from waaay back.

    While you mention your anxiety, you don't mention your daughter's. Does she enter these competitions because she enjoys it or because she wants to win? Would not getting first tear her up? (besides the normal level of disappointment)

    We have to learn and teach that the important thing is to enjoy what we do first and foremost.

  6. It is difficult to excel, or even improve, without overly focusing on the performance metric. When competing against others, we want to win. Our hard work should result in victory, should it not? The problem is that when we are the "best" in the room we miss out on being pushed to that "next level." It sounds like your daughter has some healthy competition now, and has an opportunity to grow as an equestrian. We don't always need to be best, but we should always be improving. I had this experience when going form local painting comps (where I was the big fish in a small pond) to Golden Demon. Yes, I finally eked out a trophy, but only some rounds of improvement by getting the feedback from people who are much better painters than I am.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  7. "Is it even possible to play the game competitively and still keep that feeling of contentment and pleasure?"

    Yes, I believe it is, though I also recognize that it can be a challenge for some people (I include myself in that group).

    I do believe that it comes down to motivation. If you are competing because you want to be the best player you can be, and enjoy the challenge, it can be healthy and fulfilling. If you are worried that a loss on the table would be a "loss of face" and are so concerned about your reputation that you are AFRAID to lose, that's a different matter.

    I guess that's the question you should ask yourself. "If I lose this game to a great opponent, will it make me glad (that I was beaten by a great opponent and learned something) or upset (that I am not the good gamer I thought/hoped I was). If it is the former, you are where you need to be. If the latter, you might want to take a step back.

    My wife is also somewhat uncomfortable with the competitive aspect of the hobby. In truth, it's nice to have someone checking my attitude once in a while. I do think that competition and fun can mix though, you just have to do it right.

  8. Oh, and, as long as you are not playing with Forge World rules, the "he with the cash wins" does not REALLY apply. Yes, there is a certain basic level of investment that must be made to complete a good, well built, competitive army. But creative players who are cash strapped often trade for used models, convert models on the cheap, etc. And at some level having more money simply doesn't make your army better. It's not like you can spend $2000 on an army and have it be five times as good as someone's $400 army. It just doesn't work that way.

  9. "I do believe that it comes down to motivation. If you are competing because you want to be the best player you can be, and enjoy the challenge, it can be healthy and fulfilling. If you are worried that a loss on the table would be a "loss of face" and are so concerned about your reputation that you are AFRAID to lose, that's a different matter."

    I think this sums it up best. If you are playing hard to prove to yourself you can do it it's one thing, when you want to make a name for yourself and become a 'celebrity' it tends to bring out the worse side of the competitive gamer.

  10. You are very wise, Mrs. Ron!

    There is a very fine line when it comes to being competitive. After all, when I play a game of 40K I do like to win (who doesn't?), but the main thing for me is, telling the story that unfolds on the battlefield.

    It doesn't really matter if you win or not, as long as you put up a fight that tells an outstanding story. Of course, when it's your army that manages to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the last moment, all the better, but what you really have to ask yourself is this:

    If, before you agreed to play your opponent, you knew that there was NO WAY WHATSOEVER that you could win, would you still play the game?

    If the answer is 'no', them in my opinion, you shouldn't be playing 40K or any other game for that matter.

    I think that in competitions, be it war games, show jumping, cow tipping or whatever, the only score you need to concentrate on beating is your own personal best. That way, there's still something to aim for, you probably don't have to come first to do it, and let's face it, if you don't then the only person disappointed in you is yourself.

    And trust me, from experience, you'll get over it!

    That said, congratulations to your daughter! You must be really proud. I have a daughter myself who is eighteen months old. Thinking about it now, maybe it's much easier to be less competitve when it's only yourself competing. I wonder how competitive I'll become by-proxy when my daughter is actually the one in the competitions!

    I dread to think!!

  11. When I first started playing 40k, I was extremely competitive to the point that I would lose my temper if I lost...particularly if it was badly. I had the revelation, one day, that I wasn't having fun. So, I threw myself into the hobby side of gaming (painting, modelling and fluff) and started to play for the fun. I don't particularly care anymore if I win or lose. I lose more often than not, but I'm still enjoying the game.

  12. From the Wife herself:

    Messanger of Death: Interesting to think that the change in emotion for an interest lead to you changing your education path. Did this choice of not pursuing Math, ultimately change your career?

    Antipope: I see what you mean by having one army for competition and one for fun. My daughter's new horse that she will be showing this winter comes with no history of successful performances unlike the pony she has been riding for the past 2 years.
    He is an awesome horse that my daughter is madly in love with, but when in the ring, her main focus isn't the ribbons, it's whether or not he follows to her commands. It looks like this upcoming show season will be more about personal victories than ribbons.

    Dave G: I am so impressed! You used the word SNACKS! We love that word around our house :)
    I agree completely that the competitive side of man was instilled in us back to the caveman era.
    You know, like who could kill the biggest mastadon. So maybe there's no way of getting around the fact that being competitive in ingrained in our DNA. It just matters how we cultivate it and mentally handle it.

    Mike: I did notice that my Daughter was pushing herself to be better. That she sat a little taller and more proper when in the ring with her competitor. It definitely made her think about turning out her best. However, when not in the ring with her, she just gave a mediocre performance.

    Purgatus: It's good that your wife is there to keep you in check...that is my husband's job in our family. When our daughter is showing and I go through my coaching Mom lecture of heels down, thumbs up, stay on the 1/4 line, check your leads, etc....he just says "just have fun."

    Darren: Excellent question - If, before you agreed to play your opponent, you knew that there was NO WAY WHATSOEVER that you could win, would you still play the game?

    Wish I would've thought of that one for my article!
    I believe as parents we become more competitive when our kids are in the ring and not us. Kind of like "Yeah look at that, chip off of the ol' block!" They represent us to a point, that again leads to us being competitive with other parents. Just one big vicious cycle!

    Thanks for your thought guys. Sorry I didn't have the chance to write back to everyone, but each comment is important to me and thought provoking.

    I am extremely grateful for you all taking the time to answer my article.

  13. The thing that bothered me most about this, is you compared us playing with little plastic men, to you "playing" your daughter. My niece rides horses, and I see my aunt living vicariously (and very competitively) through her in a similar way.

    You wrote a whole article about anxiety and being competitive, but YOU aren't even competing in these events; your daughter is... and you only mention her feelings in passing "They both congratulated each other with smiles and laughter".

    You're comparing the way we wage pretend-war with our plastic armies, to the way you push your daughter to compete. Doesn't seem like a healthy comparison to me, but that's just my opinion.

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  15. To remove stress from sport it has to become recreation or hobby.

    Warhammer is a hobby, but it becomes a sport when it is in tournament form.

    Like turning trail riding into Dressage, introducing points and rules and a winner introduces stress.

    Both are more fun as a hobby, as an escape with friends.

    I competed in English riding events as a boy, but soon decided I didn't like the limitations of Dressage and Hunter, and found I could push myself in Open Jumper and had more fun without the tight structure, when I look back I remember the fun parts, like big fences and hauling ass, horse camp outs and trail rides and not going for the ribbons.

    I find team sports are better as it introduces a social aspect and it becomes an us against them thing.

    I think your Daughter will let you know when its not fun anymore, she might even try endurance riding or another equestrian event. Be sure she knows that its all just for fun and you love her no matter what her score is (this may seem obvious as a parent, but kids forget, and might consider staying with something just to make YOU happy).

    Ron- I didn't know you had a horse kid, I have a better understanding for your frugal and minimalistic approach to Warhammer, we had our own horses, and it was still really expensive to keep me in field boots and breaches.

    Good luck,

    Santa Cruz Warhammer

  16. If you are making money with it, I think that makes it a job too, and you a pro painter.

    Hobby = " an activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one's leisure time"

    I think thats a good trade off if you can enjoy your hobby and it helps to make her happy too.

    Also interesting that your leisure time can also directly contribute to helping her enjoy her sport, and possibly relieve the financial stress of the horse hobby.

    Sounds like win win.

    I might even be so bold as to say that your Deathwing and Blog are a hobby, and you are also lucky enough to have the talent to have a side job doing commission work.

    I think the big difference between sport and hobby is the stress or lack thereof, and that what we get out of it is going to be based on our goals, be they wining, or like us sharing and leisure.


  17. I was preparing to study Structural/Civil Engineering with a focus on demolition (mining boom in Ozlandus). Now I'm studying Nursing with the intent on moving on to Medicine.

    It is this experience with maths during HSC that has helped me keep my competitive games of 40k in the realm of fun.


  18. I'm just another stranger living in this competitive world. This is how I look at it.

    I understand the topic is competition vs. fun. However, most of us are competing everyday and we may not know about it. For example, we go to college, and we are competing for a title, rank, and first one who gets the best job opening after college. We go to work, and we are competing for promotion, business, and so on.

    All have similar result; fruits of hard work.

    Congrats to your daughter!

  19. See? This is another reason why Trial by Combat should be reinstituted. Everyone will be so busy beating the hell out of each other, no one will be competitive anymore.

    -Another fine message from Z, master of the world.

  20. Spot on.. Couldn't have written this post better.

  21. What’ with the competitive vs fun, I find 40k both competitive and fun, why do people think you can't have them both?

  22. First of all... Congrats to your daughter.

    For me it depends of my opponent, I can play for fun in the most important tournament, but if an "hated" opponent (that´s not-so-nice-guy) come in I became a very competitive player.

    I still remember a qualification round of a 3rd edition blood bowl tournament, the match was drawn, we were having a lot of fun, it was my last turn, and the ball was in the ground with my blitzer very near, I only needed to blitz away an human lineman with the blitzer, catch the ball and run 3 squares, and then, I choose to dodge with the blitzer to pound the ground with his thrower (so he cannot throw the ball to my side of the field in case of failure) and use the ogre to throw the goblin to try and take the ball to the goal line.

    Why? For fun... and glory :), my opponent deserved it as we were really enjoying this match and came to almost the very last movement with a 2-2 score.

    Oh, and for the record, his thrower went out lightly wounded and my goblin did it all ninja style and became the successful captain of my team, and my opponent lost while laughing (double victory for me), but it could have ended as a disaster.

    Of course, I know if it was his last movement he would have done something similar.


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