The Importance of Being a Good Loser and How to be One

No one wants to be a loser. Although I can tell you that I have PLENTY of practice. But no one wants to play with a sore loser either…and it’s hard to be a winner if no one will play with you. That’s why learning How to be a Good Loser is imperative.

We all have that one player at the table who if he get's knocked out early...the game might get knocked out too...if you know what I mean. Being a good sport, or having sportsmanship in boardgaming is not only something that is a must, it's something that doesn't always come naturally. These three tips are a GREAT place to start!

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If you’re like me…or anyone else on the planet, you hate being around bad losers. You know the feeling. Everyone at the table is having a good time…except for that one player who is stewing and steaming in his or her own little corner. Maybe they have an outburst of anger, or what I feel is sometimes worse, that slow burning passive-aggressiveness directed at anyone who dares make a tactical move in their direction. (On the board game of course).

But here’s the truth. Even the most genial gamer will sometimes struggle with “negative” emotions. Whether they just had a rough day at work, or are on a particularly long losing streak, those very real selfish feelings of “I’m not having fun so no one else is allowed to either” can creep up. Left unchecked, that misplaced passion can lead them down the path of being a sore loser.

But sore losing isn’t always defined by a table flipping through the air and an abrupt end to game night. It just takes a tiny bit of introspection to discover that you may be doing something that is rubbing your friends around the table the wrong way. Something that may have them questioning whether or not you’re fun to play with.

So here are 3 practical tips on how to be a good loser from someone who’s really good at losing…but not perfect at being a “Good Loser.”

1. Move Your Goal Post

The Situation:

You find yourself one hour into Scythe with at least another sixty minutes to go, and you believe that you have no hope of winning.


First, let me encourage you to get rid of the line of thinking of “I have no hope of winning!” Whenever you believe you have no hope you are making the assumption that everyone else at the table is going to play perfectly for the rest of the game. Play hard and watch for mistakes, it may not be as hopeless as you think!

I recently played a game of The Manhattan Project where by all appearances I had the game in the bag with about forty minutes left to play. And I’m not bragging here, the two others at the table said something along the lines of “Well, looks like it’s a battle for second!” Long story short: I lost.


So let’s set aside my tip from above and assume that there is absolutely no hope for victory. I have a news flash for you…sulking isn’t going to win you the game, being passive aggressive isn’t going to earn you any friends, and quitting, well, that’s just a total jerk move because in most cases it ruins the game for everyone.

This is when it’s time to Move your goalposts.

Say what?

Change your goal for the game! Without making it un-fun for everyone else, assess the situation in your head and make a new goal for yourself. For me, when I’m down and out, I immediately start playing hard for second, or I experiment with a strategy that I’ve wanted to try.

Pick a goal and go for it.

Something to Avoid

Don’t make your goal to king-make.

(King making is playing in such a way to help another player at the table win, often in a seemingly unfair way to everyone else at the table).

King making can really cheapen the experience for everyone at the table. But don’t shy away from it either if it is your most optimal move. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where one decision will cause one player to win, and the other decision will allow the other player to win. In these instances king-making is unavoidable, but outside of those situations, try not to become that person as you can really alienate others at the table.

When in doubt, I’d encourage you to make the move that you believe increases your chances of getting a higher score. If it king-makes, so be it. But if you’re trading all your good cards for a useless card just to give someone else the win, you’re being a jerk.

2. Remind Yourself of the Cost

The Situation:

You’re a deputy in a friendly game of Bang! when suddenly out of nowhere your Sheriff is convinced you are an outlaw and starts “shooting you.” Within a few rounds you are eliminated from the game.


If someone else is going through this and they are older than 5, it might not be smart to say “It’s just a game!” While it is true that it’s just a game, it can also sound trite.


If you need to excuse yourself, do so gently. If you do anything that you need to apologize for – do so quickly. That phrase I mentioned earlier, instead of dwelling on that I start considering the cost of my actions.

When I slam the table, what is the cost to my friendships at the table?

When I storm out of the room, what will be the cost in invites to future game nights?

When I get visibly angry, what will be the cost to my reputation?

It’s that last one that I dwell on the most. Losing doesn’t ruin how someone views me, but my reaction to it might, and that’s a cost that I do not want to pay.

If you know you struggle with losing, remind yourself of the cost as often as possible. You can, and should, be stronger than your emotions.


Storming out. Flipping the table. Doing anything else that you may expect a 5 year old to do in the cereal isle when told by his mother that no, they aren’t getting Fruit Loops.

3. Honor the Win

The Situation:

Your game of Stockpile just wrapped up. You know the exact turn where you bid on the wrong stack. Had you bid on that other stack instead you just know you would have won.

The winner is about to celebrate, and you say:


The next words out of your mouth are, in my opinion, the hallmark words that will define whether you are a truly a good loser or a bad loser. Before I go on let me mention that this is probably one of my largest weaknesses and also one of the biggest areas I have been working on.

I have failed at this next strategy wayy more times than I would like to admit. Are you ready?


The winner is about to celebrate, and you say:



“Great win!”


“Awesome strategy!”


“I like how you __(insert strategic move that they made during the game)__!”


“If I had just done __(insert “mistake that you made that you believe cost you the game)___ I would have won.”


“Your special player ability is overpowered!” (I hate it when people say this. ESPECIALLY if it is their first time playing the game.)

With those simple statements you have verbally invalidated your opponents win in order to feel better about yourself.

Not only that, but most of the time you’re probably dead wrong.

Here’s why:

Most board games are not a linear experience where a single change by you in strategy will not also affect the way the rest of the players play the game. Sure, if on turn two you had attacked instead of farmed, the game would have turned out differently.

But who knows HOW differently. 

What would your opponent have done to counter your move?! How would that have changed your future decisions as well? There really is no telling what would have happened. If there was… WE WOULDN’T PLAY GAMES because the outcome would already be pre-determined.

Very rarely does a game come down to one identifiable mistake. But even if it did…your opponent didn’t make it…you did.

Honor. The. Win.

That’s It?

Yep. Being a good loser really comes down to simply remembering that it’s ok to lose, it’s just not ok to be a jerk about it. The hard part is remembering that…when we’re losing.


What is your worst “Sore Loser” experience?

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about how to be a good loser are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.


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3 thoughts on “The Importance of Being a Good Loser and How to be One

  1. This article is incredible. I want a plaque in my game room that reads “Honor. The. Win.” Not because I win a lot (I don’t), but just because I think it’s such a fundamental part of the experience.

    I’m curious as to what your thoughts are about sore winning. I have a few gaming buddies who really like to rub it in when they win, and it brings out the sore loser in me. I personally hate trash talking my opponents because it makes me feel uncomfortable.

    • Hey Nick!

      Thanks so much! Maybe someone will make up a cool 8×10 printable of Honor.The.Win. 🙂

      And about sore winning…I’m working on a companion post about how to be a good winner. But, my current calendar is packed so it may not see the light of day until early December. Specifically on the topic of trash talking…in the right group I can really enjoy it – but for me personally, trash talking is the lead up TO the game (aka. building anticipation for game night) and usually ends sometime during the game. But to be honest it doesn’t happen much in my groups and I shy away from it unless I know those in the group are game for it.

  2. I’m generally a good sport, as i enjoy it even more when I’m defeated by an excellent opponent – i marvel at how they accomplished it 🙂

    One (maybe, a few… okay okay – many) blips I’ve had is with Catan; my wife kept rolling the “7” (Robber) and I was just rolling duds – inevitably my wife steamrolled to victory with me stagnating with almost the same resources i had during initial setup (since she kept parking the robber at my hex and stealing from me :-(…)

    Didn’t stop me from trying to Catan back to the table though (after some tantrums of course :P)

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