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I've had a long running debate with some folks I play with regarding concession. Some argue that is it is unsportsmanlike to concede a game if you are not doing very well. I contend however, that if it often more frustrating to sit there and be miserable if you know the outcome of the game; this is particularly true of longer games such as Catan with Cities and Knights.

Now, I'm not really talking about "just quitting" every time you don't get your way. And I'm certainly not talking about being rude, snide or otherwise contemptible in such cases. I've been on the other side of the fence too and it seem appropriate to "just call it" in many instances but some would rather drag it on.

Is there an acceptable middle ground or technique for dealing with these types of situations? Where one person has clearly won before they have actually won?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 25 down vote accepted

In a two-player situation I could see how this might be acceptable, but with more players I'd be very cautious. For instance, it may appear to you that player three is the foregone winner, but perhaps player two has a victory Development Card, along with a Road Building that could catapult him to longest road, if he can just get another brick to make one more road along with it. Let's imagine this would steal the longest road from player three, and result in the players being tied neck and neck. To you, it may look hopeless, but for player two to refute your assertion that such is the case, he will have to reveal that he sees a path to winning, which could cause player three to be more cautious, resulting in the spoiling of player two's plan.

The last time I played I won, and was ahead the entire time, and yet until the very end at least two of the other players (six-player game) had a fighting chance, one unbeknownst to me (two victory points from Dev cards conveniently left in his lap). It's not fair to the other players for you to decide it's time to call it.

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I would rather a player concede than that they make plays that are not in their best interest and thus play "kingmaker".

I haven't played Catan lately so this may or may not be applicable there, but I personally would rather someone:

  • Keep striving to improve their own score OR
  • Stop playing entirely and let the rest of us finish the game

Rather than see them purposely cause the game to end early in a way that doesn't help them, or make unfavorable trades just to entertain themselves (which will favor whoever is the lucky recipient).

If all players think the winner is clear, I've occasionally had my group just start a new game, but that's rare and usually only done with the approval of the "winning" player.

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I agree - it tends to be the case when my wife, myself and my teenage son play and she is beating the crap out of us :D - both my son and I can see that she has the strong lead and WILL win, but she always gets upset that we don't "finish it up". I think it tends to be selfish to others when you have a large lead and you continue on for your own benefit. –  javamonkey79 Dec 6 '10 at 6:18
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I agree regarding the kingmaker. I don't like it. In games that aren't inteded to play with factions and alliances having one player intentionally support another isn't enjoyable, especially if it is for out of game reasons. If you know that two brothers at the table are going to team up so one or the other can win, it can really break some games that were not designed to support that kind of activity. –  Al Crowley Dec 9 '10 at 17:51

Andrew raised some very good point on which I'd like to elaborate.

I don't like the idea of declaring yourself the winner. In most games it is unlikely that you can do this with reasonable certainty. Thus it is presumptuous and - like Andrew explained - potentially unfair.

I do however see some use in conceding a game under certain circumstances.

  1. Tournament play - Lots of CCG's play 3 games per round with a time limit of 20/30 minutes. In such situations it can be preferable to concede a bad game early in order to ensure you have enough time for that 2nd or 3rd game in which you might at least even the score.
  2. In games without termination mechanisms - like Monopoly - it is possible that the last two players develop a sort of stalemate even though one player does have an obvious advantage in assets. Instead of playing until the table rots away one player could simply concede the game - or they could agree to end the game at a defined moment (X more turns, next full hour, etc) and simply call the player with the most assets the winner.
  3. When a player has accumulated such a big disadvantage that it is highly unlikely for him to recover. When the remainder of the game is short I'd still recommend playing it out but if there are still an hour to play then I can understand why they don't want to go through that.

That said, in multiplayer games one player conceding can have a serious impact on the dynamics of the game so it is often worth exploring other options like playing for second and third place.

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I believe that a player should be allowed to concede, if it doesn't affect the game, or if it affects the game in a POSITIVE way.

In a two-player game, that's easy. Conceding shortens the game without changing the result, and is an act of good sportsmanship.

In a multiplayer game, it gets trickier. That's because the conceding player may have assets that would affect the balance of power between the REST of the players.

In Monopoly, it could be that there is a "stalemate" between two players, with a third clearly behind. Then what happens to his properties if he resigns? Do they go back to the bank? Does this open up the game for BOTH remaining players, or is one more likely to benefit than the other? If BOTH remaining players agree, then the third player will do well to resign. Maybe the resigner should distribute his properties in an equitable way before resigning.

But it might be that one player is benefiting from the stalemate, and will likely lose if the third player leaves. Then it's essential that he remains in the game. (Maybe he can leave physically, and let some other player "play" his game for him.)

In Diplomacy, a player resigns by declaring civil disorder. But his pieces remain in place, and other players can make alliances with the individual cities to defend them against third parties. So the resignation is "easy."

In Settlers of Catan, a person should be allowed to "resign in place" as in Diplomacy. That is, his cities and cards remain with him (and out of play), but he doesn't continue playing. Other players can use a Monopoly card or the robber to deprive "him" (his position, actually) of some of those cards. This deprives other plays of the chance to trade with him (a minus), but also puts him in the position of NOT having to play "kingmaker" (a plus).

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