Player Morale


Opening picture will be described later
A guest editorial by Edwin.

 After my last article about player morale, I decided to follow this article up on how to take advantage of the idea of player morale. The problem with this is that it’s very difficult to reliably do so. In any game, putting odds in your favor is the name of the game, but to put the very morale of any player into your hands is another matter entirely. You must consider statistically bad decisions and figure out what is going to hurt a person the most. Let me tell you a little story of one of my favorite games to elaborate this.


Monopoly, the Destroyer of Families

I had a friend who would break down everything into numbers. He was the guy at monopoly who would be a dick because he could. Playing with the man was insufferable. You would be insulting him if you offered anything for the best section in the game. These Orange spaces had the best Investment/pay out ratio in the game and people always landed on them. If he had the luck, you couldn’t beat him most of the time. You had to break his spirit. You had to take bad decisions and beat him with them. You needed a way and I found one. I would buy board walk and park place. These two squares had some of the worst investment/pay out ratios and that you find people rarely land on them. You hotel them (which is almost always a bad idea) and if he lands on one, he will almost always bankrupt. Even if he doesn’t, he will panic and make even worse decisions that will result in him losing.  This is player moral at its most pure. Statistically, on paper, his decisions were better than mine. In the game, I could take him more often then not. This leads to a disclaimer at the end of this article. It will be worth it to keep reading.

In this article I will talk about two of the main methods that I have run across in order to take advantage of player morale. These are not the only ways, but ways I have found through gaming my entire life. The concept stretches across all games and ideas. You can put these into practice for more the table top games. There are two main methods for taking advantage. The first and most constructive method to advantageous moral is unpredictability.

The only thing statistically predictable is how unpredictable statistics can be.


Through unpredictability, we find our first advantage. Using this aspect, you can railroad people. In my last article on the subject, I asked for tales of the worst game ever. People remember bad a lot better then people remember good. When outliers happens through such large numbers that its difficult to predict things, you find people get taken advantage of rather easily.  The above picture is how I run my orks. I am the challenge. I have become very good with my orks. The element of uncertainty has seen entire flanks fold beneath a squad of lucky boys. The look on someone’s face when you make 4, 6+ armor saves to win combat and turn the tide of a battle is priceless. For every good, there must be a bad though (Yin-Yang). For however unpredictable your good can be, often you will find that the pendulum swings in the opposite direction as well. You must realize this and not let such things affect your player morale. I know my orks will do badly sometimes. I have seen a squad of 20 boys do 4 wounds on the charge. You can’t let that stop you. I have seen 20 boys kill 10 marines on the charge as well. Here is the key element. Like I previously said, people remember bad over good. Push their bad. That is the first method for player morale. You see it quite often. You know the guy who takes one lascannon and blows up a land raider before the game is over. One lucky shot can start the avalanche.  I have played orks long enough that all the random that is 6th edition doesn’t effect me because I already had way more random things then this edition can bring.

Now for something I am not proud of

Its time for how to take advantage of player morale aspect two. I don’t like this one. It hasn’t made me many friends. In fact, if it wasn’t a good friend, I tried never to do this. It started with a list I wanted to take to a tournament while 5th edition was still good to see how it would do. The problem was that it did entirely to well in the player morale department. It went undefeated from necron codex to 6th where it was promptly retired. It was on the edge of being retired, but when 6th launched, I wanted something different. I am talking about the Terrain manipulation list. Everything was bad for my opponent. That is aspect two. Death by a thousand stumbles. You give your opponent every opportunity you can to force a stumble. You wear and tear and bump and poke and prod until something falters. It is the wrench in the plans of anyone. The more chances people have to fail, the more people fail. People don’t remember when their death star punches some poor group of guys in the face. People remember that one time that they failed so spectacularly and lose a games because of it. That one failed moment where things go bad haunt people. It messes with them. The first time I saw this effect was when I played a spacewolf death star from hell. 3 wolf lords on thunderwolves with frost blade, fist, hammer, and all storm shields, with 2 fen wolves each, with saga of king, warrior, bear respectively. This trio of nasty was in 5 thunderwolves with storm shields. I was playing old necrons with the deciever. I wasn’t a cheese-less list, but he reeked of cheese when he walked in the door. He also had 3×6 long fangs. That tells you enough. In our first game, his star was pinned by the deciever even with a rerollable leadership of 10. After that, he chased that deciever with everything he was worth. One bad moment haunted his play for the rest of the night. The Yin-Yang of this is that people remember bad over good. More bad=less fun for people. If you have more bad than good, you will find that people don’t want to play. It sucks.


cause everything needs more orks.

The basic idea is that you find your own method of player morale advantage. You gotta go out and find it yourself. I can only point the way. I found my methods and I will only ever really use one. I explained how unpredictability can be advantageous, but I had to warn that the coin of unpredictability has two sides. I also explained how death by a thousand stumbles was a good method to causing advantageous player moral, but at the same time, it really messes with and annoys people. I hope this gets you all thinking. Have fun and happy wargamming.

How do you guys use player morale to your advantage? I know that it plays a big part in games at tournaments, more so than a lot of people give it credit for. But, it’s an intangible and so doesn’t often get discussed. 


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

5 Responses to “Player Morale”

  1. Douglas of Wolfbrothers July 13, 2012 7:13 am #

    Its one of the most overlooked battlefields of the game, and many other endeavors. Bluffing, playing Columbo, even being a bully. The advantages and disadvantages offered/generated here are enormous.

    • edwin July 13, 2012 8:25 am #

      You can be a bully, but I always found such things uncalled for. There is a limit to what you can do. It’s still a game after all

    • Reecius July 13, 2012 9:22 am #

      Yeah, morale is a giant part of the game. When people lose their cool, they start making more mistakes.

      I have even used misdirection to help me get an edge. You make a player think you are doing one thing, but then do another. You never lie of course, but you can influence your opponent’s perceptions.

  2. edwin July 13, 2012 8:22 am #

    I just realized I misspelled morale… No more late night writing.

    • Reecius July 13, 2012 9:20 am #

      And I realized I didn’t catch it in editing, doh!

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