D&D Miniatures
Learning from Losing
The Dice Don't Hate You
By Jason Lioi

If you listen to conversations between D&D Miniatures players during any tournament, you’re bound to hear someone lamenting a loss, describing how they were defeated because of “bad dice.” Maybe their opponent scored multiple critical hits or they failed morale saves on important pieces.

While luck certainly plays a factor in every game, players who blame a loss on their d20 are missing an opportunity to improve their game.

Focus on What You Can Control

Players who focus on what might have happened if a particular roll had gone their way aren’t learning anything they can use in their next match. They are saying to themselves, “My plan for improvement is to roll better numbers next time.”

The whole point of dice rolls, of course, is that they're random and cannot be controlled. (In fact, if they could be, that would be cheating!)

Complaining about your die rolls is fun but unproductive. Instead, after a loss, focus on what you could have changed: the choices you made at every step along the way. By looking carefully at where your decision-making may have gone astray, you can find clues to help you win the next game. Ask yourself the following questions:

Did I Bring the Right Tools?

Too much tech, not enough smackSometimes the seeds of defeat are sown in the minis you bring to the table.

  • Did you have difficulty dealing enough damage to your opponent? You might have included too much “tech” in your band and too few hitters.
  • Did you find it hard to engage a single enemy with all of your units? Perhaps you have too many large creatures in the band, or maybe you should reconsider your choice of map.
  • Was your opponent able to control where and when the battle took place? You might consider adding a ranged threat to the band or including units with higher speed.

The details will vary with the situation, but thinking about how your options were limited by the units you brought should bring to mind helpful tweaks to your band.

Did I Have A (Good) Plan?

When starting any game of D&D Miniatures, it’s beneficial to have a rough strategy in mind. This can be as simple and broad as “I’ll move my dragon toward the bottom of the map and try to force a fight in that difficult terrain” or “I’ll block that corridor with my golem while shooting from behind it with my archers.”

After losing a game, it’s important to ask yourself if you were following a plan or just reacting to your opponent’s moves. If your initial moves were made before you had a plan in mind, chances are high that your pieces were not in ideal positions to support each other when combat was joined.

If you did have a plan, was it a good one? Look back over the game and think about where your strategy led you.

  • Was your heavy hitter too far out in front and easily cut off from support?
  • Did your opponent have high-speed hitters that he used to circumvent your bottleneck?

Consider how the game might have gone differently if you had followed a different plan.

Was I Watching the “Little Things?”

Flanking provides a +2 bonus on melee attacks. Cone effects reach six squares from the point of origin. Victory areas provide assault points at the end of each round. Every player knows these basic rules of the game, but in many cases victory goes to the player who was more diligent in applying his knowledge.

  • Were your fodder units positioned where they could provide flank bonuses for your heavy hitters?
  • Did you place too many units within range of a single enemy breath weapon?
  • Did you take the opportunity to grab assault points or deny them to your opponent?

Many players think that a +2 bonus to hit or 10 points in a 200-point game isn’t a big deal. When factored over enough die rolls or enough rounds, however, such “little things” can make the difference between winning and losing.

What Surprised Me During the Game?

Don't let this be you!There are good surprises and bad surprises, but in general, it’s the bad surprises that you learn from. Did you cast a lightning bolt at your opponent’s Helmed Horror? Did you attack her Loyal Earth Elemental with a flanking Dark Creeper? You might have been surprised that the results were not what you intended.

Next time, don’t hesitate to ask your opponent to show you his cards, and make sure that you’ve read through the rulebook as well. These kinds of bad surprises can easily lead to a loss, but they are also easily prevented from happening again -- or in the first place.

Apart from wrinkles in the rules, there are also tactical surprises. Did your opponent maneuver in a way that reduced the effectiveness of your warband? Did her pieces work together to grant an unexpected synergy? Make a mental note of tactical tricks that are used against you so that you can either incorporate them or block them in your next game.

If At First You Don’t Succeed …

Sometimes, no amount of analyzing a loss can provide much insight. There are times when it’s not clear that any alternate strategy or greater attention to detail would have made a difference in the outcome.

If, after looking back on a loss, you find yourself in this situation, the most helpful thing to do may be to play a similar matchup again. Don’t base too many conclusions on a single game. Often it is only through multiple matches that an insight comes to mind. Fortunately, playing more games of D&D Miniatures is a prescription that is easy to enjoy!

About the Author

Los Angeles resident Jason Lioi has enjoyed playing D&D for over twenty years and has recently branched out into d20 Apocalypse and Axis & Allies Miniatures. After winning the 2005 D&D Miniatures Constructed Championship, Jason was invited to design his own mini, which will be released in an upcoming set. Jason writes for Wizards of the Coast on a freelance basis.

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