Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

April 23rd, 2018

Categories: Cheating, Children, Games, Winning

Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”

Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”

One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?

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10 Responses to “Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?”

  1. Stephanie Schley Said:

    Stephanie wrote on Facebook: When my kids were quite young they thought Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders were games you played by yourself!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    They let you off the hook then!

  3. Kathleen Said:

    We loved to play board and card games with cousins. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon. Usual favorites — Monopoly, Parchessi, Clue. For today’s adults I recommend Balderdash (hope I have the right game!) which deals with coming up with definitions for obscure words. Definitely creative and a laugh producer.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I, too, loved the games you list and I never heard of Balderdash, though I like the name!

    You played with other kids, your cousins. I wonder what percentage of kids today play games mostly with other children or with parents. I understand the effort of parents trying to wean kids from their electronic devices which might favor parents these days.

  5. ASK Said:

    Being an only child, I played with my cousins. Games like Monopoly, Clue, Rich Uncle (an off shoot of the top-hatted figure in Monopoly), and Parcheesi, often continued for days, with games suspended for bed times. One of my cousins would occasionally try to cheat, but he never got away with it…! For us, it was often better than watching TV.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Our cousins are much younger than we are and didn’t live that nearby but my sister taught me to play cards and board games when I was quite young. It was wonderful fun for me but must have been boring as the dickens for her. I loved playing with her or my parents and like you, I liked it so much better than watching TV. I played a lot of jacks during rest hour at school with my friends. Got quite good at it too.

  7. Protius Said:

    In the days before television, many families played games. Mine did, and we took it all very seriously. Scores and debt amounts were recorded. Yes, we did gamble at home but in small amounts. We played mostly card games like Hearts and Gin Rummy and Cribbage, and, of course Bridge, but later on. We also played board games such as Monopoly and Parcheesi when enough players were around, and Checkers, Chinese Checkers and like when we were two, and many others.

    Oh yes, we played gambling games like Poker and Backgammon, and for serious money between adults’, but not strangely enough, Blackjack. It and Baccarat came later when my father took me with him for the first time, dressed in Black Tie, at age 14 to the Lido Casino in Venice. Between a powerful personality and a special status, he broke age rules with delight and I learned a lot in a hurry. My mother also claimed that he had made so much money gambling in Lisbon, at the Estoril, while waiting in mid-war 1941, for passage back to the States that they were able to buy a house for us when he finally did get to Washington.

    One thing is for sure, my father didn’t like losing. He taught me chess. We must have played literally thousands of games together during the course of his life, and I never won one of them. I didn’t like that much, and when I played games with my own children I chose not to win always. I never cheated to win or to speed up game playing, but I will admit to occasionally trying “a little less hard.” I also made sure that my children understood what cheating was and what players lost by indulging in it.

    Oddly, later in life, I found it quite useful in interviewing potential subordinates to ask them how they felt about playing games. This usually was an unexpected question, and answers I heard could be most helpful in gauging attitudes towards risk taking, working well with others, and crisis management. And despite everything, for whatever it’s worth, even if I should know better, I’m still a sucker for a long shot.

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    Cheating is bad, not only for ethical reasons, but because it drains fun out of the game. That goes for letting children win, or purposefully throwing a game — also a form of cheating, and just as bad, if not worse. Giving a child a false sense of accomplishment does him no favor.

    I like games and have been a player since learning the moronic game of “Go Fish” in First Grade. They present a window on life, so let’s not give youngsters a false view.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t remember losing or winning when playing games with my sister but do recall winning at jacks, as I noted earlier. I guess I mostly lost at other games. I think what I liked best was playing and hanging out with her.

    Your father was probably right in the long run to play as hard as he could. It made you a better player at whatever the game for the rest of your life.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I imagine that even though an adult’s intentions are good, teaching a child there are times when cheating is OK is NOT OK. Cheating is one of those black and white situations. It’s best to have no exceptions. Ask Bernie Madoff. Once he started he couldn’t stop.

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