The game really was straight.There seems to be some assumption, both in-universe, and among tropers, that Linoge fixed the final game, and was lying when he said it was straight. However, he never lied throughout the rest of the mini-series. Ralphie might have been his preference, but he was fully prepared to accept any of the children.
- Never lied that we know of. For instance, Mike Anderson denies ever cheating on the chemistry exam, and yet Linoge keeps insisting that he did. We never get confirmation that the priest character was really a pedophile. The things he said about the mayor's mother sound like a lot of fear-mongering superstition, and there is speculation among fans whether Linoge had anything to do with Roanoke, but took credit for it nonetheless. Maybe only some of what he says about people is true (from what little he can discern), others are merely suggestions that he enforces supernaturally. The best liars mix truth and lies.
Andre Linoge wasn't as powerful as he claimed and could not carry out his threat.Linoge is like a bank robber, trying to hold a room full of people hostage with a gun that he claims is loaded, but really only has one bullet. If Linoge really was so powerful that he could command the entire town into the sea, there would be no need to ask them to assemble; he could simply will them all to it. There were also scenes where he had to exert great concentration on one or two people to get them to do what he wanted; the rest of the time when he wants something, he threatens. The incident where he threatens the lives of the very children that he wants comes to mind. Why do that? He would also be risking not getting what he wants if he does drop them. This leads to the conclusion that while he could exert his will on a few people, doing more than that was beyond him. In order to get the town to agree to his terms, he had to get them to think that they were powerless to resist, but we saw that he really couldn't completely control Mike Anderson or the boyfriend. That explains why we only see him assaulting or harassing one or two and otherwise leaving his message behind or telling the story. If he could have done more, he would have and not wasted time with little displays of power. Since he didn't, this leads to the conclusion that his greatest power was bluffing, and he would have been defeated if the people simply mobbed him all at once, or used the gun on him. Sure, he could certainly kill a few of them, but from what we saw it looked like he would have been overwhelmed, and his spell over the children would be broken.
- Most trickster figures give the victim a chance at a contest. Its possible Roanoke was destroyed but not other towns because Roanoke people didn't outsmart him. The townspeople might have been able to trick Linoge into a challenge as part of the consent agreement. If it were me, I would demand he perform three challenges. My first pick is he proves he can make the whole town march down to the pier and back to the church. That will prove if he's bluffing or not, and it will eat up a lot of time, which may save the village. My second is Linoge must make everyone in the room jump up three times. If Linoge or the kids don't jump, Linoge loses. My third is have Linoge destroy his own staff permanently. The way he signs this with the staff symbol makes me wonder if he is the staff and the body we see is a dead animated corpse. Also, it might weaken him enough to be killed by the crowd.