Imagine you’re sixteen years old and new to the board game hobby. You’ve played with the regular group at the local game store before and it went alright, but you still stumble from time to time. During a round of a somewhat complex asymmetrical game (Vast), a forty year old man berates you for questioning why he made a certain move. During that same game, the organizer of the group does something similar when another person asks about a rules clarification.
This is the scenario I overheard while playing last night at another table. I have also played with both of these individuals previously and my experience was much of the same.
I understand some people in this hobby may have personality issues, but that is no excuse. This type of behavior in this hobby is disgusting. Board games are supposed to bring people together, not drive them apart.
And so, I have a included a very simple (but thorough) set of rules that any gamer should follow when playing with others. This is a great collaborative list sourced from: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/356571/my-informal-board-gaming-code-conduct/page/3
(1) I will always finish the games I start and assist with the clean up when the game is done. This includes bottles, cups, cans, and other things around the game table.
(2) I will not consistently take longer to decide my move than everyone else at the table. It is better to make a suboptimal move and consider it a lesson learned than to hold everyone up. It is okay if occasionally I say, “oh man, I’m going to need a minute to think about this one” when I hit a really interesting puzzle. But that’s the exception, happening maybe a couple times per game, not the norm.
(3) I will not eat foods that make my fingers messy while playing. I recognize that games are a dear possession and that my pop stains and “cheesy” prints may not qualify as adding value to a prized possession.
(4) If you are teaching a game I already know, I will not interrupt you. It is your show. If you’ve overlooked something, and it becomes clear that you’ve moved on and are not just going to come back to it, I will politely remind YOU, “remember the rule about ….” and you can explain it. I won’t just jump in and add my own commentary whenever I want.
(5) If you are teaching a game I don’t already know, I will be quiet and listen. If I have questions that seem like the kind of questions you’ll get to in due course, I’ll try to hold them.
(6) If I decide that I no longer have any chance of winning, I’ll play for style points. I mean, for place, or for score. If you decide that you no longer have any chance of winning, you can do whatever you want (just please don’t leave). If you decide to knock me out and crown player X the winner just for the fun of it… I will be disappointed, but that is your choice. As Reiner Knizia allegedly said, “the goal is to win, but it’s the goal that is important, not the winning.” Whether I actually won or not is irrelevant except that it provides feedback about whether my choices were good ones or not. The feedback helps me improve my game, which is one of the finest pleasures of gaming. And here’s the thing: the feedback I’d get is the same either way whether I won a game or I lost it only because of douchebaggery. In either case it is evidence that I probably played well, and should probably keep doing more of that.
(7) I will try to contain my compulsive habit of straightening the pieces on the board until everything is so nice and perfectly straight. I’ll try, really I will.
(8) When you make a play that hurts me, I won’t take it personally, and I will never try to make you feel bad for it. Sure, I may moan and groan a little, but it is all in good fun. Conversely, I pledge to always make the best moves I can think of; whether it hurts you specifically or not. That’s my job as a player. I hope you deal with this well, almost all real gamers do.
(9) If I realize I made a blunder, and the next player hasn’t gone yet, and I know exactly what move I want to do instead, then I’ll ask you if I can change my move. I won’t try to change the past if the next player’s already gone. And I won’t ask to take it back and then make you wait while I decide all over again what to do. Better to just accept it as a lesson learned and move on. It’s good to make sure that when I lose I’ll have something to blame it on.
(10) If I realize you’ve made a blunder, I’ll ask you: “Are you sure?” I don’t like game outcomes to be determined by who blunders the least. The exception is if fixing your blunder is injurious to a particular other player (not me). I think that would be very irritating to said player. If others at the table express that they prefer we not help each other in this way, I’m fine with keeping my mouth shut. I’ll probably move tables after this game, though; it’s just not the kind of vibe I like.
(11) If you are new to a game and you ask for advice about what to do, I’ll offer you my best advice, and make sure to point out the fact that, actually, I almost always lose, so you might want to take my advice with a grain of salt.
(12) If I realize I’d forgotten about my staffed quarry when I built two turns ago, I might ask, “Hey. Is it okay if I take the extra doubloon that I should have saved?” I won’t assume that you’ll say yes. And I will NOT say, “If I’d known that, I would have bought this building instead, so when we crafted I should have an extra indigo meaning that the boat should have been full when….”
(13) I will perform my actions in the open. I won’t just drop my hand into my discard pile and announce “and I buy a Province!” Or, when paying five blue cards to build to Miami, I’ll fan the cards, not stack them. I assume that you’d like to be able to see for yourself that my actions are legit. I think it’s totally reasonable for you to want to see this — we all make mistakes. I know I have accidentally “cheated” many times and I definitely want to get caught if I do!
(14) If we realize a rules error was made, that benefited player X or hurt me, I will vote that we just let it stand. It can be very difficult, and often impossible, to reconstruct what the game state “should have been”. Better to just move on, even if “it’s not fair.” If we realize a rules error that helped me, I will apologize and volunteer some penalty that seems appropriate. We can agree on a penalty, be it money, points, or whatever, and move on. Finally, if a rules error hurt a particular player, we can volunteer some simple compensation to that player and move on.
(15) Sometimes if we realize a rules error, it may make sense to just decide as a group that we’re playing a variant, and stick to that change. But this is for the table to decide! I won’t whine, “That’s not fair, you let HER add a guy there even though it was full!”
(16) I will not complain that “You never told us that rule!”; even if you really didn’t, (but you probably did).
(17) I won’t get mad at you if you don’t adhere to the same code of conduct I do. If your behavior is *really* far from it, though, I might just quietly decide to try not to game with you again. Fair enough?
(18) I will shut my cell phone off as to prevent interruption unless I have a VERY important call I am expecting and that is quite rare.
(19) I will not cry “I never get good dice” just because my first die roll in a game was not what I wanted it to be.
(20) I will try not to pass judgment on a game until it’s completed. I will also try to comment on the good parts of the game, or the parts that I liked about it. I will not use this as an opportunity to expound on all the reasons the game sucks. I have an opportunity to express my tastes in game ratings.
(21) I will show up at the designated and agreed time frame so the game can start on time. I recognize that by being late I am inconveniencing all of the other players that have given up their time to play this game. If I am going to be late, I will call the game organizer and let them know. I will not be offended if they decide to start without me. Their time is obviously as valuable and important as mine.
(22) I will be open to trying new games and playing what the organizers and other players are proposing. I understand some people may not be as enthusiastic about my favorite game in the whole world. If the game being proposed is not one I enjoy, I will resolve to try it and be positive, or excuse myself from playing the game. I recognize that my attitude can have an effect on the other players and their enjoyment of the game.
(23) Most importantly, I commit to having fun. Games are a leisure activity and should be engaged in with a sense of fun and adventure. I hope that my commitment to the fun and social nature of gaming is contagious enough that I encourage this behavior in others. I want to be an ambassador to this rewarding and entertaining hobby.
(24) I will be very respectful of game components. Most board gamers are very protective of their games, especially collectors. Not only do they want to keep their games in good condition, a lot of them are hard to come by and can be very expensive. Some games, for example, have many cards. I will not bend, tap, rub or do anything that will mark or damage the cards.