Tabletop Do’s and Don’t’s: Part 1

Tabletop gaming is a social experience. You get together with a bunch of friends – or a bunch of total strangers with a potential of becoming your gaming buddies – and compete or cooperate over a pile of cardboard, plastic and wood spread on a table. And when you do, remember that the fun everyone will have is dependent as much on not just the game, but the people around.

Okay, let’s stop for a moment, so I can tell you two things. One: I know there are games designed for a single player, and that there are people who play solitaire. If you’re among the people who play alone, this article will obviously not be for you (unless even when soloing you get irritated by your own company – in which case, read on). Two: this is the first part of a two-parter. Yes, its negative, but I wanted to get this out of the way, before we get to the good stuff.

So, with that out of the way, let’s jump right into a short list of things you probably should cut down on if you’re the offender – or have a heart to heart about with the person who is. This short list is by no means meant to be exhaustive. In fact, I encourage you to add more examples. Just remember that we are often as quick to see other people’s faults, as we are slow to notice ours.

The Bender

Board games are not meant to last forever (I wrote about this in a recent post), and most of the gaming community seems to agree that they are meant to be played. This means that some stuff (cards, tokens) will get damaged over time – and for most people it’s okay. However, that does not mean you need to facilitate the process.

Yes, some people are simply crazy about preserving their games in mint condition, and yes, it may be irritating to those of us who simply want to play the game, but if you’ve sat down to play somebody else’s game, the way game components are handled is up to the owner. If they ask you not to bend the cards or constantly rub your fingers against the tokens, just do as you’re told.

Treat someone else’s property with a bit of respect, as that person sprung some hard-earned money to buy it. And if you think they are being unreasonable, before you say anything, remember that as long as the copy you’re playing does not belong to you, it’s not your call to make.

The Cyberman

This one has only been said hundreds of times now, but it’s not become less irritating over time, so I’ll say it as well: stop fiddling with your phone. Stop checking your emails, messangers and twitters all the time, especially if someone else is in the process of explaining the game. And no, waving somebody off with a half-absent “I’m listening” is not a solution.

Actually, when you do that, you are showing the person making the effort that you really don’t care about them, and the effort itself. You also don’t care about pretty much anyone else at the table, as you’ll take other people’s time hostage the moment you inevitably make them wait until you finish texting, or have someone explain something you claimed to have been listening to just recently.

On the other hand, don’t be the person who makes everyone shut off their phones when they sit down to play. People have lives outside of gaming (hard to believe, right?), worrying spouses, friends, or potential clients looking to hire them. So, don’t chastise a person who excuses themselves to pick up an important call, or one that will use some downtime to send a text – even if they do it only to brag on Twitter that they’re handing you your own buttocks on a silver platter – as long as they don’t hold the game.

The Bully

Don’t bully other people. Seems simple, right? Well, you can become a bully and sometimes not even know this, as people differ in terms of sensitivities – and some individuals suffer from social anxieties that make it surprisingly effortless to lean on them, and mentally twist their arm into doing something, they’d otherwise not do.

While being absolutely aware of these things is simply impossible, you can at leas make an effort (and probably sense when you’re crossing another person’s boundaries). So, if you feel like you’re getting close to hauling somebody out of their comfort zone, just stop whatever you’re doing. It’s better to let an opportunity for a good joke go away, than to be a jerk.

There is also a special category of bullies, one you’d not expect to be bullies at all: whiners. Although they seem like the total opposite, they are essentially doing the same thing, and that’s trying to make other people do what they’d want them to do. So, if you’re a person that always whines about everybody ganging up on you – especially right before someone makes a move you’d want them not to make – simply stop. You’re being a bully, and a weird one to boot.

The End?

As far as lists of bad things go, I could probably go on and on – but I think we had enough negativity for today. Next time I’ll talk about the things that are certainly worth doing when gaming, so that it becomes better for all of us.

Stay tuned!

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