11 Dec 2013

The bad side of the Table

I don't get to spend much time with my local gamer club since work is made up of overnights and weekends but alas 'c'est la vie'. I have been lucky to show folks some games that includes Warmachine, Hordes and a few other. Meanwhile I've also been introduced to some games or newer versions of games that have been out for a while and have changed since I last played.

Getting behind the dice with a new player or with a vet who's an expert in their particular game for the first time can be a bit unnerving. The whole experience is up in the air. Will you have a good game, will you have fun, will the other player be nice or a jerk once the numbered plastic spins across the table...

Well I've had a few good experiences but then I saw this again.
From: Penny Arcade
used without permission
Then I paused and wondered why? Shortly with a beer in hand the question vanished and I figured there are some dark sides to the table and I guess it's a good topic to bring up.

I've already posted about losing with some grace. The post does need an editor's fine tooth comb but I'm unwilling to re-write that due to time and other posts that are in the works. I want to know why people react the way they did last time I played. Was it a result of my sportsmanship? Did the dice or card gods take away the option of chance? Was it a poor match up? What are the reasons and factors for behaviour post game that leaves a bitter taste for everyone to witness shitty losing?

I've always tried to a be a good sportsman. I like to shake hands after a game weather I win or lose. It's a moment that re-affirms to me and my opponent(s) that it was just a game and I appreciate the opportunity to simply play. With some folks who I play on a regular basis, because they also have the same time frame of consciousness in the 24 period we call a day, I won't shake that much but it does pop back up with some regularity.

Not a real Magic the Gathering Card
but very nice to look at and wish
Dear Wizards of the Coast: get on this idea.
I play lots of Magic the Gathering during lunch at work and it's normally me and a young gent, Sylvester. During the match we trash talk but we never go too far. We acknowledge when the card gods from the coast have forsaken us with no land ask promptly ask for a re-match when the game is simply going through the motions. When I was first playing Sylvester I always shook his hand post game. Now it happens less frequently but that's because we're slowly becoming chums and partners in crime during the hours of work.

This handshake established what I was looking for in a player when I started playing Sylvester. He grew to know what I expected from an opponent and fellow player. It was one of those bullet points on how games would go and what type of experience I was looking for no matter win or loss. That was in August. Games are going great and we are learning from each other. We have found some fun during the lunch hours found in the wee hours of what you normals call... morning... or midnight. We're playing more than one game and the table experience is pretty good so far.

When the fickle lords of fate leave you what are you expected to do. Already I've mentioned above, I fold my cards explain I'm pooched and ask for them to accept my forfeit. We end the game, look down the road not taken and ready for a next match. When I'm playing with my minis the same applies. I've asked the player across me if they don't mind a win and if we can continue to play.

The last couple of events I've been too (not enough for my taste), I've used this to speed up game results so I can try out crazy tactics and see what can I do when the on the edge of the cliff. We also involve the TO aka Tournament Organizer, in case they have other games on the wing or need to space to set up. We go over how much time we muck around on the table before going back into the trenches of the event. It also added a relaxing breath of fresh air to the event when you're always alert and on the go. The event may start to lose it's fun factor and this example will throw some joy back into the game. You'd be surprised on how many players take the opportunity to chill at the table and just try things that they'd never dare during an event.

In the event of a poor matchup be aware of this as a player. During a tournament be extra polite and sensitive. Picking a bad matchup can be a sore spot for folks who are in the running for the title. Suddenly the reason they've been putting so much effort into the event is slipping away as they see their possible title runners get better chances. Right away try to nip that in the bud. Don't fold the game but be polite and understand that they're in a uphill fight. Encourage them and call out good plays. Try to reel in the positive player. See how that affects their loss, if it ends up that way. If they win as possible in this hobby, congrats them as per norm and make mention about how much of a uphill they had.

Nice mini
Brutal Rules
One of my worst matchups was not so much my Warcaster but my build. I'm playing OniNoFro and he's got a really tooled up list with eHaylie while my Seige list is looking like target practice for OniNoFro's army. Looking at the lists I still remember that I was looking at the wrong end of the guns and I brought too many other things to a gunfight. I was hoping to play an odd Cygnar list to throw my more experienced opponent off track and it almost worked. I played the game, paying attention to my own attitude. I almost pulled a win under the effect of eHaylie's feat but I was one damage away from a win before OniNoFro finished off the game. For those of you not in the know, eHaylie's feat is like getting slapping in the man bits with your own expired pooch.

Thinking back to that match up, OniNoFro was really encouraging and was really forward with the congrats of a well played game. It's still my greatest tournament moment today. I'm proud of I how I almost climbed that bloody hill and claimed victory. It was also a fun game because even with the poor matchup both players put that extra bit of effort towards making it a fun game even if the odds were not in my favor. OniNoFro did not placate me or go easy he congratulated me on where I did well and respected me as a player.

Outside of the tournament scene I've played a few other games and they were less fun. I played a vet of the Heroclix game in my 2nd match this side of 2010 and he ruined me in a brutal game. It was not very fun because he was a poor sportsman. He laughed at me and told me my list was stupid. There was no 'good play' or 'nice idea' - it was 'that was dumb' and 'why did you do that'. He expected me to know better but never taught me anything. The biggest thing I learned from that match was what I didn't like about the game how much I dislike being bullied. I don't play that person anymore and they don't ask why because he understands he played like a jerk. That's the type of table environment they prefer but I play for fun... not hostility.

Cheese gamers is another bad matchup. Cheese gamers are hard to define. Exploiting a weakness in the match is fine. Good example is Jay Larson's win where he used his Stormwall to armlock he opponent's heavy 'jack and hold off his opponent at the end of the match for a last minute win. That's part of the game. I feel that exploiting a weakness in the mechanics of the game outside of the match is pretty boring to dickish and there are extremes of this type of mentality. I hope to think that falls around the amount of fun both players are expected to have with such a Cheese matchup.

The reward to beat a person when you exploit a open flank is much different than exploiting a poor mechanic before the match. It drops the fun factor and I'd think would result in a person getting a poor sportsmanship vote in the event. By the by I hope more and more events have voting for positive sportsmanship.

Here is an example of Cheese gamer and how it can change an event.

Look at that line of Scouts
I may no longer play 40k but I still like Scouts
During the normal deployment/setup phase, Shooter places his commander on the field. In Warhammer, two players are supposed to take turns - deploying and counter-deploying until everything is on the field. However, Wheels announces that he's deploying nothing - he'll hold his entire force in reserve (as he planned all along). Shooter places a row of scouts into a single thin skirmish line covering Wheels' entire edge of the table. Scouts can be deployed anywhere, but anti-cheese rules prevent him putting a scout within 30 cm of an opposing unit, but there are no opposing units anywhere on the field and so the rule is moot. Tactically, these scouts are fucked - they have no cover, no support, and they're on open ground. As soon as the opposing cavalry takes the field, these guys will die. The deployment phase ends. It's now Wheels' turn. Shooter informs him that the game is over. Wheels can't actually deploy any of his motorcycles - anti-cheese rules prevent him from placing a reserve unit within 5cm of an enemy model. There isn't a single 5cm gap anywhere on Wheels' edge of the field. Wheels' entire force is doomed to sit uselessly "in reserve" until the game ends, at which point he'll lose automatically because Shooter controls the entire map. The tournament officials declared that Shooter's interpretation of the rules was technically correct and granted him the victory. And now you know why Shooter is smiling while Wheels is poring over a rulebook.

That's bloody funny. I love that the other player is smiling and happy and he's the only one with minis on the table. I do note the fire fought with fire in the example but I also accept the just deserts for the player labeled as a Cheese gamer. I'd hope to beat the other player or take advantage that some Cheese gamers have a single weakness.

I regularly faced a block of Karchev, Behemoth and Heavy Khador with only the small unit of Mechanics. Two things stopped that cheese from playing me. Getting whipped and always facing my pNemo (my fire vs fire story) or by being forced to play a different point value. I didn't mind playing that match up once in a while but it's a beefy brick and after a while I figured the reason my opponent always played it was because he knew the limits of my own mini collection and the limits of my selection. That's getting a bit ripe but I rarely play the guy anymore and he's learned his focused list is not perfect in tournaments.

I hate not being able to spend more time playing my Hordes and Warmachine armies. I've started playing some other games that fall within my timeframe and player selection. Yet I'm still hard at work, painting my Skorne and getting my Swans done. Keeping and finding new players and not discouraging them from playing is a big deal for me right now.

Sometimes the games we play bring out the worst in others and that's not so much fun. Good rule to go by is to be nice and polite. Let the jerk burn out and trust the community of positive gamers to help limit the poor jack ass' movements. That player will find less and less folks to play with and over time leave the game or learn what is acceptable behaviour through our own reactions.

"Don't be a dick" - Will Wheaton