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Game Netiquette

Posted by Denny Koch on May 5, 2010

Wargame conventions and game meetings are a combination of some appealing factors – an exciting scenario, many hours which are exclusively dedicated to  The Hobby without everyday stress disturbing your concentration, an easy-going atmosphere determined by victory and defeat and the inspiring exchange with others who share your hobby.

These maneuvers, battle days, cons, game fests (or whatever name you may choose) are events promising a good time – and most likely will keep this promise! But sometimes, in the heat of battle, things may happen which disturb the good atmosphere. Maybe different, incompatible behaviors collide with each other.

In order to avoid such things and to guarantee good time for everyone, some advice for having a good time together – the “HFC Netiquette“.

Before the game starts….

If you select a game you already played before, tell your opponent. Tell him about your experiences with this game and your opinion about the balance. Despite the fact that both players face the same situation, being familiar with a game can be a huge advantage, for example in an ASL scenario where you know important LOS questions etc.. This isn’t a problem if your opponent knows about it and is able to judge the situation. Not to tell him isn’t fair.

If a game was selected which is slightly unbalanced for one side, inform your opponent! So-called dogs are very interesting for some players who love this challenge (“playing the underdog”) or who are interested in the historical accuracy often portrayed in these games, while others dislike them as unfair. If you know that a game is a dog, give your opponent the chance to know what to expect.

In games requiring a set up which is done one after the other, allow your opponent to do his setup alone. Even if you don’t watch him, your presence could be quite disturbing. Some games even require to do the setup out of sight (for example games where counters are hidden or concealed).

A game with almost no setup time: Up Front

Try not to extend your set up time. You should find an acceptable compromise between the necessity to create the optimal set up and the fact that a long setup is quite unnerving for your opponent. It is not polite to let him wait for 2 hours, until he can do his setup. If you know in advance which game will be played, work on your “perfect setup” at home (maybe with the help of a VASSAL module or on a sheet of paper), so that you can avoid long considerations. But tell your opponent if you use an already worked out set up!

Whichever game you play, you will soon realize that there is one phase in each Sequence of play-system which isn’t explicitly named in the rulebook, but which belongs to the old wargaming traditions: the TaPPh – Taunt and Pose Phase, the pre-game phase in which mocking comments should inspire your opponent… this is okay, but you should take care of not overdoing this and always respect the thin line between friendly mocking and insulting. The wrong words could destroy games even before they began…

During the game…

Using tweezers in hex and counter consims avoids causing counter chaos

Shake hands and / or wish your opponent good luck. It is a matter of politeness and shows your respect.

Avoid to manipulate your opponent’s counters / figures. Besides the diversion, this can lead to vital problems, for example when you forget that you aren’t allowed to inspect specific stacks or if you receive illegal information by you overturning or pushing your opponent’s stacks. This could spoil a game.

Get accustomed to a “clean gameplay” which doesn’t force your opponent to tidy up your chaotic stacks when playing with counters – take care that your stacks are stacked correctly after finishing your moves and that your counters are sorted in the force pools etc.. Besides the fact that players get disturbed by chaotic counter piles, this may unbalance the informational situation. A player with a tidy force pool which provides enough information on his military options is disadvantaged if his opponent piles his counters in a chaotic way which doesn’t reveal any information about its contents. In addition, a careful treatment of counters minimizes the danger of losing a counter (which is quite annoying, especially in a consim where each counter plays an important role and often cannot be replaced).

Don’t tell your opponent that he is narrow-minded because he doesn’t allow you to correct mistakes – even if you don’t have problems with reminding him or if you are accustomed to a more generous treatment. All original rules should be followed strictly – and some rules explicitly don’t allow the correcting of mistakes in hindsight  (Squad Leader, Totaler Krieg, Up Front – “a card laid is a card played”) once the phase is over – the consequences must be suffered from. In some games (SL) the opponent isn’t even obliged to tell his partner about a past mistake and may use this to his advantage. Here good rules knowledge is very helpful! Last but not least, opponents (I don’t mean newbies here) who forget things on a regular base or who complain if you don’t remind them of their options permanently, are quite unnerving.

Fast games are ideal for tournament play: 21, 22, 23... you hit the wall (Circus Maximus)

Even in games which don’t have such strict rules, we try to follow this guideline – this simulates realism (in reality, a battle may be won because the enemy missed an important fact), and it enhances the motivation to study the rules, because not knowing your rules causes disadvantages.

Nevertheless, you should inform your opponent that he made a mistake when his turn is finished. This supports learning a game, and you don’t have to wonder what your victory is worth if it was based on your opponent’s lack of rules knowledge. Nobody can force you, but to say nothing about it in order to get an advantage, isn’t good sportsmanship.

Generally, nothing prevents you from gaining “gentlemen points” by allowing your opponent to correct an error or make up a missed action. This supports a good gaming atmosphere. But you shouldn’t expect these points, and you aren’t automatically entitled to be treated that way. If in doubt, follow this rule of thumb: once a phase is over, your chance is gone. Quit whining and bear the consequences of your mistake or failure!

Watch out that your hints or comments on rules don’t hurt or humiliate your opponent. Don’t give advice just to make your opponent look like an idiot, but do this in order to help him in getting things right. The game should be exciting and funny for all players. Behaving like a senior teacher could scare away newbies from the hobby. Such a behavior is unfair, unnecessary, and destroys the basis for having a good time among friends.

Be careful about your language and the volume of your voice, especially when playing in public. Not everybody enjoys an opponent who uses loud swearwords each time he loses a combat, and some people are even repelled by such a person.

No ASL games without the famous LOS checks...

If you encounter problems, for example in LOS checks or with rules questions, try to solve them quickly. Ask a third person or note the problem to solve it later by posting it in a forum (Boardgamegeek, Consimworld) or by mailing it to the designer. Try to find a provisional solution in order to continue the game or let a friendly die decide if you cannot agree on how to solve the problem. If you have the choice between quitting the game because you cannot solve the problem, or finishing the game, even if your solution proves wrong in the aftermath, continue to play the game. This is especially true when newbies try to learn a game on their own, because you won’t finish many games in the beginning if you break off once you encounter a rules problem. Once you made a decision, avoid discussing this decision during the game. The true value of continuing the game is not to disturb the game flow – not to eventually solve the problem during play.

Don’t complain about your mistakes or bad dice results. You don’t change the situation, but you annoy your opponent. Being happy about good results or a clever coup is okay. Insulting your opponent isn’t!

There's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of beer during a game

It’s okay to enjoy a few beers during a game. But a game convention shouldn’t be abused as an opportunity for heavy drinking, which will most certainly lead to disturbing other players with your behavior. Heavy drinking during a game could easily spoil a game, for example by not being able to judge a situation or by throwing counters or dice over the table – this isn’t fair, because your opponent tries to play a serious and interesting game. You also shouldn’t annoy other visitors with drunken behavior. It is also very important not to embarrass the organizers by soiling the location (for example by vomiting or other alcohol excesses) or to damage other players’ reputations by bad, drunken behavior in public, thus repelling potential interested people.

All people want quick playing and don’t enjoy if each counter move requires 3 hours of thinking (“analysis paralysis“), but don’t rush your opponent. Don’t forget that we play strategy games, not Darts. Newbies can be repelled if they get the feeling that they are put under pressure – the less you know about the rules, the longer you think because you want to avoid making errors. If you are uncertain and feel stared at by the opponent because he is bored and wants to rush you, you make mistakes which could lead to a defeat – and many defeats demoralize. Let your opponent take his time – but remind him politely if he is trapped in an analysis paralysis.

Or a glass of japanese sake!

On the other hand, don’t play in high-speed, not letting your opponent control your actions or conducting his defensive actions if the game allows such reactions. If your opponent’s game speed is too high for you, ask him to slow down to allow you to follow his actions.

If your opponent wants to surrender because he thinks that the situation is hopeless, but you recognize that this isn’t true, tell him! If he still wants to surrender, accept it. Keep in mind that a victory is worthless if your opponent surrenders because he misjudged the situation. Limit surrenders to really hopeless situations which couldn’t be changed by continuing the game and when you could spend the time better with starting a new game. As long as even the slightest chance exists (even for a draw result), continue the game. On the one hand, this is a special challenge for you, to see how close you can get to a victory or draw under given circumstances, and on the other hand it shows the respect for your opponent, not to spoil his game and his victory. If he planned long for his strategy, even risking his defeat by taking courageous actions, it isn’t fair to take his triumph by simply surrendering. Especially a surrender minutes before game end isn’t popular among players. In a consim, you are always part of a simulation – surrendering because of technical play-related thoughts should be avoided.

Accept victory and defeat, shake hands and thank your opponent for a (hopefully) exciting game.

After the game…

Clean up the table, sort your counters or miniatures before you leave

Don’t just stand up, leave the table and let your opponent clean up. Help him pack up the game in order to save time which can be used by both players for starting a new game. If you run out of time because a game took longer than you expected, than at least sort your counters and tell your opponent why you cannot help him clean up the rest. People who leave the table after finishing a game and move over to the next table while leaving the opponent alone with all the work, are quite unpopular.

Avoid excusing your defeat by declaring that your opponent won because of his luck with the die. Don’t let others see your frustration about a defeat because complaining players spoil the atmosphere.

If time allows, talk about the just played game, analyze it with your opponent and tell him what you liked about his strategy – or what you disliked or what you thought to be a an error of judgement on your or his side. Each game is important for improving your abilities – new ideas will be readily accepted. But avoid giving a defeated opponent snobbish “Hints for the next game”. If you are the loser, take the chance to learn from a better player.

There are many hobbies for lone people out there – even wargaming can be such a hobby. But if you play with other people sharing the same enthusiasm, it is important to realize the social component of this hobby. Try to stress the fun factor of the hobby, play to have a good time and not to defeat others.

Having a beer and a good talk with a player who just beat you in a game by clever gameplay is more important than victories which make you lonely, because you annoy others by telling them how great you are…

© 2003 by HFC Homefront Wargame Center

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