Hello to all of you lovely board gamers out there! This post may be a tad longer than the usual, but I feel it covers some important issues about playing board games with other people. Today, we are going to talk about something that you might not think about when you go to a game night: board game etiquette. Some of this will cover your attitude when playing games, and some of it will cover the actual game and pieces.
They very first (and one of the most important to me) is respect the actual game. That game is the property of someone else, and they are very graciously allowing you to play their game. You might think that this comes somewhat intuitively. But, it doesn’t. What I mean by respecting the game is this: treat the board, the pieces, the cards, and whatever else might come with the game carefully. Don’t bend the cards! Don’t curl the cards. This is a big thing for board gamers. A lot of these games can run in the price range of $70 to $100. If it is a game with a lot of components or expansions or extra storage stuff (like Scythe or Terraforming Mars), that price can easily double. So, the person who is graciously allowing you to play their game has likely dropped a decent chunk of change on this game. If you bend or curl or tear the cards, there is potential that the game is no longer playable. Some gamers use sleeves to protect the cards, if there is a sleeve on the card, please leave the sleeve on the card. There is no need to remove the card! Should a player call you out for bending a card, don’t get defensive about it. Apologize and attempt to straighten the card (if you can do so without further damaging the card). You may discover that you just can’t hold a hand of cards without curling them, in that case, you don’t need to hold your cards. Simply leave them in a stack at your spot and pick them up as you need them. If you drop a piece, and it does happen, let everyone know so that they can help you find the piece. I’ve found that most players will pause the game to help look for a game piece that fell on the floor. Some of those pieces are expensive. Realistic resource tokens and metal coins can easily run $20 to $30.
Respecting the game also applies to food and drink. Please pay attention to your fingers. If you are eating something greasy, it is polite to wipe your hands off before touching the cards and game components. The same goes for your drinks. Make sure you aren’t going to knock a drink over and have it spill all over the game. Our group is lucky in that Kyle has made drink holders to help protect the games from spills. But, if you don’t have drink holders and the game owner asks that drinks not be around the game, you need to respect that and move your drink or don’t play that game. There is an unspoken rule that applies to board games and spills. If something spills on the game, every single person at the table needs to help save the game from the spill. Again, this is a game that someone spent a lot of money on, they want you to help save the game.
When the game is over, help clean up the game. Unless the owner specifically tells you not to. There are some storage things that only fit one way, and it is easier for the person who knows the game to put it away. Let’s take my Terraforming Mars game for example, I have the Broken Token storage containers. The storage pieces only fit into the box in a certain configuration. So, I’ll ask people to put all the components back into the separate containers and reset their game board to zero, but I’ll do the actual putting away of the storage containers because I don’t want them to get damaged. That being said, you should always make sure that you have finished cleaning up a game before you open another game. This will avoid cross contamination of the games. There is nothing like opening up a game to play and discovering that you are missing some pieces only to find the pieces weeks later when you open up a different game.
On to your attitude and behavior. Put your phone away and be engaged in what you are doing. Now, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this one. I do try to keep my phone away and only pull it out to check the time if needed or answer a text message from Number One. It’s one thing to be searching on BoardGameGeek.com for an answer to a question that the rule book doesn’t address, but you don’t need to be scrolling through Facebook or Reddit while playing. You don’t want to be so engrossed in your phone that you have no idea what is going on in the game and miss your turn.
Be engaged in the game. For me, this means staying at the game and paying attention to what is going on. Pay attention to the rules when they are being explained. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. It’s fine to get up and leave the table when needed, you need to go order another beer at the bar or run to the restroom. No one is going to complain about that. If you get up and go watch TV at the bar or start an involved conversation with someone not at the game table and you are holding up the game because it is your turn? People are going to complain about that. Honestly, I can’t say that I blame them.
This one is for my veteran gamers, don’t play the game for someone else. You can offer advice and clarification if asked for, but don’t flat out tell someone “This is what you should do.” I find that this is often a problem in co-op games. One person takes charge and runs the game and player moves. That isn’t fun. If someone is playing the game for the first time, help them if asked and be lenient about changing a move. It’s a learning experience, and it is supposed to be fun.
Lastly, don’t be a spoilsport. Everybody loses a game. Some of us lose games more often than others. It’s not a reason to pout and get upset. It is just a game, after all. If you are frustrated with the game, use your words and tell the person running the game. They might be able to help you so that the game isn’t frustrating. If you are playing a game and realize halfway through that you really don’t like the game and don’t want to play it again, that’s fine. Finish out the game and then don’t play the game ever again. You don’t have to like every style of game or even a particular game within a genre. Personally, I don’t like deck building games. So, if Clank! Or Dominion hits the table, I opt out.
To recap, respect the game and the game play and you will always be welcomed to play games.