It seems like some of us don’t understand that what we do is ‘just a game,’ and games are supposed to be fun. I used to game with a guy (notice I said “used to”) who would chastise anyone who said “it’s just a game,” and of course, being the well-balanced human being that I am, I said it as often as possible. What did that accomplish, you might ask? It made me feel better, perhaps at the expense of another. But I wasn’t lying and I said it with a smile on my face. Incidentally, he wasn’t very good at wargaming.
As I get older, I find that I’m much better at just enjoying the game. Sure, I would rather win than lose, but I would rather lose than not play. Yes, I can get frustrated when things don’t go my way, but I try to handle it with humor. The frustration I get from losing will subside and the humor helps cover the disappointment. Also, as I get older, I seem to be able to handle these situation better. Perhaps I’m almost grown-up. Grandma said it was bound to happen.
There are several types of complaining dolt. Here are the types that annoy me the most: the ones who complain about the rules, the ones who complain about the other person’s move and the ones who complain about their die rolls.
The ones who complain about the rules are usually on shaky grounds to begin with. Their usual complaint is “that’s not realistic.” What part of ‘it’s a game’ don’t they understand? And just who’s realism are they talking about anyway? Realism, I’m sorry to say (not really), is generally relative to the observer. When I was younger, I was sometimes guilty of this, but I tried to keep it between me and my closest friends. It was not a crusade to convert the world to my universe. If a game is fun for the players, isn’t that the most important thing?
Complaining about the rules while you are playing a game seems pointless, if not childish. And, once again, I was guilty of this when I was younger. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my youth. I was a nice guy, perhaps a little warped, but most of us who play with little army men are just a wee bit touched.
If you agree to play a game, then play the game. And to play you need the rules. Perhaps you don’t like the rules, but complaining during the game detracts from your fellow gamers’ enjoyment. The time to discuss the rules is after the game, when you are having the beverage of your choice and explaining what great moves you made. I recommend you lighten up on the realistic mantra. If the game doesn’t suit your suspension of disbelief, then the game is not for you. As for realism, whose realism are you talking about? We all can interpret things we’ve read differently or have different sources for our prejudices, but claiming this is unrealistic is usually not a valid criticism. Yes there are rules that stretch most knowledgeable people’s belief. I suggest you stay away from these games, but if you’ve agreed to play, do not gripe about the rules or realism during the game.
The people who complain about their opponent’s move, often getting out a ruler and proving with geometric logic that their opponent’s move was invalid, seem mighty insecure and rude. Yes, I have moved my little guys too far or incorrectly but it was an honest mistake. If politely questioned I would admit my error, laugh it off, and ask my little guys to obey the rules. But some hawk-eyed players like to measure your move before you make it. These guys have issues, and I suggest alcohol or therapy. I always suspect these tedious people of fudging their moves, and they never let me down. In their mind, if they do it then you must, also. That’s good logic for an insecure little man.
A few years ago, I was playing with a new group that was an hour’s drive from me. We were playing Sword and the Flame. I had moved a platoon a fraction more that my maximum movement allowance. Then the host, without saying much, grabbed my little fellows and moved them back an inch. Now the old Glenn Kidd would have had a few Shakespearean words with the jerk, but the older and somewhat wiser Glenn said nothing. But I never went back.
Bad die rolls are the bane of most gamers. They happen. Get over it. I seem to have to say this a lot. Keep a stiff upper lip, and as with most of life’s misfortunes, humor helps. I do believe that it’s possible there are some people who are slightly more fortunate with their die rolls than others, but just slightly. Then there are those who carry the burden of bad die rolls. Perchance you are one of these somber creatures? I’ll guarantee that your rolls are not as bad as you think, and your memories of failed die rolls are just more prevalent. Last year I conducted another experiment while playing DBA. My opponent constantly complained about his die rolls, so much so that I started joking with him about his plight. I told him that the ancient gods had been awakened and they didn’t like him. My experiment was simple and performed over four games. I recorded all rolls, separating the movement rolls from the combat rolls. The average die roll for a 6-sided die is 3.5, a number which, of course, you can’t roll a 3.5, but it is the mathematical average roll. After the games, which he lost three out of four, I asked him how he did. Once again, he said “my die rolls cost me at least one of the games!” But the recorded numbers showed otherwise. His overall move rolls for movement were slightly less than 3.5, while my movement rolls were better than his, but his combat rolls averaged over 3.6 and my combat rolls were slightly less than 3.5. The difference was that I had more than twice as many flanking attacks as he did (and that made all the difference).
This was not the first time I have done this experiment. A few years before, I lost a DBA game I should have won and I did have bad die rolls in that game, so I decided to track the rolls in my future games. As it turned out, over several games they nearly averaged out. In fact, my movement rolls were better than average. Looking at these experiments over several games, which were just slightly better than anecdotal but still provide some insight into the phenomenon, bad die rolls are pretty much a distorted perception. Realizing this, losing a critical die roll doesn’t hurt as much and I have more fun. And, of course, we all can have bad games, sometimes dreadful games, but this too shall pass.
I have found that my experiment has helped me have more fun. Bad die rolls are transitory, and that gut-wrenching feeling is far less of a burden. After the game, a few drinks with your friend will help. I recommend alcohol but that’s just me.
One last word about those lucky few. If they win most of their games, it’s more than luck. Most accomplished lucky player make their own luck. They usually outmaneuver and outplay their opponents, but as humans we rationalize and tend to make excuses for our losses. The other guy must have been lucky or we were unlucky, or perhaps both. You can lose a game to bad luck, but you can’t lose most games to bad luck.
How do you handle someone who is a nuisance because of his complaining? The best treatment is humor and lots of it. If that doesn’t work, then perhaps a little talk and ultimately ostracization. But remember, we all have bad days and perhaps a little kindness helps.
Other than tournaments or conventions, the vast majority of games are played by friends and fellow gamers that belong to a group. Routinely, these groups are partly social. It seems to me that the members or friends should conduct themselves with some civility and good old-fashioned manners. Sure, we can make allowances for bad hair days, but the constant bad behavior of some should be discouraged. Some groups have a probationary period before a candidate can become a full member. That sounds good to me. Even with this, some problem people creep in. Learn some social skills to deal with these types of people. The same skills can help you in all other parts of your life, too.
Complaining about a game during a game is bad manners and your mother taught you better. Let’s have fun, do the best you can and don’t get too bothered by the misfortunes that are not of our making. Perhaps it’s hard to do, but we definitely can try.