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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tales From The Crypt, Part 1

Playing one of Mike’s new Essen scores last night with our group, Whiskey Race, it became clear that six players was about two too many. Tim, who has a very pleasant demeanor, was in the process of coasting into fifth in front of me, made some comments about how a particular move was worthwhile because it would get the game over with quicker. I in turn mentioned that it was fortunate that at least the company was good, which made him laugh and agree.

I’ve played both wargames and euros at cons, and I am here to tell you that while there are very nice people out there who share the hobby, I am much more likely to enjoy a wargame with a stranger than a euro or even a strategy game like 7 Ages. I am very fortunate to have such a great group of people to game with on a regular basis, for I have a couple of horror stories that illustrate what it’s like to play with those who are less socially gifted.

The story I shall now relate to you happened at World Boardgaming Championships, the red-headed stepchild of the old AvalonCon. WBC is mostly about wargames, but they have steadily added euro tournaments over the years. I usually spend Saturdays recovering from a few days of serious sleep deprivation, but this particular year I decided to get into the Settlers tournament.

First of all, I should say that I play for the social interaction, the game “story,” and the thrill of competition, roughly in that order, so the idea of playing a euro as part of a tournament doesn’t appeal to me as much as a friendly game. Still, I thought it would be nice to get some different approaches to the game by seeing how other people played. How naïve I was…

Game 1 had one other knowledgeable player and a newbie. We were playing with the usual setup rules (first player places one settlement, then second, etc, then reverse order), and the experienced player went first. He immediately began moaning that he had lost the game. In fact, every time the slightest thing went against him, he moaned some more. Now, I am the first person to admit that there can be good fun in moaning, but it requires there to be others at the table who know you well and who are willing to run with the joke, but in this case, the moaning was simply annoying.

To make matters worse, the newbie totally set me up on multiple occasions. To be fair, this is Settlers, and in a friendly game you go in knowing that people who haven’t played can tip the game to others with no intention of doing so. Still, it was unsatisfying for me (clearly moreso for Mr Whiney) to win in such a manner. I have learned from experience not to be “helpful” at WBC tournaments with multi-player games, as you eventually piss someone off you don’t intend to, so I wasn’t helping this poor player out as I would in a friendly game.

At the next table, I had three very good players that were actually fun to play with. The problem in this case was that we were in “prison-style” seating (long tables lined up parallel to each other), and the tables were so close that people tended to bump the back of their chair into the person immediately behind them. One player and an extremely loud and shrill woman got into a pissing contest on who had dibs on personal space. It was straight out of a movie, no lie. At least this game was competitive and enjoyable, despite the fact that I came in fourth.

Now came the cat’s pajamas, as I was assigned to the table from hell. One younger guy, who appeared to be fairly sane, a guy in his late 20’s from California (at this point, I was thrilled to see anyone from my coast), and a gentlemen in his 60’s who played the game with his wife and other couples. OK, “gentleman” is the wrong word, I should use the phrase “sociopath” instead. This guy took 10 minutes to take his turn, then immediately started urging the next player to hurry up. And that was just the start. I’m pretty sure this guy had graduated from the Bobby Fischer School of Opponent Intimidation, if at the bottom of his class.

You see, he tried to be intimidating, but only succeeded in making the guy from California cranky (to the point where I thought fisticuffs were imminent), and convincing the other players that a trade embargo was in order. Not that this made his turns any shorter, mind you. I’m the youngest kid in my family, which means I really dislike conflict, and this was perhaps the most uncomfortable game I have ever played. Other than being forced to beat a 10 year old in the Lost Cities tournament that evening, even if I did spot him one game.

As if to show that there really is a God, The Crank From Hell came in last, and I’d decided that perhaps three rounds of this sort of pain was enough for one day, if not for the rest of my life. You could not pay me to enter a Settlers tournament at this point. OK, you could, but it would have to be a significant sum. I guess that the next year they started allowing people to drink alcoholic beverages while playing, which might actually help the person drinking, but certainly not the people around them. They better use plastic bottles or someone will get hurt.

It is so about who you play with.

8 Comments:

  • At 12:16 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "Now, I am the first person to admit that there can be good fun in moaning, but it requires there to be others at the table who know you well and who are willing to run with the joke, but in this case, the moaning was simply annoying."

    It's probably not suprising to you that I can be that guy. At GameStorm, I put on my work-like persona, but at Oasis of Fun, I get overly familiar (given the cozy atmosphere) and act like I do in our gaming group, which all too often falls flat. BGG.CON will be a good test for me.

    I always thought that "the cat's pajamas" was a ludicrous phrase, until I read http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010102; now I *know* it is ludicrous.

     
  • At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Tim said…

    And a comment - thanks for dragging me out of the pissy mood I'd been descending into while playing the Whiskey Race, your comment about the company was just what I needed to bring myself to out of a bad mood that had been developing!

    That being said - I'm not too keen to play that particular game again (but given the huge pile of loot at Mikes, we probably wouldn't anyway ;).

    I agree entirely about the company, if that weren't obvious already!

    Tim

     
  • At 1:49 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    Yeah, you were starting to look a tad perturbed there, Tim.

    That being said, I'd like to try Whisky race again. With four, and preferably four people that have played it before. I do feel it's a game that has some merit, but it's fiddly and long.

    Then again, it's probably the AGAT part of me popping up again.

     
  • At 2:50 PM, Blogger Iain said…

    You have definitely convinced me never to get involved in tournaments, especially for multiplayer games. They seem to bring out the worst in people

     
  • At 10:33 PM, Blogger Matthew Gagan said…

    I played in roughly a score of Magic the Gathering tournaments back in the day. I've some stories that would likely top any sour boardgaming tournament tales.

    I choose not to relive those days...

    Playing with friends was always a lot of fun though...

     
  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    Tournaments do bring out the worst when there is even a cheap piece of plastic that declares someone the winner. I'll give another example from WBC in a future column.

    However, the vast majority of people I gamed with in 2-player games, and even in the more complex strategy games like History of the World or Age of Renaissance, were very pleasant people, frequently willing to allow all sorts of silliness in the name of having a good time and a good game.

    Doug

     
  • At 9:46 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    I don't even want to think about what insanity lurks at a CCG tournament. Another reason to avoid gaming crack.

     
  • At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Rita H. said…

    "convincing the other players that a trade embargo was in order"

    I seem to remember a Sun River trade embargo during a "friendly" game of Settlers.

     

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