Published on June 28th, 2013 | by Nicole Jekich

Top 5 Board Gaming Etiquette Tips

Attending your first board game event? Or is someone pulling out a board game during a party? Don’t worry! You are a master of both courtesy and fun because you read my Top 5 Board Gaming Etiquette article. I compiled this list of the most common offenses seen in public gaming and offer suggestions about how to avoid them.

1. Drink Placement Strategy:

Spilt drinks is by far the biggest issue I’ve seen playing games in public settings. I love sugary sodas, frothy beers and scalding coffees just as much as the next gamer, but the twinge fear in the board game host’s eye when I sit down and plop my sweating drink next to their imported, out-of-print, $70 board game has made me rethink how I approach playing games with strangers. I know people who have board games that are more precious than any family member. Many of these friends bring these precious games to public events and allow strangers to experience a great game. It is only courteous players watch their drink placement.

If possible, drink in a sealed container.  Keeping drinks off the table, whether in your opposite hand or under the table are the most ideal ways to avoid drink spills. The Across the Board Games crew often meet at our friendly, local gaming space Raygun Lounge where open bottles and mugs of coffee are unavoidable. In these cases, keep sweating drinks on coasters so no condensation leaks onto the board or pieces in front of you. Also, keep opened drinks away from your wingspan. Ask yourself, “Is this game a worker placement where you are constantly getting up and moving pieces all over the board?” It is probably best to keep the drink in front of you and away from your dominant hand. Also, if you notice other players with drinks, try to be cautious when standing up. I’ve seen many table bumps that have sent multiple hands jutting to catch the wobbled beverage.

2. Hunger Games:

Nothing calms me down after a stressful day at work than to sit down with some friends, a pack of beer and a hot meal while playing a few rounds of the DC Deckbuilding Game, Fiasco or even some good ol’ Risk Legacy. Many of us grab dinner to go to maximize the amount of game time. Most nights looking around the table and seeing everyone’s food selection, I know we are gaming professionals: Kyle eats a paper-wrapped sandwich over a clean plate; Luke keeps his chicken teriyaki at bay with lop-sided chopsticks and the rest of us enjoy an assortment of Chinese food. Pizza, chips and other greasy finger food are out of the question for our group–risking a character card or cutout pieces with a permanent impression of your grease fingerprint is not the best way to remember a game night! When eating around games, keep food a safe distance away or even having a separate table for food is a great idea. There is plenty of down time between turns where players can break to eat. Also, never pass food over a board game! I’ve seen this before and trust me that a General Tso chicken nugget is not considered an extra game piece.

3. Doing the Shuffles:

Riffle Shufflers stay away! Gaming cards are too easily damaged and are nearly impossible to replace. Extra cards are not sold separately. They are not a Bicycle 52 card pack that easily bounces back from rough treatment. A deckbuilder could have players shuffling their cards 20 or more times throughout one game! These cards will be well-loved, well over so do not add to their unavoidable wear-n-tear my riffle or bridge shuffling. My recommendation is to use weaving shuffle: hold a deck of cards on its side and pull cards at the top of the deck and drop them in the deck making sure that cards are placed between others in the deck, creating a weave. Pile shuffling is also a common way to shuffle though it takes up a bit more room. Magic the Gathering players are known for pile shuffle: dealing out six or so separate piles of cards and then stacking them back on top in a random order.

4. Quarterbacking:

Some complicated games require extra help and potential options pointed out to new players. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, The Lord of the Rings LCG is a perfect example; however, there is a fine line between offering help and playing a game for someone. Since we gamers are not children (caution: gamers also come in child form), I assume that we all have a pretty good chance of understanding basic game mechanics pretty quickly.

New players can halt excessive quarterbacking by voicing more targeted questions like “What are my options on my turn” or “What should I do if I want X to happen”. Leading questions about what you want to do in the game will limit the constant stream of advice. If you feel there are too many hands in the kitchen though, it is okay to say ‘Hey, let me try is alone’ or ‘I think I got this’. For the veteran players, be aware of your back seat driving and allow new players to breath and take in a game. Offer suggestions but don’t be overbearing. The best way to learn a game is to play it after all!

5. Analysis Paralysis:

Speaking of veteran gamers, I’ve been around some that are too obsessed with winning a game. In the biz, analysis paralysis is the term for a gamer that takes way too long to play. To me, complicated stats and calculating multiple win scenarios are not my piece of pie. I enjoy the sweetness of riding the wave and trial and error of new strategies. This is my main reason for refusing to play Agricola unless I’ve already had a few drinks. Only then do I enjoy the chaos of trying to manage how many pigs, cows and children I have. I don’t mind playing with stat fans, but players cross the line if the game comes to a halt at each turn. I’ve been in a Dominion game with a player that took 5-10 minute turns!! Just be courteous of people’s time. A game isn’t very fun if I spend half my time watching people debate between the reprocussions of choosing to sowing grain verses expanding their house. The overanalyzer may have a better time playing Carcassone on the computer with AI opponents and no limits on turn time.

Everyone has their own level of etiquette when playing games but, a good rule of thumb is to always be courteous and considerate. Do you have any other etiquette tips that should be added to the list? Leave them in the comments below!

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About the Author

Nicole Jekich

came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.

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