Board gaming is a social activity (except for the occasional solo game), which means it’s most fun when everyone is engaged, participating, and behaving in a way that doesn’t hamper anyone else’s fun.
We’ve all had board game nights ruined by people who lacked manners and common courtesy—but maybe you’ve also ruined game nights without realizing it. Just because no one has said anything to you doesn’t mean you’re in the clear!
If you don’t want to be “that guy” at board game nights, here are the worst board gaming misdemeanors you should avoid at all costs. We call them the Deadly Sins of Board Gaming.
Sin #1: You Never Arrive on Time
The worst person in a board gaming group is the flake who never shows up. The second worst person in a board gaming group is the one who’s always late.
It’s one thing to be late every once in a while—everyone understands that unpredictable holdups can happen—but if you’re late more often than not, you’re officially a jerk.
Why? Because you’re holding everyone up. And given how hard it can be to even gather enough interested players, being late (or not showing up) is just additional frustration that nobody needs.
Sin #2: You’re Always on Your Phone
Nothing kills an active board game faster than someone who’s distracted—whether by side conversations, a sports game on TV, or more often than not, their phone.
Getting lost in your own mobile world while everyone else is focused on the board game at hand? Extremely rude. Have some manners. But more than that, it’s about paying attention and not wasting time by constantly asking “What happened?” on every turn.
If you’ve agreed to play a board game with people, you’ve entered a social contract—one that demands you put your phone away.
Sin #3: You Complain About Games
There are so many board game types and genres these days. You’re bound to run into several that you won’t like.
If your board gaming group wants to play a game you don’t enjoy, you have several options. Suggest another game to play. Or agree to play and make the best of it. Or sit out for that game.
You should never sit in as a player and then complain throughout the game about how much it sucks, or how bored you are, or how stupid a certain mechanic or feature is.
Don’t be a buzzkill. Sit out and play on your phone. Go do something else for a while. And if your board gaming group tends to play games you don’t like? Find another group.
Sin #4: You Bend or Fold Cards
Cards are made flat for a reason. Keep them that way. If you’re handling any cards during a board game, always do so with care.
Many board games are more expensive than you think, and bent cards or folded cards can ruin the integrity of a game since marked cards can give away crucial information.
But aside from the “marked cards” point, it really comes down to respecting the board game’s owner. Treat cards like you would any other piece of property that doesn’t belong to you.
Not sure how to hold cards without damaging them? When in doubt, pinch between thumb and index fingers. Or keep them flat on the table.
Sin #5: You Play With Dirty Hands
Wash your hands before you start playing any board game. Dirty hands, greasy hands, stained hands—they can all damage board game components. Plus, it’s unhygienic.
What about snacks? Whether you bring your own or somebody else serves food for the whole group, be sure to designate a game hand (for playing) and a food hand (for eating).
When possible, try to stick to clean snacks that don’t leave a mess and won’t get game pieces dirty.
Sin #6: You Talk During Rules
In my board gaming groups, I’m usually the one who’s saddled with the task of explaining the rules for new games.
As the rules teacher, nothing boils my blood faster than someone who talks during the explanation. If you’re playing a board game, the least you can do is put in effort to understand how the game is played.
And if you already know the rules: please, shut up! Let the rules teacher explain at their own pace, in their own way. Don’t interject with your own remarks. You’re just confusing everyone else.
Sin #7: Your Turns Take Forever
Things that are OK when playing a board game: Making mistakes. Choosing imperfect or suboptimal decisions. Taking a path that leads to defeat. These are all expected parts of board gaming.
Things that are NOT OK when playing a board game: Turning a one-hour game into a three-house game because you’re indecisive, afraid of making errors, averse to losing, unable to set aside your ego, with a need to play perfectly as if you have something to prove.
Remember that it’s just a game. It’s better to lose while everyone has fun than to win while pissing everyone off. Don’t hold the game up turn after turn because you have analysis paralysis.
Sin #8: You Take Decisions Personally
Let’s say you’re playing Catan and you’re building your road to reach a new settlement spot. You ask the player who’s before you to not interfere—but he does. Now you’re pissed.
Eventually, that player wins… but your anger doesn’t end there. It carries over into the next game. Or maybe even to the next game night. You might even develop a long-lasting grudge against him.
This is a huge NO-NO. Games can be emotional, but you should never let in-game decisions affect out-of-game relationships. If you don’t have the emotional maturity to separate the two, then you should stick to playing board games that don’t have inter-player conflict.
Sin #9: You’re a Sore Loser
You can’t win every single game. Even if you’re really good, it’s unreasonable to expect victory every time. There will be times where you lose—and when you do, you need to let it go and get over it.
In some board games, you may even realize that you can’t win long before the game actually reaches its end. At this point, you have two options:
- Keep playing as if you could win.
- Give up and ruin the game by throwing your victory in order to manipulate the outcome and help someone else win.
The second option is called “kingmaking” (where you push a runner-up player to help them become the winner), and most people don’t appreciate that. It’s a subtle form of being a sore loser.
Sin #10: You Don’t Help With Cleanup
Game over! Victory points are counted, a winner is declared, and… everyone walks away from the game table?
Don’t forget that the game pieces need to be cleaned up and put back into the box. Usually the board game’s owner is the one who stays back to do it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help out.
It’s the least you could do, given that they brought the board game for everyone to play. Plus, the faster the board game is cleaned up, the faster you can all move on to start the next board game!