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Board Gaming Pet Peeves: 10 Things to Avoid at the Table During Game Night

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Image credit: Sheldon Nunes/Unsplash

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We’ve all had game nights ruined by people who just didn’t have manners. But it’s also possible that you might be ruining game nights for others without realizing it. After all, how often do you speak up about another’s misbehaviors?

Board gaming is a shared activity, and it only takes one Bad Apple to swing the night from fun to uncomfortable—or worse. If you don’t want to be “that guy,” here are the worst board gaming misdemeanors you should avoid at all costs.

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1. Constantly Looking at Your Phone

Nothing kills a game faster than someone who’s distracted, either by side conversations or a TV playing in the background or, these days, by their phone. At best, you’re being rude to everyone. At worst, you’re wasting everyone’s time by constantly asking “What happened?” and taking longer turns than necessary. If you’re going to play a board game with people, just put the phone away. Please.

2. Refusing to Sit Out When Half-Interested

You’ve met up with five others and one of the proposed games for the night is The Resistance. The thing is, you hate social deduction games and would rather play something more mechanical. Yet when asked whether you’d sit this game out, you stubbornly insist that you’re going to play—then taint the next hour or two with a sour attitude, lack of attention, and other buzzkill acts. Listen, if you don’t like a particular game, it’s better for you and everyone else to just sit it out. You can still socialize while they play, or you can kill time on your phone. Just let them have their fun and join in on the next game.

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3. Bending or Folding Cards

Cards are made flat for a reason. Please keep them that way. If you’re handling any kind of cards during a game, do so with care. Board games are more expensive than you think, and bent or folded cards can be ruinous to the integrity of a game where a marked card gives away crucial information. But even ignoring the whole “marked card” point, it’s about respect for the game owner’s property. Not sure how to hold cards without damaging them? When in doubt, pinch between thumb and index finger, or keep them flat on the table.

4. Playing With Dirty Fingers

There are many clean snacks that won’t affect your hands, but when a “dirty” food is served, it’s your responsibility to designate a game hand and a food hand. Use one for taking food, use the other for playing the game, and never mix the two.

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5. Talking During Rules Explanations

As the one who’s usually teaching new games, nothing boils my blood faster than someone who talks during the rules explanation. If you’re going to commit to playing a game, the least you can do is pause side conversations and put in the effort to understand how a game is played. And for those of you who already know the rules: shut up! Let the rules explainer explain at their own rhythm and stop interjecting with your own remarks. You’re just confusing the newbies.

6. Eternal Turns and Analysis Paralysis

It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s not OK to turn a one-hour game into a three-hour game because you’re indecisive, don’t want to lose and can’t set aside your ego, and so feel compelled to analyze every single possibility on every single turn to make sure you’re playing as optimally as you can. Remember, it’s just a game. It’s better to lose while having fun than to win while pissing everyone off.

7. Taking In-Game Decisions Personally

So you’re playing Catan and have an eight-length road. It’s Adam’s turn and he trades for brick, so you suspect he’s building a road. You ask him not to cut you off—but he does. Now you’re pissed. Eventually Adam wins, but your anger doesn’t end with the game; it carries over into the next game, or even the next game night. This is a huge no-no. While I understand how emotional games can get, never let in-game decisions affect out-of-game relationships. If you don’t have the emotional maturity to separate the two, perhaps you should stick to games without interpersonal conflict.

8. Giving Up and/or Kingmaking

At some point, it may become clear that you can’t win no matter what you do. At this point, you have two options: 1) keep playing as if you could win, or 2) give up and ruin the experience for everyone else, either by souring the mood with your whining or, worse, doing everything in your power to “kingmake” a runner-up into first place. Never do the latter as it’s petty and immature. (And no, being offended by kingmaking is not the same as taking in-game decisions personally, as kingmaking is a meta play that comes from outside the game itself.)

9. Being a Sore Loser

You can’t win every time, even in games where you’re extremely good. You’re going to lose sometimes. Let it go and get over it.

10. Not Helping With Cleanup

The game’s over! Victory points are counted, a winner is declared, and everyone walks away from the game table. Well, someone needs to clean that up. Usually it’s the game owner who does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help out. It’s the least you can do given that they brought the game out for everyone to play. Plus, the faster it’s cleaned up, the faster you can start the next game.

What are the board gaming pet peeves you hate the most? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ellen Odza
Ellen Odza

All of these are spot on, especially the phone comment. I really hate when a player is always on their phone and you have to (a) nudge them to remind them it’s their turn and (b) then listen to them ask, “Oh, what did I miss?” and listen while everyone recites what they did on their turn.

One other pet peeve is someone who doesn’t pay attention while the rules are explained (not just talking, they could be on their phone or just ignoring the explanation) and then keeps asking questions about how to play once the game starts.

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