I had a game all ready to review tonight, but thought I would bring up something I've been thinking about recently (recently, in this case, meaning the last five minutes. I'm easily distracted). And the something that has been bouncing around my head for going on six minutes now is how you play games.
I've played games with a lot of different people, and one interesting thing that I've seen is that play styles vary wildly from person to person. You would think that people would be committed to winning, and thus attempting to make the best possible decisions to try to win, but that's not true. If you've played games with more than three people, you know what I mean.
For instance, when I play games, I want to win. Everything I do is an attempt to outwit and outplay my opponent. However, I also want my win to be clean. I don't want to win because I knew the rules better, or because the other person was distracted, or because I cheated and peeked at the other guy's cards while he was in the bathroom. So I'll make the best moves I can see, strike hard bargains, bluff like a lying snake and pray for good rolls. But at the same time, I'll tell the rookie at the table when his move is going to hurt him, or lay out possible plays, or describe potential plays based on different strategies. For me, there's no point in winning if you have to play dirty to do it.
And there's a good reason for playing nice. Not only does it make other people think you're actually a decent human being, but when you helped them the whole time and still beat them, they don't have an excuse. You helped them out, and still kicked their asses. Obviously, you are superior.
The problem with this mindset is when I lose, which I do a lot. Then you have to hope your opponent played dirty, so that you can have an excuse. Except that my friends are nicer than I am, which makes my losses only that much more humiliating.
So the Magnanimous Tool is one gamer type, but there are lots more. This is mostly because gamers are often social pariahs with glandular issues and inappropriate assumptions about the opposite sex. Board gamers like to think they're better than role-players (because we are, unless we are also role-players, which I am), but we're all basically dorks. And this leads to some wildly varying gamer types.
You've got the Revenge Killer. This guy will make haphazard plays, barely thinking about what he's doing - until you come after him. Then you've shed first blood, and it's on. He'll spend the rest of the game making moves that are actually against his best interest, just to make sure you lose. I have a good friend who plays this way, and it can be entertaining - but it is definitely a weakness. All you have to do to avoid trouble with this guy is wait until someone else decides to take the fight to his door, and then he'll go all Jihad on the other dude and leave you alone to rampage at will.
There's also the Superior Life Form. Man, this is one irritating guy to play. He's not interested in anything but winning. He doesn't cheat, but he doesn't feel like he plays fair. If you make a mistake, even one you made while your dog was biting the postman and you had to run back to the table after you got the beast back in the house, this aggravating game nerd will let you pay for it. He won't remind you where you've placed your cards. He won't tell you if you dropped your money. He's not a bad guy, and you can trust him not to cheat - but you can also trust him not to tell you when you did something stupid because you were trying to tell your child, via cell phone, that his lunch is in the refrigerator and if you come home and the milk is on the counter, you'll be taking it out of his hide.
Which brings us to the next gaming jackass, the Hummingbird. This is that gamer who wants to show up, wants to play, and then is constantly allowing himself to be interrupted. He'll take phone calls and answer texts. He'll order food and then eat it over your game. He'll leave the table to go to the bathroom right before his turn. It's like he just showed up to socialize, and the game is just an afterthought. He's not even particular who he socializes with - he's just as happy to talk with someone in another county as he is to talk with the people in the room.
Or what about the Monk? The guy who has to meditate over the board from every angle, who can never come to a decision, who takes forever to make a play. This is the guy whose turn takes four times longer than all the others combined. He'll reach for a piece, pull his hand back, look at his cards, mutter to himself, reach for a different piece, change his mind, and then ask to see the rulebook. I hate this guy. He makes me crazy. Just take your turn, man! It's just a game! We're not planning the invasion of Canada (unless we're playing 1812, which is about the US invading Canada).
One particularly aggravating gamer is the Flipper. Whether or not he actually flips the board and storms out, the Flipper is prone to outbursts that effectively ruin the game for everyone at the table. When things don't go his way, he'll spill his drink on the board, or walk out of the room before his turn is over, or slam the table so hard that all the meeples wind up abandoning their posts and taking naps in the farmland outside the city. He's a terribly bad sport, and while he can be a gracious winner, he's one hell of a sore loser.
But the worst, the most loathsome of the gaming douchebags, is the Time Traveler. This horrible worm will realize two turns later that he forgot to play a card, and will insist that the game stop so he can rewind the clock. If you let him, he will make everyone put their guys back where they were, then play his card and insist that everyone still make the same decisions even though he changed the entire board. If there's one guy I don't want at my table, it's the Time Traveler. He's often a spoiled little turd who will ruin the game for everyone and make it take three times as long, because he'll throw a tantrum if he doesn't get to take his free move.
There is one more kind of gamer I can come up with, and it's the gamer I like to call Everybody. If you play games with the same people long enough, you'll realize that everyone is the Hummingbird when the pizza shows up, and everyone is the Monk when the game is confusing. In fact, I can clearly remember games where I was the Time Traveler, or the Revenge Killer, or the Flipper. Let's face it, we're human beings, and we are prone to being really crappy. It's in our genetic makeup. It's what makes us both interesting and ugly.
So the next time you're playing a game with some jackass who makes you want to punch him in the face, just remember that sooner or later, everybody will bother you. And the best thing you could do is just let it go. Then you can do what everyone actually wants to do and hurl a profanity-laced indictment at the guy and intimate that at least one of his parents was a farm animal.
That's what works for me, anyway.