Monday, May 27, 2013

Tabletop Etiquette: How to Lose Graciously

We've all been there. Your squad of Space Marines (or Boyz... or Necron Warriors... or Gaunts...or Fire Warriors...whatever) have just, against all odds, destroyed a crucial piece of the enemy's army and claimed an objective, whilst taking minimal losses themselves. The situation has repeated itself several other places across the battlefield also. The enemy squads are falling back, their heavy support has been decimated, and that irritating enemy flier was finally shot down by a lucky missile. In a single round of shooting the momentum of the entire battle has swung in your favor and now it's a downhill battle. Time for your command squad to retreat to the back, break out the lawn chairs and kegs, and start planning the after party. But then it happens.

Your opponent turns into a whining little butt hole.

Every crying opponent I've ever had

"That would never happen in the books!" "It's easy when you have loaded dice..." "Figures... my army never wins. I don't even like this game anymore." "Your army is so broken!" "That doesn't even make sense." All are common utterances from any populated gaming establishment. Your opponent's demeanor goes from open and excited to regressed and irritable like the "crybaby" switch has been flipped in their brain. The op ponent will then proceed to suck all manner of fun and excitement out of the remaining turns of the game, crying all the while about how the rules of the game are so unfair and how his army needs an update and blah, blah, blah blah.

This phenomenon is quite common, and can be a real bummer for everyone involved in any given game - ESPECIALLY for those of us who don't have time for more than one or two games of Warhammer 40,000 per week or month. This behavior is childish and unsportsmanlike, but can be mitigated very easily by keeping a few key thoughts in mind.

Certainty of defeat? Awesome!

Firstly, remember that the game you're playing is....a game. It's meant to be enjoyed, not to feel like work. It's totally possible to get completely crushed in any given battle and still have a good time so long as you stay positive. I think that if you agree to play a game with someone else then you have a responsibility to the other player and your community to remain positive and upbeat even in defeat.

Secondly, remember to use your lopsided defeat as a learning experience. Sure, your Necron Immortals may gave just been killed by a mob of Gretchin, but if you pay attention to the exact situation that has befallen your army then you'll be able to learn how to defend against that particular flanking tactic or whatever and you'll end up being stronger for it and may lead to you winning your next game.

Fighting Space Marines. In a swamp. Still not complaining.
Thirdly, and most importantly, sack up. This is a wargame. Emphasis on WAR. In the grim darkness of the far future there is no hope for a crybaby. The game of Warhammer 40,000 IS very much based on skill, tactics, army composition and planning, but it is ALSO a game of chance and happenstance, where a single round of good or poor dice rolling or a single missed step can spell doom for you entire army. The reality of Warhammer 40,000, even in the books and "fluff", is that sometimes the Space Marines get overrun by Tyranids, sometimes the Ork Waaagh! is destroyed by a Necron super weapon, sometimes the Sisters of Battle are outgunned by renegade Imperial Guard, sometimes the Tau are outgunned by Dark Eldar, and sometimes things, plainly and simply do NOT do as planned. The outcome of any given game rests on a knife's edge, any any number of factors can tip the balance. To quote The Big Lebowski, "sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you". 

It's important to make friends in this hobby.

If you can follow these very basic rules and make them a part of your gaming persona, then you will undoubtedly be better for it. Not only will you come to enjoy your games much more than you previously did - even in defeat - , you will also start building a positive reputation for yourself within your hobby community. People will actually ENJOY playing games with you and you'll find that other will always be willing to grab a quick pick-up game with you or invite you to join their tournaments or gaming leagues.

In short, the ability to play and lose graciously and with a bit of class an decorum will undoubtedly increase the quality of your hobby experience. Or you can be that guy that everyone in the hobby centers despises and avoids. The choice is yours.


P.S. - This blog is dedicated to the memory of a guy named Jeff who used to come into my old GW Hobby Center. Jeff, you were the living embodiment of everything that an unpleasant opponent could possibly be. Because of you, I have something to strive to never become. You also provided me with a small light at the end of whatever gaming tunnel I find myself, because no matter how unpleasant an opponent of mine gets I can always tell myself "well... at least he's not as bad as Jeff. Jeff, I hope that all of your armies are brutally sodomized by Slannesh Daemons in the Warp forever.