So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Then This Happened...

It happened last Sunday at our monthly game day. After taking a major setback in a long game, a player (we'll call him Al) said "I'm done", and got up from the table. Amongst most people, there is a general feeling that there is a social contract to finish a game. According to that norm, the social contract had been violated. But before we judge too harshly in these kinds of situations, we need to take a complete look at what transpired.

The game was Merchants and Marauders, a game which has roughly a three-hour play time. Players can either be a seafaring merchant, or a pirate praying on  merchants.  Or maybe a little of both.  Neutral pirates show up, national Navies show up; this is a game with a lot going on. This is also a game with a whole lot of options that the player can perform, though none of those action are terribly complicated. As a result, the game explainer - that would be me - decided it would just be easier for everyone to play off their player aid, rather than go through a lengthy and convoluted rule explanation. In short, I was pressed for time, and rather than be smart and say we're not going to push and play this game, I tried too hard to get it to the table. I did a poor job explaining the game.

At the same time, there was a person (we will call him Bob) had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Bob had played a computer game in which the player had the same options. As a result, he had an idea of what direction he should take. So while the rest of us were trying to figure out what the rules were, Bob was busy making smart strategic decisions. In fact, the last strategic decision of the game was when Bob attacked Al, dealing a crushing blow. Granted, Al had put himself in a bad position by previously attacking a pirate ship and defeating it, taking damage along the way. There was no way for Al to know that he was making himself easy prey. Bob had already gotten the most powerful ship in the game. Everybody else was still poking along their original ship, not knowing what they should be doing. If our gaming group was the kind of group that values the win above everything else, it would have been okay. However, we really focus on making sure everyone has a good time. So in a sense, Bob broke another social contract; one that is more important in our group.

I have to say I have been in Al's situation. About a year ago, I played a game for the first time in which someone who was much more familiar with the game effectively eliminated me in one fell swoop. I can't say I handled it well.

Just as happens so often in life, there were plenty of mistakes to go around. Al and I talked the next day, and he apologized for being upset. He had been a little out of sorts all day. I apologized for doing a poor job with the rules. And honestly, the game is not my type of game, nor Al's. 

So it was kind of a perfect storm; maybe appropriate for a game that takes place at sea.

It's Your Move...


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