Table Rules

[Note: It’s been a very busy few weeks with moving and starting another school year at work and graduate school. I haven’t been playing a lot of games, hence the “game culture” type posts.]

Since entering college in 2001, I’ve spent a lot of time playing either boardgames or roleplaying games. I’ve played in dorm rooms, apartments, convention halls, houses, and tents while sitting, standing, and kneeling. During that time, a group of “table rules” has spontaneously grown up through various play experiences, and I’d like to share them here:

  1. Dice Etiquette: We’ve all had similar experiences. You get at to a critical moment in a game, someone rolls a handful of dice, and one or more fall to the floor. Do you “read it from the floor” or re-roll it? My call has been “Re-roll it!” If you can’t keep your dice on the table, you need to cast them again, Butter Fingers. Similarly, cocked dice need to be re-rolled. If it’s resting drunkenly against a rulebook or soda can, it’s not a fair roll.
  2. Food: I know some gamers will scream in horror, but we’re okay with food at the table. We just ask that people use a napkin to clean off their fingers before handling game pieces. If you get the China Card greasy, there will be heck to pay.
  3. Drinks: For the past eight years, I’ve had no problem with drinks at the table, as long as they’re on coasters and people are mindful of them. However, I have personally spilled two drinks in the past two months and ruined two player aid cards. Now I keep my drink off the table, either on a nearby surface or at my feet. I also learned an interesting way of dealing with drink spills at the WBC: “You ruin someone’s game, you buy him a new one.”
  4. Mulligans: In years past, we have been just fine with people rewinding the game state to fix a mistake. However, after reading and playing Wellington, I’m adopting Mark McLaughlin’s rule: if you were playing a rule incorrectly, don’t rewind the game, but begin playing correctly as soon as you realize the mistake.
  5. Speed of Play: I gripe about analysis paralysis and “perfect move” play styles frequently, and rightfully so, dangit! But my brother has often reminded me that there is such a thing as playing too fast, especially when you have a number of inexperienced players at the table. Moving through a turn deliberately is crucial to ensuring everyone feels comfortable with what you’re doing. In short, it gives them time to see the move, think about the move, and react to the move.
  6. Teaching v.s. Coaching: This is a fine line in boardgaming. At our table, we ask that you assist other players fairly. For instance, if a new player asks you, “What’s the best move to make here?” you should not deliberately avoid talking about that best move because it will hurt your own position on the board. Also, you are obligated to deal with other players as fairly as possible in negotiation phases, etc. Concealing the impact of a deal from a new player puts you on the level of a wet-palmed, shifty-eyed, lemon-dealing used car salesman.

Are there any table rules you use at your gaming table that I haven’t mentioned? Let’s hear about them in the comments section!

One Response to Table Rules

  1. Rick says:

    I also learned an interesting way of dealing with drink spills at the WBC: “You ruin someone’s game, you buy him a new one.”

    Have you talked to Russ recently?

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