Friday, August 07, 2009

Game Central Station: Gamers I Have Known

It's been a while... but here's yet another post taken from my old Game Central Station website. The post was last updated in 2004 & originally written in 1999... since then I've learned that Nick Danger does have a real name (and is a very nice guy).

Nick Danger (I'm guessing this is not his real name) started the ball rolling on the usenet group. The majority of what follows is from his fertile and brilliant mind. Other folks who contributed their two cents worth are: Glenn Kuntz, David Hecht, Jim Cowling, "Dweeb" (also an assumed name), Jeff ? (who was that masked man?), Mike Schneider, Torben Mogensen (which is probably his real name!), Justin Green, Andrew Davidson, Dean Washburn, Richard Irving, Rick Pikul, and Robert Rossney.

The newest addition is a wonderful expedition into the land of fidgeting gamers, c/o the nigglybits group on yahoo.groups... specifically, Nick Danger, Glenn Kuntz, Greg Schloesser, and... well, someone else who's name I didn't catch.

The Architect:

A player who forms his pieces (on or off the board) into geometric formations or stacks them up into a building (which tempts other players into sliding or throwing their own pieces at it).

The Avenger:

The first time someone crosses this player it becomes his personal vendetta to exact revenge, regardless of the consequences. Winning no longer even becomes a secondary consideration for this chap. Every turn, every play, becomes a mere avenue to "get back" at the offending player. If the opportunity should arise that the Avenger can actually lay waste to his most hated enemy it will usually be accompanied by shouts of joys, and usually even an animated victory dance around the table. The Avenger often become the target of attack just for the simple pleasure of ticking him off.

The Brain:

A.K.A. Mr. Know-It-All. The dude has the perfect plan for any game and he'll let you know it. Phrases often spewed by the Brain include: "Oh, bad move!", "This is the way to victory", "Now watch me!". Of course, the reason the Brain does not win every game remains a complete mystery to him because his play is always superior to everyone else.

The Collector:

The opposite of the Leech, he'll buy anything that tickles his fancy. The game will be brought home, the counters punched, and arranged on the board. The rules will be read while watching TV. The game will then take its place in the closet with the several hundred other unplayed games...

At this point, David Hecht reacted as if in pain!

Oh horrors no! The *true* Collector would *never* punch out a game or otherwise disturb his ability to advertise it on eBay later as "Mint Condition." What you are describing is The Tinkerer. He has bought several hundred games, has scrutinized them, read the rules, set up the pieces, but never, never, actually *played* it against any opposition.

The Dabbler:

I've seen two people like this one over the years, both female, which is perhaps coincidental. The dabbler loves to play games, but primarily as a social tool. They might move to a specific location on the board simply "because it looks nice with my color". They often have NO clue as to what will bring them victory, and really don't care. They just want to move the bits around, and visit. Dabblers are a nightmare to plan against. There is no sound strategy for pure chaos. One of these dabblers is still gaming with our group occasionally. She recently was stomping our butts in a game of Filthy Rich. Five players, she had two luxuries, no one else had more than one. Her turn arrived, she had over fifty dollars, enough to clinch the win with her third luxury. But she waited one more turn, because she had to build the "Clown, Comics, and Combustible" business.....because the sign was so cute.

The Face In the Crowd:

This gentleman sits there unobtrusively throughout most of the game, then suddenly appears out of seemingly nowhere to stomp some butt and win the game (all very affably, of course).

The Feng Shui Expert:

This gamer, who shall remain nameless (my wife), must always have the gameboard facing a particular way in orientation to herself or she can't play. If I try to set up the game differently I get the "It goes against my feng shui" line tossed at me. She even has to have that little stupid starting tile in Carcassonne laid just so.

Now in the grand scale of things it's irrelevant and being it's the woman I love I simply acquiesce to her wishes as I'm just happy she likes to play games. But, that doesn't change the fact that I find it strange, odd, and slightly obsessive.

What the heck do you do if you ever try to play with two of these types and they both want the same position? Would it be like mixing matter and antimatter?

The Frustrated Game Designer:

This guy will think up a dozen variant rules for a game even after playing it only once. He's perenially frustrated that he can't get any others to play his "improved" game.

The Game Slut:

He'll play anything, and will, if he can, play every game played in one room, all at the same time. While waiting for his turn at Settlers he'll make his move in Ido, while negotiating with the Austrians in Diplomacy. If someone at the next table pulls a copy of Samurai from his rucksack, he'll ask to be green.

The General:

In sharp contrast to the Loser is the General. He plays to win. Pure and simple. His intensity is matched only by his lust for gold. Should someone happen to be talking when it was his turn to play he will sharply be chastised with a "Hey! You playing or talking!!" The General doesn't understand the main reason to play is for fun. It's a war to him, and war is hell. The other players are just obstacles in his path to glory.

The Grognard:

He'll readily play a game, and whether or not he wins, will complain that the rules either were historicaly inaccurate, or would work better a different way. Give him time, and he'll come up with a game, using the same pieces, and a wholly new ruleset, and he may be the only one who understands them. Regardless, that ruleset will be played once, and then revised again, and again, and again.

The Historian:

This player has a photographic memory, remembers every game you've played in the last five years down to each exact discard, and will "remind" you of the old games when something remotely similar happens in the current game. It's not to show off his memory or justify an act of revenge, he only does it because he thinks people will actually be interested in the detailed reminiscences...and sometimes he's right!

The Idiot:

This fool never, ever, seems to grasp any games instructions. He'll constantly be asking you to repeat over and over a rule clarification. Even into the 2nd and 3rd playing of the game he'll still be asking for help in what to do. Of course, this does allow the other players to have fun at his expense ridiculing him. Luckily, the Idiot tends to be a good sport and will continue to play and sometimes even joins in the fun and mocks himself.

The Kingmaker:

When he realizes that he has little chance of winning himself, he picks one other player that he will support to win, no matter the consequences to his own position. Once the decision is made, nothing will move the Kingmaker from his chosen path.

The Klutz:

This is the guy who always bumps the table during Settlers and sends the hexes sliding around the table, or the helpless little camels scurrying for cover in a game of Durch die Wuste. It seems he just can't help himself from at least during the night sending players scampering trying to remember where all the pieces of some game were set up. This is the same guy that is outlawed from ever playing and drinking at the same time.

The Leech:

He doesn't actually *own* any games, but is perfectly willing to play what others have. He'll borrow entire miniatures armies for an afternoon, and will even recommend to their owner what figures to buy next. When given the opportunity to pick up a Cheap*** game, he'll go out for lunch instead.

The Loser:

We all pity the loser. He's usually a pleasant fellow, fun to have around, and a loyal friend. Unfortunately, he just can't seem to ever win a game. Whether it's bad luck, a mistaken move, or pure bad karma, he just can't seem to win. At anything. Usually though, the loser is a hearty breed and just because he never wins it doesn't seem to inhibit his enthusiasm for gaming.

The Marathon Man:

This guy refuses to quit until he's won. He'll "One more time" the gaming group to hell and back. He's just not happy until he's won a game of whatever you happen to be playing. "C'mon guys, it's still early" you'll often hear him say. Games have been known to be "thrown" in favor of the Marathon Man simply to allow another game to be played before sunrise.

The Mouthpiece:

This player will discuss the various points of a given move (either his or another player's) with any of the other players, especially when it is his turn. This usually occurs when there has been an agreed time limit to a game and he is really playing to a specific point in the game where he will win rather than let the game go to the normal conclusion, where he would probably lose. If challenged on the fact that he is currently winning, he will counter with the fact that another player is in a much better strategic position.

Mr Death-Wish:

He's a compulsive loser who gets very nervous if it looks like he might actually win the game. He can't cope with the stress of trying to win in the face of determined opposition and so will deliberately blow the game by doing something bizarre.

(Conductor's Note: We have an odd sub-species of Mr. Death-Wish around these parts... The Anti-Genius. An otherwise brilliant young man with a near photographic memory inexplicably plays most board & card games like he's just had a frontal lobotomy without benefit of anesethetic. Our theory - his reputation for being so smart might be damaged by a loss, so erratic and/or stupid play "on purpose" keeps his reputation clear. No, I'm not sure I understand it myself.)

The Quitter:

The minute this guy feels a win is out of reach he becomes totally disinterested in finishing out the game. Getting him to take his turn for the rest of the game is like trying to get Bill Clinton to admit he lies. He's even been known at times to simply walk away from the game and refuse to participate anymore. This is also the guy that immediately hates any game he can't win at.

The Snob:

A player who considers any game with a rulebook of less than 40 pages to be "a kiddy game". His motto is "If it didn't take 1/2 a day to punch out the chits, it's not worth 1/2 an hour of my time."

The Spectator:

This piece of work never actually plays a game. Just watches and comments on everything going on. He lives life from the sideline, never really having that desire to say "Send me in coach, I'm ready to play." Luckily the Spectator also happens to be the perfect person to send out for pizza!

The Thinker:

This guy can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to decide what to do with his second bean card in Bohnanza. You'd think his life was hanging on his every move for all the thought he puts into it. Clothes have gone out, and then come back into style before he moves sometimes. Should you happen to say something like "Do I have time to put on a new roof before you move?" to him he gets all flustered and complains you're "rushing him".

The Whiner:

Howls of pain greet every die roll, whimpers of regret every play of a card. This guy complains bitterly about every setback that everyone decides it's more pleasant to simply let him win. Often, this is The Whiner's main strategy.

The Rules Lawyer:

This particular species of gamer required a section of his own... Richard Irving, Robert Rossney, and Rick Pickul all took a crack at dissecting this peculiar breed.

RICHARD IRVING narrows it down to three major types.

1. The ones who try to find any inconsistency or problem with the rules. These are the people who send in questions to the game designer/company: They ask questions like "Do you include cards already played or drawn in this turn into the shuffle of the cards to refill the deck?" "Rules for cohesion say that remove pawns BEFORE the turn, what if you don't know until the end of your turn that you'll be out of cohesion.", "Can you brake your chariot to avoid a ram attack even if there is someone behind you?" Stuff like that.

They may be annoying in their attention to detail, but they aren't fundamentally trying to cheat you or gain an advantage. They want to make sure the rules have no room for misinterpretation. These are the law professors or Supreme Court justices of rules lawyers. They make good playtesters for games.

2. This is the type who conveniently only mentions the rule problem when it helps them. They won't accept resolution of the problem by die roll, asking the Tournament GM (if any), consulting errata, etc. They may even demand to play their way even if shown to be completely wrong in their interpretation. They might storm from the table if they don't get their way. They are looking for any edge they can get. These are Johnny Cochrans of rules lawyers.

3. The third type particularly try to match rules with reality. Most common among wargamers, they are a lot like the first group but are more likely to argue that a rule is "unrealistic" or "breaks the simulation" and would propose playing by an alternate, "more realistic" rule.

These are the specialists of rules lawyers--the ones you bring in because they know about forensic testing or the psychology of the criminal mind. They may be good playtesters or not--they would have a tendency to add more detail into a game that may may not be wanted.

Of course, the rules lawyer might slip between these 3 classes (There may be even more classes that I haven't thought of.) They may even change their stripes as the situation demands it--especially type 2. They hide under a strict rule interpretation or a reality based one if it helps their game.

ROBERT ROSSNEY adds a personal note.

My favorite version of the Rules Lawyer is my friend Cy. Cy (who can periodically be seen performing his magic on takes a perverse delight in testing rules to destruction. Tell Cy that the person with the most tokens goes first each turn, and the first thing he'll want to know is how ties are broken. A rules phrase like "you can perform an unlimited number of such actions each turn" makes his pupils dilate.

Cy loves CCGs because they offer so many opportunities for abuse. He doesn't play Legend of the Five Rings to win, exactly; he plays it to get eight-card combos in play. His decks are these amazing Rube Goldberg contraptions that pump out enormous strength bonuses or vast armies of 1/1 ashigaru tokens by exploiting various side effects that, while maybe not intended, are not explicitly prohibited.

I can see that some people might find this really annoying. I find it marvelous to watch, right up to the moment that I get my butt handed to me. And if I were designing a game, I'd really want Cy flexing its seams to find the ones that will break.

Finally, RICK PIKUL sets out his three classifications.

The sleaze:

Hunts for obscure rules/rule interactions, then tells you about them when he springs them on you in the middle of a game.

The literalist:

The rules must be followed exactly, more a problem in RPGs.

The expert:

The guy who can rattle off the rules whenever needed, and can often figure out what is intended in badly written rules and what happens in the once in a thousand games weird occurrence. Often useful to have around, scary when he then tells you that it was the first time he saw the game and skimmed the rules.

Sub-Species of Fidgeters

Recent observations from the jungles of gaming.

Matt the Stacker:

Matt is a builder at heart. Put some bits in front of him and he'll immediately begin constructing some monument, housing project, or complex observation platform. Matt has been known, while playing Manhattan, to borrow other players stock building bits to fashion an elevated water tower capped off with his bottle of Diet Coke.

(Conductor's Note: Matt is close kin to Sarah the Pig Wrangler, who was transfixed by the plethora of pigs in Pig Pile. The extra pigs had meetings, formed conga lines, and generally engaged in other piggish behaviors... all the while causing Sarah to forget that we were actually playing a card game.)

Donna the Dentist:

Donna will inevitably get a snack morsel stuck in the cavernous gaps between her teeth and then use a card, chip, or in the case of the stubborn crumb a pewter Darth Maul to dislodge the culprit.

Shuffler Schmitty:

Schmitty likes to keep his cards fresh and will continuously rotate his stock like a good shopkeeper should. Back to front, front to back, flip-flip-flip, always keeping those cards in motion. When he finally plays one of these the edges look similar to the frayed edges on the multitude of car flags people are sporting these days.

Tina the Tapper:

Tina taps. Tina taps often. Tina taps uncontrollably. You'd like tap Tina one time with a 2x4 across the head. Tina will grab the nearest bit by her and begin tapping it on the table top. You're never quite sure if it's just a nervous habit, or maybe she's secretly trying to contact her dead Uncle Milton via morse code.

Absent Al:

Al can't sit still. In fact, Al just plain can't sit. Whether it's a personality trait or a result of the 3 pots of coffee a day he consumes no one knows for sure, but the one thing you can count on is when it's Al's turn he will not be in his chair. The thing that brings Al close to death is the question that follows his return to the table each and every time - "So, what did I miss?"

Vincent the Vibrator:

Vince's idea of a funny thing to do is to bang on the table to slowly cause pieces to slide around on the board. Vince grew up playing Tudor football. Vince thinks his antics are hilarious. Vince is alone in this assumption.

Tossin' Tom:

Tom tosses. Tom tosses everything. He tosses more stuff into the air than Circus jugglers. His favorite thing to toss into the air and attempt to catch is dice. If a game has a bunch of dice, they will be flying non-stop throughout the game. Sadly, Tom doesn't catch very well, so by mid-game you are scrounging the floors attempting to alleviate the sudden dice shortage. Worse is the occasional wayward die which crashes across the board with more vengeance and destruction than the Germans crossing the French border. Beware, however, if dice are not available, as Tom will toss just about anything. Take extreme care to scrounge the floors for game pieces once the game concludes.

Larry the Leg-Jiggler:

Just as bad are the leg jigglers. Kind of a cross between Tina and Vincent. They think no one notices since it's going on under the table... until the table starts to vibrate, or the dog comes out from under, not quite comfortable with what may come next.

Bonnie the Babbler:

Bonnie likes to talk. Talk talk talk talk talk. Doesn't really matter what it is she's talking about and it doesn't really matter if what she is saying has anything to ddo with the game in question as she could surely place a temple tile there, and then her King will reign supreme over the entire world, woohoo, but it might cause her some problems later on but hey what the heck she'll do it anyway and so on and so on and so on... Luckily she only tends to do this when she's staying up past her bedtime. Amongst adults, I don't think I'd tolerate this for very long.

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