What makes a good wargamer? I don’t mean that in the competitive sense; which units a player utilizes and how often one wins might speak to his or her tactical acumen, but what of that player’s quality from a social standpoint? What are the traits that the most well liked members of our community possess, and how can you practice those same behaviors? Alternatively, how do you identify the actions that make for a bad time and avoid being ‘That Guy’ at the gaming club? Let us explore some of the ways to enhance your gaming experience, reputation, and overall enjoyment of the hobby not just for yourself, but for the community as a whole.

Flexibility

One of the things that makes a player good to spend time with is their willingness to adapt to their partner's preferences or changing circumstances. If you come to the local game shop with only a small force looking for a shorter, smaller game, you would hope that you would be able to find an opponent willing to play at that level. If the only other person there prefers to play larger games and refuses to adapt and be flexible, then neither of you may end up finding a game. Certainly there is something to be said about playing the way you prefer, and nobody should be forced into a game that they will not enjoy, but if you are striving to be courteous and fun to game with, then it is good to try and bend to other players' preferences, at least to an extent. Maybe you have been really interested in testing out some new flying vehicles in your list, but your opponent has no anti-aircraft capabilities and has made you aware of this. You could take those new shiny toys and destroy him without resistance, or you could keep your airplanes in the box for the day and play a more fair and competitive game. An opponent with the flexibility to make accommodations for their opponent will be more appreciated, and more likely to be seen in a good light and played with again in the future.

Openness

Another trait that defines a wargamer with good etiquette is openness. We can see its benefits by observing a theoretical player who lacks this quality - if there was a player in your circle who only played 40K, at 1850 points, and only one mission with the same amount of terrain, it would quickly become stale to play against them. This straw man doesn't like to change his list, play at a different points level, allow for different scenarios, etc because this is what they have become comfortable with and won't branch out to do anything new. IF you want to be considerate to your fellow gamers, it is wise to occasionally try something they would like, or mix things up just to see how it feels. Maybe a gamer in your club has made up their own mission rules. Sure, they likely are imbalanced in some way or less than competitive, but you might surprise yourself and have a great time. At the very least, you have given the other player a chance to try out something and explore their hobby, and will strengthen your reputation in their eyes. Try a tester game for a different game system if someone offers, or agree to the occasional weird house rule. Not everything has to be exactly 'how it is supposed to be', and by being open to your fellow players' preferences and suggestions, you are more likely to have an enjoyable time.


Sociability

It is important to remember that while tabletop miniatures wargames are a competitive game environment much of the time, we aren't simply rolling dice in our own cubicles apart from one another. Video game players might compete against themselves in a single-player environment, or in a multiplayer setting online, but we generally find ourselves standing nearby another living, breathing human as we push our models around a table. God forbid we have an actual conversation! Some players find themselves trapped in a competitive mentality and never tear their eyes from the battlefield, but a considerate player with good etiquette will remember that this is a social opportunity and that the game exists alongside the socialization aspect. It is good to play the game to win, make sure all of the rules are followed, etc but befriending your opponents and talking to them about their real lives can go a long way to improving everyone's experience and lives in general. Learning your opponents' names is only the beginning, you can ask them about why they chose the color scheme they did, what fluff background they have imagined for their armies, and if you're feeling adventurous, you might even ask the person about what they did last weekend or how school/work/the kids have been recently. Remember, these are people you are playing, and it is only a game! This also of course, means being respectful of the person. Don't be lewd or creepy in any sexually suggestive manner to your opponent or insulting to them in any way. Behaving in a respectable social manner isn't just good gaming etiquette, it's a good life skill as well.

Cleanliness

This should go without saying, but the stereotype does exist for a reason: make sure that you are smelling pleasant when you head out to play. Even though the vast majority of players take care of their appearance and hygiene, it only takes one to cause problems and get on people's nerves. By being unclean and grubby, you reinforce the stereotype, lower many other people's level of enjoyment, and prevent new players from picking up the hobby. Alongside this, make sure that if you eat or drink while you play that you choose something that isn't going to make a mess, and no matter what you do, don't pick up your opponent's models with Cheeto-stained fingers.

Professionalism

This one can be hard to balance correctly. We are playing a game, after all, and it is certainly supposed to be fun, but it is important to maintain a level of maturity while you partake in the hobby. Belting out your best WAAAAGH every time you declare a charge might be entertaining for you, but can come off as childish or grating to others. You want to be able to take the game and your opponent seriously without it turning into a master-level chess match where nobody speaks and tensions are high. Remember to behave like an adult and control your excitement, but don't let it restrain you too fully. It is OK to joke around and have a good time, you simply need to make sure you aren't getting out of hand or being too much more wild than your opponent is comfortable with.

Eagerness

Ultimately, the key to being a player that people want to play with is how you display your eagerness and enthusiasm. If you come in to the game without seeming like it excites you at all, and you are just killing time until you can leave, people aren't going to enjoy their time with you. The equivalent of the limp-fish handshake, an unenthusiastic gamer who is lazy about everything and moderately disinterested doesn't appear cool and detached, but rather uninspiring and kind of a buzzkill. If you show up excited to play, ready to have fun, and interested in what is going on, your 'positive vibes' (for lack of a better term) are sure to rub off on others around you. By wanting to play and visibly showing that you want to be there, you will increase your odds of people liking you and wanting to play with you as well. You don't have to be Joe Cool or Mr. Popular to make friends and get games, but you should try to avoid being the wallflower. You're in this hobby to have fun, so get yourself in the fun-having mindset and roll some dice with a smile on your face - it's a sure way to make the most of your gaming time.

What things do you think make for a good playing partner? What traits have your most favorite opponents shared, or what do you look for in a player? Alternatively, are there characteristics of a 'bad' gamer that you would actively avoid? What constitutes positive and appropriate etiquette in your gaming club? Let us know in the comments below.
 
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