Game Talks: Handling Cheaters

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Over the course of the last year, it happens that a few times members came back to me explaining one or the other player was “cheating” at their table. Beyond the frustration they shared, they often asked me “what are you going to do about it ?”. I have to give it some thoughts before actually taking actions. Here’s some insight:

First of all, let’s take a look at why do people cheat:
– They do not know how to lose or they want to make sure they win,
– They have no moral compass and therefore do not care how they win,
– They want to win so badly that cheating seems the right path to take,
– They’re afraid of social exclusion because they cannot win and thus they cheat to improve their chances, etc.

moral-compassMost people have a moral compass and that they see cheating in games as acceptable because the stakes are low… at least the official ones. You play a game which is just a game, it does not come with any financial gain or punishment, it does not affect your future and it will most likely be forgotten in a matter of days, if not hours.

Our morality mechanism doesn’t really engulf board games properly and thus it keeps some of us in not-so-tight ropes and we allow ourselves to cheat. Why do people really cheat in a game with literally no stakes? First of all, that’s not true, there are stakes, even though it’s they do not seem life changing or material. It’s players’ self worth.

Here’s what I think makes people cheat in board games and other low stakes endeavors:
– they associate winning with higher intelligence,
– they need social recognition as they believe others see winners in board games as smarter that people who do not win so often.

Ask people not why they cheat, but what does their performance at board games tell about them and you will most likely get at least a few awkward answers, you’ll find some people who dodge the question and try to escape with a joke. I cannot say how do these people really feel, but I suspect that they suffer from low self esteem, they want to prove themselves in your (the smart gal/guy who does not cheat) eyes and they have no idea of how to deal with losing.

Your ability to win specific games or your ability to do well in certain genres tells this about you: you are good at that. There are things I noticed in my still rather short years of experience with board games:
– Genius level IQ does not necessarily make one good at board games, it might but it doesn’t have to
– Being very good at one game does not make you good at all games
– People with below average IQ and real problems in their day to day life can be brilliant at one or more games

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Losing and dealing gracefully with it is a matter of education and knowing your self worth. Cheating is the way of people to circumvent life questions such as “Who am I really?”, “Am I a smart person?”, “How do others see me and what do I do with their opinions?”. My only advice for those who cheat at board games is to… not. If you cheat, you will always know you did that, it will lower your self esteem ever further because you will never know if you could have done it without cheating. Even if you’re not caught (ever) and you get to win, people will only see you as a person who has a way with board games, but life is more complicated and cheating is not an option. You’re only cheating yourself.

c4b8fcb027a1031a20dec91fce35a329As for how to deal with people who cheat… that’s the real question. Aside of never playing with them again – there are a few alternatives to consider:
– First off, catch them and expose them, but…
– Do not make them feel ashamed and small (they probably do that already),
– Explain to them that winning is not everything, losing is OK, the experience matters and it is about having fun, learning and spending time with friends and family, make them feel human again and give them another chance. Show them that you do not think less of them if they lose, but you will think less of them if they’re cheating again.

Monthly Game Talks: July 2015 !

For this Monthly Game Talks I will focus on playing with your spouce/girlfriend. It is often hard to gather together a large group of friends to play a boardgame on a weeknight. However, my wife and I do find time to get together to play two player games from time to time. She prefers spatial-reasoning games like RoboRally, while I savor games where there is a large development effect (as in planting and tending a garden or what some call “snowball” games.

Unfortunately, our favorite games (RoboRally and Puerto Rico as examples) do not play very well with only two players.

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Thus, I am always on the lookout for more games that can fit the two-player bill. Two player games are often in a class of their own. One problem that immediately jumps out is the problem of a runaway leader. In a multiplayer (3 or more) game, the other players outnumber the leader and can gang up. But in a two-player game, there’s only the losing player.

Unless the game has some sort of artificial catch-up mechanism, it can be a very hard row to hoe in order to catch back up to the leader. If a two player game is sufficiently complex to allow me to enjoy developing my own little empire, the game tends to take two or more hours to play. If one player gains a distinct lead, then the losing player could find themselves sitting through a losing battle for upwards of an hour.

This is not a tantalizing proposition for a fair-weather fan of boardgames (such as my wife), and even though I just love games I don’t find it all that enjoyable either.

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A second problem with many two player games is a lack of options. Many of the “best” two player games are lightweight fillers that only give a few options for the players and do not provide a diverse set of ways to win. One of the things I enjoy most in a game is exploring various paths to victory. In a two-player game against my less competitive wife, I often find enjoyment in trying more obscure strategies, just to see how they pan out. In many 2-player games, there just aren’t that many options.

Currently, I own just a few games that have the variety, depth, and playability that I enjoy and can also be played with only two players.

The first is the Settlers of Catan Card Game. This game is great as players can develop their country in different ways, there are a reasonable number of strategies that can be tried, and it plays in just over an hour or so. Its main drawback lies in the “catch-up” problem. Since it is a resource production based game, a player who falls behind early in resource production will often remain behind the whole game with no hope of catching up.

In fact, I have a friend who feels the determining factor for the win will always go to the player who gets the most towns built. (There are an odd number of additional settlements so if they are all built, one player will always have and extra compared to their opponent.)

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A second, less frequently played, game is San Juan. As a fan of Puerto Rico, San Juan hits the right spot for me, giving me lots of options and a few ways to win, while remaining a two player game. San Juan can also have disproportionate production issues, but I find it to be less frequent than in the Settlers of Catan Card Game. The newest game to add to my two-player lineup is Caylus. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well Caylus holds up to a two player situation. There are still many paths to victory points, and lots of fun little combinations to consider, but the game plays just fine with only two players. Sure, some things become a bit more predictable, but there are even some strategies that can be implemented in a two-player game that just don’t work well in a multiplayer game. In one game I decided to try to build buildings as much as possible, just to see what would happen. I managed to win, but only because I pushed the provost out ahead as fast as I could and my glut of buildings precluded my wife from being able to build (and use) the necessary buildings to build any of the blue mega-point buildings. While this is not an uncommon strategy in a multiplayer game, in a two-player game it can become slightly more extreme, since I had to build much harder in order to prevent my wife from getting the buildings she wanted.

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In all, I’m pleased with the games I’ve found so far that match my favorite style. (I admit I now need to work on more spatial logic games to appeal to my wife’s sensibilities, I have a few possibilities that I plan to look into – Ricochet Robot for one…) I’m curious what other people have found for middleweight to heavyweight games that work well with two players. Twilight Struggle, Memior ’44, and other Euro-wargames are all possibilities, but while there are many good two-player wargames; I think the entire genre is one that has less possibilities for playing with my spouse.

 

Monthly Game Talks: June 2015 !

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Read on for the “Monthly Game Talks” post of June 2015.

I believe that pretty clean and organized around the house. I don’t like to have things laying around and make sure that each item has a spot to put it away. When you live in an apartment, you’re kind of obliged to work that way if you want to keep your interior clean. That said … if you ask my wife she’ll probably tell you that I’m all the time leaving some gaming “stuff” in the living room.

Let’s clarify the word “stuff” and be more specific: admittedly, I leave my miniatures, brushes, paint material in a few boxes (= mostly game expansion boxes converted into temporary storage boxes) in the open.

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Why is it that I leave them around ? Well, aside from the fact that I do like to look at them because after all – I did spent some money on it – it also reminds me that eventually I have to paint them. When you have the entire collection of Zombicide, Imperial Assault, Arcadia Quest, Talisman, Cadwallon City of Thieves, Dark Darker Darkest amongst others .. that gives you a whooping 1000+ mini’s to paint !

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So most of them are actually already with a white/black primer coat. That was the easy part (right!); spending a few hours outside, spraying them with 3 or 4 cans of Army Painter. Now, I’m actually at the base-coating step for almost all of them. Ah, if it was so easy to have just a magical spray to base-coat them too !

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I recently acquired a few extra different paints from Citadel – I went for a bit of everything from the dry-brushing products (for which I’m not that convinced to be honest) to the glaze products (which are really a big plus ! Go for it). Citadel has a package with all the dry-brushing paints into 1 box for a price about ~30€ . Based on the advise of a friend, I took them home .. but found out they are really “dry” in the pot and I get on my pencil a cluttery “blob” that I end up anyhow wiping up on my tissue. So probably I missed something out there on the usage of those. For now, I’m really not convinced at all.

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So we’re playing at my place regularly and my friends see those mini’s hanging around in their boxes and ask me how it’s going forward (or not) with the paint job. I start telling them that it’s going pretty well (ok maybe I’m not really on track with my initial schedule, true …) and I hope to finish off soon.

The truth is that I also needed to invest in the right material – yes, it is costly to do some painting – if you want to have an “easy life”. You will go for some extra shades colors and ready-made washes, not because you have to, but because it’s makes it easier and speed up your painting process. I just bought the Warpaints Quickshade Ink Set and I have to see this does wonders. I really encourage you this investment to avoid having all the time the same dark effect on your miniatures.

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Some of my friends who are not painting at all ask the question; but once painted do you still dare to take them in your hands to play them ? And what about the storage, do you buy special foam inserts for your boxes ?

My answer is pretty upfront and I tell them; games with miniatures are exactly fun for that purpose; being able to manipulate the miniatures over the board ! Hell, otherwise I’ll go for a good euro-style workers placement game with wooden cubes and carton tiles. So, to protect them, I apply a varnish transparent layer (matte or shiny depending on which effect I would prefer) with an Army Painter or Citadel spray can. I actually also bought some transparent varnish from the hobbyshop that works pretty well too.

It’s at that point that we start the discussion about the dreaded Dullcote Frost problem that most of you painters must have experiences sooner or later. Spending hours painting to end up with an ugly frostly look at the last step of your painting process is just an awful miserable experience that will haunt you for days !

Well, not anymore … because looking around on the web, I found on the blog of Nice manners for a thief an eye-opener life-saver post.

His explanation over there stands in 5 words: Usage Of Olive Oil Spray. Read on the excerpt:

Take that ruined mini and spray it down on both sides.  It doesn’t take a lot, but you want it coated for best results.  I recommend doing it over the sink for easy cleanup. […]

Once you’ve coated the model, rub it down with a soft cloth or shammy.  You can just use your fingers, but a cloth will allow you to easily get into the nooks and crannies.  You’ll see the color start to return immediately.  You’ll also get that glossy shine back – like before you sprayed it. […]

At this point, you might decide, “screw Dullcoting it.  I’ll take the shine over frost,” and I wouldn’t blame you.  After all, there’s nothing like rework for taking the joy out of a task.  However, you can absolutely re-apply Dullcote once the oil has a day to dry, and it will work as intended.

I can tell you that this neat trick is worth gold and took away my fear of screwing up my painting last step ! Although his blog has not been updated since a while, take a look around and check out the pictures of his painted figurines. Really nice job done !

You’ll find on the web many articles about proactively avoiding this frosting effect once you’re done applying the varnish layer. Basically, people will tell you to place your miniatures under a hot (desk-) lamp or use your hairdryer. That is certainly also a good preventive action to keep in mind.