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Bryun Lemon

Why Cheaters Always Lose

By | Gaming Etiquette | One Comment

The number of hours of designing, playtesting, fixing, re-designing, re-playtesting and scribbling notes that go into game creation is mind-boggling. In a recent playtest for a real-time game, one player asked, “How do we know that the other players aren’t cheating?”

In all the hours spent creating the game (Five Minute Delivery), the question had never come up. We hadn’t written anything into the rules to safeguard everybody against cheaters in the group, and I must confess that the worry about cheaters never crossed my mind in the hundreds of hours leading up to that simple query.

And, to the player who asked that question (and anybody else worrying about cheaters in [game name here], I’ll explain my thoughts on cheating and why it’s not worth doing or worth worrying about:


  1. Cheating isn’t fun.

When designers create a game, one of the main things they’re trying to do is create something that is fun. When someone cheats, they’re sidestepping all the testing, designing and balancing that have been invested, and they’re missing the experience as it was intended to be. You might win the game, but all you won at was cheating, and didn’t actually even play the game! If winning is the only reason you play a game, you’re missing out on SO much fun! Click here for more about that.


  1. Trust is hard to regain once lost.

Whether cheating on a test, cheating on a significant other or cheating on a game, the trust factor is so shattered that rebuilding is difficult at best. You get caught cheating even one time, and friends or family won’t trust you for a long, LONG time, and will be reluctant to invite you back. It’s a hefty price to pay for gloating rights.


  1. Cheating proves you’re a pansy.

That’s right! Cheating proves you can’t hack it. You can’t win without cheating. You’re not good enough to succeed like everyone else. You’re too incompetent to beat someone else on equal grounds. Regardless of whether you’re ever caught or not, cheating undermines the you and your potential by bringing the game down to your level rather than rising to the level of the game.


  1. When you cheat, you become paranoid.

If you’re always bending the rules to win, one of the side effects is thinking everybody else is doing the same thing. You focus so much on making sure others don’t cheat that you doubt them, you’ll likely accuse them at some point, and you’re going to alienate people sooner or later.


  1. Cheating doesn’t make sense.

What do you get for cheating? The right to say you won? The delight of always looking over your shoulder to see who’s looking? An imaginary medal saying you outsmarted your friends in an imaginary world of goblins or cowboys? Unless you’re really involved in some shady gambling operation (which means you’re likely not reading this right now), your reward for cheating is nothing tangible or real.


It all boils down to what you get for your effort. You miss out on the fun of a game with friends and family, you risk losing trust which may or may not ever be regained, and you prove you aren’t good enough to succeed on your own. What do you get in return? NOTHING WHATSOEVER. It doesn’t make sense at all!


In our house, we don’t have a cheating rule. It’s not something we look for, and we assume everybody we invite to play games is the same way. Even if they’re not…who cares? If we win or lose, it’s no big deal and when we get up from the table, we leave the game there. We have fun PLAYING the game with each other.


So, to answer the question from the first paragraph “How do we know that the other players aren’t cheating?” We don’t. We assume people want to play a game for the fun of it and for the chance to be with other people. If someone wants to put a big black mark on themselves for the chance to say they won at something…well, then they need a lot more help than I can give them in a 736 word message.


Bottom line? If you’re someone who cheats (at games or ANYTHING in life), try playing by the rules for a while and see how much better it is. You’ll be surprised…and you’ll know you’re not a pansy.


How to Plan the Perfect Game Night

By | Gaming Etiquette

Playing board games has become an entertainment staple across the planet today. Educational institutions across the globe talk about the intellectual benefits board games have for children (greater memory, better organizational skills, improved communication and social skills, et al), scientists are constantly publishing articles about the health benefits of games (preventing dementia & memory loss, lower blood pressure, improved immune systems, greater dexterity and better reasoning skills to name a few), and the economic benefits of board games are touted by ‘experts’ throughout the world (The cost of a board game is less than dinner and a movie and can be played over and over).

With all the benefits of board games, we can see why the industry is growing every year. Even when other forms of entertainment are declining, board games continue to increase in popularity. Whether a casual gamer, a serious gamer, an old pro or a newbie to board games, it’s important to understand how to pull off a successful game night. This guide is written towards families, but is applicable to friends, colleagues, or anyone interested in building memories around a game table.

To make your game night successful, there are 12 steps to follow:

1) Plan Ahead

  • Planning ahead helps to create anticipation and excitement.
  • Even if it’s only an hour or two ahead, it gives everyone something to look forward to.
  • Decide the game(s) you’ll be playing and talk about it ahead of time (“Are we getting out of the Forbidden Desert today?”, “Who’s gonna be the traitor at the House on the Hill this time?”, “Who gets to name the town in Farmy Men tonight?”)

2) Clean Up. Before and After.

Game nights are about having fun and relaxing. From an emotional standpoint, clutter causes stress. In spite of the seemingly countless studies about cleanliness relating to our emotional well-being and the long-term effects of blah blah blah clutter and yada yada yada organizing, we really don’t need scientists to tell us what we already know: Less mess = less stress. A cleaner area means a more relaxed setting. It also helps you not lose pieces that fall off the table. Some tips to help with this often-overlooked step:

  • Pick up the area where you’ll be playing beforehand.
  • Wipe off the table! Nothing will make you wish you’d applied this information more than setting up your 7 Wonders cards or Kingdom Builder tiles on something left over from dinner. Do this far enough ahead that it will be dry by the time you start.
  • You can use this as an activity with your kids – “As soon as we get the living room picked up, we can start playing Flash Point (or whatever you’re going to play).
  • Clean up afterwards. Make sure everything gets put away before you’re finished. Not only is it easier to clean up a mess sooner than later, but you’ll be able to make sure you have all the pieces for the next game night.

3) Remove Distractions.

In order to get the most out of a game night, it’s important to pay attention to not only the game, but also the people you’re playing with.   Some of the main distractions to be aware of include:

  • Cell Phones. Ask everyone to turn off cell phones. A phone call or text during a game is distracting to everybody, will cause the mood to dissipate, and is frustrating when the group is waiting for you to finish the call so you can take your turn. It also makes the others feel like a second fiddle to whoever is on the phone, and will diminish the overall fun of the evening.
  • There is an inclination to put younger kids in another room to watch a movie while the older kids play games. There are several reasons NOT to do this, including the possible distraction to those playing the game and the missed opportunity to have the younger kids participate. Younger kids can sit on your lap or at the table and enjoy the game with the whole family, even if they don’t know how to play. Consider this: A child on a lap is excited to be ‘on your team’; even if that means just watching you take your turn.
  • Household Jobs. Finish other tasks before starting the game. When a dryer finishes drying or a kitchen timer goes off and you get up to take care of it, the frustration of waiting for you is similar to waiting for someone answering a call on their cell phone (See b above). Besides, that was already taken care of in step 2…

5) Be Involved.

Once you start playing, stay involved with what’s happening in the game and around the table. Instead of taking your turn and acting bored until your turn comes around again, PAY ATTENTION TO OTHERS’ TURNS. It makes them feel important enough that you stop to see what they’re doing, and this will mean a lot to kids and spouses. On top of that, you won’t need a recap of what resources were rolled in your Star Trek: Catan game when your turn comes around again and you might even learn a new way to play a favorite game. Building memories is more likely to happen when you’re involved, and your family will appreciate it.

6) Be A Good Loser.

Nothing turns a fun game night into a bad memory like someone brooding or pouting. Comments like “you only won because you got lucky” serve no purpose, don’t build positive memories and label you as a poor sport. Remember that your self-worth has nothing to do with someone filling up the cotton boat in Puerto Rico and leaving you with a field full of un-sellable cotton on your turn. Even if you lose the game because of it…you’re going to be okay. This is even more true in co-op games (games where everyone is on the same team competing against the board), as nobody likes to hear over and over how everyone lost at Flash Point because one firefighter carried a victim into a smoky room that exploded in a fireball. If you can be a good loser and laugh at games, your kids will follow suit.

7) Be A Better Winner.

The only thing worse than a sore loser is an obnoxious winner. Even if you came from behind in Dominion and somehow played 9 witch cards in a single turn to give you the win…let it go. Nobody wants a recap on your amazing victory, nobody wants to know that you were planning it all along, and (if you keep yammering on about your amazing win) nobody will want you joining the next game night.

8) Laugh. A Lot.

Remember that this is a game. Remember that these are people you care about and who care about you. Nobody is going to think less of you if you lost the dog in Robinson Crusoe, your promotion at work will not depend on if your crew was wiped out by an epidemic card in Galaxy Trucker, and your happiness in this life has nothing to do with how many settlements you place near rivers in Kingdom Builder. Games are about having fun, and you’ll remember the games where everyone was laughing and hysterical far more than games where you mercilessly destroyed all your competition…mwa-haa-haa-haa-haaaaaaaaaaa! (Any time someone uses a word like ‘mercilessly’ in a paragraph about laughing, it would be wrong to not follow it with evil villain laughter, right?) Relax and have fun.

9) Watch the Clock.

With game nights, shorter is almost always sweeter. Even an entertaining movie will start to bother people if it runs too long, and games are no different. There’s a fine line between the perfect length of time and waaaaay too long. Err on the side of less time and you’re better off. Games like Escape: The Curse of the Temple, 5-Minute Delivery and King of Tokyo are great games with a short time stamp on them. If a game is fun and short, you can play it a few times or you can leave everyone with a desire to play it again. Everyone is different, but games under 45 minutes are almost always a safer bet.

5) Comfort Zones =  Danger Zones.

Try something new. Especially if you’re playing games with more casual players or new (younger) players who might not know the game(s) as well as you do. The intimidation factor is high when you’ve mastered a game and you’re playing with someone’s who hasn’t played it before. If you’re new and you lose in a game like this, your chance of wanting to play that game again is approximately 3,720 to 1. Trying something new also helps you to broaden your horizons. You’ll find a few duds along the way, but you might also find a gem like The Village or Takenoko.

11) Remember it’s Just A Game.

This may be the most important part of creating positive memories with the people you care about. Remember this. Whether or not you win a game is irrelevant compared to a child or spouse remembering a fun night. If your daughter cuts off your food supply in Agricola and you end up with 5 Beggar Cards at the end, laugh about it and congratulate her on her strategy. Even if your family teases you about being a professional beggar for the next week, your children are better off with a memory of ‘Beggar Dad’ than a memory of sulking or angry dad.

12) Leave The Game At The Table.

When you’re done playing games, leave them at the table. Not literally – you still need to clean up your mess when you’re done – but figuratively. Don’t gloat about your wins, don’t be upset afterwards, and don’t keep rehashing a disputed rule. When the game is done, LEAVE IT AT THE TABLE. Don’t search through rule books to prove you were right in a rules dispute, don’t complain about how the first player is at a disadvantage and the designers need to fix that, and don’t grumble about everyone ganging up on you just wasn’t fair. LEAVE IT ALL AT THE TABLE! You’ll teach your loved ones to enjoy the time together, and everybody can look forward to your next game night together!

How To Enjoy The Game… Even When You Lose

By | Gaming Etiquette

That’s right, at some point we’re all losers. No matter how hard we try, we are going to lose eventually. You can plan ahead, trust to luck, look for mercy from friends or family, or rely entirely on your own skills, but eventually YOU WILL LOSE. Of course, I’m talking about when we play games, but this can be taken far beyond the table and apply to any game (or even other parts of life)!

And don’t worry – I’m not going to start off by saying it’s just a game… While that may be true, it’s the most overused cliché on this particular subject, and one that drives this writer bonkers when people use it.

So why is losing such a big deal to so many people? It may be because we feel like we failed at something or because we aren’t as good as someone else. A number of people measure their value based only on their successes. This kind of thinking is like the person hiking to the top of a mountain, never taking their eyes off the goal. Eventually they may get there, but they missed the views along the way, the conversation with fellow travelers, and almost always miss the point of the journey.

So, here’s some things to practice for the next time you get your backside handed to you at the table:

Remember the journey is more important than the destination

Playing a game with friends or family is a chance to talk, laugh, joke and spend time with people we care about. When you take your eyes off the top of the mountain/winning the game and focus instead on the people you’re traveling with, you’ll find that you remember the time more than if you won or lost.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

Don’t blame any person or element of luck.

Everybody was playing the same game, and everybody was rolling the same dice/drawing from the same deck. While you might cite a series of 6’s rolled on the dice as the reason you weren’t able to make your strategy work, it was just as likely that you could’ve rolled the 3’s you needed. Even if fate was against you the entire night, excuses sound lame to every person listening. If you choose to blame luck as the reason you lost, either be quiet about it or start off the rant with, “Excuse me, I’m a crybaby and would like to tell you all something that only proves that…” then go on to tell everybody about the dice who had a vendetta against you.

“Accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.” – David Brent

Don’t be the obnoxious player during the game.

Everybody hates the guy who’s always telling people about their brilliant strategy and how everything’s going according to plan. Even worse, when you draw that card you need and clap your hands while screaming “Yes!”, it’s going to bug enough people that they don’t care who wins, as long as it’s not you. They’ll even give other players the resources and breaks they need, just to beat you. When this happens, you’ve put yourself in the position to be upset at people and blame them (see #2) or be a sore loser just to save face. Don’t do this during the game and you won’t get backed into a corner at the end.

“I think you can be smart and directed and focused, without being obnoxious, and get plenty done.” – Bill de Blasio

Leave the game at the table.

This is perhaps the most important thing of all. When the game is done and you put it away, leave it. Don’t talk about your loss (or your win), don’t be upset at someone who stabbed you in the back during the game, don’t brood or rehash how close you were, if only someone had helped you. You lost. Let it go and keep your relationships strong away from the table. This doesn’t mean you can’t throw the gauntlet down for a rematch the next time you sit down to play a game…

“I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.” – Buddy Hackett

Smile. It’s just a game.

I know I promised I wouldn’t use that phrase, but it really is true. If you’re not having fun playing games, learn to enjoy them or stop playing. Life is too short to engage in anything we hate, especially when there are plenty of things to do that we like. If games are miserable to play, stop playing them! If you only have fun when you win, go back and read #1 again. Games are meant to be challenging and cause us to think, but all that won’t matter if the you or the people you play with don’t enjoy it. Games are meant to be a way to spend time with other people – a journey to be taken together.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” – Michael Jordan