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Subject: Gaming Responsibility: Choosing the Right and Wrong Games for Your Group rss

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Ryan Trepanier
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I don't usually air grievances on these forums, as I don't find them to be productive, but I suppose there is a first for everything (and I plan to connect this to an overall thought/discussion topic I'd like to start).

I was over at a friend's house over the weekend for a night of gaming (9pm-9am was the original plan). A good group came, about 13-15 people, and I came prepared with a nice mish mash of games for different weights/players/themes. I ended up bringing:
Snow Tails
Pandemic
Small World Underground (6p Board included)
Cosmic Encounter
A Game of Thrones (Board Game)
Memoir 44
Lord of the Rings: Confrontation
Resistance
Love Letter
and maybe one or two I can't think of off the top of my head.

The point is, here, that I thought of games that might appeal to a variety of different weights and themes. Sure, I was picking games I would enjoy, but I was more interested in bringing games that would be enjoyed by others as well.

We started with 6 player Small World, which went pretty well, for three first timers, they seemed to enjoy it and were only a tiny bit overwhelmed (Settlers is about their ideal weight). We followed that with Settlers which was more comfortable for the majority. At this point, one of the guys had brought Eclipse and was adamant we play it.
I have never played it before, but was interested, though VERY aware that this was not the group to introduce this game to. I made a point too say it wasn't a very light game, and if Small World was big for some people, Eclipse would be massive. He kept assuring me Eclipse wasn't heavy at all, the rules could be explained in 10/15 minutes easily, and the game wouldn't last long either.
EDIT: He went so far as to rip the rulebook out of my hand telling me that I don't need to read that.

I backed out of the game knowing I did not have the time, and that the group would not be very receptive to it. They played it 4p and I don't think it went well (I was in another room playing with a group of 3 at this point).

So, where I am taking this grievance, because in my mind, that person acted extremely selfishly, playing the game he wanted regardless of the needs of his group, is: what responsibility do we have as experienced gamers?

This hobby is so unlike a lot of different things, because in its essence, it is ALWAYS a group thing. You are always playing with other people, and you have to be aware of other people's enjoyment as much as your own. In the end, we are trying to retain and grow our members in this hobby (I hope), and in doing that, picking the right games and creating the right environments are crucial. Imagine a first time gamer playing something like Eclipse? That is very likely to scare them off, and that could be someone who might not play games for a long time because of the sour taste they have.

In this case, the theme appeased the group, and that's why everyone went along with (as well as because of the assurances it was an easy enough game). Now I'm sure there is going to be one or two people here who will tell me I got it wrong, and Eclipse IS easy, but you're kidding yourself. And that's what more gamers need. We need perspective. We need to be able to see that Group A may not ready for Dominant Species, or Eclipse or Twilight Imperium, and maybe we should stick to Small World or Ticket to Ride, or find some middle ground to work up to those higher games. Sure, we might want to play our favourite heavy games, but at the end of the day, we want to play with people who also enjoy playing along. Playing a game of Eclipse or any other medium heavy game like that is no fun if everyone else is lost.

So, I guess what I'm trying to gather here is, how much responsibility do you shoulder in growing and maintaining the health of newer gamers (and not even new, but "light" gamers)?

I'd love to see what comes out of this conversation. My experiences with that individual left a sour taste in my mouth, especially when I try to be so conscious about what has a chance to succeed on a table and what doesn't. Sure I want my favourites to come out, but only when it is opportune.

EDIT: Everyone games for different reasons and with different motivations. I get that, I encourage that, and I embrace it. However, no matter why you game, you need gamers. (I am not directing this at the
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Eric Nolan
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rytrepanier wrote:
Now I'm sure there is going to be one or two people here who will tell me I got it wrong, and Eclipse IS easy, but you're kidding yourself.


Seriously? You are pre-dismissing people who may disagree with you? Well, regardless, in my opinion if the rules explainer already knows Eclipse then it is quite an easy game to play. You may not play very well but you can operate the game and have fun.

You say you "don't think it went well" without saying what you mean. Did anyone complain?

The only objective issue I can see is that I would expect four player Eclipse with three people who didn't know the rules to take up to three hours to play. If this guy told people it would be over in an hour or two at the most then this is clearly wrong.
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Shelby Buttimer
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I think people tend to forget what it's like to go from Monopoly and Apples to Apples to games like Small World or Pandemic or Caverna or Eclipse.

Your friend probably did genuinely think that Eclipse was a light, easy game for anyone simply because he thinks it's light, easy game with simple rules. It takes some maturity and perspicacity to realize that not everyone sees things the way you do, and he may not have that maturity yet. So busting out Eclipse for new players, while I agree that that was probably a bit much for newbies, may not have been as selfish as it seems on the surface.

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Ryan Trepanier
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Hivemind wrote:
in my opinion if the rules explainer already knows Eclipse then it is quite an easy game to play. You may not play very well but you can operate the game and have fun.

Eclipse has 3.6 weight rating. 1.2 higher than something like Small World. It IS a heavier game. That's not a debate, and you're conceding yourself that they won't play very well. How do you know they will have fun if they aren't playing very well? A lot of people like to know what they're doing in order to enjoy it. Playing a game because that's what YOU want to play can hurt the enjoyment of the whole group.

And I say I don't think it went well because I was in the room and wasn't there for the finish. I do know that they didn't even bother tallying the score at the end. But that's really not the point of all this. It's making an informed decision of what to play and being AWARE of the game's complexity and time commitment. If you want to show people Eclipse, prepare them for it. Don't set it up as a quick, easy to learn space exploration game...
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Alison Mandible
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I know what you mean! I've definitely been annoyed with (what I felt was) other people misrepresenting games that led to bad game-night choices. On the other hand, I've been the person getting it wrong sometimes too.

I think the main thing you can do is model good behavior. When you're offering a game that pushes the limits of the situation, say "I want to play this because I'm really excited about it, but it's on the heavier side".

I also try to be clear when I'm nixing a game for reasons other than personal taste: "So, that looks like fun, but it also looks like the kind of game which takes a LOT longer than the box says, at least when I play. And I want to be home by midnight no matter what. So if you folks play that, I will step aside."

It only takes one or two incidents before people start to trust you. And by the same token you're allowed to make people accountable for their predictions! If Eclipse-guy suggests another game that you think is going to be too long or heavy, you can say "You said Eclipse would be short and y'all were in the other room for ages!"
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Ryan Trepanier
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grasa_total wrote:
I also try to be clear when I'm nixing a game for reasons other than personal taste: "So, that looks like fun, but it also looks like the kind of game which takes a LOT longer than the box says, at least when I play. And I want to be home by midnight no matter what. So if you folks play that, I will step aside."
The real reason I am so upset at how things went down is precisely this. I wanted to be out for a certain time and I knew Eclipse would go over it, and when I expressed that, he was adamant I was wrong. In the end, the 4p game took 30 minutes to teach (he claimed 10 at the beginning), and about 2h30m to play (he claimed under 2). I am glad I backed out.
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Alison Mandible
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rytrepanier wrote:
I have never played it before, but was interested, though VERY aware that this was not the group to introduce this game to. I made a point too say it wasn't a very light game, and if Small World was big for some people, Eclipse would be massive.


On reread: The fact that experienced gamers can make good guesses about game length and weight without having played isn't obvious to everyone! I find that pinning guesses on specific factors is helpful:

- "The time on the box is never accurate the first time around."
- "The people who like that on BGG all like really heavy games."
- "Sorry, no 'dudes on a map' games for me."
 
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J. M. Lopez-Cepero "CP"
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I heartily agree with your take regarding the games you offered to play, and I can relate to it, being an usual "facilitator" for gaming nights with people who are not as into the hobby as I am. And I'm pretty sure that the experience that your companions had was pretty different from SW than from Eclipse. (Incidentally, I would be surprised if "Eclipse guy" was any good at rules explaining, as he does not seem to have a good grasp of what makes a game complex...)

The way I see it, if I'm sharing a social activity with other people, the goal should be for everybody to enjoy themselves, not for me to get to some arbitrary goal at the expense of everyone else. So, as long as you find yourself in the "evangelist" role, you have a responsability to choose games your companions would enjoy, or just politely decline to play with them if you can't find a common ground.

I dunno, it's kind of like if you are a hiking buff, but end up sharing time with a number of people who are sedentary. You can go for a stroll around to show them some nice area - something easy. In all likelihood they will enjoy the activity, be thankful to you, and probably be eager to repeat the experience - perhaps even to try something a little more challenging next time. What you don't do is coax them into a 10-hour walk through unmarked hilly terrain while it's raining, just because you feel like doing it and "it's not a big deal". Seems like common courtesy to me.

Of course, you might not want, or be in the mood, to accommodate OMGN00BZ or to act as an evangelist, and that's fine - find somebody else to play with. But tricking people into playing whatever you want without taking into account their preferences or skill levels strikes me as very bad form, and might potentially sour them on the hobby, which would be a pretty sad development.

Cheers
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Todd Barker
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As the person who supplies most of the games I choose the majority of new games we play. We have about 9 different people and usually have 3-6 people per night that we game. I find that, especially with people that have a very limited background in board games that the actual weight or difficulty of the game has little to do with how much they enjoy it. In order to hook new gamers you really have to know their personality and tastes.

For example, we have a player in our group that will never target anybody with a "take that" mechanic unless she absolutely has to. Picking games that have lots of screwing over your friends, regardless of how easy they are to learn and play are not going to be a fun experience for this player. Now that she has played more games she is starting to open up to the idea of stealing cards and resources for her own personal gain but it is definitely something we avoided for a while.

When I was first trying to sell my SO on board games I tried lots of "intro games" and games that are often suggested for "couples". Every single one fell flat because I was not focusing on what she actually enjoys. We tried things like TTR, Catan, Pandemic, Lost Cities, Takenoko but even though she likes Panda bears they were all disappointments. It wasn't until we played Alien Frontiers that she actually got interested in board games enough to start looking for ones she might like on her own and actually asking to play games instead of me bugging her. She really liked how you could block people out of the moves they wanted to do, that your options are narrowed down based on what you roll and that the game had a more exciting theme. She now enjoys stomping me at Acres of Snow, Dominion, Waterdeep, Tikal, and Netrunner regularly.

I find that suggesting games entirely based off people's experience with board games to be unproductive if your goal is to "convert them". Instead I think you should focus on a theme that will capture their attention, has limited downtime, has mechanics they like (how can you know what mechanics they like if they have never played board games?) its pretty easy to know if someone will like direct aggressive games or more economic / peaceful games also if someone is going to enjoy games that involve racing to grab an object or slap a pile of cards, you can also gauge pretty easily if they would enjoy games where you have to shout things out or read lots of text. I think one key point that ties into all these is knowing the components of a game rather than the mechanics, lots of components can easily overwhelm someone even if the rules are relatively simple. Even simple games in concept like Smash Up have lots of card text to read and give it a longer learning time, and you don't want long downtime so avoid text heavy.

Basically for me it comes down to, most people have little problem browsing games for an hour thinking of what their friends / group might like but if you were to instead reverse this and think about what your friend likes before you go browsing games you will make a much better selection. If you don't know what people are into, check their facebook or even better..ask them. What movies, video games or other hobbies people have are unusually a good starting point.
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Jeremy
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I tried to play Shadows over Camelot with a group of experienced gamers this weekend. None of them seemed to understand what was going on. I thought the game was extremely simply and intuitive... apparently I was wrong.

So apparently I am that guy.
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Ryan Trepanier
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Mordus wrote:
I tried to play Shadows over Camelot with a group of experienced gamers this weekend. None of them seemed to understand what was going on. I thought the game was extremely simply and intuitive... apparently I was wrong.

So apparently I am that guy.
No, you're not. You picked a game you thought would hit with your target audience. You were wrong, but you weren't naive.

THAT guy picked Eclipse because he wanted to play it, and if he could have trained a group of monkeys to play it with him, he would have. That was his only end goal: playing THAT game.

You're not that guy...yet. Keep trying!
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Trevor Kindree
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[SHAMELESS PLUG FOR LOCAL HAMILTON GAMING GROUP]
Correct them as best possible by heading out to Chester's tonight for some decent gaming...
[/SHAMELESS PLUG FOR LOCAL HAMILTON GAMING GROUP]

I've misjudged a few groups, and seriously misjudged some games. I've taught what I thought would be appropriate games to some groups, and it went over poorly by being too complex. I've misjudged times, based on audiences (A 1h game taking 2.5h? Been there. It sucked.), and that's just a horrible feeling.

Most people, unless they're being very selfish about it, are aware of their audience. There's always some person who wants to play a game so badly they'll convince themselves that it's the right game for everyone - "It's not that heavy" (compared to Dominant Species)... "It's fairly fast" (compared to TI3)... "The rules are fairly straightforward and don't take long to teach" (compared to ASL)... I've played several games with asshats who sprinted through the rules simply so they could play faster, or idiots who convinced new gamers to play something well outside their comfort zone and abilities.

My personal opinion: As someone who's knowledgeable about the games I'm playing, if I'm recommending a game to a group, I want it to fit in well with the group. I want everyone to have a good time, to enjoy themselves, so they'll be receptive to more games in the future. Nobody has fun if a game is going very poorly, is dragging, or is misunderstood. If one player is miserable, they're going to have a crappy time, and likely drag everyone down (at least a little). Who wants to go through that AGAIN?

I think it's very respectable by warning the other players that you thought it would take longer, it wasn't that simple, it might have been beyond what they should be playing, and it wasn't the right game for the group. The person in charge of that game wasn't listening because they wanted to play much more than they wanted everyone to have fun - by grabbing the rules out of your hand shows how little respect he had for others and their thoughts. The other players would have seen that, and should have made up their own minds - even non-gamers should be able to identify a selfish ass.

Idiocy aside: How did the rest of the evening go? Focus on the positive
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Ryan Trepanier
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It was a great night. I'm glad I tapped out, as I don't think it was a good place to be. I generally won't even try teaching games that heavy from scratch. I ask people to watch playthroughs or glance at the rulebook in order to come with some grasp of the gameplay. Teaching those games cold, imo, is a recipe for disaster.
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TJ
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I had the opportunity to teach some games to new gamers this past weekend. Ticket to Ride was a hit overall, while nobody was overwhelmed by the ruleset, there were a couple people that suffered from AP, not being used to make (even simple) choices in board games before. Even if a new player understands the rules, they still may be overwhelmed by the options they're presented with.
 
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J M
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Eclipse is the kind of game you should arrange/agree before the day to play with a set group of people, not ambush the general populace mid-game-night.
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Ross Hubbard
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Ryan,

I hear you loud and clear. More annoying than the guy who just wants to play his game is the guy who wants to play his game and win at it. I love games and have been expanding my horizons. I play simple to mid-level games (king of tokyo, dominion, 7 wonders) because I have not been able to find anyone to play the heavier games (Twilight Imperium, Diplomacy). My wife and I used to play with two other couples. One of the husbands would insist on playing a particular game. We played 7 wonders and he did not explain it that well. My wife and I had no clue the entire game and then started to figure it out with the end of game scoring. Now I understand that the scoring of that game is varied and when I now teach it to new people I give them the basics and play a very quick game to show them how it works. However, it was about him playing the game and trying to win. For those who know the game, he didn't even tell us how the green science cards interact with one another. Another game he taught us was Munchkins. A very simple game, but again no explanation and he was making deals for his benefit. The wife of the other couple even called him out on one of the trades saying, "I know I am getting screwed, but I will do it anyway since I don't know what's going on."

I have tried to remember when teaching games to be thorough enough for enjoyment, but not overwhelming. Also, I try not to win the first time we play, but instead kindly suggest strategic moves to help the new guys.

 
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William Chew
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You brought Game of Thrones which is of similar weight. But you didn't try to push it on people who struggled with Small World. So I understand what you are saying. Don't push games on those incapable or unwilling to learn them.


I used to be "that guy", but it was in a one game a night environment. And we had plenty of time to play anything I brought. However I realized that some of the people weren't matches for certain games so I stopped gaming with them.
 
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Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater
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rytrepanier wrote:
He kept assuring me Eclipse wasn't heavy at all, the rules could be explained in 10/15 minutes easily, and the game wouldn't last long either.


lolwut

If you are like me, the moment he rips the rulebook out of your hands is the moment you're out. There's just no need for that.
 
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Krawhitham B
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rytrepanier wrote:
So, I guess what I'm trying to gather here is, how much responsibility do you shoulder in growing and maintaining the health of newer gamers (and not even new, but "light" gamers)?


I don't see that there is a conflict between introducing new gamers to the hobby and teaching a medium/heavy game. Lets take your example and show how it might have been done:

"This is one of my favourite games and I would like to show it to you. It is heavier than what you have played before but I think you might enjoy it."

It gives the new gamers a chance to see other sides of the hobby and show them whats out there. I always tell people that it's ok if they didn't like the game.

What went wrong in your example is that the game owner described the rules as 'easy' and put the other players in the position of feeling stupid if they did not understand what was going on.

It is too easy to assume that new gamers need to be broken in gently. It just needs to be done in the right way. Show people what you love and make sure that they know that it's ok if they don't feel the same way.

As for 'light' gamers: I do think that there is a section of gamers who look down upon these type of games. I have seen terms like 'gateway game' used to mean 'this is what you need to play before you get to the *real* games'. Just let people play what they enjoy.
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J. M. Lopez-Cepero "CP"
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Krawhitham wrote:
It is too easy to assume that new gamers need to be broken in gently. It just needs to be done in the right way. Show people what you love and make sure that they know that it's ok if they don't feel the same way.


Actually, I think that the best games for "newcomers" are those in which there's an asymmetry between their complexity, rules-wise, and the strategic depth they offer. I have found that games with simple rules but which offer a lot of options work great to open people's eyes. The family version of Agricola or a full package of Small World, for example, fall into this category for me - easy enough to teach to newcomers, reasonably intuitive rules, but lots of room for strategic depth.

The downside, of course, is that somebody who has some experience with the game will trounce those who are just learning, but that usually doesn't prevent everybody else from having a good time unless players engage in murder mode from the first second.

If games have a lot of rules, it's pretty likely that they'll go over people's heads. The possible exception being highly thematic games in which you have somebody taking the role of "show-runner" until people learn the ropes. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game comes to mind as a game with a boatload of convoluted rules but which I can see being a success on the strength of the narrative experience alone.
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A Wong
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I definitely understand where you are coming from - and worse, I've been "that guy" too.

Sometimes you just really want to play a game so much you convince yourself that past experience be dammed, these players will pick the game up like fish to water, and everyone will be enjoying the game with no ap ever.

It had taken a number of failures ( and successes) to teach me to be appropriately cautious in what I bring to the table.

Time is the big one. Only recently have I realised you need enough time to play the game at its longest, rather than shortest.

I do think board games are an easy sell, as there is something for everybody - and it's up to us to find what's right for the group.

And I think it's best to forgive your friend for being totally wrong. It was probably not malicious. Just don't forget. And if he forgets himself, don't be afraid to remind him off eclipse, and our
Pull him down to earth. Stomp him down if need be. It's for the groups, and his own, good. IMHO.
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Brian Fong
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Our responsibility as gamers is to expose others to the games we like. We should also have fun and make sure others have fun as well. There will be games that you will win and some will lose, but if you're not having fun, then it's not the right game for you.

My Board Gamers Bill of Rights

1) You have the right to be and feel safe while playing.
2) You have the right to be respected.
3) You have the right to not play a game.
4) You have the right to watch a game being played.
5) You have the right to leave a game when you want to (within reason).
6) You have the right to eat and drink while playing.
7) You have the right to have your own opinion.
8) You have the right to respectfully disagree.
9) You have the right to have a impartial party mediate game disputes.
10) You have the right to have fun.

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EBWonder wrote:

5) You have the right to leave a game when you want to (within reason).
6) You have the right to eat and drink while playing.
7) You have the right to have your own opinion.

Interesting! But what if someone has a different opinion about food and drinks? Especially if it's their game? I prefer no drinks on the table. I also will not leave in the middle of a game unless absolutely necessary. I hope people at my table will feel the same way.
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the_vinman wrote:
EBWonder wrote:

5) You have the right to leave a game when you want to (within reason).
6) You have the right to eat and drink while playing.
7) You have the right to have your own opinion.

Interesting! But what if someone has a different opinion about food and drinks? Especially if it's their game? I prefer no drinks on the table. I also will not leave in the middle of a game unless absolutely necessary. I hope people at my table will feel the same way.


I'd say that falls under the Gamers' List of Responsibilities:

1) You will pay attention during the game.
2) You will give every game you're involved in a fair shake.
3) You will pay attention during the rules explanations, and keep all questions to relevant sections, or the end of the explanation.
4) You will respect other players at the table, and treat all other players equitably.
5) You will respect the host, their space, and their guests.
6) You will respect the game and its components, and will endevour to make sure that the game enters the box in the same state it exited.
7) You will assist with setup, and cleanup as much as possible.
8) You will do your best to see the game through to its logical conclusion.
9) You will not cheat beyond the limits of the game rules, nor will you use information gained illicitly against other players.
10) You will resolve any disputes in a civilized manner.
11) You will do your best to have fun.
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Reddish22
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I think one thing that we gamers totally forget is that often, our friends and family who enjoy the light or party style games often aren't looking to go for heavier games.

We always are working towards understanding and trying new and deeper strategies and such as gamers. Often mpre casual gamers are more than content where they are.

I think after playing Resistance over and over again with my family and thentrying to teach them something new that i wanted to play just to see it flop helped me realize this and also realize that its totally ok!
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