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Subject: Table Talk >> How Much Gaming Chatter Do You Tolerate? rss

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Jay Little
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Table Talk >> How Much Gaming Chatter Do You Tolerate?

It dawned on me the other day while reviewing some of my games that some elicit far more table talk than others. Not just your standard negotiation or diplomacy games, either - but games where actions can greatly influence the other players.

The two that really brought this to my attention were San Marco and El Grande.

In San Marco, the division of Action Cards and Limit Cards never is done in a vacuum. The other players are evaluating the splits, offering advice, showing how the proposed split will totally favor one player over the other, or even trying to negotiate what to put in a pile so the first selector will grab it. I haven't had a problem with this, as evaluating and dividing those cards is extremely difficult, and so core to the game that it seems a natural for table talk. But I've mentioned this to other players who were appalled by the idea of discussing and negotiating this part of the game.

El Grande has a slightly similar feel to it, but from my gaming, the crux of discussion is the deflection of player targeting. The player furthest along the scoring track is not always the player in the best position - if those points came at the cost of board position, flexibility or extremely high/low power cards, it could actually be a sign of weakness. Regardless, the leading scorer tends to get targeted more readily than others unless they can convince the active player and plead their case why someone else is a bigger threat - who then tries to deflect that to someone else. Again, this seems part of the game to me, but some gamers I've talked to can't imagine that level of discussion or table talk during a game.

Games with a more direct military or confrontational theme, like Game of Thrones or Wallenstein, seem more natural for this level of negotiation or discussion, but I find there are a lot of games where "back seat gamers" offer up their input, point out strategies/moves that hamper other players, try to deflect actions against them through negotiation, etc.

What do you think?
Does this level of table talk have a place at your gaming table?
Are there some games where this bothers you more than others?
Is there some table talk that crosses the line?
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Mike Jones
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IMHO, we table top game because we want to talk to each other. That's one of the reasons I don't on-line game (yes I know you can talk over instant message, but that's not the same to me).

Table Talk is part of the 'community' of gaming.

To me table talking is (among other things) openingly talking about things within the group for one person to do that may or may not have an affect on one or more others. It might also be helping an inexperienced player understand their own position, indifferent to if it helps you or not. Some are better at it as others. But, the line that gets crossed to me is when it's a game about one player winning and the 'negotiations' are always one sided (and illogical) and it becomes 'ganging' up of two or more people against one. Where only one of those people can win the game. Most games are individual games and not team events. It’s when it becomes a team against an individual. And at that point, it’s not really ‘table’ talk that is the problem. It’s personal alliances normally from outside the game. And it gets very old when it’s the weak player that is always teaming up with a strong player just to have a good showing (but knowing what they do only helps the strong player). Again, at this point it’s not talk talk to me (but that’s what table talk can led to).

All your examples (except San Marco) I would expect (and encourage) a level of table talk.

I've only played San Marco once. The division of cards, did illicit some discussion, but I don't think it was out right bargaining. To me the division of the cards would be the least conducive to 'ethical' table talking. As stated above, IMO some are better at ‘table talking’ then others. If you get parings of ‘table talkers’ against non-table talkers (granted it is random) it gives the feel of team play. It just isn’t something I would think appropriate, beyond the ‘hey be nice I’m less of a threat then Bob’.

(Wish I could write more, but I've got a meeting to go to.)
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Francis Beaudet
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Gaming chatter is really a problem when not all players have the same level of expertise with a game. This is where a player can engineer his chatter to control the weaker player. It is not a matter of how much chatter as it is a matter of intent. Sometimes, a simple well placed sigh can modify a less experienced player's play.

I think in this case, the control lies with the other experienced players at the table to make it obvious to the weaker player that he is being manipulated.

When all players have the same level of expertise, chatter is fair play (unless the game forbids it specifically). It then becomes a matter of how cut-throat your group wants to make the game.

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Doug Faust
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I actually had a bad experience with table talk playing Puerto Rico at PrezCon a few years ago. Basically, I had less experience than some of the other players at the table, and they were trying to bully me into not taking the producer because it would help the player with the factory too much. However, I was playing a shipping strategy, and I really needed goods to ship, so the Producer seemed like it would be best for me, regardless of how it affected other players. In the end, I won that game (through no fault of my own, there was some kingmaker-type play in which the leader was taken down IIRC), but I still didn't enjoy the verbal abuse I took for taking the producer.

Apparently, this was a more widespread problem than that one game, as in the next game I played, everyone agreed to a rule in which no game-related talk was permitted...
 
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Rik Van Horn
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IMO, unless the rules specify something shouldn't be discussed, anything that effects the balance of power or benefits someone greatly is fair game to point out.

It's one of the ways skills balance out. If someone sees a play that will benefit one player greatly to the detriment of everyone else, I see no reason not to do it.

Likewise, if one player can choose to affect someone else with an action, I see no problem with people offering suggestions of who to play it on.
The only problems arise when someone thinks game actions equal personal affronts.
 
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CHAPEL
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As mentioned, I believe it depends on the game. Talking and interacting during games is what I consider the fun part of gaming, without it, I would just stick to online computer games. It's one reason I play them.

There are a few games, that just seem to be quieter though. Reef Encounter is one of them. Every time I play RE, it seem so eerie quiet!
 
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Seems like its important to distinguish between:
1) friendly talk that is gaming related, like "helpfulness" which may are may not benefit the giver of the advice, but is intended to help the player whose turn it is make their optimum move.
2) metagaming. Whining about how badly you're losing and pointing out that Bob is going to win if no one targets him....especially when you and Bob are actually neck and neck.
3) taunting. This is actually the stuff that is sometimes fun...sometimes painful. If you have the right group for it...and people AREN'T actually ganging up on someone in the game itself, it can be fun to tease your buddies. With some groups there is more formality and seriousness....and you just don't do this.

 
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Chris
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We actually went so far as to write it into our 'membership policy' for our group:

"It's kind to help first-time players by pointing out possible turn options and discussing general game strategy. Usually it's acceptable to highlight information clearly visible to all players. However, table talk that provides details about where another player is weak or that suggests strategies to hinder a specific opponent will be seen as unfair or partial.

It is generally unsporting to give specific advice at the table, especially unsolicited advice. If a player is new to the game, advice about rules may be actually called for. Otherwise, advice is annoying when unasked for, slows down the game, is detrimental to the other players, and does not help the person in the long run figure out the game or feel good about winning in the long run.

Essentially, it’s not wrong to say, “Bill is winning, and you can stop him” – it IS wrong to say, “Here’s how you stop him…”

You should be careful about mentioning to the other players that some person is winning and that all players should act in concert to prevent this. The second in line for victory is likely to be saying this to his own advantage, and the determination as to who is winning is often incorrect. The subject of this discussion, as well as one who is being called on to sacrifice what he'd rather do to undermine the so-called winner, are often both made to feel uncomfortable

Most of us enjoy playing games for the opportunity to make our own decisions, to try them out, and to learn from them. We should all be willing to live with the consequences of our choices, good or bad.

We are free to determine our own objectives and their means. A player could try a long shot at victory, which, if it fails, will have dramatic consequence. He could play conservatively. He could play for position when he’s conceded his chances of victory. He could step on a second- or third-place player en route to his goals. He could do something in one game and something completely different, and totally inconsistent in the next. Each and every decision he makes belongs entirely (and SHOULD belong entirely) to him.

However, there are games (Atlantic Storm, I’m the Boss, Family Business) where table talk is expected; even encouraged! The table talk still needs to be consistent with the play of that game (and not infracting any of the above criteria). When in doubt about “how much” table talk is acceptable, ask away!"
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Scott Russell
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This is always a thorny issue. Most of my groups allow a fair bit of it and I am probably one of the worst (or best) with offering advice. I have learned, for the most part, to shut up when the advice isn't desired.

But when I am teaching a game, which is often, I feel compelled to point out really boneheaded plays (and explain why) to new players and allow a redo of that turn. My standing policy is to ask for other input if anyone perceives that my advice helps me more than the player on turn or at the undue expense of another player.

When playing with experienced players, we delight in offering advice that would help us and/or just complete bad moves as a form of humor.

The problems arise when someone manipulates new players. There is a guy with whom I often play 18XX games at cons. I refuse to play with him if there are newbies at the table, because he is so good at suggesting "good" plays to them that help him out tremendously. With experienced players, I love playing with him.

Sometimes ganging up on the leader talk gets old, but it's usually fun and debating who's really in front can also be fun.
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Martin Stever
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At my place we're strict Constitutionalists. Freedom of Speech rules the day with two exceptions:

No swearing, I've usually got a 4-year-old in the house. The bad news is that I "slip" more than anyone else by far. I'm fortunate that she hasn't picked up anything other than, "OH SPIT!"

No dissing my football teams, but that rule applies in all circumstances, not just on games day.
 
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Morgan Dontanville
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The only thing not allowed at our table is discussing what we look like without clothes.
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Jesse Acosta
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sisteray wrote:
The only thing not allowed at our table is discussing what we look like without clothes.


Perhaps just because we are a bunch of guys out of college in my group, but we say and do the most crude things while playing sometimes. From nasty retorts, to what some of the playing pieces loosely resemble, to what happens to the loser.
We are pretty loose though about playing. Joking and serious play seem to meld together somewhere amidst the chaos. I think we just all instinctively know when to toss in aside banter, and when we need to concentrate.
 
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Chris Darden
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The only thing not allowed at the tables I usually play at is.... well, I can't think of anything. If you can't say or do what you want while playing games, then get out of China comrade.
 
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Some months ago I resolved to try not pointing out anything and not complaining about anything strategy related. No "but he's the leader!" and nothing like "don't you want to take the trader?" If someone deliberately and repeatedly targets me for no real reason or is a game-long pawn of someone else, I probably wouldn't play with that person again, but during the game I will (do my best to) absorb it.

If specifically asked by a newer player, I'll offer what I think is genuinely the best course(s) of action.

Among veterans, pushing someone else or questioning them often serves only to increase their ill will towards you. In anything resembling a coin-flip or kingmaking decision, they will likely target the person who most annoyed them.

I haven't noticed any drop off in my overall winning % with this philosophy. It's helped my overall enjoyment of games in general, in a zen kind of way. And, again, I'm not perfect at this. Every once in awhile, I'll blurt out advice or take umbrage at what seems to be a move that only hurts me and "I'm not in the lead!"



 
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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sisteray wrote:
The only thing not allowed at our table is discussing what we look like without clothes.


Um... Morg... I hate that it's coming out here, but when you went to get pizza the other night Dan and I... well..
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Michelle Zentis
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sisteray wrote:
The only thing not allowed at our table is discussing what we look like without clothes.


Duh, Morgan! Topics likely to induce madness should be avoided at the gaming table. And there are some mental images that should not be cultivated under any circumstances!

Gaming chatter is generally not discouraged in my groups, as long as it doesn't overshadow the game itself. We're also willing to advise new players, though we usually ask the newbie whether he/she would like suggestions. If they decline, we'll keep our thoughts to ourselves.
 
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Dwayne Hendrickson
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derk wrote:
sisteray wrote:
The only thing not allowed at our table is discussing what we look like without clothes.


Um... Morg... I hate that it's coming out here, but when you went to get pizza the other night Dan and I... well..


I think we could say that "TIME'S UP" with this topic because we wouldn't want derk to become the butt of someone's joke.
 
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howl hollow howl
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I love table talk, and think it belongs in most games (or maybe I just try to avoid games where it doesn't fit in).

In El Grande, table talk doesn't occur much, except when someone missing something obvious ("don't leave 'score all 5-locations' for Bill!"). If I see something that will benefit me, I'll point it out as an option, but not badger the opponent about it.

In San Marco, table talk is critical because of the opportunities for collusion that result from card draws. In the last 3-player match I played, I was the first selector, and I found a move that was devastating for the second selector, but required that the other two of us play a certain way.
 
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J Jacy
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It's not the game that determines the table-talk, it's the people. I.e. I love to table talk in all forms, meta-gaming, talking, cajoling, whining, etc. Some people find it distracting, some annoying, some join in, or are neutral to it. I do my best to be aware of how the others feel about it, and act accordingly, because I don't want to be "that guy" who ruins it for everyone else just so I can selfishly have a bit more fun. Since I am the "main gamer" in my group of friends, if I'm the jerk, then they won't play games in general, and worse won't play games with me.

-jjacy1
 
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Jacco Versteeg
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I love a good bit of banter during a game. Both the taunting as well as appreciation of a good move, it's almost essential for me. There are times when 'silent' games are good, but most of the time I want that chatter! Which can be a bit tricky, as an organiser of an open gaming group which quite frequently sees new people appear. And if they're not used to the (sometimes rather crude) banter that goes on, it may scare them off. Which is a pity.
 
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Michael Berg
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In my family games, table talk to convince someone to do something is fine, but giving flat out advice is not. This isn't because other people at the table don't want them getting a free leg up, but because the recipient of the advice generally gets frustrated at why she can't play it her way and leaves the game frustrated. (Classic example: Settlers of Catan, initial placement)

In group games, all table talk is permitted, but giving advice that hurts one person will usually get that person mad at you, and thus hurt your chances of winning, or their gaming experience in general.

We talk about move optimization for other players a lot in games of railroad tycoon. Its entertaining, generally well accepted, and most importantly kills downtime.

I have to add on to this conversation the brilliant thought of "the stick" that Scott talks about in his review of Lifeboats. Essentually, table talk is permitted until the person with the stick sets it on the table, and then its silence until it is picked back up. I wonder if this would be generally good for other games as well?
 
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David Rauscher
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The one exception is when the chatter holds up the game. You know the type: it's their turn, but instead of playing they're prattling on about some movie they watched when they were 3, or the latest episode of the Simpsons. (BTW: why is it media that distracts players?) I don't mind them doing that, only when they're talking instead of playing.
 
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William Boykin
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If I can't trash talk, do a terrible James Cagney impersonation, or make at least 2 Monty Python and one Blade Runner quote a game, I'm just not having fun.....

Geeks just gotta be Geeks!

But seriously, folks....

I find that most of the time the big issue is when your teaching a game to new players. There is always someone who, when the experienced player gives some advice, say, "Yah, but you're just saying cuz you're gonna WIN.!!!"

Whats funny about this is that most of the time, the experienced player was going to win anyway. He's just helping the other player figure out the possible moves and how to play.

I'm sure that there are some Machievellian DORKS out there who care about winning so much that they are willing to risk alienating another player from gaming entirely by giving bad advice under the cover of 'teaching' the game. If this DORK ever comes to MY table, I'll give him the Death Noogy followed by a Power Wedgie!!!!

Needless to say, this guy hasn't shown up recently........

Darilian
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Ed
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In San Marco, the rules say the split is to be done in secret, so there shouldn't be any lobbying during that phase.

I think it's inappropriate for people who are just observing the game to offer advice. Period. If you're not playing the game, don't try to affect its outcome or show how smart you are by injecting yourself into the situation.

I think it's inappropriate for experienced players to manipulate newbies with selective advice. In general, my approach is to let newbies discover things for themselves, since that's part of the pleasure of playing a new game. I offer advice to newbies if it's requested or if a newbie is making a huge mistake due to inexperience that will probably ruin the game for him. If a newbie continues to make the same mistake and not learn from the advice I just gave him, then I just let him hang himself because I don't want to play his game for him and ruin the other players' enjoyment. When I offer advice to newbies, I try to offer the best advice possible, even if it hurts me. If I'm the newbie and a player offers me advice that seems manipulative and insincere, I'll categorize that person as a prick and avoid gaming with him in the future.

With experienced players, I think it's fine for a player to discuss collaborating as that may be one's best strategy for winning. However, I don't like unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice tends to come in one of two varieties: (a) the obviously good move that another player feels obligated to point out, in case I'm too dumb to see it for myself, (b) the sub-optimal move that serves that player's agenda, in case I'm dumb enough to fall for it. Either way, I find it irritating to be on the receiving end.

If I didn't ask for help, don't offer it. If you have a mutually beneficial proposal to make, make it but if you make a lopsided proposal with more benefits for you than me, I'll take that as an insult and may attack you out of spite.
 
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howl hollow howl
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ed95005 wrote:
In San Marco, the rules say the split is to be done in secret, so there shouldn't be any lobbying during that phase.


Interesting; I just verified that in the rules downloads (I do not own the game myself). That changes things a bit.
 
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