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Subject: Pointing Out the Obvious rss

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Adam Ruzzo
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Cross Posted on Tales of Design

So I play a lot of board games, especially war games like Combat Commander, Twilight Struggle, Axis and Allies, etc. Often when playing such games one player or the other will make some stupid obvious mistake. A perfect example occurred just a few weeks ago when playing Axis and Allies 1940: Pacific.

I (Japan) was looking at the placement of my fleet and attempting to move it close to, but out of range of, the Allied fleet. I looked at each of the Allied fleets and counted out the spaces from them to me at least 3 times to make sure my units were out of range. The other players watched this. On the american players turn, he proceeded to move in and attack me via a route I had not observed in my counting. I had missed it. It didn't wind up being critical in the scope of the game, but it irritated me to no end.

It irritated me because in a friendly game (I.E. not a tournament or some such) I would have pointed out (to my detriment) when my opponent was making one of those stupid, obvious mistakes. Now in his defense, my opponent might not have seen this attack until his turn, I'm not judging or criticizing him. I'm simply using this as an example to demonstrate what I consider to be unsportsmanlike behavior.

Why is this a big deal? Why would I help my opponent my pointing out such obvious stupid mistakes? The simple answer is that I don't want to win because my opponent made a decision based on bad information (unless that is baked into the game systems of course). I would prefer to win or lose against an opponent who is making decisions based on all the information he should have. It doesn't feel like I really out-played or out-thought him if the game-changing move occurs due to a simple error in reading the map.

That's not to say reading the map isn't important. It isn't, however, a deep skill. Some people can look at a map and instantly understand the situation. Others require a minute or two of study to parse out how far everything is from each other and what kind of moves are possible. In the end, however, it's only a matter of time. Look at the map hard for 2 minutes and everybody will should come out with the same impression (these units are in danger of air attack, these units can reach the enemy capitol in 1 turn, etc.). Reading the map isn't a measure of your decision-making abilities or judgement skills. It's simple counting of spaces. Reading the map is essentially a UI issue that needs to be overcome in order to play the game. Without the understanding of all the symbols and numbers on the map, you might as well be playing the game without the rules.

Considering all this, I point out really obvious errors to my opponents. If it's clear he is trying to move in such a way as to be able to avoid being attacked and makes an error that I spot, I'll point it out. If he plays a card to set up a particular combination that I know isn't possible due to certain rules, i'll point out the rules and let him take the card back. Why should I hold back the information about the game rules? My victory would be lessened by the fact that my opponent lost partially because they didn't understand the rules as well as I. I do not like to win that way. It would be like winning a basketball game because, at the crucial moment, one of their new players made a fowl that they didn't know existed. Yay! We won because they didn't know the rules!

I try to avoid that.
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Hmmm, I would not enjoy playing games against this type of player, someone who wants to point out mistakes when you make your move so that it can be taken back. I hate it when people point out my move is bad, just let me play the game, if I make a mistake it is my fault. I don't mind losing because I made a mistake, I consider it part of the game.

In your game it sounds like your opponent took advantage of a mistake you made, and that is how it should be. Whether it is misreading the map and overlooking an angle of attack or whatever, these mistakes should be punished by an alert opponent.
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David desJardins
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Certainly "unsportsmanlike" is way too strong. How's he to know you want him to kibitz your moves during your turn?

If you want advice as you're learning the game, a better idea would be not to just count out spaces while your opponent watches quietly, but to ask him. If you say, "Gee, it looks like this space is safe, does that seem right to you?" you give him a whole lot more information about what you want.
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Burke Glover
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It seems like you are trying to obligate players to watch out for each others' mistakes. In the example you give, I would have seen that you were recounting spaces and used that time to think about my own situation. I know someone who occasionally asks me why I didn't point out his mistakes ahead of time. The answer is that I don't assess his moves, I assess my own.
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Doug Iverson
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Stupid, obvious mistakes is how you learn the game. You should take responsibility for messing up. That is how its play. Unless someone was specifically asking me my opinion and the opponent was learning I would not tell him anything.
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Jack
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If you see your opponent making, what you consider to be, a bad move, how do you know that it's not a gambit on his part? Are you trying to oblige him into saying that he is preparing to spring a trap on you? Of course not, but just the fact that he wouldn't reconsider, after you've pointed out his "bad move", could in fact give away his plan.

Wargames generally are built around the exploitation of imperfect play, or bad combat results by an opponent.
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Lynette
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Bridger wrote:


Considering all this, I point out really obvious errors to my opponents. If it's clear he is trying to move in such a way as to be able to avoid being attacked and makes an error that I spot, I'll point it out. If he plays a card to set up a particular combination that I know isn't possible due to certain rules, i'll point out the rules and let him take the card back. Why should I hold back the information about the game rules? My victory would be lessened by the fact that my opponent lost partially because they didn't understand the rules as well as I. I do not like to win that way. It would be like winning a basketball game because, at the crucial moment, one of their new players made a fowl that they didn't know existed. Yay! We won because they didn't know the rules!

I try to avoid that.


This is a tricky situation. First I tend to try to be a friendly player and offer advice to new player on their first game...and some are grateful and some often tell me to just leave them alone and let them make their moves. And that is on a first game where I am teaching so I obviously have an advantage.

I have gotten to where most of the time with experienced players who all play mostly nice I will say something like "are you sure that is the move you wanted to make?"

But with most experienced players I don't kibitz because it annoys more people than not.


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James Wilhelm
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I don't mind this kind of intervention when there are players who are unfamiliar with the game. Pointing out that there's no reason to build a road in a specific spot because there's no place to build a settlement would be something I would expect in a game I was sitting in, assuming the player was still learning.

That said, I tend to lean toward the sentiment of the other posters, given the condition that one is familiar with the game. This seems likely in this particular case, since you prefaced the post with the notion that you play A&A a fair amount.
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Adam Ruzzo
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jackolantern wrote:
If you see your opponent making, what you consider to be, a bad move, how do you know that it is not a gambit on his part? Are you trying to oblige him into saying that he is preparing to spring a trap on you? Of course not, but just the fact that he would not consider your pointing out his "bad move" could in fact give away his plan.

Wargames generally are built around the exploitation of imperfect play, or bad combat results by an opponent.


I do NOT point out all mistakes, or even most mistakes. I point out mistakes that my opponent is making if he is trying to do something that will result in a rules violation or if he is mis-reading the information provided.

I don't want to win just because my opponent doesn't know the rules. It sounds like the rest of you do. To each his own.
 
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Brad Miller
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When I'm playing with my kids, I might say something like, "Are you sure that's what you want to do?", giving them the opportunity to examine their move more closely. But against an adult, no way. For all I know, what I think appears to be an obvious mistake might well be a part of a larger, craftier, plan. Think about gambits in Chess.
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Sicaria Occaeco
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Quote:
Wargames generally are built around the exploitation of imperfect play, or bad combat results by an opponent.


If the mistake is something that would go against the rules that would be different but your example is hardly bad sportsmanship.

Sure it might cheapen the win but your sports example is terrible too. In the end the winner still played a better (less mistakes + better play ) game. You could be the best 3 point shooter in the world and still be the world's worst basketball player, fowls, turn-overs, traveling, etc..

A big part of the learning process is making mistakes. You learn better from seeing the results of mistakes more than someone pointing things out to you.

If your making basic obvious mistakes then you're spending too much thinking power on the deeper strategy & tactics and overlooking the basics. That doesn't make you a good player. You need to learn to balance both.

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Some of the greatest victories and defeats in warfare were the result of mistakes and/or poor information (intelligence) on the part of the participants. Making mistakes in the play of a game is par for the course then, and will result in better play the next game.

I would point out an opponent's error only if it violated the rules of the game. I would expect an opponent to do the same for me. Of course, if you're playing someone who's never played the game before, then it would only be generous of you to point out an obvious error in order for that person to learn how to play the game. When playing an opponent of equal skill, however, all generosity is thrown to the wolves - if that player makes a mistake I'm going to exploit it to the fullest, just as I would expect them to do to me should I make an error. "All is fair in love and war" is not just a quote, you know. We learn from our mistakes and become better people - and gamers - because of them.
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The most interesting part of gaming for me is the competition. If the most interesting part for you is something else, then this may not apply, unless your opponent is like me.

Quote:
Considering all this, I point out really obvious errors to my opponents. ... Why should I hold back the information about the game rules?


Because pointing out your opponent's errors is like saying "This game isn't interesting to me unless I help you play better." It's insulting, and antithetical to competition. If your opponent is unfamiliar with the game, and asks you questions about her moves, then it's a learning game and you should point out errors, but otherwise it's more fun to play to win, and pointing out errors is spoiling that fun.
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Mark Christopher
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Bridger wrote:
I don't want to win just because my opponent doesn't know the rules. It sounds like the rest of you do. To each his own.


There's winning because one's opponent doesn't know the rules and winning because the opponent missed something in the board position. I hate winning or losing by the former but have no problem with winning or losing by the latter. For myself, I take the mistake and learn from it. Actually making the error is a better teacher than having it pointed out to me. And as plenty of others have said, I might be making what appears to be a bad move on purpose. devil
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markus_kt wrote:
Bridger wrote:
I don't want to win just because my opponent doesn't know the rules. It sounds like the rest of you do. To each his own.


There's winning because one's opponent doesn't know the rules and winning because the opponent missed something in the board position. I hate winning or losing by the former but have no problem with winning or losing by the latter.


They are no different. It all comes down to the player making decisions with incomplete information. Some games hide information on purpose, and all players are subject to this hidden information. But position on the board and what each piece means isn't hidden information (typically).

Knowing that unit X can make 2 moves and unit Y can only make one is part of the rules of the game. Know that unit X looks like a tank and unit Y looks like an infantry is another part of the rules. Knowing that the lines on the map designate different areas for how far you can move is part of the rules.

If you mis-read the position on the board, you are essentially missing rules that the other players have. I would rather win a game against someone who is playing the same game as me.
 
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I understand what is being said. And I mostly agree with it.

Playing a game shouldn't be about screwing your opponent by taking advantage of their oversights and unfamiliarity with rules/tactics. Part of playing a game with other people, especially with people who are relatively new to a game (or who are just not as savvy as you are), should be TEACHING them to be better players/strategists and helping them to a degree (or just pointing out all of their options, good and bad to that present situation - let them do some figuring).

And if you see someone not achieving their obvious intent through some minor oversight or error: help them! For crying out loud! Point out their error or mistake before things get too far along to undo the disaster. Or, if they seem to be unaware of an obviously better move: point it out to them. They don't have to take your advice (especially if your advice is often sprinkled with some obviously self-serving advantage), but they have at least been made aware of options that they may not have seen or realized before.

It's one thing to hope that someone does, or doesn't do, something that you will gain advantage from (block certain path, buy a certain building, occupy a limited space, force a certain action, etc), it is an entirely different thing to let someone make an obvious error that you or they would never normally do if they were aware of it.

I don't need you to do anything abnormally stupid to win. The idea should be that good game sessions, where people learn to improve their game, will only lead to better game plays down the road.

There are some exceptions to this, of course. If it is a team game, you really shouldn't help if it's the other persons teammates job to assist (unless it involves abiding by game rules). They have their group think time and you have yours, don't mix the two.
If you are the new person, and you are playing against experience players who aren't going to do much to help you, don't ask someone why they didn't take what seemed like a better move until it's too late for them to take it back (you will most likely just end up learning something that they neglected to tell you earlier ... but, if not ...). The same should apply to when you are playing against someone who normally beats you at that certain game.
If someone doesn't like assistance, or "know-it-alls" giving advice, then don't give any to them. Just don't.

Of course, if it's just a stupid game of randomness and luck, then screw it: let anything happen to end the game sooner.
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Mark Christopher
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Bridger wrote:
It all comes down to the player making decisions with incomplete information.


And this is precisely why I love wargames and have a growing fondness for block games. Having to struggle on in the face of incomplete information is wonderfully tense! I'm not going to tell my opponent my overall plan just because if I don't, he has incomplete information. If it's on the board and he doesn't see it, that's not my problem, nor is it my opponent's if I do that. That's part of playing well.

It sounds as though you and I have fundamentally different views of this and will have to agree to disagree; I doubt either of us will convince the other to change.
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If it is a player who is fairly new to the game - like a first or second time player, especially if they still seem to be failing their way, I'll certainly point something like this out - "you realize I could still attack you here, yes?" "one move you might consider is..." etc. If it's someone who was pretty accomplished at the game, I probably wouldn't point it out (though I might sit there for a while going "geez, he must see that, this has to be a trap, but how?"). I suppose if the person made it quite obvious that he was counting the spaces to make sure he was far enough away, I might point it out, but I wouldn't feel obligated, and I certainly wouldn't feel like any one else was obligated to do so for me.
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I'm going to have to disagree with the OP on this one. Pointing out your opponent has misread information is nonsense. Mistakes by the opposing player are fair game. A rules violation is NOT the same thing as miscalculating range (unless of course you are the attacker and are firing on an enemy that would be out of range). I will agree that when someone missteps and it results in breaking the rules, pointing it out is the right thing to do. That's obvious because you don't want them to continue playing this way incorrectly. In your example you moved after forgetting that particular route, and your opponent capitalized on that. Much like a little wake up call, I'd say it was the best thing he could do.

All I know is that if I ever make a stupid move, the last thing I want to hear is my opponent correct me and give me a 'do over' for my foolishness.
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Jason Daly
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And let's not forget that many of the decisive battles in the Pacific during World War II involved both the luck and skill of maneuvering fleets to allow an unanswered attack against an opponent's fleet or base. The Japanese achieved this at Pearl Harbor and failed at Midway. Can you imagine the following exchange:

Admiral Hirohito: "Move the carrier fleet into position to strike Midway Island."

Admiral Nimitz: "Admiral Hirohito, you do realize you're moving your fleet into striking distance of my carrier-based aircraft, don't you?"

Admiral Hirohito: "Thanks for the tip, Chester. I'll withdraw and attack somewhere else."

This game's meant to simulate war. In war, you don't point out your opponent's mistakes. You ruthlessly exploit them. If you don't want tactical and strategic skill (and yes, board awareness is part of this) to decide the game, what do you want to decide it? Dice rolls? Unless it's a learning game, take your lumps and be more careful next time.
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Adam Ruzzo
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jdaly72 wrote:
And let's not forget that many of the decisive battles in the Pacific during World War II involved both the luck and skill of maneuvering fleets to allow an unanswered attack against an opponent's fleet or base. The Japanese achieved this at Pearl Harbor and failed at Midway. Can you imagine the following exchange:

Admiral Hirohito: ...


I don't recall making any claim to my method being more realistic.

I don't play simulations myself, I prefer games that emphasize decision making and elegance. If there's a way to incorporate history into such systems it just makes them all the more appealing.
 
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If I'm the guy who missed something, I want you to exploit it. A situation came up recently in a PBEM game I have going of For the People: I marched an army into an enemy space to attack his army and when going through the modifiers I missed his cavalry brigade, which, when all was said and done, would have modified the dice rolls sufficiently for him to roll for a possible general casualty. (He won the battle handily.) Since the most likely result would have been for my opponent to lose one of his generals I offered to let my mistake stand. An honorable and chivalrous foe, he insisted on "doing it right" and then rolling for the general casualty. He rolled in ACTS, and while none of his generals died, one of mine (a 1 in 6 chance) DID, and so he offered to let it stand. I told him that if we don't pay for our mistakes we don't learn from them, and rolled the premature death of James Longstreet. I've learned a lot about the game from that comedy of errors, and now have to come up with a new plan.
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David desJardins
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Bridger wrote:
If you mis-read the position on the board, you are essentially missing rules that the other players have.


Come on. Do you want to have a serious discussion, or not? Overlooking something your opponent can do is not at all the same as not knowing the rules. If you're playing Chess, and your opponent overlooks a forced mate-in-six for you, do you immediately point it out, because your opponent obviously would never allow you to checkmate him if he knew the rules?

I repeat what I said before. No one but you knows what kind of advice you want and what kind of advice you don't want, from your opponent. Rather than criticizing and attacking people who can't read your mind and give you exactly the advice that you want and not the advice that you don't want, or pretending that yours is the only possible rational perspective, you should just tell the people you're playing against what you want. If you're waiting for them to read your mind, it's going to be a long wait.
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Bridger wrote:
If you mis-read the position on the board, you are essentially missing rules that the other players have. I would rather win a game against someone who is playing the same game as me.

If you mis-read the position on the board, you mis-read the position on the board. That's all. No rules were violated -- you simply didn't manage the situation on the board to your benefit.

Think of it as a teachable moment for yourself: On your next play you will be more aware, be better planned. There is no reason whatsoever to blame your opponent.
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For what it's worth, if I saw you counting out spaces to determine whether you were in range and realized that you made a mistake, I would have pointed it out and asked whether it was intentional.

I don't feel like that is something a player is obligated to do, even in friendly play, but I prefer that environment.

This example was a no-brainer, because it was clear that you recognized the threat but simply miscounted or misunderstood the board. If it was not apparent that you recognized the threat (perhaps it was a sneaky move), then clearly the opposing player should not point that out. I think that most people in this thread are disagreeing with you because they're trying to apply this idea too universally, either to situations in the obviously-don't-point-out realm or in the gray area between.
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