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Subject: Dealing with a player who never seems to understand rss

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Tim Earl
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I'm at wits end, looking for some advice. I've helped organize a fairly large and successful game group for almost 5 years now. We have a Facebook page and are open to new members anytime, so attendance varies quite a bit for each event. I host about twice a month at my home, and 5-10 people usually show up.

A new member joined a month or so ago, and it's been frustrating. Trying very hard to be as polite as possible, I can only say that he seems in over his head every game we play. Towards the end of a game, he is still asking what he can do on his turn, or how a fundamental mechanic of the game works. This may be due in part to his apparent lack of attention when a game is being explained. The end result is that he drags down the game for everyone else, greatly reducing the fun factor. We had someone like this in my old group in another region, but there were enough members that it was easier to avoid her. When 5 or 6 people show up, you're stuck with him.

So, I'm at the point where I want to do something before other members get too upset (and I can see the storm clouds on the horizon now).

The potential solutions I can think of now are:
- Talking to him about paying more attention. (Probably the most direct method, but one that may lead to conflict).
- Stop inviting him. (Not really possible, as event invitations go out to the entire 100 or so members of the group).
- Ignore it for now. (This may increase tension and eventually upset other members).
- Asking him to read the rules to new games ahead of time. (Not always possible, since we don't often decide ahead of time what to play).

I'd love to hear suggestions from others, preferably those who've had to deal with a similar situation before. In general, I'm very blunt and have been accused of being insensitive often enough, but I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings if at all possible.
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Phil
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Keep playing the same games until the mechanics are fully understood than (after some more plays) continue to games with similar mechanics.
It is easy for gaming veterans to adjust to a lot of games in a short time because most mechanics are already known.

And try to find out WHY the guy is playing at all. I have one in my group who is playing boardgames with us just to hang out with us and have a good time. So his main concern is smalltalk, bullshitting and trashtalk. Such people can't be changed. Arrange with them or get rid of them. Forcing your gaming goals on them won't work for anybody.

Comments like "But he is my friend!" are invalid because if he is your friend you are supposed to say on the spot what is wrong. Not hiding it.
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Chris
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Try to get him to learn a game and teach it to the group. Really.
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Christopher Hill
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Tim,

I believe the direct approach would be best. Take the person aside and talk to him before the games get started. Try to get to know him better and see what his gaming experience is. If he is used to playing Checkers and your group puts games like Puerto Rico on the table it may be overwhelming to him. He may be afraid to admit it when the games are being explained since others at the table who are more experienced probably don't ask a lot of questions.

It is a tough situation. Good luck with it.
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RJD
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It seems to me the only real option is to be straightforward. If he is repeatedly not paying attention, and it's directly responsible for disrupting every game he's involved in, then you should approach him about it, and quickly. If it's as bad as you say, your other players are only going to put up with it for so long before one (or more) of them explodes in a meltdown, or (worse) just stops showing up altogether.
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Lori
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It is a really tough situation. If you try to do anything about this guy, other members may sympathize with him and think you're being a tyrant. But if you let him continue to blight the experience for the group, then other members--yes, sometimes the same people!--may drop off in attendance because it's not fun anymore.

You mentioned that you have around 100 in the group, but often get only half a dozen at an event. Is it the same people? Do you have a bunch of rarely seen members and a small highly active core group, or is there a lot of rotation and variety in who turns up for game night?
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Leesa
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Just be straight and tell him in private what the problem is. Everyone these days are willing to suffer etc and put up with the actions of others and not speak up cause "it might hurt feelings, I don't want to hurt his feelings cause......" He will either find a new way to interact with the group or just mosey on down to something else. Don't sugar coat it but be blunt.
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Ian Vincent
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Asking him to read rules in advance may work better than you expect. Doing that for a couple of games should help him work out how to absorb rules (something that different people do in different ways).

Good luck and let us know how it works out.
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CJ
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UnluckyNumber wrote:
It seems to me the only real option is to be straightforward. If he is repeatedly not paying attention, and it's directly responsible for disrupting every game he's involved in, then you should approach him about it, and quickly. If it's as bad as you say, your other players are only going to put up with it for so long before one (or more) of them explodes in a meltdown, or (worse) just stops showing up altogether.


Sage advice. Just ensure that it is him, and not the remainder of the group, that is truly at fault.
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Mal Content
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DTMFA.

Just kidding. I like the idea of having him read the rules ahead of time, even though it may not be too practical given last minute decisions. You could suggest to him that you might need his assistance in explaining the rules, but then take the opportunity to employ the Socratic method on him during your own teaching.
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Jeffrey Nolin
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I'd mention to him that he seems to be struggling with new games and you'd like to help him by offering BGG as a resource. I'd also give him a list of games that are likely to be played that he should research. You might check to be sure the rules are posted for those games (even provide the link), so he can read the rules and then also see how others also have problems with the rules and get help with them on this forum. On game day, you might also get him involved in some 2-player games.
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Tim Earl
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Thanks for the comments so far. Some other things that I've thought of:
- He is registered on BGG, so for all I know he's reading this (for better or worse).
- He apparently used to play some heavier games.

I think some sort of discussion will probably happen, although I'm not sure when that will be. Probably 2 weeks.
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Sharon Khan
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If he's fairly new to gaming, then it might just be he's a bit out of his depth, and you're pushing him to learn too many new games too quickly. Inexperienced gamers (and sometimes even experienced ones) really struggle with the concept of long rules explanations, and picking up a game from the first play. If you play the same games a few times, then those games will start becoming familiar to him, and then you can learn a new one. You might just have to change your play-style slightly to accomodate him until he's up to speed. It sounds from what you say that you're constantly teaching him new games, and this might be the problem, rather than any lack of attention. When we have a new gamer to the group we try to ensure that they aren't constantly being bombarded with new games, or they end up just in the situation you're describing, having never had the chance to learn to play anything properly.
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Red Devil
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I stopped going to an old gaming group because of a similar problem. There was one evening when I felt the life draining out of me and I was counting down till the game ended so I could make my excuses and leave. I left the group a few weeks later.

It can be tough to find people to game with. For me, my priority is to game with people who I like and will challenge me in every game. I put a high value on my time and I don't want to spend it with people that don't meet this criteria.
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Tim Earl
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I should also add that we've been trying to reach out to more people lately to increase membership, and this new guy seems very enthusiastic and willing to try any game, which is encouraging. So I don't want to say "we want more members" and then complain about the new members.
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Don
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I'm going to play devil's advocate and suggest that you may need to examine your level of patience, communication style and perhaps lighten up.

If he has only been playing games for a "month or so" then reading long rules explanations to him may be no different than talking a foreign language. It won't make sense because he doesn't have the right building blocks of experience in place to make sense of the rules.

Also, some people learn differently. I for example, learn by doing as opposed to learning by listening.

Still on the subject of verbally explaining rules: you also need to examine the way you explain the rules and put yourself in his place. The essence of good communication is not the "message you send" its the "message he receives." If you are speeding through rules to accommodate your experienced friends then you may be leaving him in the dust without realizing it.

As for reading rules in advance - that is great in a perfect world but keep in mind that he may attend these game nights to get away from a busy life/job that doesn't allow him to spend a lot of time reading rules at home. Everyone has a different story and sometimes you do need to be accommodating or be a tyrant.

There are too few gamers out there to either dismiss or alienate people who are new to the hobby or simply learn differently or at a different pace.

So take it easy and give him more time.
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Norman Hedden
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Don't introduce new games as much. Play games he/she is familiar with more often. Introduce more complex games only when mechanics relate to games he/she has already played.
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Grace P.
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Normandy wrote:
Don't introduce new games as much. Play games he/she is familiar with more often. Introduce more complex games only when mechanics relate to games he/she has already played.


This is most closely in line with what I think is feasible/appropriate. It's a frustrating situation, for sure. Good luck.
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Josh Whitt
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What are some of the games where he's struggled? And don't just say "everything", give some concrete examples. Maybe you're not teaching them properly. Anyone can learn with the right approach to teaching.

Give him credit for making the effort, even though he's annoying and dragging down the experts. If you want only "real" gamers, stop making it a public group.
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Tim Earl
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The Gong Show wrote:
What are some of the games where he's struggled? And don't just say "everything", give some concrete examples. Maybe you're not teaching them properly. Anyone can learn with the right approach to teaching.

Give him credit for making the effort, even though he's annoying and dragging down the experts. If you want only "real" gamers, stop making it a public group.


Good point, so here are some examples: Acquire, Founding Fathers, Perry Rhodan, Survive, Yggdrasil, Automobile.

OK, Automobile may be a bit heavy, but Yggdrasil? After watching other people take their turns, still asking what you can do? His BGG profile says he likes historical wargames and used to play Magic, Ogre, Conquest of the Empire, and A&A, so I've got to believe he can handle some complexity. My gut feeling is that he doesn't pay enough attention, before or during the game. One player said at another meeting he was texting throughout the rules explanation and then seemed lost during the game.

I think we're pretty open to newer and less experienced gamers, but it's hard to be objective about that. We're certainly willing to pull Ticket to Ride or something lighter to accommodate new people.
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Timmy Rink
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I agree with a lot of the people here that suggest playing some of the games he's already played again.

I wouldn't worry just yet, you have to realize, he's probably not having a lot of fun with it either and will probably drop out soon.
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I like board games more than most people.
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I'd kill him and take his stuff.
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Josh Whitt
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cheng wrote:
The Gong Show wrote:
What are some of the games where he's struggled? And don't just say "everything", give some concrete examples. Maybe you're not teaching them properly. Anyone can learn with the right approach to teaching.

Give him credit for making the effort, even though he's annoying and dragging down the experts. If you want only "real" gamers, stop making it a public group.


Good point, so here are some examples: Acquire, Founding Fathers, Perry Rhodan, Survive, Yggdrasil, Automobile.

OK, Automobile may be a bit heavy, but Yggdrasil? After watching other people take their turns, still asking what you can do? His BGG profile says he likes historical wargames and used to play Magic, Ogre, Conquest of the Empire, and A&A, so I've got to believe he can handle some complexity. My gut feeling is that he doesn't pay enough attention, before or during the game. One player said at another meeting he was texting throughout the rules explanation and then seemed lost during the game.

I think we're pretty open to newer and less experienced gamers, but it's hard to be objective about that. We're certainly willing to pull Ticket to Ride or something lighter to accommodate new people.


Unfortunately I haven't played any of those games, so I can't offer specific advice. I am mostly a wargamer though, so here's something. Personally, I can find it more difficult to pick up games with themes that I can't relate to realistic or historic action. Even lighter Euros can be too abstract sometimes for me to really grasp, not due to the complexity, but because the themes are not close to my interests. Maybe he's the same and is just not into those particular games enough to focus on them.

If he's texting during the rules explanation, though, that's a different issue. That's just plain rude.
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Digren K
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Some people just aren't good at concepts like game mechanics. Why then, you ask, would he want to come play games? Why did he say that he used to play games if he can't comprehend them?

Maybe something in his life has changed. There are medications (Lyrica comes to mind) that affect IQ. Mental health can affect this as well. If there's someone else in the group that knows him better than you do, maybe you should talk a little with that person first to see if there's some other underlying factor. His problems don't give him the right to ruin your fun at your home, but you don't want to use a tactic that you'll regret if it turns out he's not fully in control of his actions.
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Gnomish Mustard
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I am direct as well and I think that is the best way to deal with things. Hence why I stay direct with people.

Keep in mind, directness doesn't mean rudeness in all situations. Just be cool about it and see if you can find out what the cause is, that way you can better formulate how to resolve the problem.

You are correct that a troublesome player can damage the good thing you got going on there with your group.

I had a player that literally sneezed on his resource cards in a game of Settlers of Catan, leaving a snot line from the cards and his nose. He actually kept playing asking if anyone wanted to trade resources, even though he was aware of the snot. He found it humorous.

I was very direct with him that day. Even though I tossed the cards he sneezed on, it was months before anyone wanted to play that game again.

Since we had had problems before with hm not paying attention, smelling bad, vulgarity that the people at the table didn't appreciate, and more I just said he was welcome back.

He didn't really care at all and decided to pick up Magic the Gathering instead.

The point is that it is possible that this person is just "filling time" with your group and thus really doesn't care how his actions effect the others. If it's this case then you need to be direct and give him the boot for the better of your group.

However, it could just be that he is too overwhelmed, has attention problems (cop out), lacks confidence in his understanding of the rules and therefore is asking questions every time it is his turn, or something else entirely.

It is up to you to find out what it is and take charge of the situation for the betterment of your group.

Don't let it fester into a snotty card incident that scars everyone at the table for the rest of their gaming lives. gulp

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