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Subject: How To Handle Poor Sportsmanship? rss

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Shanda Hoover
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An unfortunate/unhappy/uncomfortable situation arose at my last game night. Shortly after starting a game of Jamaica one player had a tantrum when he wasn't allowed a "do over."

A little background to set the scene. In Jamaica players simultaneously select an action card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. Then in order the players reveal their cards and take the 2 actions indicated. The action is either to move or take resources. Resource management is one of the central themes of the game. There are only 3 kinds, gold, gunpowder, and food and each player has 5 "holds" to place their goods in. You can't mix and match goods, or add to a hold that already is occupied. If you don't have an empty space available when you need to load a resource then you have to throw away something to make room, But you cannot throw away the same thing you are going to load, so you can't dump a food when taking on food.

In this circumstance this was the second time this individual was playing the game and the rules had been read at the beginning of play because there were 2 players who were new to the game. When it came time for this individual to take his turn he revealed his card. His first action was to take on food, but he didn't have any empty holds. He attempted to dump some food from one of his holds and he was reminded that he could not do this. He said "oh, I forgot" and picked up his action card and returned it to his hand and attempted to select a different card to play.

At this point, I put on the brakes and told him that he could not do that. He reiterated that he had forgotten the rule. My response was okay, but you have to live with that, which was backed up by my husband. At which point this player went ballistic. I mean he yelled, and he threw things across the table knocking my chits off my player board. He literally rose up out of his chair and said some not so kind words. I was stunned and completely unnerved. I have never witnessed such a display in all my years of gaming.


Luckily another fellow at the table helped to diffuse the situation and after an awkward minute or two the game resumed, but I have to say the upset feelings this event inspired in me are still lingering. I am not sure what would have happened if the fellow who smoothed things out had not been there and normally he is not.

Edited to add:
There is a very important fact I should mention. The person in question is the husband of one of my best friends and someone I consider a friend, and not just some random acquaintance who came for one game night, but one of the game night regulars.

I also have to say, it was really an atypical episode. I've never seem him behave this way before, although once he sulked/pouted throughout a game when things didn't go his way.

Another Addendum:
For those who question whether the denial of the "do-over" was necessary in a "social" game I am including some additional clarification.

First and foremost was that he didn't ask for a do-over and seek the groups approval, he just automatically initiated taking a do-over. This was also surprising, because I don't expect a 40+ year old man or any serious gamer to expect do-overs when they make puny mistakes. The reality of his mistake was that he had to dump 3 gold to load his food instead of dumping 1 food to load his food. Definitely not an error than was going to be a game-changer or unrecoverable in any way.

Secondly, because he is a regular at game group and because we've been playing games for a couple of years now he should know that do-overs is not how we operate around here. We play to have fun, but we also play to win and feel we balance both. We are generous with advice, tips, and suggestions to newbies and will even offer up insights on strategy and will stop bad moves from happening early on. But there was no precedent for him to expect a do-over and really no need for one.

My response was, "Hey, you can't do that!" I said in surprise. While (unsolicited) my husband also said something like, "come on, you can't do that." And before any discussion could take place the blow up began.

A couple of other thoughts about the incident was that in addition to having a tantrum, he also made it personal by attacking myself and no he did not apologize. In later conversation after game play, I sensed he was perhaps trying to ingratiate or appease without addressing the incident or actually saying he was sorry. I'm not expecting flowers here, but an "I'm sorry I overreacted and yelled at you" would be nice and go a long way.

Believe it or not in some ways I am worried that he is still mad at me! and won't want to play anymore. The game where my husband inadvertently took a tile that he wanted and foiled his strategy, he ended up pouting throughout the remainder of the game (making us quite uncomfortable) and that game has never made it back to the table. If we had more gaming buddies it wouldn't be so significant, but it's hard to get 5 or 6 to the table sometimes. And if we exclude an invitation to him we lose his wife too (who was a gaming buddy before he ever entered the picture).

So what should I do if something like this happens again? What would you do? OR better yet, has this happened to you and what did you do?

I'm not asking so much about what to do about this incident or this fellow in particular, but in general what can be done about poor sportsmanship other than exiling someone for game group? What can be done about whiners and pouters in addition to folks who have outburst?
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Paul Dale
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Ask the player in question to leave and never come to another games event.

Tantrums like that are the kind of thing two year old children throw. Two year old children aren't capable of playing most games.


- Pauli
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Grand Prince Poutine Lord High Thrifter
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If it happens again, then I agree with Paul -- he should be asked to leave and not invited back.

Everyone has their bad moments and incidents they regret. You know the person involved -- I don't. So only you can know if this was out of character or part of a pattern of behaviour.

In most situations, people deserve a second chance, but not a third.
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Shanda Hoover
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paulidale wrote:
Ask the player in question to leave and never come to another games event.

Tantrums like that are the kind of thing two year old children throw. Two year old children aren't capable of playing most games.


- Pauli


I completely agree about the childishness of throwing tantrums.

But there is a very important fact I should mention. The person in question is the husband of one of my best friends and someone I consider a friend, and not just some random acquaintance who came for game night.

I also have to say, it was really an atypical episode. I've never seem him behave that way before, although he has sulked/pouted throughout a game when things haven't gone his way.

It does make the handling of this individual tricky. But as a rule if someone behaved this way who was not someone I considered a friend I wouldn't have any qualms about not inviting them back again.
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The Tak
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Call him out on it privately or publicly, and don't game with him again. Sad for him, but all you can do sometimes.
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Chris [REDACTED]
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His response was unwarranted and unfriendly. I would not continue the game with him, or game with him again.

However, being that it was his second time ever playing the game, what was the harm in giving him a take-back? He didn't want to go back to a previous turn and play hadn't progressed past that step.

I'm not familiar with the game, so would he have an unfair advantage in selecting a card after seeing what everyone else is playing? And if that was the case, I would have informed him of such and not allowed the take-back instead of tell him to "live with it".

Games have lots of rules, and people like to play lots of games. Add that to playing with new people, and I'm more forgiving when it comes to take-backs.
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Shanda Hoover
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Juxtatype wrote:
In most situations, people deserve a second chance, but not a third.


Aw yes, the 3 strikes you're out rule... I do agree that this is applicable to this situation. Since this is the first real outburst of this sort I have seen from this fellow I think it must be deemed a first offense. If this becomes a pattern I will have to put this policy in play.

Thanks for that. It's been so long since I have been in a situation like this I had forgotten my policy on dealing with this kind of person.

Even with friends there has to be boundaries of acceptable behavior.
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Anthony Simons
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niledesign wrote:
Luckily another fellow at the table helped to diffuse the situation and after an awkward minute or two the game resumed, but I have to say the upset feelings this event inspired in me are still lingering. I am not sure what would have happened if the fellow who smoothed things out had not been there and normally he is not.

In other words, what should I do if something like this happens again? What would you do?

It's difficult to give advice about something that could clearly be situational. I mean, my usual approach of verbally rapping his knuckles might not be suitable for your situation; I usually make light of such mistakes, but remain quite firm that the rules have to be followed (usually with a "never mind, I'm sure you'll remember next time we play"). It may be the case he has had difficulties at some other time during the day, or that this is just another facet of his personality. I cannot make that call on a forum post.

So all I can really say is, whatever that fellow did to defuse it, try that.
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Shanda Hoover
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DaedalusZM wrote:
being that it was his second time ever playing the game, what was the harm in giving him a take-back? He didn't want to go back to a previous turn and play hadn't progressed past that step.


Well, part of the problem was the presumption. He didn't ask if it was okay with everyone if he chose a different card because he had forgotten the rule. He acted as if his "forgetting" actually entitled him to a do-over. Meanwhile, the cost of his mistake was only 3 gold coins and certainly not game-ending. This is a man in his 40s and not a child who needs his hand held. Sometimes the lesson you learn from a mistake like this will help drive a rule home so you never forget it again.

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lotus dweller
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niledesign wrote:
...What would you do?
I'd suspect that the tantrum throwing person has a brain injury or an intellectual disability.

From this place I'd think, "Do I want to keep gaming with this person?" If the answer was, "Yes" I'd recognise that this is a serious situation, then I'd arrange to discuss with the person, in a secure environment, what happened for them and what happened for me the last time we played. I'd want to know what went on for them, and if they were satisfied with their actions. I'd also tell them what happened for me and that I would not be open to having similar actions around me again. IF this discussion went OK then I'd move on to future arrangements.

Next I'd talk about limits of what I will expect in future gaming behavior and ask the person if they can meet these expectations and also "What do you think its reasonable I do if you go outside these limits?" If their answer didn't satisfy then I'd put forward what I thought was a reasonable response/course of action to a tantrum and ask the person to agree to that response/course of action. If they agreed I'd even test them by running through, in a somewhat emotional slightly pushy manner, a "tantrum scenario and response". If they could stay non-aggressive and I had some confidence in their ability to self-regulate their emotional state then I'd arrange to play with them in a SAFE environment - which might include 2 people, stronger than the person, who would be able to control a dangerous situation. After say 12 game sessions IF I felt much safer with the person I'd re-assess what security was necessary.

And I'd be prepared to let the person leave my life at anytime if security was threatened.

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Grand Prince Poutine Lord High Thrifter
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Since this is the husband of one of your best friends, you may want to consider having a quiet word with your friend. If you communicate your concerns to her, she may be able to talk to her husband privately about it.
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Shanda Hoover
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fellonmyhead wrote:
So all I can really say is, whatever that fellow did to defuse it, try that.


It would be awesome if I could have made light of it like my compatriot did. There is the rub though. I was completely flustered. I would even say dazed and confused, so profoundly was I shocked by the outburst. When that wore off I was mad, then sad, and even scared. I was an emotional mess beneath the surface. It definitely took the detachment of the outsider in the group to make jokes, and razz him about. Which ultimately helped us move on.

Hopefully there won't be a next time for this sort of thing, but if there is I hope that we can put aside the shock and actually respond instead of just blinking like a deer in the headlights.
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Michelle Sim
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I'm sorry that u had to go thru this unpleasant incident.
I seconded Paul's reply.

If I were u, I would keep all the the bits into the box & open the door asking him to leave politely. Also I won't ask that idiot who displayed poor sportsmanship to any of my gaming sessions ever again....period.
Such people aren't welcomed in our house & i seriously doubt he will be welcomed anywhere else.
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I want other people to enjoy the game, so unless I'm in a real competitive situation (playing with veterans of certain games and we're playing for "keeps") I would just let him take back the move.

To me, throwing a tantrum after you are told to "live with it" is just as childish as being a stickler for rules in a social gaming situation.

I would never take a move back myself, just because that's the way I like learn but I cannot remember it has ever diminished my enjoyment of a game when other people take back moves.
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Robert Beachler
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One of the things I like about Heroscape is the "Snooze you lose" rule where any rule forgets, game foulups and the like are your fault.

I will say this outburst of his seems over the top as it were however I will freely admit that I am not perfect and have had my own similar reactions though it's usually more akin to either bad luck or in one instance ripping a cheater a new one. I've also been around for some by other gamers in my day.

I say give the guy another chance and hopefully it will be an isolated incident. If not then make it clear that won't be tolerated.
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Jack Dowden
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Honestly....life is too short. If she is one of your best friends that's worth more than a game. Depending on your...comfort level with confrontation...invite them over and...don't play games....just talk openly about what happened...explain your friendship is more important than who wins our loses a game. See if there there is more going on...but don't make the mistake of not talking about things...nothing good ever comes of ignoring something like this...

Best of luck to you....
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Seamus O'Toole
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All the advice about talking it over with him is likely to just make an awkward situation persist at future game sessions.
You said yourself that this person is a fiend and this behaviour is not typical of him. So just forget about it and move on.
You can probably be fairly sure his wife has given him an earful about it already anyway.
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Andy Andersen
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Email this thread to the jackass.
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Tamer Morad

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What surprised me about this post was that it was During a game of JAMAICA! which is typically consider to be light fun family game. I would have thought you were playing a cut throat dungeon crawler or an aggressive Euro.

Because you say this is not typical and due to the nature of the game being light I would say there is more likely some underlying issue, that is all together separate from the game and gaming, that prompted such an emotional reaction.
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It sounds as if he's a long-time friend, and someone you know well. If you're fairly that this is a very atypical incident, and that he doesn't regularly behave like this, then it's possible he's going through some kind of exceptional circumstances right now that have put him under a lot of stress. Obviously, it's not right that it came out in such an explosive and frightening way, but it would probably be worth trying to understand why such an outburst happened before coming to any snap decisions.

I'd recommend having a chat with him about it - a private, friendly chat in a comfortable environment, when you've recovered enough that you can discuss it without getting emotional. If this was really an extraordinary event from an otherwise pleasant individual, I'm sure he'll be feeling embarassed and regretful about it, so you want to be able to chat to him without him feeling accused or attacked in any way.

You need to be reassured that this was a one-off event, and he needs to know that it was upsetting for you, and, as friends, you both need to discuss it and make sure it's not going to happen again.

Of course, if it starts happening more, then you'll have to put your foot down. It's not acceptable that you - and the others at the table - get put through that repeatedly.

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Dan Taylor
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pbhammer wrote:
What surprised me about this post was that it was During a game of JAMAICA! which is typically consider to be light fun family game. I would have thought you were playing a cut throat dungeon crawler or an aggressive Euro.


Actually, that might have been part of the problem. If I was playing some cut-throat 3 hour optimization game... well, I'd want to be careful in my play and probably expect no do-overs. If I'm playing some light, frothy game... I'd expect some take-backs. It's just a game works both ways for me.

Only my opinion, but I could see myself (if I had a very bad, horrible day) possibly doing something like this. It's unfortunate, but it happens. If the person apologizes to the group, I'd play with them again. They'll probably not lose their tempers again.
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Mikey Boy wrote:

...this is a very atypical incident, and that he doesn't regularly behave like this, then it's possible he's going through some kind of exceptional circumstances right now that have put him under a lot of stress.

This. Given his history, it sounds like the game was only the catalyst for his reaction, and that the real problem is something else entirely. It doesn't excuse the behavior, but everybody makes mistakes occasionally, right?
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Mike Collins
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stove wrote:
Actually, that might have been part of the problem. If I was playing some cut-throat 3 hour optimization game... well, I'd want to be careful in my play and probably expect no do-overs. If I'm playing some light, frothy game... I'd expect some take-backs. It's just a game works both ways for me.

Very true - people in my gaming group get much more upset at being the victim of a "take that" element in an otherwise non-combative Euro, than they do in a game that is much more focussed on fighting other players.
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Darrell Hanning
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You're the only one who knows the actual situation as it occurred, the person who instigated it, and your friendship with them and their spouse.

Trust your instincts about how to handle this. You're the only one in possession of all the pertinent information, and you know exactly how you feel, about what happened. Just always keep in mind how you would want it to be handled, if your roles were reversed.
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rob cavallo
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paulidale wrote:
Ask the player in question to leave and never come to another games event.


agreed.
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