Monday, September 12, 2016

Board-Gaming Retrospect: The 10 Commandments of Board Games Night

Hosting a games night is no menial task. One does not simply 'host games night'. It takes time and preparation, focus and mental planning. In many ways, the host is akin to the legendary Dungeon Masters of yore. Your home becomes the playing field, your guests the adventuring meeples or miniatures and your refrigerator a beacon of ultra-rare loot and a tribute to hordes of hungries. That said, every Games Night Lord need adhere to:

The 10 Commandments of Board Games Night:

1. Thou shalt ensure comfortable seating:

Your players span from all the four corners of the realm and their player seating area needs to take into account their myriads of differences. From hefty dwarven beards to buxom barbarian bosoms, pointy top hats and vibrating tentacles, your seating arrangements are key to a successful night of gaming and need to be tailored towards their comfort. Unless of course you're the particularly narcissistic Dungeon Master who relished in pain and torture. In which case, clamp those mofos down in a bed of nails and an iron maiden or two and toss in a gratuitous amount of flogging.

2. Thou shalt provide ample sustenance: 

Gaming/ questing/ dungeon crawling/ dice brawling is no easy task. Ask any veteran player and they will all agree - Gaming requires stamina, dexterity, stealth, concentration and and a flair for the art of abusive linguistics. That said, you need to ensure that food & drinks are readily available. And keep it simple. As enticing as a themed menu sounds, elvish entrees and fillet of dragon hide are often hard to digest in one sitting. I suggest pizza, cokes, smokes (if any), loads of chips, biscuits and chocolate bars and coffee. Always coffee.

3. Thou shalt elucidate thine objective: 

Just so that everyone's on the same page, it's always a good idea to state your objective. Will you be playing through a set campaign or module? Are you doing a mix-match of several games? Are there time constrains or curfew? (Note: angry wives = Demigorgan level 50).  I find its a good practice to voice your objective and goals beforehand. Like such: "Gentleman and fellowship, we be gathered here for a night of ghost busting, dragon slaying and raucous debauchery. And we sure as hell ain't leaving here until all these gorram ghosts have been thoroughly busted and we be raucously debauched."

4. Thou shalt have played the fucking game foremost:

There is nothing worse that a games master with analysis paralysis for rules. It's like Yoda with the wisdom of a Rancor, Gandalf with the talent of a goblin, Dumbledore with a limp wand...Well, you get the point. Make sure you (and perhaps one other person in your party) are familiar with the rules and have played through or studied the gaming system. While I have blind-played games in a group before, I find it detracts from the actual experience.

5. Thou shalt instruct knowledgeably:

Explain the rules in as much or as little detail as you deem necessary for a single round/ all players turn. On that note, make sure that when the rules are being explained, you have everyone's attention. And be prepared to repeat the rules. particular if there are noobs (new players) in your group. There will always be that guy. That one guy who listens but doesn't really. He's normally the one nodding his head like an undergrad at a science expo. But in actual fact, he's miles away. His brain is off twerking on some imaginary stage and when he gets back to reality he wont have a cooking clue as to whats going on. So be prepared to repeat the rules. Again. And again.

6. Thou shalt advise tactfully:

It's possible that you may only be overseeing the game, playing the role of a DM or the group leader in a co-operative play. In any event, leaving players to their own vices is what allows for an engaging and fun experience but their may be times when you need to cite tactics. Sure, Mr Level 2 Over-Confident Cleric may brashly decide to take on the cave troll all by himself and while it may be wonderfully entertaining watching the little fucker get torn to shreds while you all sit by giggling your asses off, having your players ousted from the game earlier on is the least amount of fun long term. Worst case, he will be out of the game and will go for the next best thing - all of your foods and snacks. So best advise Mr Cocky Cleric to steer clear of the troll for now. Unless, of course, someone in your party has a spell of resurrection. In which case let the troll impale him.

7. Thou shalt not allow thy overconfidence to be your undoing: 

Everything is proceeding as planned. Or so you assume. Chances are, that, like with board gaming, you need to allow for randomness or unforeseen circumstances for your gaming night. Your party of six may end up being three because of life, priorities yada yada. Or players may arrive late due to traffic, bad weather or just cos they're lazy assholes. The important thing to note is that if you were hoping to play a particular 6-player five hour game...that shit ain't gonna happen. So have a backup set of shorter, faster games. Always have a backup.

8. Thou shalt elicit an emotional response:

Board-gaming is supposed to be a full on immersion of the senses. People should be laughing, crying, eating, screaming, venting, fuming, gesticulating, cohabiting, copulating, engaging in song and dance, poetry and praise, political debates, cries of anguish, constructive criticism and having a splendidly dilly old day. Unless of course you're playing anything along the Cthulu mythos. In which case, as you were.

9. Thou shalt not put faith in thy friends: 

When it comes down to actual game-play, particularly in competitive games, those friends of yours who have stuck by your side since kindergarten will turn into two-faced, treacherous, back-stabbing bastards. So you thought it would be a good idea to enter into an allegiance with Elf-lord Level 7 and traverse the dungeon levels together? Well, that futhamucker just shackled you in the room with a particularly hungry Dracolich so that he could press on.

10. Thou shalt draft a peace treaty:

All's fair in war and wargames right? No hard feelings after right? Please don't stalk me or put sand in my socks just because you lost. Sadly, there are gamers who don't take kindly to losing. They will retaliate and they will break into an epiphany of the choicest swear words and physical violence. I should know. I'm one such person. It's best to serve them a hot beverage afterwards. You may find a need to draw up a peace treaty to prevent players from engaging in mortal combat or forfeiting games night. Unless the Games Master is this player. Like I am. In which case...just take the beating. The wounds will heal.

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