Game nights are like performance art.
No, hear me out on this! You see, on the surface, everyone is just getting together to play games and have a good time. But on a deeper level, each player has their role to “bring to the table”.
So, without further ado, here are five of the most common characters that make up any true game night. How many of these do you know? Or if you’re feeling introspective, how many of these are you?
1. The Helper
The Helper likes everybody at the table to have fun. And for everyone to have fun, everyone needs to have an equal chance of winning the game. And to have an equal chance of winning, they all need to know what the best possible move is in a given situation. And to know what the best possible move is, someone needs to show them what that move is and why it is the best.
Who better to be in charge of distributing this knowledge than the Helper? The Helper is well-intentioned, but at his worst he ends up turning the game into multiplayer solitaire. If the Helper is directing everyone’s turn, how many players are there in the game, really?
The Helper can be, well, helpful during new games when players don’t know the rules or strategy, but once people are familiar with a game, he’s usually pretty annoying.
Also, look out for The Helper in cooperative games like Pandemic, where the very goal of the game is to be as helpful to the team as possible. There’s a reason the rules say players keep their hands secret even though they encourage table talk. Helpers have been known to actually physically play a newer player’s cards for them to make sure they do the right thing on their turn!
2. The Victim
Ever feel like not just the other players at the table, but nature itself — the very laws of the universe — are conspiring against you? If so, then it’s quite possible you have played the role of the Victim.
The Victim frequently says things like this:
“Man, I just can’t draw a decent hand!”
“Well, I guess I’m going to get nothing but Q’s, J’s, and Z’s tonight.”
“Why is everyone always attacking me?”
It’s not just bad luck or an unfortunate turn of events. To the Victim, the game components have become sentient, developed emotions, and now the dice actually hate him. (And in all fairness to the dice, I’d probably hate somebody that complained that much about how I did my job, too.)
If you ever find yourself slipping into Victim mode, just remember that everyone has bad luck sometimes, and part of the game is finding ways to mitigate bad luck. Sometimes it can’t be done, but the most satisfying wins are the ones where you overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to come back and emerge victorious.
(And if that fails, I hear that you roll more sixes if you talk nicely about the dice.)
3. The Lawyer
Rules are the glue that binds games together. A game cannot exist without rules. The whole point of the game is to achieve one’s goals while staying within the bounds of the rules. Without rules there would be anarchy. The rules must be followed.
And for the Lawyer, they must be followed to the letter.
So you’re playing chess, and you touched the knight without realizing that you’re about to get checkmated. No problem, though. Just move your king one square over so he can escape and —
Once you’ve touched a piece, you can’t move another piece. Never mind that we’re just playing a casual game waiting for other people to show up at game night. You have to move the knight; that’s the rules.
New to Galaxy Trucker and accidentally placed a component on the interior of your spaceship illegally? Well, you can’t just fix it, you need to remove it. Too bad if it takes half the ship away with it, and you don’t have any lasers or engines now. Those are the rules. So how do you like the game?
Of course, there are times when the rules have to be enforced more strongly than others. If you’re in a tournament, for example, there is usually something at stake, so no one is expected to allow people to go back in their turn or look through the discard pile an extra time or anything like that. But in a casual setting, most people would agree that having fun is the first and most important rule. Unless they’re Lawyers.
4. The Thinker
Most people that play a game are trying to make the best move possible whenever it is their turn. Some people do this quickly; others like to a take a few extra seconds to make sure they didn’t overlook some detail of the situation.
And then there’s the Thinker. The Thinker sits pensively resting his chin on his fist, mulling over every nuance and each implication of the possible actions set before him. Never mind that the Helper has already told him that with when you have 8 coins you should almost always buy a Province, and that it would put him in great position to win the game; there might be a better move.
So, feel free to go get something from the kitchen or take a bathroom break. The Thinker is gonna find the right move, even if it takes all night.
You’ll sometimes hear the Thinker’s behavior described as “analysis paralysis” (or AP, for short). Generally, the more complicated the game, the more time you can expect to wait.
If you find that other players tend to yawn, sigh, or leave the table whenever it’s your turn, consider just taking the move that seems best on the surface and moving on. Sure, it may not be the optimal move, but you’ll realize that soon enough, and the next time the situation arises, you’ll know the right move faster anyway. And you might actually have time for a second game if things keep moving.
5. The Mad Scientist
For most people, the object of a game is to win. The Mad Scientist, however, is different. The Mad Scientist is not out to win the game.
The Mad Scientist is out to play the game as awesomely as possible.
He makes the Magic deck that loses every game… unless he draws the ultimate seven-card infinite damage, infinite life gaining combo that he’s been trying to get for about six months now.
He’ll try to shoot the moon in a game of Hearts every hand, because how cool would that be?
And he still dreams of winning a game of Scrabble using only vowels. (Is “ouieeioa” a word?)
The Mad Scientist is generally a fun to play with; everyone ends up with a good story to tell later. You just to be careful playing with him in a team game. It’s tough to win a game of Euchre when your partner bids nothing but blind nil every hand.
Do any of these sound familiar… maybe a little too familiar? Let us know in the comments!
(Personally, my wife tells me I’m a Helper during newer games, a recovering Thinker, and sometimes a Mad Scientist, especially when playing Dominion.)
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