Once you’ve been gaming for a while, you’ll notice that, even if you have a constantly rotating palette of opponents, you’re still pretty much always playing with the same people. Sure, some of the similarities will be obvious; if you want to do some boardgaming, make sure you know a bunch of white guys who usually have beards and aren’t too proud to still be quoting Monty Python and All Your Base. But beyond that there are some definite categories that every player falls into at least one of, if not more. Here’s a guide to those categories.
Is it this player’s turn? Hope you brought a magazine! Deep Thought has to completely analyze every possible move he can make and extend it out to its logical conclusion to determine which is the optimal one. If there’s math in the game, he’ll do it. He wants to know how much money everyone has, how many points, who has actions left this round, the relative humidity, if anyone is diabetic, current position of Saturn; anything that can possibly factor into his calculations must be taken into account before he can risk any all-important decision. (And all decisions are important. He will often take three hours deciding what color to play.) Trying to hurry him up will just make him lose count and have to start over. If you get four of these guys together, a single game of Skip-Bo can take months.
likes: All the information. All of it.
dislikes: People who play “suboptimally” and throw off his calculations.
quote: “But you KNOW I’d do that, so what YOU’D do is…”
The Coach enjoys his turn so much, he makes it last through your turn as well. After all, he’s a much better player than you and you can probably benefit from his helpful advice. Why would you want to make your own decisions when The Coach can easily show you better ones? He’s not trying to sabotage your game, either, just make you a more worthy opponent. Wouldn’t you rather just be there to move pieces for him so that he can essentially play himself — the only true challenge he has at this table? (Female players may often feel that The Coach is being condescending to them because they are women, but in his defense, he’s that way to everyone.)
dislikes: When someone thinks of a play he didn’t think of first.
quote: “You know, you can score two more points if you put it there instead.”
Blood Ninja wants to win. Period. Oh sure, we all want to win, but Blood Ninja lives only to win. No less will do. If he does not win, something went horribly wrong. Either someone wasn’t playing right, or there’s too much randomness in the game, or sinister forces conspired to deny him a victory he so obviously earned. He may find a way afterwards to explain that, although it doesn’t seem like he won, when you think about it, he really did. That’s only if he doesn’t win. And during the game, if his winning makes things utterly miserable for everyone else, so be it. The important thing is that he wins. Because really, what else matters?
likes: The taste of victory.
dislikes: Better players.
quote: “If winning is not important, Commander, why keep score?”
Hey everyone, Social Joe is here! Boardgaming is a social activity and no one knows that more than Social Joe. Say, that card you just played reminds me of a story! Hey, I’m gonna go have a smoke! Oh hey, where’s your computer? You gotta see this YouTube video! Oh yeah, I have to make a move, don’t I? Screw it, I’ll just do this. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore! Hey, anyone want another beer?
likes: Hanging out, chit-chatting, good times with good friends.
dislikes: Serious Joe
quote: “Oh, is it my turn?”
What are you talking about? Serious Joe also likes having a good time. A good time is quiet, focused play with opponents who are all working at their best. Sure, sometimes things get a little raucous and someone chuckles, but we tend to keep that kind of horseplay away from the game table (along with all food and drinks, because maybe you want your games to look like garbage, but I don’t). The good news is, Serious Joes pretty much can’t stand to play with anyone who isn’t a Serious Joe, so they tend to self-segregate.
likes: Stroking his beard in contemplation.
dislikes: Social Joe
Everything has a price. Everything’s negotiable. So says The Negotiator. No matter what the game, what the situation, he’s ready to make a deal. Don’t take the action I want and I’ll not take the action you want. If you leave me alone, I won’t play this card against you. Sure, that’s a featured part of many games, but the Negotiator makes it the main part of every game. Even if he’s completely stomping you and you don’t stand a chance, he has an offer for you to consider. (He can also, in a pinch, explain how everyone at the table except him is a threat to you right now, and they only way you stand a chance is to team up with him against them.) Very often his offers consist of something you can do for him for which, in return, he won’t attack you, but “threat” is such an ugly word.
likes: A deal.
dislikes: Having his bluff called.
quote: “That’s a nice score you got there. Shame if something happened to it.”
Double-dubs never does good at this game. And the cards aren’t shuffled well. Also, dice hate him. People are teaming up against him for no reason. That guy isn’t playing right. He didn’t get much sleep last night. He can’t see which cards are in front of you. There’s glare on the board. It’s hot in here. He’s not used to playing by these rules. That one strategy is unstoppable. People are playing too fast. People are playing too slow. Someone’s playing a denial deck. He can’t seem to draw a magic item. The start player has too much of an advantage. This board layout is strange. That card is broken and un-fun. Can we get better light in here? He’s just used to playing green. And then he wins.
likes: Spreading the misery.
quote: “If I had had better luck on that last roll, I’d have won by 27 points instead of just 22.”
When Johnny Takeback plays a videogame, he saves his game constantly. Unfortunately there’s no such thing in boardgames, but he makes do. While Deep Thought agonizes for years over his move, he eventually makes one and sticks with it. Johnny Takeback does the same agonizing but can’t settle. He’ll make and unmake a move several times, paying and restoring his cash or resources or whatever each time until only he has any idea what his “save game state” is. He’s not cheating, he just can’t settle on a course of action. In addition, once his turn is over, he still hasn’t decided. He may need to re-think it again. Or he might have forgotten to get his money. Or maybe he was going to do a point of damage to you with his war wizard, but he forgot. Is it okay if he just goes ahead and does that?
dislikes: A decision.
quote: “Wait, wait, let me think about this.”
Usually Someone’s Girlfriend, but not always. Someone’s Friend showed up for game day! Now, if that friend is really interested in trying out boardgames, this is great. More often than not, though, Someone’s Friend has just been dragged into this. They have no interest in playing, can’t (or won’t) follow the rules, are pretty much just doing whatever Someone tells them to do, and pretty much having a miserable time. This is not the fault of Someone’s Friend (though often they will continue to insist on participating even after it’s more than clear that they’re not really interested), it’s the Someone who will keep pushing them into this. Nevertheless, you can count on a pretty lousy time for everybody.
dislikes: You, probably.
quote: “Will I have to think for this?”
Have your boardgames become too stale and predictable? Captain Chaos is here to liven things up! He doesn’t care if he wins or loses, so long as he has a good time, and what he considers a good time is making the entire game unbearable for everyone else. Do you have any kind of strategy whatsoever? Too bad, because Captain Chaos is going to behave in a completely unpredictable matter and do things that don’t help him in the slightest just to screw with you. If you get frustrated by all this, lighten up, it’s just a game! And God help you if he somehow ends up winning.
likes: The look on your face.
dislikes: Anyone else enjoying themselves.
quote: “Aw, you’re no fun!”
You’ll know you’re playing with Mr. Fix-It before you even open the box. He’ll take a look at the cover and tell you how the fonts and color choices are all wrong, and what they should have done. Then he’ll examine the components and be totally amazed that any serious company would make these kinds of mistakes with them. He can tell you what kind of cardstock they should have used and why the finish is all wrong for the board. And speaking of the board, who the hell came up with that awful design and color scheme? Through Mr. Fix-It you’ll find out how the rules SHOULD have been written and what player aids they should have included. Once you start playing, he’ll determine, on first play, what strategies are “broken” and how poorly the game was playtested. After that first play, he’ll have the whole game figured out and a list of ways to improve it. He’s got the answers.
likes: Game design theory.
dislikes: Game design reality.
quote: “Hello, there are color blind people in the world!”