Insider 12-16-2011

Growing up I played a lot of different sports. From team sports like baseball and football to individual sports like golf and wrestling, I tried and competed in just about everything. While each one challenged me in different ways, they all had one lesson in common that has been burned into my soul. The true measure of a player isn’t if he wins or loses, it’s how he conducts himself on the way there.

It is my firm belief that the real reason we all love WARMACHINE and HORDES is the great community of players that have formed around these games. Think back to some of your recent games, and I’m sure the amount of fun you had was directly impacted by the person sitting across the table from you. WARMACHINE and HORDES are social games in the truest sense, and just like everything in society, when we sit down to play a game of WARMACHINE and HORDES we are entering into a social contract with our opponent. This contract states that we are both sitting down to enjoy a competitive game in which one of us will win and the other will lose, but both of us are there to have an enjoyable experience. I guarantee that no one sits down to a game of WARMACHINE and HORDES looking to have a miserable curmudgeon as an opponent.

With every dice roll, every activation, every victory or defeat, we are interacting with our opponent. I have played in games where I have been utterly crushed by my opponent, but never had more fun. And I’ve played in games where it was my turn to do the crushing, and yet I walked away wanting to forget the whole experience. In each instance, how my opponent acted during our game toward me and the game itself indelibly marked how I would forever remember the experience.

So, I hear you ask, what do I believe marks a good opponent from a bad? While there are many things players can and should do to show great sportsmanship, there are three things that I believe stand above all else.

  1. Shake hands before and after the game: There is something primal about shaking hands as both an introduction and an end to a competition. Of course, in most tournament settings, the handshake is how you introduce yourself to your opponent. A handshake says you are both ready to accept your responsibility to be good sports during your competitive match. By acknowledging the other person, you show respect and in some small way create a personal connection.

    In the same vein, there are few things more intense than a tight, hard-fought competition. Emotions run high, and in the heat of the moment it doesn’t matter whether the game is a casual pick-up or the final round of Lock & Load Masters. Each player is fully invested in claiming victory for himself. At the end of the game, a solid handshake is a sign of congratulations on a battle well fought and a reaffirmation of respect between both players.

  2. Play Hard – To me “play hard” means two things. First, it means that I expect my opponent to play against me to the best of his abilities, and he should expect me to do the same. However, you’ll note that I’ve emphasized the word play. At their core, WARMACHINE and HORDES are games played for fun with someone else. While I know as well as anyone there are moments of incredible intensity on the tabletop, my favorite opponents are the ones who bring a fun attitude to the game. Not everything is life or death. (Except for that poor trencher who just got melted by bile thrall acid on the tabletop, but I digress)

    Furthermore, if the game isn’t going well for you, that doesn’t give you the right to begin moaning about how nothing is going your way. It’s no fun for anyone to have to listen to an opponent become a wallowing shell of self pity because the chips are against them. Anything can happen in WARMACHINE and HORDES, and the mark of a great player is how he performs when things aren’t going his way. Stay positive and remember that if you are having fun, win or lose, you’ve accomplished the point of playing the game.

  3. Respect Your Opponent’s Skill – Everyone, no matter how good a player, is going to lose. And in my experience, it’s the moments immediately following defeat that defines a great sportsman from an okay one. And it’s perhaps the hardest of the rules to follow.

    Yes, we’ve all had times where the dice go against us. It happens, but that doesn’t give you the right to unleash a hail of complaints about how “the dice beat you” or “I brought paper and you brought scissors.” Those things may have contributed, but at the end of the day, no outside force beat you your opponent did. When you win, do you ever think, “Well it was all thanks to his poor dice rolling?” I don’t, and I doubt anyone else does either.

    When you blame your loss on external factors, you are belittling your opponent’s win, and more importantly their skill as a player. It’s much easier to blame external forces because it protects us from having to admit we did our best, and today, our best wasn’t good enough. I will admit openly that despite my best efforts, I still fall into this trap on occasion after a particularly difficult game. So, no matter how bad you feel at the end of a particularly grueling game, smile, shake hands, and congratulate your opponent on a good game and a good win.

’Til next time,