The Top Ten Inappropriate Board Gaming Behaviours

450 board gamers participated in a recent survey on behaviour at the table. While many questions were subjective and situational, the survey provided a fascinating insight into board gamer behaviour. According to the results, below are the top ten inappropriate behaviours for board gaming.

10. Not paying attention to a rules explanation

The game night begins, and you bring a new game out to the table. During rules explanation, one player is distracted and does not listen, perhaps messaging on their phone instead. Throughout the game, the same player often says “nobody told me that was possible” or “I didn’t realise you could do that” during the game.

It’s hard to enjoy the game when you don’t understand how a game works. As a player who has missed some of the rules explanation, please try to listen carefully during this part and if you don’t understand how a specific game mechanic works, don’t be afraid to ask the host to explain it a second time, other players also benefit from rules clarification.

As the explaining player, the decision to repeat the rules explanation, or have one player not know what’s going on is a choice between the lesser of two evils. If you suspect a player isn’t paying attention, although incredibly painful, it’s often best to ask for their attention and repeat the rules explanation for them. In the end, the game will be more enjoyable for everyone when all players know what’s going on.

9. Split attention between the game and mobile phone

Your sitting at the table playing a board game together, and between rounds one player spends all of their time on their phone. When it becomes their turn, it’s like a driver texting at the traffic lights who has no idea the light turned green. After pointing out to the player that it’s their turn, everyone must now wait while the player restudies the board and look for changes before taking their turn. Add five minutes per turn, onto the games estimated finish time for this player.

Everybody understands urgent circumstances, such as when you’re expecting an urgent phone call, but don’t waste other people’s time by playing a game or having side conversations. Board gaming presents an opportunity to break away from technology and use the board game as a social medium for face to face communication. As a player, put away your mobile devices at the table. Remember that while everybody in the room is there to enjoy the game, they are also there to enjoy the company and attention of those around them. Distracting yourself on your phone sends the signal that you do not enjoy the company of the others around you. When other players continuously sit and wait for you to take a turn, don’t be surprised when you don’t get a reinvite.

As an event host, if one of your players is consistently picking up their phone, consider that it might be a side effect of them feeling uncomfortable. In the youtube video “Addiction to Technology is Ruining Lives” Simon Sinek argues that millennials prefer to interact with a mobile device in an awkward situation. Before giving a new person soul piercing glares for being on their phone, try and help the player feel involved and part of the group.

8. Make out of game deals for kingmaking

You’re in a tight struggle with another player for the lead, and slightly ahead with a third player slightly behind. All of a sudden the player coming second offers the player coming third an offer, ‘help me win and I’ll shout you dinner’. The deal has nothing to do with the current game! The player accepts the request, and with the combined power of the other two players, you lose. Some may view this as cheating, while the requesting player can claim that they are not breaking any game rules.

Kingmaking is a board gaming term for when a player who has no chance of winning, deliberately uses his influence in the game to determine the winner. The kingmaking player slows the player in the lead and or boosts another player to decide who wins the game. Kingmaking is frowned upon because the outcome of the game is no longer by each players skill levels or decision making.

Interestingly, making deals inside of the game rules is seen as perfectly acceptable according to the survey, but if you find yourself resorting to deals reaching outside of the game know that you’re crossing an ethical line.

7. Play to lose quickly because they’d rather play a different game

When you sit down to play a board game with others, people often ask how long the game? It’s an important question because you are entering an unwritten social contract to spend an allotted amount of time to have an interactive gaming experience with others. This behaviour is especially problematic in cooperative games, where all players are attempting to beat the game.

Unless everyone no longer wants to play the game in front of them, when one player deliberately tries to lose quickly it ruins an otherwise enjoyable game for everyone. If you’ve committed to playing a game for a certain amount of time, consider how invested the others are in playing the game to the end.

If you only have a fixed amount of time before another game is starting, tell the other players from the outset. Then, if the game continues over the recommended time limit, you can point out that you’ve run out of time for that game.

If you do not want to play a game at all, you’re better off not starting when you don’t want to see the game through to the end. Be honest and tell the other players that you’re waiting to play another game, and therefore don’t want to start. Once you commit to a game and the other players are enjoying themselves, don’t try and ruin the game for a better offer.

6. Drop out or give up, when it becomes apparent they can’t win

You’re playing a game when one player falls behind. They realise there is no way for them to win, so they stand up and leave the game. This behaviour is a more polite version of the table flip, without the flip.

This issue involves the motives why people play board games. Some people play to win, and can’t stand to lose. Do you play to win? Or do you play to spend time with others? Do you value the journey? Or the end goal?

Many people enjoy the social experience of the game, but some people need to win. Sometimes it can be the result of setting unrealistic expectations. A player may believe they are superior to the others in the group, and therefore their ego is bruised if they lose.

The achievement in winning a game is only real if there is a risk of losing. If there is no possibility of losing, then why play? If you feel you must win, once you discover that other people are intelligent and smart human beings worthy of beating you, you’ll find yourself gaming for the social side, over needing to win.

5. Staying silent when someone cheats

Cheating in a game may be intentional, or a direct misunderstanding of the rules. In a study conducted by McTernan, Love and Rettinger (The Influence of Personality on the Decision to Cheat), cheating was found to be linked to personality traits of impulsiveness and sensation seeking. If cheating is a personality trait then, people who cheat are likely to repeat the behaviour. Interestingly, the behaviour of letting people cheat was deemed highly unacceptable. Therefore, if you notice another person cheating, it is desirable to stop the person and point it out to others.

4. Treat game components in an alarming manner

You’re sitting at the table playing a card game when someone breaks open a bag of cheese supreme corn chips. With bright orange fingers full of cheesy, salty residue they go to pick up their cards you haven’t sleeved yet. The card becomes oil stained and has a permanent mark on the back which makes it visible when sitting on top of a deck.

But board games are not cheap, and components cost money. Even though board gamers may seem to have many games, they do value the games they own. Damaging one part could deem the entire game unplayable. Be careful about what food you bring to game night, and treat each component with respect.

3. Take another player’s turn for them, while they’re out of the room

A player leaves the room to call his wife and tell her he’ll be home late. He comes back only to find his move taken and play continued. A player assures him there was just one reasonable option, so he made a move for him.

Taking turns is an integral concept in communication, and is critical to natural language speaking. A player turn is their right to make a decision, control their destiny, and orientate themselves to the current state of the game. If the game continues without them present, they will lose their bearings and may not be able to enjoy the rest of the game.

When a player leaves the room, pause the game and talk with the other players, have a break. Even when the player only has one possible move, show some patience and let the player make their move.

2. Bow out in the middle of a game to join a different game starting up

This behaviour is similar to playing to lose, except the player doesn’t even feel the need to lose the game. As stated above, when you agree to play a game with other people, you are entering into an unwritten social contract to spend an allotted amount of time to have an interactive gaming experience and explore the game.

While anyone can understand if there is an emergency, leaving the game halfway due to preference, shows disrespect and rudeness to other players.

1. Look at another players cards while they are out of the room

Your friend needs a toilet break, they set their cards aside on the table and say they’ll be right back after a quick toilet break. While they’re gone, you take a look at their cards. When they return you have a smug look on their face, but they don’t know why. All of a sudden each of your plays is countering theirs, and then you slip up by making a sly remark about the last card in their hand.

When you look at another players cards, you’re not smart or intelligent. You’re disrespecting the player. Give people common courtesy and give them the privacy they deserve. Resist the urge to look at people’s cards when they leave the room.


Most of the top ten inappropriate behaviours come down to common courtesy and common sense. Treat board games and board gamers with respect, and you’ll find that others will increasingly enjoy having you at the table, and you will enjoy yourself more often.


A special thank you to Ironregime on Board Game Geek for posting the survey, with some very thoughtful responses.

The 8 Stages of a Board Gamer

There are many stages of the spiritual journey of becoming a modern board gamer. From that initial spark of discovery, through to wallet burning crazed excitement, and finally finding your unique style and acceptance. The following phases are the typical steps that a player experiences. As board gaming becomes increasingly popular, more and more gamers start to progress through these steps.

1. Blissfully Oblivious

You are blissfully unaware of the world of modern board games. You know about Monopoly, the Game of Life, Snakes & Ladders, and poker, but it’s quite amazing that you made it to this blog, and you have no idea what you are reading. Most people will get stuck in this phase unless a friend introduces them to gaming.

2. Discovery


You just found about modern board games through a friend, colleague or associate. Somehow you joined in for a social event and enjoyed yourself. You like the idea of board games, and you have just become aware that there are thousands of board games to play and tens of thousands of people who play them. You’ve subscribed to the /r/boardgames subreddit and may have found the website. You started to watch YouTube series such as Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower, Rhado or Watch It Played. Due to the overwhelming amount of board games that exist, you’ve begun to google top ten board game lists and to investigate the different types of board games that exist.

3. Newbie


Somehow you’ve managed to find out that there are different board game styles. You’ve found new terms such as “Eurogames” which indicates the game has little luck and more resource-based economic themes and “Ameritrash” which indicates a game is more thematic with conflict and drama. You’ve investigated enough board game styles to have an idea of what you think you want to play. You start buying some board games cautiously based on reviews and videos that you have watched. To your surprise, you’ve found out that there is a broad range of solo games that are also quite playable and fun.

4. Crazed


You initially convinced yourself that you would try one or two board games, but somehow you’ve ended up spending a lot of money on new board games and come to accept that board gaming is your new hobby. You spend your paychecks on regular impulse board gaming buys and kick starters. You religiously watch your favourite youtube channel and you have decided to try and find matching game players who have similar tastes for you to play games. You start looking for the best deals on Amazon and you’re kick-starting each modern new board games coming out. Although the big signal that you’re at this stage is that your secret birthday wishlist’s for your friends now has board games on it.

5. Too Far Gone

Players who are too far gone cannot play a game more than once because they own and need to play too many board games. They would love to play a legacy game, but it’s impossible to commit that many play sessions to one game when there are so many unplayed games to try. Choosing the next board game to play next involves playing a micro-metagame selection process. The hours spent tracking games on BGG, Facebook and Kickstarter are akin to a part-time job. Januaries are spent determining travel budgets for the years board game conventions, and travelling to Spiel in Germany is a lifetime achievement. The sign that you are at this stage is you not only know what a math trade is, but you also know how to create one.

6. Realisation


Either reality starts to set in or you’re going broke. Either way, you realise that it’s hard to find the people and time to play games at the rate that you are buying them. You’ve started to understand that board games are not Pokemon and you don’t have to catch ’em all. You begin to enjoy certain categories of board games more than others. Your purchases aren’t as impulsive as before, and you’ve discovered you don’t have enough time to play all the games you want to, but you still buy a game once or twice a month. The physical sign that you are at this stage is you have a set of shelves that are now full of board games and you’ve started to plan your dedicated game room.

7. Embracing


You are quietly accepting and at peace with your decision to become a board gamer for life. Your family knows you love board games and probably play them with you. Your friends know love board games, and you have great gaming groups. You’ve committed to assigning part of your house to be a board gaming room. For the first time, you’ve started to remove games from your collection. Maybe you’ve sold the games, or you simply don’t have space to keep practically all of them. Mentally you accept that you don’t need to play every game, and you’ve probably narrowed down a handful of games that you want to play regularly.

8. Guru


You have played thousands of different board games, yes that is right not hundreds, but thousands. You are a member of multiple gaming groups, and you’ve come to realise that different groups have different personalities and unique dynamics. You understand what style of games you enjoy and precise mechanics that you do and don’t like in a game. You don’t actively preach or tell people about board games, but when asked you are an ambassador for the genre and with your vast knowledge you can always add thoughtful discussion and predictions regarding games you are yet to play. Your collection is the perfect range of games that you like. It is not easy for a new game to make it into your collection, and you have a defined a rigorous trial of fire that any game must meet to make it successfully into your collection.


The journey to becoming a Guru is an exciting roller coaster of social emotions. People get very attached to their board games, and getting to the final stage of getting rid of games is not a step that everybody takes. What everybody can agree on, however, is that modern board gaming is fun, and a great excuse to get some friends together.