If you suffer from table captaining, symptoms may include, but are not limited to: people not having fun, people getting mad with you, people questioning why you needed other people to play with you in the first place. Now there’s a new solution to help with your table captaining issues – The Goof Review. Ask your game group if The Goof Review is right for you.
Today I’m writing about Table Captaining. A problem I haven’t personally encountered very often (although something I’m conscious about not doing myself).
You may have heard of Table Captains called a variety of names – alpha gamers and boss gamers are two of the other commonly used terms. I prefer a different title: table douchebags. I dunno.. captain, boss, and alpha just seem too cool to me. If someone was going to call me an alpha gamer I’d puff out my chest and embrace it. Point being it would encourage me, not dissuade.
Table Douchebags are the ones at the table telling other people how to take their turns. It’s more likely to occur in cooperative games such as Pandemic, Zombicide: Black Plague, and Forbidden Desert. They’re often highly intelligent, confident, and experienced in gaming. This means players turn to them for guidance on how to proceed – but if they’re not careful it can devolve into just instructing people on how to play.
I’ve seen gaming tables where someone is so demanding with how they feel the game should be played, the other gamers are really only aids to help move the pieces around. Put yourself in their shoes. Why would you want to be at a gaming table if you’re not really playing? And if you’re so closed minded about other people making their own decisions on their turns, why not just download a digital version of the game and play all the characters yourself?
There is a balance. You can’t fear the guidance. New people are learning the games, shy people are nervous about making the wrong play. What it comes down to is the conversation. Conversations are important. They’re one of the main exciting points in cooperative games; the brainstorming to try and solve a problem is a high point for me.
If we’re talking about encouraging the tabletop gaming hobby, and building a community, then we need to get rid of tabletop douchebaggery. Let people make mistakes, it’s how they learn. If the game goes sideways or if the action they took has massive repercussions then hopefully they’ll learn. Thing is, if you’re teaching people a new game then you can’t really get competitive with it. Enjoy the process. And once they’ve got a handle on the mechanics, work together to beat the game.
The way I try to avoid table captaining is by offering options. If they’re after guidance then I say “here are your choices as far as I can see them. Here’s the benefits of doing each of these moves” and ask what they think. If we have a plan we’ve discussed as a group, I’ll add how each option benefits said plan. And if they’re still unsure, I’ll try to limit the options to two which I would consider if I was them. Sure, it takes time; but after a few turns players will start to feel more confident and you can ease up with the support.
It’s really all about respect. It’s about empathy, and encouraging people to have a good time. If you’re the sort of person who has to win at all costs, maybe avoid playing cooperative games (and definitely avoid teaching new players).
So if you’re a Table CapAlphaDouche, please take my calm, considered, sympathetic advice-