Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't Be That Guy: The 40K Coach

Okay, so we can all admit it. You've done it and you know you have! You've walked by a game going on at your local game store or gaming club and seen a player who clearly needed just a little bit of help in their game. Maybe that player is new to the game, or just inexperienced, or playing against one of the better player in your area and is grossly over matched. And as an experienced player, and the friendly guy/gal that you are you offer up a quick tip. You actually open you mouth and give just a bit of advice on that game that you have nothing to do with.

"Hey, you know if you move here, he'll have to run through area terrain to get to you and you'll attack first in combat." Or, "if you shoot this instead of that, it would help you do this." It is usually just a quick nugget of knowledge that really will not change the game in any way, and his opponent really could care less because they know they have the win secured. But you helped out a fellow gamer and expanded his/her knowledge of the game just a bit more. You feel good about it, you helped someone.

But there is a time, a place, and a time limit on such interventions to a game. If the game is just a pick-up game and has no real meaning to either player, most players are open to a little advice. Heck, if his opponent is a veteran and crushing the guy anyway, a little advice to the new guy to make the game a bit more of a challenge might even be a welcomed intervention. Because how much fun could it be to beat down a guy who barley knows how to play the game. Now, of course if your "advice" turns into you playing the guys army for him, well this could be an unwelcome "butting in" on your part, and really rude to both players.

I have done coaching games myself. These games are usually for the new guys, to help him with just the bare bone basics of the game. What do you roll to hit? How many dice? What do you roll to wound. Things like that. But in this game, the opponent is fully aware that I will be there to help out the new guy (and he knows to lose), and usually my advice during the game trickles off as the game goes on so that the player can learn on their own. But these are special cases, in most games coaching can be an unwelcome interruption.

However in League, Campaign, and certainly tournament games this is a HUGE faux-Pas and in some case can be considered cheating! I recently posted an article recanting the tale of my second week mini-tournament win over my friend Andrew. The part I left out was his brother, David. David is a much better player then his brother, and David and I have a bit of a friendly rivalry going. So when he found out that Andrew and I were slated to go head-to-head that day, David was right there to over see the game. He helped Andrew with his deployment, and some of the moves he made. But at one point, David began whispering to his brother plans for the next turn. Foul!

Now I know, it is just a small, $50 in store credit prize on the line, but this was a tournament game. And coaching is real close to cheating as far as I am concerned in this situation. So when the whispering started, I in my best joking tone, was like "Hey, how many guys am I playing here?" David got the hint and backed away from the table and allowed the game to finish without further interruption. David, of course, does not want to see me in the finals as he has only beaten me once in tournament play. So I am sure he was hooping his brother could steal a win and knock me out of contention. Or maybe he was just trying to help his brother out, offering friendly advice to a weaker player. Either way, this was not the time nor the place to coach a player. David got the point that I did not appreciate his intervention in a tournament game.

The point of this story is, we all want to help, and that is okay. Some of us are just better at the game then others and feel our experience can help bring those player up a level or two. But make sure it is okay with both player to offer up that help. And in tournament play, back away from the table and keep your advice to yourself! Let the two people playing the game determine the outcome. Lets face it, we are all there for fun, but there is money and prizes on the line. I had a similar experience at 'Ard Boyz this year, where the eventual winner of that day had approached my table and started a conversation with his buddy, my opponent, during the game. At first it was innocent, but as soon as the conversation turned to the game at hand I stopped it cold. I did not know the guys, so I did not know if my joking tone would work. So I was firm but fair, "Hey man, I know he's your friend and all, but we are playing in a tournament and coaching at the table could be considered cheating. Why don't you watch the game from over there, and your friend can tell you how it turned out." He got the point and I won my game without his interference.

So, lesson of the day, advice if fine in a friendly game but try to refrain from butting your nose in where it is not wanted, or for too long. And in case you didn't know, tournaments are always off limits!

When dealing with the 40K Coach, simply point out that you are playing your opponent, not him, and that coaching could be considered cheating. Most players do not like the idea of being called a cheat and will back off. I hate to use that dreaded C word, but it is what it is. And surprisingly, most people are afraid to use that word too. Not me.

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