Teri Litorco, a contributor to Geek & Sundry, as well as co-founder and co-host of The Board Dames podcast, wrote a book with the rather grand title, The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming (Adams Media, 2016). Just how civilized is it? And who needs to be civilized? Well, that’s why she wrote the book.
Despite stating in her introduction that she “wrote this book to help all gamers make the most of their gaming experiences”, the book is clearly an introduction to the hobby for newcomers with an interest in gaming. Early chapters include sections on Finding your Friendly Local Gaming Store, Learning and Teaching How to Play Board Games, and Finding and/or Forming a Gaming Group. These sections are written with good advice to get new gamers playing with friends, old and new, quickly and comfortably.
In addition to board games, Litorco introduces the reader to the world of Role Playing Games (RPGs). She describes the differences RPGs have from standard board games and the variety of mechanics and group interactions that make them so enjoyable. As well, there are good sections on how to create engaging characters and give your imagination free rein to interact with the imaginary world created for you.
Having attended many Conventions over the years, her chapter on Attending Conventions is filled with excellent tips on how to budget both your time and money. There’s a very useful section on how to take the best care of yourself while attending events that offer non-stop, 24 hour gaming. If you are going to be attending a Con for the first time, you’ll come away grateful for having read her suggestions.
Not too surprisingly, being civilized, for Litorco, comes down to some basic common sense and manners: be mature and polite; be friendly and honest; be respectful of other people’s games; make sure everyone is having fun (and not just you), etc. She sums these ideas up with a phrase coined by Star Trek: The Next Generation actor and presenter of Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop video series, Wil Wheaton commonly known as Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t Be a D*ck”, a request she repeats throughout the book. (Amongst a list of topics on the book’s cover is “Essential Skills to Not Being a D*ck.”) Being a gracious and respectful adult goes a long way.
We’ve all either suffered through games with d*cks or seen others’ fun being ruined by someone whose ego is the most important thing at the table. Her advice on how to rescue your groups’ once-fun gaming session is by addressing the problem person directly and honestly. And if that doesn’t work, simply walk away from the table, depriving that person of the attention they so desperately want.
Missing from Litorco’s book is any discussion of the numerous websites devoted to the hobby. While she devotes a full chapter on the etiquette of “Talking About Games Online”, both in reviewing games and in game forums, she neglects any mention of where an interested reader might find such sites. There were numerous places in the book where I was surprised to not find at least a passing reference to one of the many online sites where you can play board games for free. It was strange to not see a list of Recommended Websites for New Gamers, especially since she provides a page-long list of “Conventions to Check Out” later in the book.
This book would be a welcome read for someone starting out with gaming, or attending their first gaming convention, or just trying out RPGs. For long-time gamers, there isn’t much new here—although reminders of Wheaton’s Law are always a good idea.
It would be great, however, if the owners of our favorite FLGSs would make this book mandatory reading for anyone wishing to return to the store after having been asked to leave for being… well, you know.