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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > February 2019 (#27) > Play it Smart

Play it Smart

Spoilsports can ruin the fun of playing a game – but they can also become an essential part of making games better, as our experts find out
Cheats might break the rules, but spoilsports throw them away completely

In last month’s column we turned to the work of the philosopher Bernard Suits in our discussion of cheating in tabletop gaming. This month we consider another unwelcome guest at the games table – the spoilsport, and once again we begin with Suits. When discussing the different types of gamers with his disciples, the titular Grasshopper of Suits’ book argues that the attachment of a player to the outcome of a game depends on their lusory attitude (from the Latin word ludo, meaning game). There are a number of such attitudes players might take, including unsporting behaviour (breaking a game’s unspoken rules and etiquette), cheating (breaking a game’s constitutive rules for an unfair advantage) and spoilsports (who undermine the rules entirely). As Suits puts it, while a “regular” player recognises both the rules and the goals of the game, cheats recognise goals but not rules, and spoilsports recognise neither. To take Catan as an example, a regular player is someone who aims to get to 10 victory points whilst strictly adhering to the rules, a cheat might lie about the amount of wood they have in order to win, while a spoilsport might take all of the development cards and build a small house with them before declaring themselves Emperor of the Planet Zogg.

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