2020 caused everyone to reassess the important relationships in our lives and whether quantity trumps quality. Studies done in that year found that the ideal number of friends is 3 to 5. They found most people have an upper limit of 150, but this can be broken down into smaller and smaller circles, with the final closest circle being between 3 to 5. These are your ride-or-die friends, the ones you can call whenever, wherever, for whatever and whyever. Now, I’m assuming that most people are thinking about who these people are for them, so it makes sense that you should figure that out before you read any further.
Now that you’ve identified your closest friends, how many of them share the same hobbies as you? I’m not restricting it purely to tabletop wargaming, I’m talking about anything. Is there a sport you play, or a location you frequent? How do you connect with these important people in your life?
A few people reading probably do have these friends who are also a part of this hobby. And that is fantastic. One of my favourite things about this hobby is how it brings people together and the communities that form from a mutual interest. But don’t feel bad or pressured if your close friends aren’t part of this community, everyone should have diverse interests, so having other hobbies is never a bad thing.
Most people will have the bulk of their friends in the community in the next couple of circles. These are the people that you have something in common with, but aren’t people you would share your deepest and darkest secrets with. And this is the golden spot when we are talking about hobbies. You don’t need to be really close with these people, as you all have something in common, the hobby. This means that you can be wildly different people but you can come together and discuss the things you have in common. I’m friends with doctors, policemen, electricians, labourers, retail workers, and even a dentist. And the thing I have in common with all these people, the hobby of tabletop wargaming.
The important thing to remember is we are all invested in this hobby for different reasons, but just because someone isn’t passionate about the exact same aspect as you, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. As long as you can understand why they enjoy a particular aspect, that is enough in most cases. I thoroughly enjoy listening to my friend describe the new models he is planning on painting and what techniques or styles he is going to use. Or talk tactics with another friend who is more interested in the latest rules release. Just because they have a different reason to be a part of the local community, doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.
I’ve been involved in the hobby for quite a while, and as a result, I know a large majority of people in the wider community. And a large number of people in this community know me, but how did this develop? Well, I can guarantee that it isn’t because of my gaming, painting, and modelling skills. They all leave a bit to be desired to say the least. And my social skills aren’t anything special either. I’m quite introverted, and growing up I was very shy. Nowadays, I’m a lot better at interacting with people, but even with my limited social skills early on I was able to make friends.
Now, I’m not going to give everyone a foolproof plan to make friends with people. If such a thing does exist, I’m definitely not the author, and would be very interested in reading it. But I can offer one point of advice that might help some people. Know yourself, and know others. If you know who you are, you can be confident in who you are. Now this confidence doesn’t stem from being better than other people, and nor should it. The confidence that you have in yourself comes from knowing that you are better than you once were.
Let me offer an example. If I am interested in playing tennis and I want to get better, it doesn’t help me to compare myself to my younger brother, who I have always been able to beat. It also doesn’t help to compare myself to Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic, as they are so far ahead of me it doesn’t even compute. The best person to compare myself to is me. If I play a match, and make 20 double faults, that is a statistic that I can use. If in my next match I only make 18 double faults, then I’ve improved. It doesn’t matter that Serena or Novak don’t make double faults, I’ve improved on my abilities. And this is where confidence can (and should) come from.
This self confidence means you know who you are. You don’t 100% know where you are going, but you know where you have come from, and you can use it to grow. This confidence can help you in many aspects of life, but in relation to wargaming social skills, it can help immensely. If you know who you are and are confident in it, other people can know who you are too. And if they like, or even just respect, what they see, then making friends is easy. If I know that my hypothetical friend Tom is just straight up front about everything, hates double talk and values honesty, then I know we can have a conversation about anything and that is the perspective he will bring to it.
Once you know yourself, and allow others to know you, it becomes a lot easier to build friendships, especially if it is in a broad context like tabletop wargaming. I don’t need to deeply know someone to have a fun game, or an interesting conversation, but provided we both have similar values about the game, a measure of respect for our opponent, and are eager to make it fun a experience, then it becomes very easy for a game to be an enjoyable situation for both players.
And, at the end of the day, an enjoyable game is exactly the outcome that everyone is looking for. You might win, you might lose, but if you enjoy it, then the outcome doesn’t matter as much. And that enjoyment of the game makes it a lot easier to connect to other people. I’m a lot more likely to chat to someone after the game, if I’ve enjoyed the time we have spent together so far. I’ll seek them out at the next tournament to catch up if I have fond memories of our previous games. Likewise, if I didn’t enjoy the game, I won’t be actively looking for them. I’ll still be polite (there is no excuse to be rude to a fellow wargamer), but that will be the limit of it. I won’t be going out of my way to see them or chat to them.
And that is the secret to making more friends within the community. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Enjoying the time spent with people makes it easier to make friends. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. But that is why we are all part of this community, for enjoyment. If we don’t enjoy our time, why are we here? There are plenty of other ways for us to spend our time, so why this community and hobby? It’s because we enjoy it.
Now, the trick with enjoying the game is simple. The biggest thing to remember is there are at least two people playing the game at any one time. So, you have an obligation to your opponent to make the game an enjoyable experience, and vice versa. This doesn’t mean you have to go easy on them. But it does mean you need to be polite, sporting and fair. It’s not hard to follow the basic rules of sportsmanship whilst playing these games. Roll dice where your opponent can see, let them see the roll before moving on, confirm distances and calculations before moving on. These should all be very obvious to anyone who has been playing for a while, but it’s these core principles that can make or break a game. If you can be a courteous player, your opponent should do the same, and you can both enjoy it.
Now, I want to give a tip on how to pull up people if they start erring on the wrong side of courtesy. I have quite a few of these, so they will all probably feature in a future article, but this is one that other people have pointed out as quite effective.
Ask polite questions.
Correcting someone you just met is a hard thing to do politely. It can definitely put people on the wrong foot, especially if both people are sure that the other person is wrong. My strategy for this is to assume I’m wrong. Now, I don’t assume I’m wrong and just leave it. I assume I’m wrong and ask for clarity. Phrasing matters a lot here, asking someone “Do you mind if I check that rule, I thought it worked differently” is a lot nicer than “You can’t do that, it works like this”. Even the simplest games will have a decent amount of rules and these can be very easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. Especially if players have been playing a while, and editions and rules have changed since they started.
Sometimes it’s the smallest difference of words that can have a huge effect on the tabletop, “Wholly within 12 inches” translates very differently to “Within 12 inches” once models are placed down.
The other benefit of this strategy is you can assume ignorance on behalf of your opponent. Unfortunately, I’ve played against people who have tried to actively cheat against me, but 99.99999999% of people won’t. If you assume ignorance, it’s easier for your opponent to accept they got something wrong, and continue with the game. Nothing will kill someone’s enjoyment of the game faster than being accused of cheating. Although I will say now, that there is no excuse for anyone actively cheating in a game, and if you do, you should assess why you have decided to do it. Then you should sell all your models and quit the hobby.
So, if you genuinely want to enjoy the game, your opponent genuinely wants to enjoy the game, and both of you want the other person to enjoy the game, you are practically guaranteed that all players will have a fun game, and end up becoming friends. And that is how you make friends in a tabletop wargaming community.
Until next time,