Wargaming Tradecraft: Helping Cheaters be Better Players


Helping Cheaters be Better Players

Anyone who's been reading my works for a while knows I'm generally a positive and helpful guy. Sometimes, I feel the need to discuss a topic out of character for myself. I wrote this over a year ago, got some feedback from community members like Stelek, SinSynn, TastyTaste, Thor, Lauby and Loq and rewrote it, but never posted it. Recently, I decided that writing at the HoP provided a readership who might appreciate this article more than my usual and rewrote it again.

At some point, we've all probably played someone that we might be quick to label "CHEATER!!!1111~" I've written this article to address some of the issues that arise and offer advice on how to handle them.

We gamers traditionally come from a passive stock, which makes handling these kinds of problems really awkward. Often times we either just let it happen or overreact beyond what's reasonable. Keep in mind, the people we're playing with most of the time aren't just strangers at a gaming club - they become our friends and acquaintances, which makes an afternoon of gaming a whole lot more fun. We don't want to leave a gaming session fuming at people who in any other social gathering are a great time to be around.

So, in the interest of having more fun at your FLGS and saving friendships, lets look at my first kind of "cheater"...

*DISCLAIMER* - I give some examples of cheating in this article. Wasn't sure if I would, but I want to point some things out to gamers who might not exactly realize these things are going on.


Not having a firm grasp of the rules is somewhere we've all been at one point - it's just a part of learning. If you're both new to a game, you're probably making just as many mistakes as your opponent, so cut them some slack.

Your opponent is new to the game? Politely help them learn. Any mistakes they make in their favour are probably balanced by the stuff they're forgetting their units are capable of. Your grasp of strategy and list building should offset the benefits your opponent might be gaining from their mistakes.

Even experienced gamers make mistakes. This can often be caused by the fact we tend to learn from each other. A whole gaming club might have a small detail wrong until someone points out the mistake. "Oops." Again, focus on correcting behaviour, not on the wrong.

Examples of mistakes and how to handle them...

Game Rule Confusion

Just playing the game can be confusing to new players. Defer to the judgement of the more experienced player and check for yourself afterwards. Basic rules are usually pretty quick to look up. If the rule is confusing or vague, you might be better off rolling a die and handle the rule according to whoever wins for the rest of the game, then look it up later.

FAQ / Errata / Forums

When you're looking for a ruling after a game, these are great resources. Print these off and keep copies with your rule books. Be sure advice from forums are from an employee of the company.

Army Rule Confusion

If you're new, I always recommend focusing on learning your own rules first, rather than worrying about your opponents.

When you're learning or if you haven't played in a while, take the few seconds to double check a rule before using it.

Passively Cheating

Always give the benefit of the doubt - Passive cheats can be honest mistakes by people who don't know better and haven't been shown the error of their ways.
That said, passive cheats get on my nerves because a lot of these fall under the category "ought to know better."

The difference between making mistakes and passive cheating is it's usually done by people who've been playing for some time, have bad gaming habits that often work in their favour and are too lazy or competitive to do anything about them.

Nip this behaviour in the bud during regular play, otherwise we're going to end with a confrontation during a tournament or at a key moment of a game when tensions are high. These situations often involve egos unable to admit their mistakes, being polite is always the best idea.

Examples of mistakes and how to handle them...

Measuring Front to Back for Movement

This comes down to simple math. When moving, always measure from and to the same point on an edge of the base. If you measure from the front of a base to the back of the base, then you've actually gained the base's width in extra movement.

The tape-measure "slide"

This is where a player measures his movement, but as they pick up and move the model, the tape measure moves forward too. I've seriously seen units gain 3-4 inches of bonus movement from this.

There's little to correcting this behaviour besides politely pointing out something like "I think your hand slipped" and to measure from where the mini was / the rest of its squad is to show them their error. Read "Measuring Threat Ranges" lower down for a better way of dealing with this in tight or game-critical situations.

As an active cheat, this is actually a form of "sleight of hand." When players move models, your eyes watch the hand picking up the model and moving it. You're not paying attention to the end of the tape measure.

Getting Carried Away

I can't stress this enough, cheating is often someone just forgetting the rules. It's natural that when we rush, we make more mistakes. Timed or close games especially.

SLOW DOWN. Breathe, walk away for a moment, pause to double-check a stat on your army list, check your Facebook - do something to clear that fog from your head that's not letting you think straight OR suggest your opponent does.

Maybe you / they don't belong in a timed tournament if it's too stressful.

Miscounting Dice, Rolling too Many

Instead of counting, remove all the dice that don't meet the number you're after. This forces you to slow down and makes missed dice stand out.

Rolling Dice into other Dice

Someone rolls a couple dice, but they accidentally roll into other dice. If you're concerned, ask for a reroll. Another fix for this is to roll into a box or a cup, though this doesn't give dice much of a chance to really roll.

Activating a unit multiple times on one turn

Some people have problems remembering what's activated on a turn. Usually this happens if they have a bunch of the same unit, a large army or bounce around activating units all over the place. Sometimes you hear things like "Oh, wait - did these guys already shoot? Hahaha"

Use activation tokens - a little piece of paper, bead, whatever, that gets placed next to a unit once its taken its turn.

Privateer Press Arc Markers

Which way is this model facing?

If you play Warmachine / Hordes, just paint your arcs. Now.

Which models are wounded?

If a unit of models has health boxes / wounds, or you have multiples of the same model with health, paint numbers or symbols on bases, with corresponding markings on rule cards or army lists.

Template "Jitters"

Templates can be a huge pain sometimes because it's often a subjective question of what's hit. Your opponent always wants more and you always want less. Usually a relaxed approach is best when dealing with templates - it's not a perfect system so "close enough" is usually fine.

Transport Teleportation

Essentially, this is where an opponent has multiple transports and is less than honest about which unit is where until it's time to disembark. Army sheets should have a clear method of marking what units go with what transports.

Actively, some people feel very strongly that they don't have to tell their opponent what units are in what transports (Same types of people that won't show you their rules.) and use this as an excuse to deploy transported units wherever it would be most convenient.

Hidden Rules

Did I just mention people who won't share rules? Seriously, I've run in to this. Some people feel that if you want to know what their army can do, you should learn it between games and there's nothing that says they have to provide you with their rule book during a game. There has to be some level of trust, but if you suddenly want to question something and they flat out refuse to show your their codex, that isn't ok.

"Black Backed" card sleeves

I love how Privateer Press provides cards with all the rules. This is a fantastic way to manage your army list and use erasable markers on plastic card sleeves.

When rules are printed on both sides of the card and one side is blacked out, these are just your opponents method of going out of their way to say "I'm not interested in what's written on these cards." It makes it a hassle to pull the card out of the sleeve to check something, so odds are, some things don't get checked.

Spin to Win

This is really the fault of a game designers, but when there isn't an exact base to move, liberally turning vehicles can end up providing a little extra movement as long fronts end up further over where the sides were. Squeezing in rotations is also apparently a tact in FOW to optimize firing angles when one might already be out of movement.

Dysfunctional Gear

If your opponent's using gaming aids that are questionable, offer them the use of your own. Stuff like cardboard templates roughly cut, difficult to read tape measures, pens that don't mark well, etc.

Actively Cheating

If you fall in to this category, I've got no time for you. Active cheaters go out of their way to ensure the win. These people are cheaters by the definition of the word, no matter how they try to defend it. They're constantly making "mistakes", nearby rules / stats / cards are basically decoration even if they're "looked" at, (I've watched people check rules then do / read the wrong thing.) you've got to watch their tape measures closely and add up their dice too. A lot of the stuff I just covered in Passive Cheating is second nature to them. Seriously, just don't play these people.

I really don't like playing against these types of players because it makes me a bad person. I put on the rules lawyer cap. I don't allow take backs. I tighten my jaw, buckle down and WAAC even if it means playing a little bit of a psychological game. There's only 1 person at the moment who falls in to this category for me and I don't play him outside of tournaments. I know his lists, I roughly know his stats and I know what rules to call him on, which key models to kill and where to place my army so he forfeits by turn 3. Every time. I don't walk away feeling good, but it gets me out of the situation as soon as possible.

However, Stelek had this to say:
"Not playing people isn't the best way, because driving people out is not better than including them and changing them.  The community is small enough, and there's no guarantee they won't just go to another store and pull their shenanigans there.  Where you might have to play them in a tournament."

This statement makes me feel bad about my decisions - I don't like to exclude people. So, I've got no good answer here... I feel like there's only so much you can do to try and correct someone's behaviour.

Examples of Active Cheats

There are plenty of ways to do what I call "actively" cheating. Here are a couple examples so you get the idea of what I'm talking about.

Loaded Dice

If someone was ever caught with loaded dice, my suggestion would be "banned for life." If you're really concerned about this, use a common pool of dice for games or some kind of random number generator.

"If they don't know the rules, then it's their own fault."

Some people will use this to justify their own cheating and they couldn't be more wrong. The idea is that a player is fully aware that they're doing something against the rules but keeps doing it because nobody's calling them out.

Now, this is different to you not speaking up when your opponent forgets something like using an ability of their army or they forget to activate a unit... that's their own mistake. (Though if they're learning - give them a hand.)

Suggestions on dealing with active cheaters...

This isn't a free pass to hassle opponents during a game. We have to play with some level of assumption that they know what they're doing and aren't cheating. If you want to learn your opponents armies, do it on your own time instead of impacting the flow of game-play. This is how to handle people who have been fairly confidently identified as an untrustworthy gamer.

"Just walk away."
Don't play them.

Be polite, tell them you're not interested in a game and other people will follow. Eventually, they'll get the message.

Be Less Forgiving of Passive Cheating

The simple "mistakes" I've listed in the passive section become the arsenal of people actively cheating. Don't let these tricks slide. Call them on it. Ask the tournament organizer to call them on it. Try not to turn the game into a yelling match - but be firm.

Don't be Competitive

Odds are, everyone else is aware of what a jerk this person is and won't look down on you if you lose. So, accept the fact that their poor sportsmanship might cost you this game and prepare yourself to just have fun. Don't let them ruin your day. Try a new strategy or practice an existing one, play a "lolsy" list and just ride it out.

Ask Questions
  • "Wasn't that just a 10?" or "Oh, I thought I only saw four 5's?"
    • Before your opponent roles, ask what they need. This will cut down on them scooping up their dice quickly after claiming success.
  • "Wow, that's awesome, can I read the card?"
    • If something sounds fishy, ask to see a rule.

Pay Attention

If you know you could be facing an active cheater, pay closer attention to anyone you play with the same army and try to remember what it's capable of. That'll give you a better idea of whether you need to ask to see an opponent's rule.

Play Your Best

If you do have to play against someone you feel falls in to this category, like in a tournament, it forces you to play your very best. You need to know their rules just as well as yours. So look on the bright side, these games are great practice.


Don't be confrontational

Whenever you're dealing with someone, try to find a positive way to approach it. If you're questioning a questionable rule, try "Wow! That's cool, can I read that?" Don't go on the attack and accuse people of cheating, because often they're not.

Admit when you're wrong

Isn't it terrible when you've made a mistake? What you do next speaks volumes. Do you fess up? Sweep it under the rug and hope nobody notices? If you sweep it away, do you correct your behaviour or do you keep playing something wrong because you're worried someone will notice you're doing something different?

If the game is over, then at a minimum, you need to check that behaviour. Stop doing whatever you did wrong and move along. If someone mentions it, fess up - "Yeah, I realized I did that wrong." People make mistakes. If you never admit to them, people will be more likely to assume you're doing it on purpose.

During a game, fess up. You can do it. Your opponent might want you to take something back if it's not too longer after. Otherwise, treat it as a learning experience and move on. Also, maybe let them take something back later. Be that  guy, not that guy.

Walk away.

Sure, "It's just a game," but to that same logic, your friends shouldn't be willing to cheat to win if it's "just a game." Someone's going to have to be the bigger person though if you want to save friendships. Some personalities just clash in a competitive setting making it harder to put up with the little stuff.

Measure Threat Ranges

This isn't just to stop cheating, it's good advice. I'll do this when I'm worried about really close calls on movement. If something looks really close, pre-measure.

For example: If I have a model that can charge 8 inches with a 2" reach weapon, that means its threat range is 10". Declare what model is charging what and before moving, measure the threat range (Don't measure the distances between the models) to see if your target is in threat. Either way, you've got to move the model up, you can't just pre-measure for the fun of it.

Obviously, this doesn't work as well with shooting, since shooting also involves the tactical question of "Will I move my model it's full move before shooting?" and the fact that the movement might not be straight at the target. If something's really questionable though, you can make it work. Before moving, declare how far your model will move, add that to the range of the gun. Measure that threat range to check if the shot makes it... then move the model and unit DIRECTLY toward its target the declared distance.

Make Cheat Sheets

If there are particular rules or steps that are confusing, make yourself some cheat sheets that cover these details. That way, when there is confusion, you're not sorting through a big book, you're glancing over a sheet of paper.

Spend a Little Time and / or Money to Avoid Angst

Writing up a bunch of tokens on paper or spending the $20 on a bag of pre-mades really isn't that expensive when you considering how many headaches and heartaches can be avoided. Game aids go a long way to ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Involve Tournament Organizers

Often these folk are just like you and me, but it is there job to handle situations like this. If it's a local scene, they should be aware of potential problem players and perhaps keep an eye on their games. (Someone even suggested pitting cheaters against each other on purpose.) Even then, if something is bothering you, ask a TO or a more experienced player for help dealing with a situation.

How about you?

  • How do you handle your own mistakes?
  • Mistakes from others?
  • Cheaters?
  • Do you agree there's a difference between making a mistake and cheating?
For those interested, there was some great discussion on this topic when it originally posted at House of Paincakes.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Please keep all comments civil and language appropriate for a child-safe environment.