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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming: Book Review

by | published Friday, December 23, 2016

Board gaming – and more broadly, tabletop gaming – is a vast hobby. The breadth of games, and the variety of people and experience make it was it is. If you’re new to it all, or interested in becoming part of it, but don’t know how to approach it, then there’s a book for you to get started. Teri Litorco’s The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming: Rules Every Gamer Must Live By is a handy little reference for folks who want to know about how to get into games, keeping a collection, attending cons and more.

Teri is a vlogger over at Geek & Sundry, well-known for tabletop coverage. She’s a long time wargamer and board gamer, has run tabletop events and has a great perspective on the hobby, so it’s perfect she’s crafted this guide as an insider with a wealth of experience to share. On top of that, Teri’s got a great sense of humour and brings that into her writing, as well as some fun anecdotes and sidebars to illustrate her content. I really enjoyed my read of the Civilized Guide – it was personable, fun and interesting.

Teri starts – rightly so – with a chapter all about friendly local game stores (aka FLGS). If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with one or more FLGS, this section is a great way to get to know how you can get further into the gaming community with their help. If you haven’t already found a gaming group or want to get into open gaming or events, Teri has all the tips. Establishing yourself within the community can make or break some people’s enjoyment of the hobby, so you want to get it right – “[y]ou’re not just shopping for a gaming store—picking your FLGS is like picking your starter gaming community, so have a good look around and support the FLGS that supports you best.” And if you’re not too familiar with the lingo of gaming, there’s some great sections that go over the different flavours of games and what mechanics you might encounter as well as a great run-down of RPGs.

Other sections of the Civilized Guide go on to detail hosting games at your own place, how to best go about teaching games to avoid failure at your game days, and even reaching out to bring others like friends and family into the hobby, making games accessible to more people. I know a lot of our readers are likely already in established game groups and may have hosted games before, but there’s even great info in there on how to be a good guest, which some of of need reminding of every now and then. For newbies and for seasoned gamers, all of this is great information. There could be a great deal of heavy euro lovers out there who may never have approached their family for gaming, and advice like “[i]t’s basic gamer etiquette to be self aware and know something about your fellow players. After all, that’s one of the things that makes gaming fun” is a great nudge in a good direction.

Before I had ever been to a large, public tabletop convention I had really no idea what to expect. I figured open gaming would be like some smaller events I’d been to before here in Toronto – but thinking about what BoardGameGeek con was going to be like was hugely overwhelming before going my first time. How I wish I’d had Teri’s chapter on convention survival back then – what to pack, how to plan, all of the knowledge! I’m a seasoned con-goer now, but I still appreciate all of the tips she lays out (and there’s some great suggestions for cons to attend, too!). There’s even things in there that I hadn’t considered before (even having been to GenCon!) like promising to pick games or promos up for friends – putting some ground rules in place like this might not have occurred to a lot of folks, so read up on that.

Steering out of the straightforward content, Teri finishes up the guide with a couple of great chapters, relevant to us all with advice on becoming a “hobby champion, working to grow and spread the love of gaming” and how to engage in gaming communities online by walking the fine balance between “overgeneralization and rudeness” and “a wonderful place where you can learn about various aspects of your hobbies, share your passions, and find kinship with people on the other side of the planet.” There are likely a lot of folks out there who may not have taken the step towards “hobby champion”, so there are a lot of suggestions in here on how to approach that – from organizing tournaments and events to starting up in the world of board game media content creation. Teri’s suggestions for being an awesome gamer on the internet – even breaking down the types of trolls you might encounter – are a good reminder of online etiquette for us all. Be supportive, helpful and offer advice when asked. Don’t just bust in with your “my opinion is right” proclamations!

Overall, despite a lot of this guide being more helpful to newer gamers, there are many nuggets of wisdom in here for us all. Be a good person. Be a gaming ambassador. Bring people into the hobby by leading by example. Enjoy yourself, and don’t be a dick. Or, as Teri puts it in her conclusion – “don’t forget to be thoughtful, be kind, and focus on the fun.” This is a perfect stocking stuffer for these holidays, or for a quick read between rulebooks.

The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming: Rules Every Gamer Must Live By by Teri Litorco was published 2016 by Adams Media. You can check out a preview here. Thanks to Teri for sharing her book with us for review!


  • Nicole H.

    Nicole had played a lot of backgammon, Life and Monopoly when younger. She started playing hobby games in University after trying out D&D 3rd edition, and then joining her University game club. After a while she gravitated towards board games as a casual gamer. After moving to Toronto in 2009 she started gaming more and met her (former) partner Adam through the hobby and hasn't turned back. It's hard for her to pick a favourite game, but if you really stared her down she might pick Castles of Burgundy. When not gaming, Nicole enjoys cooking/baking, reading comics, watching tv/movies and visiting museums! And cuddling every dog she can.

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