Smoking, Eating, and Gaming

A reader writes:

I remember you mentioned that most of your gaming buddies were smokers. Does the odor of cigarettes get on your games? I know this sounds like a goofy question, but I remember [my wife] and I complaining about getting student papers that reeked of cigarette smoke, or lending books to people that get returned smelling like smoke. I don’t really consider myself to be uptight about this sort of thing, but I do remember that it could be distracting and occasionally overpowering.

It is true that I game with smokers. It’s also true that despite being a former smoker, I’m not crazy about the smell of smoke. Several years ago I was playing Magic with some friends and one went outside to smoke. When he came back in for some reason the smell got to me and I was told I literally turned green from illness.

It’s not unusual when seeing games up for sale or trade to see the owner describing them as being from a “smoke-free” house. People have complained about getting things in trades or from thrift stores that smell of smoke. Number one way to deal with that seems to be a dryer sheet thrown in the box. (I’m glad I haven’t had to do that since I’d be hard pressed to identify what bugs me more: the smell of smoke or the smell of dryer sheets.)

I don’t game anywhere where people smoke inside the house, though. So this really cuts down on the smoke-smelling on the games and on me, though sometimes when I come home from a long day of gaming I can smell smoke on me. More often I come home smelling of curry powder. My only problem with smoking and gaming is that it annoys me when a game (especially a tense one) is constantly interrupted for smoke breaks.

Also, what are the etiquette rules regarding a gaming group and wear/tear on the games? I mean, obviously you expect there will be some wear on your games, but are some people very particular about eating/drinking around their treasured games? What exactly is the most expensive or valuable board game you have played? Have you ever ruined or had to replace a game or game piece due to taco Dorito trauma?

This is another story. There are people who believe that no food or drink should ever come close to a boardgame. In fact, some have said that they don’t allow this in the same room. I and the people I play with are not in this camp. We regularly eat and drink around the games. We try to be careful and courteous, of course. Having chips around the games isn’t an invitation to smear grease all over cards, and it’s probably best if your drink isn’t right next to the board, but we’re not fanatics about it. But if someone new came to the table and asked that we don’t eat or drink around his games, we’d certainly respect that.

And sometimes there are accidents. There’s the Red Wine of Catan Incident, for example. Recently someone doused Southern France with beer in a spirited Power Grid game. And once during a Princes of Florence game I accidentally dipped a jester in salsa and ate it. But by and large these incidents are isolated, and in pretty much every case the game cleaned up well or well enough (our Settlers of Catan game wasn’t in great shape to begin with).

Personally I feel that games are to be played. The social interaction is part of the experience. My friends are more important to me than my games, and I’m not going to tell the former that they can only handle the latter with white gloves and tongs. I would expect some amount of respect, sure, inasmuch as you’d expect an amount of respect with anything of someone else’s with which you’re interacting. For example, when we’re playing Traders of Genoa I don’t hide my money in that place because it’s Al’s copy.

Thanks for asking!

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