Do’s and Dont’s of Leaving a Game Early

Worst score track ever.

Last night, I was playing a game with some friends at my local game store. We were playing a five-player game of Rialto, and we were about an hour into it when one of the players took a phone call and then left the game. He managed to find someone to take his place, so we were able to finish out the game, but it was an awkward exit because the guy that left the game proceeded to stand around for a while and chat with someone at another table. The remaining players were all people I consider close friends, but I don’t know the player the player that left all that well. I do know that it was a little awkward.

I rarely exit a game during play. I know that sometimes things come up and it is necessary to leave, but I don’t know that I have ever left a game just because I wasn’t enjoying myself. This Rialto game was a good example. This was my third play of the game in the last month, and frankly, I don’t care for it. I think the gameplay is tedious and the theme is boring; however, I was enjoying myself because it’s fun to sit down and move bits of wood and cardboard around with intelligent and amusing people. Just to be clear, I believe that Rialto is a well designed game, and many gamers love it. I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a perfectly good game. It’s certainly not bad enough to want to walk away from it before the game is over.

I had originally intended this to be a humorous post and I was going to give a list of funny crap to say when you want to get out of a game, but as I started writing, it occurred to me how much it bothered me that this guy got up with no explanation. I’m sure it was important, but he really could have done a better job of leaving.

If you are going to leave a game during play, here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Do provide some kind of explanation. You don’t need to go into detail about your spouse’s bowel movements. You can just say something about a medical emergency at home.
  • Do leave immediately. I think the thing that bugged me the most about the guy leaving last night was that he didn’t actually leave for another ten minutes after he left the game.
  • Don’t talk about what would have happened if you didn’t have to leave early. Perhaps your grand plan would have crushed us all. We will never know.
  • Do try to find someone to take your place, if that is acceptable with the remaining players.
  • Don’t try to speed up the game by making bad choices or by being a spoiler. If you need to take off, just be honest and do it.
  • Do make some kind of apology that you have to leave early.

I am fond of saying that board games are a kind of social contract. You accept a certain amount of responsibility when you agree to sit down with people. If you have to break that contract, please respect the remaining players as you leave.


1 thought on “Do’s and Dont’s of Leaving a Game Early”

  1. I left a game once because I wasn’t having fun. It was a game from hell. Through the Ages. One guy who’d said he’d played before just wasn’t getting it. Whenever it was time to make a decision, he’d need the game explained to him again. After maybe 90 minutes, I decided to use his turn to call my wife (I was at a con). I walked through many corridors to find phone service, spoke, finished, returned… and it was still his turn. At that moment I said something had come up and I had to go. It helped that TtA doesn’t get ruined if a player leaves.

    So I went and found some other players for another game. We found Steel Driver. We read the rules, played it and finished. I looked over at the TtA table – they were still in Age I.

    I once played with a guy who was very weird about leaving. He’d get a call from his girlfriend and abruptly say: “I gotta go.” He knew this could happen, and arrange that we could play games where a player could leave without upsetting things. At first I thought: “Wow, she must be really mean.” Later I thought: “Wow she must be really hot.” Eventually I thought: “I think he’s got some kinda Dom/sub thing going on…”

    I don’t think you necessarily need to share your reason for leaving – especially if you’re going to make one up. “I’m sorry, something has come up and I have to go.” I will almost always fight to the bitter end to finish a game. Certainly, I think that saying you have to go… and not going… is the worst thing of all.

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