Is it wrong to use "bad/mean" behavior to get ahead in a strategy game?

I was recently playing a strategy game, basicaly you play as a country in the Napoleonic Age.

Like playing “Risk” almost, I’m only slightly familiar with that game and I wonder if it helps you grab the picture.

Sometimes the behavior in the game in order to win, if it were applied in real life, is almost sinful.
Double teaming on a weaker (or stronger) opponent and taking him out of the game, sometimes with him not even knowing he was about to be attacked. Possibly backstabbing the people you had “alliances” with, whenever the tide is changed. Turning on the weaker player or the one who has a disadvantage.

Can such behavior like backstabbing a fellow player, etc… etc… be wrong? Since its only a game I wonder if it can be okay.

Please respond because Im deeply curious too.

May The Lord Our God Bless You All!

You know, this isn’t half bad of a question.

On the one hand, it’s a game – and in the context of many games, what would otherwise be considered bad behavior is what makes the game fun. We don’t sit around trying to justify the wars we wage in board games, right? We just play and (pretend to) kill each other.

On the other hand, I think it’s possible to take it too far: to actually rejoice in the punishment you’re inflicting on another player. If you play such games, you should keep charity in mind always; keep the bad faith confined to the game and don’t revel in crushing your friends. That’s just bad sportsmanship.

Assuming we are not talking about doing or risking serious damage (like throwing a baseball at someone’s head or a dirty hit in football) it depends entirely on who is playing the game.

The idea of competitive sports is to enjoy the mutual challenge that comes from pushing each other. Before the game starts, you generally want a good idea of what each player considers friendly competition and what crosses the line to bad sportsmanship. In our family, it would be considered a venial sin to “let someone win”, because that robs your opponent of the conquest of knowing he or she beat you fair and square.

For instance, in major league baseball, it is considered poor form for a team that enjoys a more-than-comfortable lead late in the game to steal bases. In the professional game, it is not unknown for a team to retaliate (in the form of purposefully hitting a batter with a pitch) in order to register displeasure over bad sportsmanship. There are undoubtedly players who would say that it is the team that is piling on that is guilty of venial sin, not the team that calls a fastball to the hip of a batter! The first is bad sportsmanship, the second, they might say, is the accepted form of communicating well-earned and willfully-earned displeasure, like a parent spanking a naughty child.

Likewise, it is considered the norm in military strategy and law enforcement to conceal one’s actions and sometimes to use deceit to mislead an enemy or potential enemy. As the military strategist Sun Tzu famously said, “All warfare is based on deception.” These are, again, understood or ought to be understood by both sides as being in the nature of the undertaking. There are times when honesty may fairly be expected and times when dishonesty or concealment may be fairly expected. For instance, it is expected that a country that has declared war on you might attack at any time, and without warning. That is considered fair. It is considered a war crime, however, for a country pretending not to be at war to attack without warning. It’s like that.

In games, I think the rule is the golden rule. If you wouldn’t want the other person to do something to you or you know the other person wouldn’t think it cricket to do the same to you, even if they could get away with it, then don’t do that to them. If cut-throat tactics are a mutually-enjoyed form of testing each other’s mettle, go for it!

It is the same as violence on TV. Research is mixed. But some research shows that actually diminishes real violence. Japanese kids are subject to the most violent TV and they have the lowest rate of real violence.I is said that when the season of American football ends, the rate of crime rises.

Mixed info, I guess.

For myself, I would see no harm. It is all imagination.“I will kill you if you do not return my book” - you say jokingly. Are you actually going to kill you friend if he forgets to return the book?

Imagination is another world…

I assasinate opposing diplomatic leaders in Total War games. It’s just a game. I would never do anything of the kind in real life of course. Even in the game my conscious sort of shoves me when I do it!

Puppy play attack each other all the time :bounce::whacky:. The also communicate when they want to play :yup:, and when the play is getting too far :tsktsk:.

Games of strategy are a case where we should emulate nature - be like puppies!

Play cut-throat tactics if its mutually fun :slapfight:. Realize that if the game isn’t just not fun, and is actually turning real-life nasty :mad:, that the game board will likely be flipped, and real life apologies may be in order :imsorry:.

Even puppies apologize when it gets out of hand :console:.

I play poker. Which isn’t a game where you win or lose basically imaginary things, poker is about who has the most money at the end.

Some people play for recreation. It’s fun, and if they lose their money, they have made the choice to spend it on this form of recreation. They are consistent losers over time. Others play seriously, some play to make a living or supplement an income. So it’s about real life.

Built into the game, as everyone knows, is a lot of - well - lying and manipulation. These are considered legal strategies whereby you get your opponent’s money without having to show the best hand. If you are good at it, you win more.

I don’t have a problem with this because we start with a level playing field of adults who are well-informed about the nature of the game and are all free to do these things.

The problem with lying and dishonesty in real life, is it separates people. It makes us suspicious and afraid of one another. It tears the fabric of trust and unity. It’s a terrible thing. In the game, it’s just part of your skill set.

I would assume all players have the option to resort to these tactics. Likewise, might you not suffer in the game if you gain a reputation as a backstabber?

As long as everyone is using the same rulebook, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.
In fact, if what you’re describing is standard but you decide to take the high road, well, “Nice guys finish last.”

BTW, what game? If you don’t mind my asking.

It’s only a game, but if you take it too seriously and if you begin to act like that in the real world, quit playing the game.

Some people of unsound mind shouldn’t watch violent movies because it might cause them to commit violent acts. Same with video games/board games.

Yes, backstabbing can give one a bad reputation which will make it harder for that person to win in future games. I used to play risk online all the time while in school, with classmates. It solved the problems of a boring lecture.

However, those who were known to be backstabbers were remembered and not trusted in future games even to the point where all the other players will try to kill off the backstabber first.

The only thing that helps this backstabber regain credibility or at least get people not to hate him anymore is at some point, another player will do the same, in order to win, therefore turning everyone’s anger towards that person.

I rarely backstab players. The only exception is when I am confident I can run the table in one turn but killing my ally and taking his or her cards is essential in the process.

Card players do not take to playing cards against liars. They do understand when deception is lying and when it is not.

The catechism states, “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.” In poker, it is understood by all that no one has a right to know what is in someone else’s hand before it is time for them to be revealed. To deceive about what is in your hand before the cards are laid down is not lying. It is only lying if you pretend to have been dealt better cards than you were actually dealt when you lay them on the table! At that point in the game, everyone has a right to know what your cards really were, and only at that point does deception make you into a card cheat.

I was referring to the deception that is part of the strategy of the game, not cheating.

Wow, excellent question. I say, it’s fine. It’s only a game. But it makes me wonder, if I am totally ruthless in Monopoly and put hotels on every property on the expensive side of the board, am I committing a sin against charity? Where’s the concern for social justice???

IF it’s understood by all the players that such play is part of the game, no problemo…i.e. “winner take all”.

If, on the other hand, one or more players do not understand that the particular game that you’re playing might involve deception and treachery, yeah, that could be problematic. Best to make sure everyone is on board that alliances may or probably will be broken in the gameplay before you start.

I enjoy playing the computer; that way I don’t feel bad when I make it think we’re allies, then attack and destroy the opposition. After all, it can think many, many moves in advance and I cannot.

That’s exactly my point. If your deception is expected within the rules of the game, it is not lying. If you are using deception to circumvent the rules of the game, you are cheating, and that is an offense against charity. If you press another advantage allowed within the rules, you’re OK. If you find advantage outside the rules, that isn’t kosher.

Still, I think it is the norm to have “house rules” that reflect the sense of the players about what kind of role-playing they are comfortable with. I wouldn’t consider hard-ball tactics in a board game to be meanness aimed personally at me. It is merely raising the level of the challenge involved, and I don’t have a problem with that. OTOH, we would not think too much at our house of someone who pressed in with hard-ball tactic when they were far ahead in the game. We would also tone down what is allowed by imposing house rules when there is someone in the game who doesn’t enjoy it when things are too serious.

Now, in a home board-game, one side can concede when they are far behind, or you can have a mercy rule. In a public sporting event, though, there often aren’t mercy rules. It is up to the player or team with the insurmountable lead to show mercy out of good sportsmanship. I would put that boundary on pressing every advantage allowed by the rules. Good feelings between the players ought to be a priority; I think that is a moral imperative that reflects the primary reason the game is being played in the first place. Even if no rule requires it, you ought to take the feelings of others into consideration when you decide what tactics to allow yourself.

I play poker. The winners are those with great empathy and no compassion. Away from the table I can be as compassionate as all get out. But the game is what it is. The feelings I take into consideration are the ones where I know he is feeling bad about the last time he called and lost and use his doubt about himself to bluff him off his straight when I pretend I made my flush. The more he loses, the worse he plays, the more depressed he gets, the more pressure I put on him to take his chips. But I do tell him I’m just getting lucky. I express my sympathy while planning my next steal. There’s a point where you don’t want to push them because then they leave and take the rest of their money with them. So you want him to feel just good enough to stay and just bad enough to make poor decisions. Then you get all the chips. Which is the goal.

See, that is the game.

When they leave you tell them how great they played and it was too bad luck was not on their side but the next time they’ll probably win. So they come back. And bring more money. That’s part of the game, too.

I definitely take the feelings of my opponents into consideration when deciding on tactics.

Once you are in the game with someone whom you believed to be a competent opponent when you started the game, I would agree: All parties expect that this is a psychological struggle, and not just a card game. You can be playing just for chips instead of for money, and the challenge of outwitting each other is still there (if not the thrill of risking real gain and loss). Compassion may be suspended within the game, as long as it is in operation before and after. With regards to the money, as long as it is within the means of all concerned to win or lose what they venture, the risk is the legitimate cost of the thrill of opportunity.

Telling a truly incompetent poker player that his fate was due to no more than bad luck is at best a polite lie and at worst a set-up for a future robbery. You may remain silent, you don’t have to give away your own advantage by pointing out his weaknesses, but you ought not lie to him about why he lost. I would also hope you’d find it unethical to play with an addicted gambler, someone who is already failing a spouse with regards to financial responsibilities, someone who would find losing to you a near occasion of the sin of murder, or something like that.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The game is not the main thing.

Set-up. As long as I’m sitting at the table and not running into him someplace else, it’s still part of the game.

I would also hope you’d find it unethical to play with an addicted gambler, someone who is already failing a spouse with regards to financial responsibilities, someone who would find losing to you a near occasion of the sin of murder, or something like that.

Well, a lot of the time, most actually, you play with strangers. But, his addiction is not my business. If he is an addict, he is giving it away to somebody. The fact that I’m in one of the seats he’s giving money away to is a matter of chance. Gambling addicts who are also losers will insist on losing their money. After they give away their buy-in at the table, they run off, get more money and go shoot craps to make up their loss. I’m part of the system he involves himself with.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The game is not the main thing.

No, it isn’t, and there are ethical lines and moral ones, IMO. One of the more famous poker players is someone who’s personal ethics I find reprehensible. I consider myself ethical within the parameters of the game: I don’t angleshoot, I don’t bring anything from real life to the table or take the game play off the table. If people hold their cards so I can see them, I tell them. Once.

I think moral issues in this case involve anyone choosing to play in the first place. I can make the case, pretty easily I think, that it’s completely immoral for anyone to be paying money to watch television as long as there is one starving child in the world. Or adult. In fact, if every American gave up TV and sent that money to those whose job it is to feed the hungry, we could eliminate world hunger in a few months. And in doing so in that way, we improve all of our lives immeasurably. We’d find out that our big sacrifice is actually the best thing that ever happened to us, our families, our children.

What is the main thing? If we actually made the main thing into the main thing in all of our lives, our lives would look radically different and so would the world.

Yep. Well, I mean, I hope we’d not take advantage of someone who was obviously drunk, but there gets to be a point where you’ve done what you can. IMO, allowing someone to give you his disposable income at a card table is not assisting suicide. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread; it is the nature of fools to have to learn about gravity by jumping out of some trees. Sometimes all you can do is suggest that they at least try it feet first.

The thing is, we could eliminate world hunger without eliminating TV. It isn’t TV or entertainment that’s starving people. But while we could be doing much more, the problem of world hunger is not just as easy as providing the money for food. In the worst places, there are people who have a vested interest in controlling the food supply and forcing others to starve.

But back to the main thing in the thread…it is not immoral to have a game in which there is a psychological test, or to pretend conditions by mutual consent that wouldn’t be moral in “real life.” The allowed kinds of warfare in games are called “competitiveness”; the non-allowed kinds are called either “cheating” or “bad sportsmanship.” I think that the grey area is generally around where competitiveness strays over into bad sportsmanship. I wouldn’t play cards with people who are OK with being bad sports or who allow themselves to cheat.

If your family or friends are willing to play with you and don’t consider you a bad sport or a cheat, I think you’re OK.

These are actually very complicated questions but I wouldn’t be concerned about any serious moral repercussions. It is indeed a game after all. The worst I can say is there’s a possibility to violate fairness (e.g. two against a weaker one).

On the other hand however, there are many tactics you cited that are justifiable. For instance, I’ve played Magic: The Gathering with multiple players a few times. It is not always unfair to take out the ‘weakest player’ because such a player could be anyone of us at any given time. The lesser the players, the less chances that the game would needlessly drag on. Double-teaming on a STRONGER opponent though is even more justifiable and even in real life, it can be necessary. It’s only fair to compensate weakness in strength with strength in numbers. As to ‘backstabbing’, that’s not always ‘bad’ either… especially when your so-called ‘allies’ fail to uphold their end of the bargain.

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