Non-Compete Agreement: Spectator Etiquette

Warhammer isn’t a great spectator sport. I know an entire cottage industry of Battle Reports and Twitch Streaming would beg to differ, but I barely enjoy playing this game, and I’ve never enjoyed watching someone else play it beyond a quick drive-by to gawk at models and maybe linger for a couple of rolls before I get bored and wander off to get a coffee. Still, the fact that sickos exist and just want to watch begs the question: what do you do when you aren’t playing, but are still at the table? 

The conduct rules here are going to differ based on the context – a tournament, a pick-up game at a FLGS, and a basement knockaround Crusade slam have different expectations. My first GT experience, at NoVA 2k19, I mildly dreaded when friends would come by the table, for a few reasons: I was cognizant of wasting my opponent’s time goofing around with someone that was a dear pal to me but a complete stranger to them, of them trying to be helpful in a way that wasn’t entirely fair to the other person, and of making a mistake and getting ragged on. You know that feeling when someone is watching you type, and you instantly start screwing up five times as much for some reason? It’s basically that. It didn’t end up being a problem, but I made it a point to ask them, before the event started, to clamp down on the better angels of their nature and just let me take my lumps. I understand, and appreciate, the desire to keep your friend’s ship off the rocks, but sometime they have to learn the hard way.

Then again, I’ve played games where someone ghost rode the whip on my army for two turns, and thanked them for it. I’ve been on both ends of it: after some punishing early setbacks, one player will be set to collapse into the great salt lake, which puts the other one on tilt, and the intervention gets them to quit moping and get back into it by basically telling someone what to do until they get their head on right. Doing that can keep the game going instead of having it end in a grumpy re-rack neither player really enjoyed, but it also might not sit super well with the guy across the table who thinks, correctly, that this is all kinda bullshit. Which isn’t the same as saying that it’s a bad idea to take a swing at it – if neither player is having fun with a game and you can get at least one of them to a good place, it was worth it – but I’ve seen as many situations where it goes sideways as not. Commentating on games is like playing with fire: extremely freaking cool, so you should do it a lot.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

In short: It’s good to offer help, but exercise caution. It rules when someone saves you from kicking yourself directly in the ass, but sucks when you feel like you are not just losing to the person at the table, but all of their friends too. At least ask both parties if it’s copacetic first, but as it is a dick move to tell someone that no, they can’t offer a suggestion, it also is kind of a dick move for them to ask in the first place. Sometimes it’s safest to just avoid the whole thing, unless you’re confident of the outcome. Generally speaking, this is in anything less consequential than a RTT, and if you know both players pretty well, and you aren’t playing favorites. Just remember that the goal should be to wipe the salt off the table, not simply push the pile of it from one side to the other.

It is also not for you to excessively clown on someone for making a mistake or rolling horrid dice. You are not playing. You took no risks, and earned no glory, your job is but to toe the line between celebrating and gloating. High-fiving your buddy is always a good idea, in any situation, at all times, but you probably want to err on the side of caution as regards making the other player feel like shit. I’ve gotten my army stomped into the dirt so very many times, and precisely zero of those losses were (or would have been) improved by some third-party dickhead Kramering in to point out my mistakes.

What if you want to offer not help but clarity? There is a place for being a Walking Rules Encyclopedia. It’s not an event: that’s what judges are for, though you can certainly suggest that one be called, even if actually calling them isn’t on you. Friendlies or pick-up games though, someone’s inevitably going to have a rules question or misplay some edge case, and I don’t see a problem answering it if you can. I’d still be very wary of doing this when you don’t know either player, and partially wary of doing it when you only know one of them. In any case, if you can’t cite chapter and verse from a rulebook somewhere on your person – and I mean rulebook, not a battlescribe printout or whatever – it’s best to keep quiet. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading the room before you wag your gob at anyone.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Also important: look, but don’t touch. If you want to pick something up from the Dead Models Pile for a closer look, unless you know the person really well and they trust your hands, you can either ask the owner or just hover your big dome near it for a while until they pick up on it and offer, but under no circumstances get grabby. Hands and all other appendages off the table, anything on the table, and anyone standing at the table.

As a spectator, it’s not as simple as “shut up” and it’s not “hoot and holler”, but remember that this isn’t your game. You’re there as an observer, and if, by your observation, you change the outcome, then things have gone dramatically off the rails. Try to be impartial. We all love moral support, and hyping up a friend is one thing, but backseat-driving a game you aren’t in, come on. You know what you’re doing, and this is not your mother to turn out. Let them turn it out on their own. 

As a player, it’s not super fun to ask someone to cram it with walnuts in hell, but your options are to either roll your eyes and talk trash about them online later, or politely ask them to knock it off. I think we all know what the right answer is, but also what we’re all going to do, and they aren’t the same thing.

Have any questions or comments? Drop us a note in the story below or email us at