He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.

If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter IX: The Army on the March, [41-42].

Blowhard Von Blowhard had never played a tabletop wargame (aside from boardgames like Axis & Allies), but in the very first game with us he proclaimed to be a sound tactician.

Blowhard Von Blowhard had never painted a single figure before joining our little group of wargamers, but he gave tips on priming and shading.

Blowhard Von Blowhard had taken Macroeconomics 101 and he wanted to impress upon us that he could bring the national financial prosperity, “If only politicians understood the basics of supply and demand…”

“Those miniatures you painted could be better, if only you understood the basics of shading.”

“We could have won the game, if only you would have done what I told you to do.”

I disliked him already.

I had just started playing again with the group, after a hiatus and studying The Bearded Bastard in order to beat him again. Now I had another distraction.

The guy would not shut up.

At least when The Bearded Bastard beat you, he’d do so in relative silence. Blowhard Von Blowhard would smugly tell you where you went wrong, and then use the end of the game launch into a political polemic–not a diatribe, not a tirade—but a polemic on how things should be if only people, especially politicians, would behave a certain way.

And he showed up nearly every single time the group met, and part of the time he wouldn’t play, just sit there and pontificate about whatever political or economic theory he’d been exposed to in his college classes that week.

When he did play, he’d take all the credit if his side won, and blame everybody else if his side lost. And he lost often. But in his mind, it was never his fault. The rules were flawed. His allied players didn’t help out at all.

In fact: he would belittle and berate players on his own side. To be a player on his side just opened yourself up to his criticism and political ramblings. (Yeah, it’s a great time when somebody on your own side calls you a “traitor” after he charges his troops to far forward for you to support).

In retrospect, I’ve wondered: why didn’t we just kick him out?

The answer lies with The Social Beast and Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil.

Some of us didn’t mind him. A couple of us liked him. And the rest ended up despising him. Asking him to be quiet didn’t help, he saw this as challenge and press on: “If you’d only understand…blah blah blah.”

Tell him to “shut up” would only escalate things further, and so would actively trying to debate him. Teasing him would cause a moment of confusion, like calling him “Blowhard Von Blowhard.”

Any movement to oust him from the group was meant with resistance. Some believed Blowhard Von Blowhard could be reformed. I concluded he was a wannabe megalomaniac.

We never ousted him, he stayed with our little circle of wargamers for almost five years before he finally graduated and moved on. To this day, I doubt if he ever truly understood the extent of his disruptions or why people told him to be quiet.

Next on The Art of Wargaming:

Leadership 101.