Welcome, minions, to this the first instalment of Gaming on the Dark Side.
It's about clubbing Baby Seals.
Insert Evil Laugh of Doom©.
On a more serious note, though, there’s a darker side to almost everything, including gaming. I will use this venue to discuss first one, but indubitably more later on, aspect of this. The first such is, as the title reveals, the phenomenon called Baby Seals.
Now, the general use of the term is largely confined to tournaments. Here, a Baby Seal is an inexperienced, casual gamer, probably with a less-than-optimal list and less than a dozen games with it. In a room full of die-hard, ultra-competitive, optimising win-at-all-costs gamers.
Okay, so that last bit might be exaggerated. The plight of the poor Baby Seal is tangible, nonetheless.
I’m not a tournament player.
I’d be a Baby Seal if I went to a tournament.
Which is why I’ll expand the term. A Baby Seal is anyone who, in his or her gaming environments, is less experienced than most, and less competitive. They might be new to gaming altogether, but are just as likely simply new to the system. They might also be casual in the extreme, or old-timers with wives, children and one gaming opportunity every two months. They might have missed a rules update (or two). You can probably think of other factors that make a player less proficient – at a specific game – than their fellows.
Point is, being a Baby Seal is relative, contextual and by no means equal to being crap.
Every seal is a baby at some point.
Now, that’s all fine and good. The problem comes along when the Baby Seal gets clubbed. A more experienced player (which I will, since I’ve got a moustache and large teeth, will be calling a Walrus. Sea mammals for everybody) plays a game against the Baby Seal, and utterly mushes his or her army, force, team or band of fear-deprived bravados.
In 40k, this usually means an early wipe-out.
This is bad.
I am of the opinion that winning against a Baby Seal is fine. Crushing him or her, isn’t. In a tournament, it might be inevitable, due to the vagaries of Battle Points and so on. In casual gaming, it shouldn’t be.
Which is why I feel crap about being the Walrus.
I played a game of Blood Bowl a few days ago. It was part of the pre-season for the next league, so Star Player Points and injuries matter. I played against the club’s Blood Bowl Baby Seal. Long story short, three to nothing (which is fine) and two deaths and two serious injuries later (to her team, which isn’t fine) and I have the victory, a much-improved team, and a gut-deep guilty feeling.
Part of it was the dice.
A large part. I caused those four casualties. Not a Badly Hurt as far as the eye can see. Also, four casualties. Against Orcs.
Part of it was me.
Too large a part. I kept on hitting. Not because I needed the win (and I already had it) but because Casualties equal Star Player Points. That said, four Badly Hurt results would have suited me fine. Heck, not killing and maiming the important players on her team might have helped. Murdering a Goblin, I’m sort of okay with (I did) but giving the Dodge Black Orc a Strength-reducing injury, by tossing him into the crowd (no Star Player Point) just feels mean.
I tried to apologize.
It didn’t help the guilt. Or her team.
Now, before you start thinking I’m an evil, moustache-twirling villain Walrus. She hit me back. A lot. It just didn’t work. One Casualty. Badly Hurt. Six knock-outs.
Which is why I call it an “Accidental Baby Seal Clubbing”. I went into the game expecting a couple of injuries. Just not on her players, but on mine.
And there you have it.
I have no doubt we both left that game in less-than-stellar spirits. Her team had been badly mauled, and I had clubbed a poor, puppy-eyed, Baby Seal (all hyperbolic metaphor, of course). Lose-lose never felt more apt. The fact that I write this, two days later, is testament to my feeling bad about it.
So, welcome to the Dark Side of Gaming. Where Baby Seals get clubbed by moustache-twirling Walrusses, and the aperitif is baby unicorn in panda sauce.
I hope your next game against a Baby Seal ends in a surprising but well-earned victory to the Seal.
See you next time.