Help support TMP

"What Makes a Bad GM?" Topic

26 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Wargaming in General Message Board

Back to the TMP Poll Suggestions Message Board

Action Log

14 Feb 2018 12:33 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Wargaming in General board

873 hits since 14 Feb 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian14 Feb 2018 12:33 p.m. PST

What are the criteria?

(Based on post by Martian Root Canal.)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

First and by far the most important thing: he wants his decisions and random die rolls to be more important than player decisions.

After that, it's mostly just failure to do the math: not enough turns to accomplish the objective, too many troops to permit maneuver, too long a turn sequence to finish the game on time--or even to keep the players' attention.

Below that, favoritism or inability to remember rules and game conditions. But really, inflating one's own importance and being unwilling to do the math are the two consistent killers.

sneakgun14 Feb 2018 1:24 p.m. PST

When they claim to be god of their world…..and body odor…

jefritrout14 Feb 2018 1:59 p.m. PST

The most unpleasant one I had definitely showed favoritism to one side. The scenario was actually stacked heavily for his favorite army. Then he allowed his favored side to bend the rules. When the "bad guys" managed to get lucky activation numbers and then proceeded to do the exact same move the "good guys" did; he raised his voice to the players and told them that they were cheating. The "bad guys" were perplexed and stated that it is exactly what the other side just did. Didn't matter it's against the rules and then he pulled out his rule book to demonstrate. It was at this point that the "good guys" actually started to be embarrassed about the GM and how he was playing it.

The worst was when he stated and this is the quote I still remember "You can't expect me to remember what I said last turn." The last turn was only 2 minutes before.

For me it was the rudeness, inconsistency, and actually raising his voice to people to what to play a game he was running to have fun when it didn't turn out the way that he wanted, the spoiled the game for almost everyone who played.

I will never participate in a game he runs again. Which is a shame because I love the period he games in, and the rules as well.

TGerritsen14 Feb 2018 2:06 p.m. PST

+1 to Robert.

I'm confining my responses to convention miniatures games (as opposed to home games or RPG games).

I played an Iraq insurgency convention game a couple years back and my team at top speed could move 12" but had to clear over 30 buildings on a 4'x6' map in 7 turns. When I pointed out that we were starting off map in one corner of the map and the last building from us was beyond the distance we could travel in 7 turns, let alone take a turn to check the building, fight anyone in that building and then move on to the next with too few troops (we had three squads and 2 tanks in support with a Hummvee giving MG cover), the GM just shrugged. The vehicles could have raced ahead, but could not clear the buildings.

We finished the game with just 1 minor casualty and cleared half the buildings on the map. The GM declared that we lost a decisive loss, but my team and I basically treated the GM like some far off commander with unrealistic expectations. We had already come up with our own victory conditions when we knew we couldn't possibly accomplish the goals he had laid out for us- that we'd clear out as many buildings as possible without losing any vehicles or suffering any KIAs. We succeeded in our own goal, even if the other team was declared the winner (after suffering KIAs to nearly 3/4 of their forces).

Another pet peeve is bad force balance without victory conditions to that balance for them. I played in another convention game where we had a company of panzers supported by another company of soldiers fighting against a defending company of infantry with a single .30 and a single 57mm anti tank gun, which we wiped out turn 1. It was a slaughter and no fun for either team. The GM simply stated that this was the first of two events, and that it would determine the forces in the second event. That's no consolation to the guys who played the Americans who got wiped out.

Finally, bad force layout and planning within a team. I've played at many a convention where the first person to the table cherry picked the best stuff, or took stuff from different forces to be 'their' force. I always plan for how forces will be doled out in the games I run, so it really bugs me when someone who is greedy grabs the best stuff for themselves and to hell with the other players. "Well you get the destroyer escorts while I get the Battleships!" Another sidebar to this is giving your buddies the best stuff. I've played at games where the buddies of the GM show up late, so the GM takes the best forces away from players so that his buddies can play them. Seriously, save that crap for your home games, not for a convention.

whitphoto Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 2:12 p.m. PST


Rich Bliss14 Feb 2018 2:31 p.m. PST

Similar to Mr Piepenbrinks point, I find the worst GM's are the ones who place their enjoyment over their player's. The worst example I have experienced was at my only Historicon where a "Big Name" in hobby ran a SCW game. The victory conditions he set were impossible for one side, and he repeatedly moved your figures to better set up photographs and then forbade you from moving them back. It was a miserable experience for all the players and he simply didn't care.

TGerritsen14 Feb 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

Oh, that's another one! Every round everyone must clean up all pencils, dice or markers so that the GM (or his buddies) can get the perfect shot. Ugh, I'm here to play, not be part of your photo shoot. Once or twice during the game is a ok, but every turn is beyond ridiculous.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 3:28 p.m. PST

I have had four of them in my life. One constantly had a transmission problem one leaked oil after 100,000 miles -- but pretty much good trucks all in all so couldn't say any of the were "bad."

Russ Dunaway

CalypsoCommando14 Feb 2018 3:36 p.m. PST

There are, I think, two areas where GM's can fall down:
1. Errors of preparation
2. Errors of execution

Under (1) are the unachievable VCs already noted, but also giving players too much or too little to do (for instance, giving a player reserve forces that don't end up coming on until the final turn of the game)or under the 'lesser sins' category just setting up unimaginative situations. (If I wanted a meeting engagement on rules-generated random terrain I could have just played a buddy on any weeknight.) Finally you can throw in not knowing the rules here as well (I'll accept this to some extent in a friendly game, but you should be prepared if it's a convention game.)

Under (2) is the overbearing GM already alluded to, but MUCH more common in my experience is the too timid GM that allows one or two pushy or overcompetitive gamers to logjam a game by excessive argument and other bad behavior. Sometimes too slavish a devotion to every minutia of the rules can be a problem if it slows down or distorts the game too much.

gamershs Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 3:41 p.m. PST

It was a naval battle at a convention where we were the Chinese and were fighting the Japanese in the 1895(?) Chinese/Japanese war. When I pointed out that the Japanese out shot us by 30% at every range/ had more and better ships with more guns and that we would loose half our fleet before we could even fire the GM didn't have an answer. The GM must test test a game before they take it to a convention.

Parzival14 Feb 2018 4:11 p.m. PST

A Chevrolet?

Oh, wait…

Forager14 Feb 2018 4:17 p.m. PST

Not being prepared – hasn't read/reviewed the rules adequately, half-baked scenario, table not set up prior to game time, etc.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 4:26 p.m. PST

Gm No No's in my Book

1 Poor Organization. Game takes forever to setup and tear down.

2. Poor Time Management- Cant stay Focused on running the game.

3. Poor Presentation. If looks like a shitty game it is a Shitty game.

4. Poor Design. Either is so simple it hurt to play or too complicated and unplayable.

5. Too Much Ego. It a Game for the players and Not about the Game Master.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 4:31 p.m. PST

Well in Europe the answer is now Peugeot…

jurgenation Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 4:58 p.m. PST

..spending too much time explaining the rules…it's a convention game..most likely I'll never play those rules again..But as a GM..i hate players on their cellphones..always having to remind them to play…

wrgmr114 Feb 2018 5:25 p.m. PST

The 305 Sucked
Bad ball joints

Oh wait, gaming….
Has not play tested the scenario
Does not allow players to make decisions
Does not know rules
Would rather chat than run the game
Does not give clear instructions to players
Does not have all the player aids necessary to play the game
Creating a game that is so slow to play that players walk away

Dragon Gunner14 Feb 2018 5:28 p.m. PST

#1. Poor organization: No idea how long it will take to set up and tear down the game plus how many turns you are likely to complete in the time allowed for play. Does not have enough hand out quick rule sheets. Does not have enough tape measures and dice if you expect multiple people to take their turn at the same time. Fails to bring miniatures, terrain or rules…

#2 Poor Time Management: Lets players take long smoke breaks or get off task. If one team is on defense lets that team slow play their turns so game time runs out and the attackers lose.

#3 Poor presentation: A lack of painted miniatures and good terrain. Fails to clearly define objectives then berates players for failing to read his mind. Fails to clarify terrain type and difficulty rating to movement when it is not obvious to the players.

#4 Poor Design: Scenario was never play tested for balance. Impossible objectives and no force balance. Miniatures moving at maximum speed without fighting still could not accomplish the mission in the amount of turns allotted for play ( THIS ONE I ENCOUNTER A LOT).
GM does not take into account bad things can happen on turn one (I.E. One of your two transports was shot down as it enters the table cutting attackers force in half before they can disembark)
Fails to realize how players can pervert a scenario. (I.E. Players say, "We shoot the hostage dead on turn one now the attacker cannot complete the objective". GM response, "Damn I didn't think you would do that". Player response, "You never said in our briefing we could not do it".)

#5 Too Much Ego: Its my house, my miniatures, my rules and if you don't like it get the hell out. (A change of venue tends to neuter these types)

#6 Too Much History: Wants to recreate historical outcomes to the point the entire scenario does not allow for any other outcome. ( I.E. At 22:00 your artillery is ordered to withdraw by high command this is what happened historically…)

#7 Too Many House Rules: Three or four are just fine make sure everyone knows what they are in ADVANCE. If you wrote a bible sized addition of house rules then we are not playing the same game anymore.

#8 Favoritism: Consistently makes biased rulings on behalf of his buddies when the rules say his buddies are doomed due to their poor strategy and tactics… In essence my buddies will not lose while I am GM no matter how many insane rulings that defy logic and reason I have to make.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian14 Feb 2018 8:43 p.m. PST

Some bad GM experiences which I recall:

The Social Commentator – The GM who felt he needed to share with us his political and social commentary throughout the game, including his commentary on every person who walked by the table.

The Critic – The GM who felt his job was to tell the players how badly they were playing his scenario.

GM With a Posse – The GM who brings along his buddies to play the scenario, plus one or two 'strangers' (i.e., you). They proceed to enjoy themselves and ignore the outsiders.

The Lazy GM – The GM who never got around to playtesting his scenario or finishing his preparation because he never made any effort.

The Last-Minute GM – The GM who did his scenario prep the morning of the convention, and the paint is still drying on the figures.

Vigilant15 Feb 2018 4:05 a.m. PST

Worst I had in the UK was where leaders were given characteristics and the GM went nuts when you played those characteristics. In the 1 US convention that I attended it was the glee the GM expressed when his troops wiped out my part of the force on move 2 because of the way he had set up the scenario. I had been keen to try out the rule set as they looked interesting, but this experience put me off.

Uparmored16 Feb 2018 5:44 a.m. PST

The GM who punches you in the face if you make a bad decision. Had a lot of these.

General Kirchner16 Feb 2018 10:59 a.m. PST


Some people never grow out of the playground kids who pick all the good players for their team, or who say "my ball. my rules". Poor GM's are the adult version of this kid.

It took me getting older to realize that playing the game you desperately want to play with random strangers is just not worth it most of the time.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2018 4:42 p.m. PST

1. Leaving the game you are supposed to be running.
2. Bullying the players.
3. Not knowing the rules.
4. Showing favoritism.
5. Not being prepared.
6. Not paying attention.
7. Not being punctual.
8. Inaccurate or bad scenario.
9. Not putting any effort into the appearance of the game.
10. Should use the rules or errata as written by the author/designer. Leave your house rules at home.
11. Not showing up.

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member20 Feb 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

Bad GMs are rare, mediocre GMs plenty but anyone who volunteers to run a game, no matter how bad deserves at least a modicum of respect for volunteering to do so. For every bad GM there are half a dozen or more bad PLAYERS.

Russ Lockwood21 Feb 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

Variation of points above:

Overly ambitious: Some scenarios of x number of turns work well in your basement with two players, but convention "friction" means only half the turns are played by a full table of eight players. The intent is a good close, balanced game, but the result is a half-played game.

Corollary: Too Much in Reserve: Forces are brought on turn 4 without movement or position benefit and are unable to actually get into the battle due to above.

"Too many notes": A phrase stolen from the movie Amadeus. The entire miniature collection shows up on the table, whether needed or not. No room. No maneuver. No need.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2018 3:28 p.m. PST

Play testing is very important. Start with troops close together. Not touching but close. Even if you have to stick made up advance guards on the table.

Have some combat going on from at least the turn three on. Don't get involve showing someone why he just lost a stand. Don't have time for that. Keep it moving.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.