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The Five Unspoken Rules of Gaming
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Every gaming group has their own unspoken houserules that govern play. However, there a few unspoken rules that are almost universally held amongst gamers, and the adherence to them is a significant part of what distinguishes experienced gamers. Since most unspoken rules benefit from becoming at least occasionally spoken, here is my list of the central five; please free to comment, quibble or add your own.

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1. Board Game: Advanced Civilization [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Have fun

This is the first and most important of the unspoken rules of gaming, which takes precedence over and allows for the modification of all of the other unspoken rules. Gaming is a hobby; games are meant to be fun. "Fun" can mean different things to different people, but if a game isn't fun for your group, then you shouldn't play it, or you should alter things as needed until you are having a good time. But better make sure that the other players are all on board with your alterations!
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2. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:65]
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Play to Win

Every game defines certain victory conditions, and the game only works when every player is pursuing those victory conditions. Essentially, the victory conditions are part of the rules, and should be followed just as strictly, otherwise it tends to ruin the fun for everyone else.

This second unspoken rule of gaming is, of course, subject to the first: if you have to play for some other goal other than winning in order for the game to be fun, then okay. But the other players need to also agree to this, or else you are just having fun at their expense.
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3. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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No Cheating

I have heard that there are a few game groups that do allow cheating, at least for particular games under particular circumstances. If so, then great (rule #1 again). But with most gaming groups, cheating will get you a quick boot and some unhappy faces, so don't try it.
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4. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:465]
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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What happens in the game stays in the game

This one can be a challenge, but it is crucial. And it goes both ways. In-game decisions should not be affected by anything outside of the game (e.g. any sort of relationships or promises), and likewise those in-game decisions and their results should not have any effect on life outside the game. Anything else is likely a violation of rule #1.

(Note that whether or not the decisions in one game can affect what happens in a later game seems to be somewhat of a gray area. Obviously some amount of carry-over is unavoidable, but how much is acceptable seems to be matter of debate).
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5. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:34]
Steven Backues
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Be nice

Exhibit good sportsmanship. Don't be a poor looser. Don't play too slow, or force others to play too fast, or complain incessantly. In general, have good social graces. Most importantly, be sensitive to the other players - the point of the game is not for you to have fun at everyone else's expense, it is for all of you to have fun together.
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6. Board Game: Choices [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
Greg H.
United States
Cleveland
Ohio
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...is a set of steak knives. Third place is you're fired.
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Choose a game that everyone can enjoy.

A good gaming experience starts with selecting a game that has a shot at blending well with each player's preferences.

Don't force a game on others just because it is your favorite.

Don't choose a game that is likely beyond the "gaming experience" of the players.
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7. Board Game: Do You Mind? [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Greg H.
United States
Cleveland
Ohio
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...is a set of steak knives. Third place is you're fired.
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Be open-minded about unfamiliar games.

This is somewhat tied to choosing the right game. Before you shoot down someone else's game idea, at least be willing to give it a try and remain open-minded.

If a handful of plays have taught you that you cannot enjoy it, that's fine. However, gaming requires a bit of flexibility from everyone.
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8. Board Game: Search & Destroy [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:5973]
Peaceful Gamin'
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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You found our Geekbadge Overtext. Congratulations! :-)
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Gaming is fun. And this is a hypercube. The sun is shining
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Don't destroy other people's games
I don't necessarily mean "don't always gang up on the same person", although that might be included here, but by, at the end, saying, Oh, I let you win, you really sucked. Or by throwing a tantrum and throwing the gameboard through the room half finished.
I read the funniest stories here on the geek. Wasn't there somewhere a guy with a T-shirt "I hung my friend out the window by his feet because he destroyed my game (of Trivial Pursuit)"...
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9. Board Game: Who Stole Ed's Pants? [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:5883]
P. Mihalarias
United States
Richardson
Texas
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No spontaneous pants-removal.




(Except during victory dances.)
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10. Board Game: Bar-Lev: The Yom-Kippur War of 1973 [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:3449]
Elwyn Darden
United States
Richmond
Virginia
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No Cheetos
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11. Board Game: Bitter End: Attack to Budapest, 1945 [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:3108]
Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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Play the game out to its finish

When you sit down to play you enter a social contract to play the game out until the game is over or, by mutual consent, the game is ended.

I have no time for a player who joins in what they know will be a long game and then announce they have to go halfway through the game wasting the time of the other players.

Of course, if there is a good reason for their departure that is perfectly understandable, or if they entered the game with the caveat they had to leave by a certain time that too is more the fault of the other players (or estimated time on the game box).

Leaving a game because you're losing is not a good reason.
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12. Board Game: Skip-Bo [Average Rating:5.31 Overall Rank:10815]
~Ryan McSwain
United States
Amarillo
Texas
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Be Kind Even if you Don't Like the Game

Awhile back, when I was in the zealot period of my game geekiness, I complained when a friend insisted we all play Skip-Bo (I'm pretty sure it was Skip-Bo--whatever it was, my attempts at strategy meant nothing and I got a bit frustrated).

These are the same people who have humored me with countless so-called gamers' games.

That was rude of me. Remember that not everyone feels the same way about games as you do. Treat them with the same respect you would hope they would treat you.

Then hit them with your favorite. They're obligated now, right?
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13. Board Game: Moves [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Pieter
Netherlands
Maastricht
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This too shall pass.
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Good intentions are no substitute for a good education.
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Everyone makes their own moves

When playing a game with novices, more experienced players sometimes get rather agitated if the newbie plays the game in a way that they do not find acceptable. You hear cries such as: "You are handing Pete the victory!" or "Your only choice here is to take the Trader!" Some newbies are unphased by this, others become slightly scared and start to rely on the more experienced players to dictate their moves. While this may make the game a better one for the more experienced players, the newbies will feel disappointed.

The only way to really learn a game, is to make mistakes. Everybody should be allowed to make those mistakes. It is OK to provide advice if it is asked for, but even then it should be given cautiously: just describe options, maybe indicate what is good and what is bad about them, but do not dictate moves. Everybody makes their own decisions, everybody makes their own moves.
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14. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:6]
Andreas Odendahl
Germany
Horstmar-Leer
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Everyone playing a game is responsible for the joy of every player in the game

That is one thing that Uwe Rosenberg once told me and I think that is the most important rule in gaming. Summons my view on games. I just cannot express myself it the way he can. blush
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15. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:157]
Justin Hendry
United States
Kansas
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NO DRINKS ON THE TABLE.
atleast it is one of my rules. i have played countless games with friends that didn't share this rule at there house or games. there went the drink and the game is over.
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16. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:34]
Matthias Knöchel
Germany
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Help to set up and tidy up

Just help to set upand tidy up a game, so it goes faster.
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17. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.45 Overall Rank:10978]
Andrea Doria
United States
Tennessee
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Don't Move Other Players' Pieces

Let everyone at the table place, remove, and move his own pieces. Unless someone can't reach and asks for help, let him collect his casualties (or move his token, etc.): you don't need to play undertaker just because you won the battle.
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18. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:144]
~Ryan McSwain
United States
Amarillo
Texas
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Explain the Rules Properly

Especially the Win/Lose Conditions

I was excited to play Hive with my wife. It's a fun, attractive game, with just enough strategy that she would probably destroy me.

However, I didn't explain the winning conditions clearly enough, making for a frustrating gaming experience. Now, whenever I'm teaching a game, I remember to clearly explain the most important rules: How to Win & How to Lose
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19. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:112]
Breno K.
Brazil
Brasília
Distrito Federal
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Play to win.

Games with direct and constant interaction depend on players being able to predict what others will do. This is already hard to do given a direct objective (victory), it becomes meaningless and frustrating when a player gives himself a private objective and goes after it ignoring what they're supposed to go after.

In 18xx, this can be seen as a player that does not maximize his profit (or minimizes his opponents'), but rather decides that he wants to connect this city to that city, or wants his company to have the largest amount of trains, or decides to block everything and everyone at the blatant cost of his dividends.
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