You're plaaaaaying it wrong!!! When creative play is a Bad Thing, apparently.
Captain Ameritrash
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I was just thinking back about some of the great games I used to own when I was younger, and I remembered one play session in particular where my opponent got really mad at me for playing the game in a completely legal way, just because it wasn't how I was supposed to play, according to his preconceived notions (see item #1 below).

This made me wonder how often the "You're not playing it right" scenario arises. To be clear, I am not talking about misinterpreting or forgetting a rule. I'm talking about when a rules-legal move or strategy causes strident dissent, simply because it's not how your opponent expects you to play.

Given all the discussion about "optimal" play in Euros, and the question of historical accuracy in wargames, I'm sure there are plenty of great stories out there, so let's hear them. What did you try that was different, what was the objection raised over it, and what craziness ensued?
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1. Board Game: War of the Ring [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2465]
Captain Ameritrash
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This is the one I was referring to in the intro.

In this version of the game, it was both possible and legal to get a quick and fairly painless win for the Fellowship player, with a little bit of luck and the right Event Card. It's been 30 years since I played so the details are a little fuzzy, but if you had the Elven Boats card you could pretty much zip straight from Lothlorien to Mordor and chuck the Precious into the Cracks of Doom, bypassing almost every hazard in between. As long as Sauron didn't have the right countermeasures available and the Nazgul didn't find you, you were pretty much home free. Slam, dunk, Miller time.

Of course, I used this strategy at my very first opportunity. As it turned out, the Sauron player had none of the Event Cards that could have stopped me, and his Nazgul were apparently coming off of a three-day NyQuil binge. Those guys couldn't find their own butts with both hands and a flashlight. The game was over before it really even started. But then, the dreaded refrain: "You're not plaaaaying it right!"

My opponent was absolutely incensed. Not because I beat him, but because I had departed from the script. In his mind, the fact that I hadn't slavishly followed the plotline of LOTR was unacceptable. When I refused to go back and play again the "right" way, he wound up throwing both me and the game out of his house while ranting incoherently about how the game "didn't count" (whatever that meant), and about @$&!ing Frodo taking the @$&!ing Love Boat to @$&!ing Mordor.

A couple of weeks later we played another game, and I wound up playing much closer to the book. Sauron won, and was gloating happily until I informed him that the game "didn't count" because Sauron didn't win in the book. Cue more ranting.

Needless to say, I never played another game with the guy.
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2. Board Game: Advanced Civilization [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
Mickel Knight
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Flower Mound
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Played a game of this in graduate school where one fellow decided to become the barbarian hoard roaming the countryside razing cities of any player advancing too far. He didn't worry about advancing or trading, just pillaging. Very annoying at the time, but quite funny now.
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3. Board Game: Strat-O-Matic Pro Basketball [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:5370]
Dick Hunt
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Orlando
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In the mid-1980's, Kiki Vandeweghe was an NBA scoring machine. He couldn't play defense, pass, or rebound, but the man could light up a scoreboard. He was a key component of the Denver Nuggets of those years, along with Alex English and Dan Issel. The Nuggets were known for their high-powered offensive teams and their high-scoring games that resulted. They couldn't play defense worth a lick, so they often had scores that would be considered scandalous these days. In that time, the NBA was full of run-and-gun teams that lived off a fastbreaking offense, so games with scores like 132-124 were downright common.

Anyway, I ran a Strat-O-Matic basketball league at the time. Most of our games were played by mail (that's SNAIL mail, not e-mail), with coaches exchanging written gameplans for their opponents to follow while playing games against their teams. But on occasion, those of us in the league who lived close enough to each other would get together and play our games face-to-face instead. Sure, you gave up your "home team advantage" by playing a live opponent, but the fun you got in return more than made up for it.

Mickey's Toronto Tornadoes are playing Greg's Delta Dragons. This is at my house, but in this case I'm just watching these two guys play a game. This was a draft league, where coaches got to pick their own players and assemble the best teams that they could.

This particular game revolved around Kiki Vandeweghe and Coach Mickey's rather unusual strategy used to defend against him. In Strat-O-Matic basketball, most shots are taken by rolling dice and referring to either the shooting player's card or else the defensive team's cards and ratings. On any given shot taken with the dice, you had a 50-50 chance of rolling on your shooter's card; the rest of your shot results would come from the defense's cards and ratings.

Mickey's unusual (read: insane) tactic in this game was putting his defensive block man on Kiki Vandeweghe. Putting your block man on a guy made it harder for him to make an inside shot or to drive to the hoop, but it also conceded open outside shots to him. What made this tactic seem crazy was that Kiki Vandeweghe, although an excellent shooter on any type of shot, was best at outside shots. In fact, conceding open shots to him meant that, in this particular season, you could roll (on two dice) something like 4-10 and sink your shot. That gave Kiki something like 30 dice combinations out of a possible 36 to make his outside shots in this game.

That's assuming, of course, that Kiki could get his dice results from his own card. Naturally, he couldn't. Coach Greg was feeding the ball to Kiki Vandeweghe at every opportunity and then roaring in frustration as Vandeweghe would roll on the defense cards time after time after time. It was just a crazy defensive tactic combined with an amazing run of dice luck.

You never saw anyone so frustrated as Coach Greg was. Of course, part of his frustration probably stemmed from the huge laughs the rest of us were getting from watching this show. Just before the game ended, Greg ended up tearing Kiki Vandeweghe's card into small pieces.

They were using MY Strat-O-Matic cards for this game. I was laughing too hard to care about poor Kiki getting ripped to shreds. I still have his poor broken body stored in an envelope, my favorite memento from 35+ years of playing Strat-O-Matic sports games.

For the record, Kiki went something like 10 for 33 in that game, scoring around 30 points after you take into account his free throws and maybe a 3-pointer here and there. With even normal dice luck, he probably should have gone about 25-for-33 in that game. Kiki's team lost a close game, for which Kiki paid the ultimate price.

Maybe not so much a "playing it wrong" scenario as an "are you nuts" sort of tactic. Still a great memory, though. I'm still friends with all the involved parties, and we still laugh every time the subject comes up. For Greg's sake, we make sure it comes up pretty regularly.
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4. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1221]
Filip Gökstorp
United Kingdom
Cambridge
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Simple two player game. It was going along quite nicely until I decided to invade Russia as Japan and ended up one region away from Moscow. Needless to say my fellow player, who is somewhat of a history buff, did not take this to easily. It ended in a big rant on how "That could never have happened in REAL LIFE!"

Since then he has been 'loosing' pieces to this game so we can't play it again.

It was quite hilarious looking back on it, and we refere to it often when playing historical games.
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5. Board Game: Midville: a Car Wars adventure pack [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Kelly Bass
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Venice
California
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Ages ago, a bunch of us decided to play this, designed our cars, and got together to play. In a strange twist of fate, my 2 best buddies & I were in a remote section of the city where Eric & I were headed toward each other at the top of a "T" & G-man was coming right up the middle.
G-man laughed that if either Eric or I was alive, he'd finish us off.
Eric & I looked at each other knowingly, and agreed upon a truce of sorts, so we could meet at the top of the "T" and turn down to face G-man, finish him off, then start shooting at each other.
As we made our turn, Eric announced he was shooting... not at G-man, but at me! At close range, it was a hit. I lost control, crashed & rolled into him, causing him to crash too. We both died & G-man laughed!
I was so pissed at Eric. I think it's the most upset I've ever been at someone during a game. He changed a sure thing into death for both of us... after all that time setting up & designing the cars, etc.
I've forgiven him, but, man, I was pissed.
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Aaron Tubb
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Fuquay Varina
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This was the first thing that came to my mind.

Some guy played really sub-optimally so he could build the house he wanted, and other people (playing and also some BGGers reading the session report) got upset and act like sub-optimal play is a criminal act.
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7. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:530]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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This sprung immediately to mind. One of my partnerships 'undisclosed agreements' is that we will frequently double with a void trump, which inevitably leads to the post-mortem of:

"How on Earth can you double with no trumps?"

"Well, we took you down two, didn't we?"

"Yes, but only because I was playing you for all four missing trumps, when your partner actually had them."

"So the double worked, then..."

"Grrr..."
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8. Board Game: Star Fleet Battles (Designer's Edition) [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:6276]
Bern Harkins
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Buffalo
New York
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The rulebook contained an aside advising players that while it might be fun to "zip around the map at twenty", that this left little energy for more important functions. "Speed kills", we were warned.

My buddy John, something of a naval historian, thought maneuvering was more important... and he was regularly pasting us all.

I pointed out that we might be missing the intended gameplay, and John knitted his prominent brow, gave a basso grunt, and replied, "Go ahead... slow down."

That hardly seemed an option... we continued to "zip around the map". One of our group took first place in the Origins tournament that year, and we placed highly for several years following.

More recent editions of the rules (and there have been a few of those, now haven't there...) note that "Speed is life."
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9. Board Game: Johnny Reb [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:8683]
Bern Harkins
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Buffalo
New York
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I was invited to out local Game Shop owner's home to take part in a rather serious miniatures group. Being a noobie, I was given a group of un-uniformed Union irregulars with smooth bore weapons to "practice" with. This was fine by me.. I am easily amused.

As the battle unfolded, I put my farm boys in skirmish formation and moved them into the woods off to one side of the Confederate artillery emplacement, on a beautifully crafted hill. I practiced moving my lads around, while our cavalry charged across the ford at the base of the hill, and were subjected to withering chain shot fire. They broke and turned... and the Rebs gave chase, with everything they had... including the pickets which should have been guarding the emplacements...

...so I charged my lads right up the hill and captured the emplacement, and the Regimental commander, tanking the South's morale just as our cav rallied and turned.

I was subjected to some rather intemperate shouting, mostly centering on the notion that what I had done was "Ahistorical! Ahistorical!"

"Ahistorical?" I replied. "Committing your pickets was the ahistorical part... not the greenest lieutenant would be so foolish..."

Y'know, I was never invited back? Go figure...
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10. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:152] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Matthew Schmidt
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Shahrazad

Shahrazad is an old card that makes the players stop the game, take their remaining decks, and play another game of Magic. When finished, they go back to their previous game, and the loser of the sub-game loses half their life.

The sub-game works exactly as a normal game, including being able to cast Shahrazad. That is, you play a sub-sub-game to determine the fate of the sub-game to determine the fate of the actual game. The sub-sub-game, of course, is also exactly like a normal game.

Each player starts with twenty life. Thankfully, Zeno wasn't on the design team: life is rounded down when halfed, Purely by winning five sub-games, it is possible to win the actual game. And it is possible to win those five sub-games by winning twenty-five sub-sub-games. At some point, one player will lose automatically by being unable to draw his opening hand.

The standard deck is 60 cards. Assuming each player takes 10 cards from the deck before being Shahrazad'ed (opening hand is seven cards, and it will usually take two Plains to cast Shahrazad), this will happen in the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-games, give or take a sub. It will take in the region of twenty thousand games before a pure Shahrazad player wins. This doesn't count the other player mulliganing* to stave off his end, or actually winning some distant sub-game.

* It's possible, after drawing your opening hand, to shuffle it in and draw a smaller hand. Though this won't save you if you can't draw that first hand, you can still mulligan in the sub-games before you'd run out of cards.

While in modern Magic, there's a four-of-the-same card limit on all but basic lands and one wacky rule-breaking card, there are even worse cards to chisel suffering into your opponent with the mallet of Shahrazad. Hive Mind makes everyone else cast the same spells you cast, and vice versa. Eye of the Storm sucks in any spell you cast, then allows you to cast all spells previously absorbed by it. Panoptic Mirror allows you to Imprint a spell on it, and every turn you get to cast that spell for free.

One of the formats of Magic, Vintage, allows all cards but a handful for play. Shahrazad isn't one of them.

Later, they printed a "fixed" version in one of their joke-crazy-broken sets. The subgame is only to five life, and the winner gets to take a card of their choice from their deck. Also, you have to play the subgame under the table. Such is life.

Horsemanship

While not holding a candle to the griefing potential of Shahrazad, Horsemanship is a great example of unintended consequences.

Horsemanship is not a card. It is an ability, like first-strike or flying. Exactly like flying.

Like many fantasy creatures, several creatures in Magic ignore the laws of aerodynamics and take to the air despite their absurd size. They can only be stopped by other creatures ignoring the same laws likewise. This is, oddly enough, called flying.

Wizards of the Coast decided to expand in Asian markets with a set aimed at new players, and decided it to theme on the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Being that the laws of aeodymanics were in force during that period, flying was replaced with an identical ability, horsemanship. Creatures with horsemanship could not be blocked by creatures without.

Years later, Wizards decided to heal the rift between their new-player sets, called Portal, and their normal tournament-legal sets, by making all of Portal tournament-legal for the appropriate formats. Because of this, creatures with horsemanship entered the "normal" game, where there were no other creatures with horsemanship.

As far as I know, things did not get out of hand. The tournaments in question were already high-powered. Nevertheless, creatures with horsemanship are essentially unblockable, and far stronger than their creators ever intended..



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11. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:417] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
 
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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My college roommate eventually refused to play with me because I didn't use any of the standard openings.

When my son was learning, I was able to give him a pretty good game and make him think outside the box by not using (or knowing) the standard openings. Eventually, he didn't want to play me any more, either.
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12. Board Game: 2nd Fleet [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:2205]
Joe Czarnecki
United States
Frisco
Texas
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Playing Sixth Fleet and 2nd Fleet we had all become used to the vexatious treatment of submarines that made them almost impossible to kill in one shot and my opponent began planning around that point.

Until the day I gathered all of my most powerful ASW ships into the same battlegroup and used it to roll up a line of Soviet submarines in the GIUK Gap. He thought the first one was a fluke. He thought the second one was outrageous luck. By the third one-shot kill of one of his submarines, he was certain I was doing something wrong. By number four he was furious, and number five had him apoplectic.

He calmed down when he realized what I had done, but the damage was done. He was never quite as confident of his submarines again playing the Soviets.
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13. Board Game: Vendetta [Average Rating:5.02 Overall Rank:15787]
Netherlands
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Around the age of 10, I got "Vendatta" as a December hollidays gift. It was popular with friends and in the household with my brother and two sisters. As I taught this game to people, I told the rules and people would conclude there's importance to protect your Godfather. As a result, in most games the board would be crowded, within 10 mins of play. Blockades arose all around and the game would usually last for well over 30 minutes until somebody would be forced to break up a couple of blockades and make room for others to hop along and bring the big piece home.

Quite often both our parents were out all night and one or two cousins would come over over to babysit. At one night both came over and I managed to talk them into playing "Vendetta" with my brother and me. After explaining the rules, we kicked off and as my brother and I were setting up our pieces to create protection and road blocks, both cousins decided that it was best played like the Game of Goose. They grabbed their respective Godfathers and started running around the board as quickly as possible. One of the cousins noticed that it was dangerous and eventually was captured by one of my pieces. The other cousin was more fortunous, as he rushed around the board, rolling three doubles and whiping out the only roadblock on his path. The game lasted for less than 10 minutes and I could help but wonder: "did they play it wrong, or did we play it wrong all along?".

In the end it turned out to be an eye-opener, it quickly changed the way we played the game in the household. Usually we'd revert back to our old playing styles, but having learned from the older cousin, at times somebody managed to sneak the rush strategy in there and have it pay off.
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14. Board Game: DungeonQuest [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1341]
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Good old DungeonQuest was infamous for this.

Given the incredible deadliness of the dungeon, a player who walked in, found 10 gold pieces on the floor and left had a very good chance of beating all the players actually trying to get to the dragon's hoard.

However, walking in and then leaving makes for a pretty boring game!

I think a lot of groups kept "high score" records to help encourage people to really go for it and not use the cheap path to win.

The new FFG version reduces this a lot by having a bit more treasure and a bit lower lethality.
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15. Board Game: Illuminati: New World Order [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:2552] [Average Rating:6.37 Unranked]
Lexingtonian
United States
Unspecified
Massachusetts
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I built a deck around looking at cards in my opponents' hands (admittedly kind of annoying). One of my friends at the time, an avid gamer, got tired of showing her cards and eventually flat-out refused to do so.

Some years later, I commissioned a small (about $150 worth of minis) miniatures paint job from her. She never painted the minis and refused to return them to me on my dime. I guess some avid gamers don't care about rules or about what's right and wrong.
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16. Board Game: Ca$h 'n Gun$ [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:939]
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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My first play of this was marred by a young player taking an unusual, er..."tactic". Picking one player and firing continuously at her for the first three turns.

The young player in question was now completely screwed, having run out of ammo and done nothing to stop the players benefiting from one player being constantly taken out.

This same tactic has led me to no longer want to play Shadow Hunters with kids. For some reason "pick one person, then attack relentlessly until they die (or are forced to kill me) regardless of whether they are on my team or not" is very popular with the kids. Completely hoses their teammate and generally wrecks the game.
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17. Board Game: PitchCar Mini [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1072]
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Who would think a simple game like PItchCar could be screwed up by someone ignoring the spirit of the game?

We were playing with mostly new players on a track with some tricky narrow corridors (from one of the expansions I think). One player was doing pretty badly and was about to be lapped by several opponents. As cars behind him piled up in one of these tight spots, his turn came up and he did something very unexpected - he shot his car backwards, jamming it into the narrow spot and pushing people behind him back.

And did the same thing again next turn.

And the next.

We simply couldn't manage to get past him due to the shape of the track at that point.

Not until one player succeeded, not at knocking him out of the way, but at getting her carrom to flip OVER his car.

After the game, the blocking player declared "that games great! It wouldn't be much fun if it weren't for the blocking options though."

I've never wanted to game with that player again.
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18. Board Game: Stratego [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:2331]
david landes
United States
oak hill
Virginia
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My Mom and I used to play this periodically when I was a kid. At some point I realized that there were two ways to win.. the usual one of taking the other person's flag.. or a second one, in which a player had the last movable piece.

I would gain a piece advantage and then start trading pieces like crazy and win on last movable piece. Ultimately, it worked out poorly, though, as my Mom ceased to enjoy the game. That's a lesson that has stuck with me over the years as I am always alert to making sure people around me are having fun whenever we game.
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