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Subject: Subjective Rules rss

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Steve Pole

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A play-tester pointed out that a key Rule in a game I'm designing is open to exploitation by means of gamey tactics. Trying to patch the Rule in such a way that the further restrictions don't have unintended consequences across the game is not straight-forward, and likely to be lengthy. I was considering simply adding a clause to the Rule along the lines of "Action X must be used for a strategic purpose, not to simply accumulate Y points". I appreciate, of course, that this is open to interpretation and can envisage it being the subject of arguments between players. Hence the post.

Do you think that such an obviously subjective Rule is legitimate; and, if so, what wording do you think would be appropriate?
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Eddy Sterckx
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Rubenpup wrote:

Do you think that such an obviously subjective Rule is legitimate; and, if so, what wording do you think would be appropriate?


Hmmm. So you opened up your phalanx, but you want your opponent to NOT go charging in and take advantage of that weakness ? Good luck with that.

The whole idea of playtesting and someone finding that weak spot is precisely so that you, as the designer, can close it.

That said, in modern miniature wargaming, you quiet often encounter a "play as a gentleman" rule - but that's because unlike boardgames, miniature wargames have a harder time covering every possibility given the discrete nature of movement and terrain.
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marc lecours
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I am fine with a specific subjective rule if it is clear to which part of the game it applies. I would have more problems with a blanket subjective rule that applies to the whole game.

BUT I have one of my gaming buddies who would refuse to play such a game. He only plays the "rules as written".

A game with a subjective rule would get endlessly criticized on the internet by some players (not all players, but "some players" is all that matters). This will result in lower sales. I personally would not publish a game with a subjective rule. Bad press and lower sales are not worth it.
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David Fenton
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Rubenpup wrote:
A play-tester pointed out that a key Rule in a game I'm designing is open to exploitation by means of gamey tactics. Trying to patch the Rule in such a way that the further restrictions don't have unintended consequences across the game is not straight-forward, and likely to be lengthy. I was considering simply adding a clause to the Rule along the lines of "Action X must be used for a strategic purpose, not to simply accumulate Y points". I appreciate, of course, that this is open to interpretation and can envisage it being the subject of arguments between players. Hence the post.

The issue might be that if the goal is to gain points, anything done to gain points IS "strategic" since your long term strategy is "to gain points". You have to define what you mean, or arguments will ensure whether a usage is "strategic enough".
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Rubenpup wrote:
Do you think that such an obviously subjective Rule is legitimate; and, if so, what wording do you think would be appropriate?


Sorry but that's a sign of bad design (NOT THAT I KNOW HOW TO DESIGN GAMES, I BEG YOUR PARDON!) unless the rule subject to such restriction is minor or not adhering to it is against common sense (real-world wise). You say that this is a key rule so I'd say you would need to come up with a better work around.

To brush the edges designer would add up "subjective rules" to prevent gamey tactics; OCS godzilla may be a good example. But this pertains rather to minor, infrequent edge cases rather than key rules.

Is there way to polish up the rules so that the gamey tactics your playtester mentioned can be eliminated? Or discouraged, maybe?
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Jason Cawley
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Steve - gonna go with “no”.

The player is allowed to have “accumulate Y points” as a strategic purpose. If you think you can force him not to, you are in his chair. You can set the incentives, but he gets to min max them.

Especially if this is, as you say, a key rule, you have a problem. “This would win, but you can’t do it just to win” is hopeless. That’s the players’ actual job description.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Good luck finding two players that agree on precisely what action has a strategic purpose or not if you can not come up with a simple objective definition.

I 100% play by rules as written and if the rulebook encourages players to get into annoying reality arguments ("yes, that move is allowed by the rules, BUT ...") that sounds like something that can totally ruin the game.
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Russ Williams
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Count me among those who actively dislikes that kind of vague/subjective "be a good sport and don't do this kind of thing which the rules explicitly let you do but which many players think is cheesy" pseudo-rule.

I greatly prefer clear rules which make it objectively clear and verifiable whether a move is valid or invalid.

Requiring players themselves to decide and to agree whether a move "feels right" or not is annoying to me; it feels off-puttingly like sloppy design or lazy rule-writing. (And in practice it will lead to sincere disagreement sooner or later.)
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Harvey Dearden
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Fine for solo play, but for opposed play it sounds profoundly unsatisfactory.
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Peter Mogensen
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Rubenpup wrote:
I was considering simply adding a clause to the Rule along the lines of "Action X must be used for a strategic purpose, not to simply accumulate Y points". I appreciate, of course, that this is open to interpretation and can envisage it being the subject of arguments between players. Hence the post.

Do you think that such an obviously subjective Rule is legitimate


I'm afraid that if I stumbled upon such a rule in a rule book, it would give me a strong suspicion that the game is actually broken. We've had long discussion of what "broken" means, but to me this is a smell. A rule should have a very objective interpretation and that framework should in it self prevent gamey play.


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Salvatore Vasta
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If you clearly define in the rules what "strategic" applies to in terms of game play and mechanics, then it should be fine. However, if you do not, then I recommend against such a rule. As pointed out by others, it is too open to interpretation.

If you cannot define strategic, then perhaps you should consider reworking the original rule that is being exploited.

Sal
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Peter Mogensen
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pelni wrote:
Good luck finding two players that agree on precisely what action has a strategic purpose or not if you can not come up with a simple objective definition.


Yeah...
Even if you assume no bias there are players who just don't like the process of analyzing the rules to understand the exact definition of words and their objective conclusion and just declare some subjective interpretation they find intuitive to be self-evident.

An example from real life. The rules to "We the People" say:
"A player controls a colony if he has more
PC Markers in it than his opponent. If both sides have an equal
number of PC Markers in a colony it is considered to be controlled by
the American player."


Whether "zero" is also a number and whether a zero/zero tie makes it American Controlled is something which could result in subjective readings. So a rule which doesn't even try to be half as objective as the above is doomed to not solve anything.
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Rubenpup wrote:
"Action X must be used for a strategic purpose, not to simply accumulate Y points".


If that's the intent, you gotta make it so the rules disallow 'accumulating Y points'. You can't leave it to the interpretation of the players; a rule like that would frustrate me incredibly.

Hard to offer specific comments or advice, though, with a generic example.
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Isaac Citrom
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Steve, just quote the rule as you have it. It'll make for a more useful discussion, I think. Nobody can glean your entire design from the one rule.
.
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Frank Lewis
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wifwendell wrote:
Rubenpup wrote:
"Action X must be used for a strategic purpose, not to simply accumulate Y points".


If that's the intent, you gotta make it so the rules disallow 'accumulating Y points'.


Or just go ahead and set the thresholds and penalize the gaming of the rule. No need to make the rule subjective. If you need to allow them to accumulate "Y" points, put some negative consequences on the back end of the rule so that people can still game the rule to their detriment somewhere else.
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Steve Vondra
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In The Mighty Endeavor, it would be adventageous for the German player to abandon France and fortify the saved armies in Germany, protecting the VP hexes. To stop this, Rule 1.23 states; If Paris is abandoned prior to turn 8, the Allies get a 18 VP bonus. This rule is titled "Goofy Wargamer Stuff Safety Valve"
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JPotter - Bits77
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... and if your "strategy" is to accumulate said points?

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Whatever the loophole is, you have to close it with a hard & fast rule. If you are unable to, then something is amiss in the first place with the VP rules as they stand.

Its actually a good place to raise that it is becoming something of a personal arse-ache for me that so many games released now seem to have big rule holes. Nip it in the bud BEFORE publication and go with what play-testing is revealing to you... That being, that there is a VP scoring problem OR the VP's are wrongly assigned problem.


I'll tell you now and I am sure there are many or most like me. I will look at a game before battle commences and work out a plan to score the most VP's. If its not an illegal move, I'll be in there like a rat up a drainpipe.
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Steve Pole

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Enough already!

I'll expand the Rule to spell out what is and isn't permitted so that (I hope) there's no doubt. It's a pity though because until the flaw was pointed out I thought the Rule/mechanic was really crisp; with an additional three paras of clarifications it's likely to become more of a doughnut.

Thanks everyone.
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Jason Cawley
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Steve - thanks for asking, and thanks double for actually listening. Sorry it wasn't an easier answer to live with.
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JPotter - Bits77
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Rubenpup wrote:
Enough already!

I'll expand the Rule to spell out what is and isn't permitted so that (I hope) there's no doubt. It's a pity though because until the flaw was pointed out I thought the Rule/mechanic was really crisp; with an additional three paras of clarifications it's likely to become more of a doughnut.

Thanks everyone.


Hopefully a more elegant solution arises! G'luck!
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Rubenpup wrote:
It's a pity though because until the flaw was pointed out I thought the Rule/mechanic was really crisp;


The mark of a good playtester.
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roger miller
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Steve I will mention the one good exception to the no subjective rules area. Command control in Dean Essigs designs. His games going all the way back to the Gamers brigade level ACW designs have players making battle plans and then acting on them and its really subjective. But its critical to the design and when played the right way improves the simulation so much to me its worth its subjective nature.
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I agree with the others that you want to make the rule sufficiently explicit that players are playing and motivated to play the way you intended by design. If a strategy is an optimal way towards the win condition but against the spirit of what you want players to be doing, you have to close that hole.

Lewis and Clark was an example that comes to mind where the reverse camping loophole was missed during playtesting and the designer had to close it. A good number of games have errata for this reason - rules loopholes allowed strategies against the spirit of what the designer wanted.

However, I think some types of games do depend on subjective interpretation of rules about what it means to win. This has mostly arisen in games where players can win as a team and who you’re teamed with can change. Iirc Panic Station only really works with a subjective rule that if you don’t start as the host, it’s better to win on the uninfected team than on the infected team. I don’t know Cosmic Encounter well, but it may have something similar, that subjectively a solo win is better than a team win, if possible.

I could go off on a tangent that philosophically I believe the win conditions of all games are ultimately subjective rules, regardless what the designer says, but that’s another discussion.
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Pelle Nilsson
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rmiller1093 wrote:
Steve I will mention the one good exception to the no subjective rules area. Command control in Dean Essigs designs. His games going all the way back to the Gamers brigade level ACW designs have players making battle plans and then acting on them and its really subjective. But its critical to the design and when played the right way improves the simulation so much to me its worth its subjective nature.


Only of those systems I played was TCS. We used some optional rules from some article that specified more objective restrictions for opsheets, then added a house rule or two on top of that, so there was very little subjective about it. Still I remember at least one occasion where we got into a pretty bad argument over how I was moving my units. The system would be better with much more strict opsheet rules.
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