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Subject: Play a Better Game: Know the Rules rss

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Russ Shurts
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For anyone that has worked an IT help desk you are probably intimately familiar with the abbreviation RTFM. And like a frustrated computer user, I was all ready to rail against the Space Race in Twilight Struggle until I popped open the rules and read the following section.

Quote:
6.4.4 Special abilities are granted only to the first player to reach the space [on the Space Race track]. The special effect is immediately canceled when the second player reaches that box.


Apparently, John and I have missed the last sentence about the special action going away. Instead it always was played that it sticks around, so whoever got an animal in space first had a huge bonus and much easier time of dodging bad cards and landing on the moon.

While I’d like to declare my three losses to John null and void (I’ll keep the two wins!), part of this is my fault. I relied solely on John to teach me the game and never went and read the full rules myself. Suffice to say, this has taught me a valuable lesson never trust John know the rules yourself and have them available at the table.

But sometimes even the rules aren’t enough to clarify the situation, so what should you do?

1. Check to see if there is an updated version of the rules. For example, going to GMT’s website, I find that Napoleonic Wars is up to version 1.3f of the rules. If you have an older first edition box, you’re playing with old rules.

2. Search for a FAQ or clarifications document. Some of the strange scenarios John talks about in his DEFCON conundrum post are explicitly identified in the excellent Twilight Struggle FAQ. A US player that has read the FAQ is will know better than to play Lone Gunman when DEFCON is at 2.

3. Ask here at Board Game Geek. BGG has a number of excellent forums where rule text can be explained by experienced players.

4. If all else fails, go with the interpretation that best seems to fit the theme of the game. For example, if the game is about building railroads, choose the interpretation that errs on the side of building more railroads.


**Cross posted from our blog Margin of Victory**
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Russ Williams
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masshysteria wrote:
Quote:
6.4.4 Special abilities are granted only to the first player to reach the space [on the Space Race track]. The special effect is immediately canceled when the second player reaches that box.

Oh, thanks for that! I was taught wrong. TS is one of the few games I'm playing lately whose rules I've not actually read, and for a game with rules that long and complex, this is a bad risk not to have read the rules.

I strongly agree, it's very wise to reread the rules to any game (even a "simple" game) after playing a few times to sanity-check that you're not doing something wrong.

Also read the forum posts about the game - I've learned many subtle rules things about many games thanks to discussions in game forums here at BGG.
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Green Dan
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Yup, very true. In my group we call them "Colinism's" after the fella who has a tendency to skim read rulebooks and insert his own. playing soldiers as instants in Settlers is one.
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Rauli Kettunen
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PM ColtsFan76 !

On a (more) serious note, I don't mind people asking about the game rules in general. It just when people start posting questions after a brief glance or read through the rulebook that I'm not exactly happy. Most often these questions could be answered by reading the rules thoroughly. I'll mention Arkham Horror as an example, since it seems ripe with this. I can admit that FFG rulebooks aren't the greatest when trying to find stuff (indexing), at least not before you're familiar with them.

But still, is it too much of an effort to check the rules yourself ? My approach to games and rules is that even before buying game, I'll download and read the rules several times (if possible) as well as any FAQ already available and also go through the majority of the Rules threads relating to that game, to make sure I start off playing correctly from game 1. Even then, I read the rulebook(s) periodically, just 'cos.

/rant
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Christian Link
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I only mention this because it hasen't...

As geeky as we are about playing and especially hosting a play of these 'heady' boardgames, like Twilight Struggle, not only does reading, and re-reading the rules a necessity, but compiling notes about things you forget or are likely to forget is a must.

Each player may not only interpret the rules differently, but will forget different rules (hopefuly, not selectively). These rules should also be noted. After completing your own sysopsis of the game, not only do you have a handy personal aid in playing and teaching the game, but you can finally consider yourself 'read' on the rules.

Nothing ruins the moment in a boardgame like a 'hitch' in the rules...good post.

Now repeat after me, "I know how to play this game."(repeat until sigh)
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Russ Shurts
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cptwacky wrote:
compiling notes about things you forget or are likely to forget is a must.


Good idea. Of course, with nearly all games being played by multiple people there should be some checks and balances. Hopefully everyone has an idea of what the rules are and can fill in the gaps for others. Part of the goal of this post was to inspire other people to read the rules instead of just relying on one person at the table to arbitrate everything.
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Matt Musselman
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The hosts of a game night I regularly attend has developed a bit of a reputation for always missing what seems to be exactly one rule in every game he teaches the group.

I find it sort of amusing, and occasionally only a little annoying (and overall, it's pretty impressive that he remembers as many games well enough to teach them as he does -- there are only a handful of games I can teach comfortably), but others are not quite so forgiving.

But if my spidey senses start going off that something in the way we're playing seems weird or broken, he doesn't seem to mind too much my reaching for the rulebook on my downtime, and I think that's really important to a healthy game group.

The times when we've fixed the rule misunderstanding early in the game, we've certainly had better game experiences as a result.
 
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Freelance Police
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But, unlike IT, the "problem" about rules is that, often, you don't know when you're in a failure state. You don't know if you read the overall rules correctly, you read the overall rules correctly but have encountered an exception, or (ugh) if that exception is in some FAQ, errata, or Q&A that didn't come with the original rules. Or the original rules were written badly.

The reason is that, more obviously with a boardgame, the board is only a recordkeeper. Unlike computers, it doesn't tell you when you've encountered an error, so you're stuck figuring it out for yourself.

I think that's why we can't just say RTFM.
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James Palmer
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After the first time I play a game, I ALWAYS give the rules another reading. I think almost every time, I've found a rule that I missed, or misinterpreted. Reading through them again after playing the game lets you read it with context and understand things that you didn't understand on your first read through.
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Bruce Tanchel
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My family call them "Bruce Rules". They are never intentional on my part, but are an inevitable part of playing new games. Funnily enough, they never volunteer to read the rules for a new game and teach me. This way they always have an excuse if they fail to win.
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James Palmer
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btanchel wrote:
My family call them "Bruce Rules". They are never intentional on my part, but are an inevitable part of playing new games. Funnily enough, they never volunteer to read the rules for a new game and teach me. This way they always have an excuse if they fail to win.


My family likes to accuse me of making up rules as we go along. It makes for a Catch-22 situation. i=If I explain every single rule up front, they get intimidated and don't want to play. If I leave some out and explain them as they become pertinent (or will be pertinent soon), they tell me I'm making them up or just mentioning them when it helps me out.
 
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Eric Jome
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You'd think that after the last half dozen times I screwed up the rules when teaching a game to my friends, they'd get a clue and read the rules themselves and get it right on their own?

Nope.

I still get the duty. Often, it's the person willing to try that gets the job done... done, if not done perfectly.
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Colin Raitt
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Over Christmas my wife, her parents, her sister and her sister's husband got a version of dominoes. Being the gamer I was told to read the rules and explain them. Normally I would take 1 or 2 hours and play a few games against myself to learn the rules and some tactics or strategies for such a simple game.Two minutes after I opened the box my brother in law lost patience and wanted to start.
After the first turn of play they mocked me for getting it wrong. In the second game I was accused of remembering rules selectively to win and wasting everyones time for thinking for to long.
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M *
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While me and my friends enjoy house rules for a lot of our board games, this is good advice for any gamer. In order to change the rules, you have to know why the rule was there to begin with.

I've found that some of what seem like the most arbitrary rules in a game tend to be there for balance. Not being able to buy duplicate buildings in Puerto Rico felt like an obscure rule, but we tried it and the game changed to a building-tile grab that was surprisingly less fun.

Then again a game like "Munchkin" is an exception, where cheating is encouraged and rule disputes go to whoever yells the loudest. While the rules change wildly, there still needs to be a generally accepted decorum.
 
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chris doonan
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I didn't read everything but i "know" what your talking about. But i know exactly what you are talking about, by reading the rules. I can't remember the name of the game (it happened a few years back) but we had been playing the rule wrong for a long time. I think it was took 3 years for us and many many yelling matches that a rule was stupid. Then one day in the middle of a really heated yelling match, we read the rules out loud and we all felt really dumb. The funny thing, we haven't played the game in about 2 years.

Sometimes it is a good thing to reread the rule for a game now and then. This is even more important if you haven't played a game for a while. The group of guys a get together with we try to get or print extra copies. to we can all read rules.

WE have also done as far as to contact publisher and/or designers to get rule clarified. This doesn't always work.
 
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