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Subject: My Take On Take Backs rss

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Mario Lanza
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Seriousness has a dramatic impact on how strict people are about the way they play games. Commonly in my gaming circles people make mistakes, executing moves that are momentarily thought better of. This happens just after the transition of one player's turn to the next.

The person whose move it now is, is merely surveying the board and evaluating options having made no motion to play. Before that person starts manipulating any bits, the former players offers up a "Hold on..." and requests an alteration. In some circles, take backs are taboo. In tournaments, the rules may be spelled out. My general rule says that take backs (redos) are only allowed when no new information has become available to the player.

Furthermore, the courteousness of redos directly relate to timeliness of the requests. That is, while the active player is still pondering, there is a diminishing window in which you may courteously choose to modify your move. With each passing second the request disrupts the now active player's greater analytical investment until, after a time, it's downright rude to do so. Therefore, a reasonable redo request usually happens in under 5 seconds, maybe 10, and seldom more than that.

Because redo requests becomes ruder and less reasonable with each second, the more belated a request the more grace is required of it . In the 5 second window, the hold-ons are considered implicitly okay unless the now active player speaks up, which I've almost never seen and might itself be considered rude--a smidge of grace is required. In the 10 second window, the hold-ons are followed by polite may-I's--and a spoonful of grace is required. Much beyond 10 seconds, the requester begs permission hopefully realizing that the request is probably now an imposition.

Since the now active player is most directly impacted, it should be his prerogative to permit or deny the redo. He must decide whether any new information, even indiscreet but important meta-information, may have been communicated. Consider that a lengthy ponderance following the former player's move might itself convey information that could prove useful to that former player should he be given the opportunity to change his move. Volumes of meta-information can be gathered, for example, by watching the active player's posture, his eyes, his countenance, or observing his sigh of relief. Though the usefulness of meta information may not be equally obvious to all, that assessment, and subsequent permittance or denial of any redos, belongs primarily (though not necessarily entirely) to the current player.

Additionally, it's for the now active player to decide whether or not he wishes to extend grace against the imposition. In the immediate few seconds starting a turn, since granting a redo wouldn't require much grace, it would seem especially uncourteous to withold it. As the secondhand ticks on, the line between undue imposition and simple courtesy become blurred. Because the line is subjective, that subjectivity must justly come from the one (or ones) imposed upon.

There are two kinds of redos with which I'm most familiar and being of one kind or the other may bear on whether a redo is granted. They are

*the quick adjustment, and
*the do over.

The quick adjustment is a mental hiccup: the former player realizing that he chose the weaker of his final two alternatives, swaps out one move for the other. This redo is a moment's interruption.

The do over is thinking better of the entire move without a worked-out alternative in mind. The person is, in fact, requesting to take his turn over. This is less graciously permitted in my circles. No one should expect the gracious affordance of this kind of redo. Like a mulligan, per player it should come about once in a game, twice a best. Beyond that is rude whether or not the game group is gracious enough to allow it.

The worst form of the do over comes in games where lots of manipulated bits have to be restored to their original state; often, with difficulty and/or uncertainy in restoring them. (Java comes to mind.) In fact, in Java, because the spatiality is harder to grasp, in many cases even for gamers, people will try out laying and manipulating bits on the board and perform many do overs as part of their turn's evaluation process. This becomes more annoying with more involved moves that make it difficult for all players, not just the current, to trust that the what-if scenario was accurately backed out. It's not as annoying if the person makes it obvious beforehand that he needs to visually work out his options in order to expedite his turn. At least this way, other players should be more mindful of the original board state.



As I said, redos are permitted by the active player to the former. When you are no longer the former player, because the turn has once more advanced, you can forget about it. In only the most extreme of cases can a redo request be reasonably made, and then, again, afforded.

I give much grace when allowing redos. Here's why:

We're human and bound to error.

You'll make mistakes and so will I. Being ungracious about allowing redos may slow down players who will worry too much about the possibility of making costly mistakes.

I like the challenge of playing to a person's best game.

If a player moves his Queen, takes his fingers off it, and immediately thinks better of it, my strict rigidity to not allow the immediate correction seems to say that I enjoy, perhaps require a momentary technical error in defeating my opponent. These games of ours are not dexterity sports like tennis where a momentary technical errors are more decisive, but mental ones. Battles of wits should play out differently than athletic ones. When an opponent who just completed a move (with only a moment's hesitation) wants to substitute what he perceives is a better move, that's the move and, collectively, the game that I want to beat him at. Looking to deny courtesy to gain victory by beating an opponent at what is clearly his lesser game, to me, is unsportsmanlike, unsatisfying, and weak.

When playing games, I extend the grace necessary to take on a player at his best. I expect only that he gain no unfair advantage and that he beg no unreasonable imposition. Even the impeccable Inigo Montoya, in anticipation of a duel to the death, gracefully granted recovery time to the exhausted man in black when offering, "We'll wait until you're ready."


This article was originally posted on my long-defunct boardgame blog: Boardgamers' Pastime. I posted it here to preserve it. I later revised my thoughts on the matter.
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Drake Coker
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That's pretty much how we play here.

We have a new twist now between my wife and me: during the first several plays, she can have take backs but I can't. We do this as a balancing mechanism since I've usually gotten some experience with the game while figuring out the rules.
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We usually allow take backs if we collectively missed a rule and can either take back a move if it doesn't affect state too much, or continue using the wrong rule until the next game.

Also, we tend to allow take backs if the next player hasn't made any actions as of yet.
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It's simple as long as the next person hasn't had their turn you can take back.
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Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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There are also games where it makes sense to play your turn backwards: I buy this building after I sell that building after I collect those resources so I had to take 2 loans at the beginning of my turn.

Correcting illegal plays is a hard nut to crack, though.
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Morganza wrote:


Correcting illegal plays is a hard nut to crack, though.


Sometimes impossible to fix. We usually look at the offender and state "asterisk"
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Chris
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I've even offered takebacks AFTER another player started. I don't remember the details, but we were playing 1830 for the first time. One player asked a question "If I do this, will this happen." I said, "Yes, I think that's right" and I went to look it up. He made his move, ended his turn, and the next player started. Midway through the next player's turn, I realized I'd given the wrong information. Obviously, a takeback was absolutely fine in that case.

None of us is playing for money; we don't want people to constantly redo their turns; but the "oh, crap, I could've done that" move is totally fine, so long as the next player hasn't done anything, obviously.
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This is also useful when playing with the kids as a bit of a handicapping mechanism. The kids (oldest is 10, so he doesn't need THAT much of a handicap) can have do overs, as often as needed, as long as wife or I haven't gotten to far in to our turns. Wife can make minor corrections. Me, I just gotta make sure I get it right the first time cause not one of them gives me the slightest slack, the ingrates. Of course, the fact that I only ever play for complete domination in a game may have something to do with their draconian policies. ninja
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Derry Salewski
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Yeah, this is pretty much my take on it as well

As long as no previously unknown information becomes known (next card, die roll, opponent's reaction, etc.) then I am okay with it.

I generally play more two player games, so the time thing isn't a huge issue.
 
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Andrew Brown
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I play some board games with my middle school students at times. They have been completely brainwashed by the common Chess ruling "as soon as you take your finger off the piece". I have always found strict guidelines about when your turn must end ("Card laid is a card...") very off-putting. I have tried to instill in my students a greater sense of grace. Especially when it is clear that the next player has yet to take his (all boys school) turn.
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norman rule
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No one in our group objects to the occasional take back or adjustment. It's when it becomes a habitual thing that it gets to be a problem.

We had one player who did an "oh, wait," about every 3rd turn. This got very annoying to the next player who then had to restart their thought process.

They would also frequently (several times a game) attempt to place a piece AFTER some new information was available. We started out allowing it because it WOULD have been the logical placement and we were still all learning the game. Eventually we got tired of it and said "No, you can't place now. Pay more attention on YOUR turn."
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mrorwell wrote:

We had one player who did an "oh, wait," about every 3rd turn. This got very annoying to the next player who then had to restart their thought process.


I've got one of those in my group as well. The main problem is that they do that without asking, they just up and redo their last move like it's not a big deal. Calling attention to it is problematic because if they get flustered this person is likely to shut down for the rest of the game, which really puts a damper on the mood.
 
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mlanza wrote:
I like the challenge of playing to a person's best game.

If a player moves his Queen, takes his fingers off it, and immediately thinks better of it, my strict rigidity to not allow the immediate correction seems to say that I enjoy, perhaps require a momentary technical error in defeating my opponent. These games of ours are not dexterity sports like tennis where a momentary technical errors are more decisive, but mental ones. Battles of wits should play out differently than athletic ones. When an opponent who just completed a move (with only a moment's hesitation) wants to substitute what he perceives is a better move, that's the move and, collectively, the game that I want to beat him at. Looking to deny courtesy to gain victory by beating an opponent at what is clearly his lesser game, to me, is unsportsmanlike, unsatisfying, and weak.

When playing games, I extend the grace necessary to take on a player at his best.


While that's definitely true most of the time, I'd like to point out that there is a time and place where it clearly does not apply. Certain games and certain players lend themselves to a fashion of play where "one's best game" is all about responding under pressure, keeping apace with rapidly changing conditions, and making snap decisions on limited information. Incredibly short time limits, touch-move, and similar rules are expressly invoked in the board game to create the type of tension commonly found in real time video games. Sometimes players specifically want a "mental dexterity" game that's not so different from tennis after all.
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norman rule
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Typpo wrote:
I've got one of those in my group as well. The main problem is that they do that without asking, they just up and redo their last move like it's not a big deal. Calling attention to it is problematic because if they get flustered this person is likely to shut down for the rest of the game, which really puts a damper on the mood.


So the next person around the table just gets in the habit of saying "Are you done?"

Once they commit to "yes, I'm done," they aren't likely to try to redo their move.

If they DO continue to do that, "Are you done?" should be followed by "Are you sure you're done?" then by "Are you REALLY sure you're done?"

If all else fails, say "No. You said you were done. It's no longer your turn." If they "shut down" for the rest of the game and it puts a damper on the rest of the evening... well, they will now share the frustration the rest of your group has bee feeling all along and actually learn from it.

As long as you let them get away with it, they have no incentive to change.
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Dave
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In the group I play with, "take-backs" are generally allowed for players just learning a game, but are increasingly disallowed as players gain experience. And it's simply assumed that players will ask before trying to take a move back.
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nnf1 wrote:
It's simple as long as the next person hasn't had their turn you can take back.


Pretty much the same with us. If the next player hasn't started making any movements etc, then a take back is ok as long as it does not involve a "substantial" redo.
 
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Take backs drive me bat crazy in Agricola. And it's honestly not uncommon for people to want them two or three full turns after people have made their decision. Then someone either has to be the jerk and say "nope" or let the guy have his take back.

Some games I don't mind, Agricola seems to have a real sore spot with me for them. I will admit the piles other people grab look better than the one you did.

Oh, and it's been a pile still on the board they try to take.
Still bugs me to no end.
 
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For our groups usually it depends on how new they are to the game, what it is they are wanting to change and what their motivation is for doing so.

If we are playing Settlers, and someone wants to change the position of a just placed road, city or settlement, then that's usually ok.

If they suddenly decide that instead of building that road (or settlement, etc.) they want to take that back and do something else, it ends up being up to the discretion of the current player.

If they are a new(er) player to the game, then we might even offer them suggestions on what they could have done, offering them the opportunity to take back a move.
I did this during my last game of Agricola, and even though it cost me the game (my pointing out how he could feed his family cost me the last two food I needed, and netted me 2 begging cards on the final harvest) I wouldn't hesitate to do it again to teach someone.


However, if we are all experienced at a game, and a player just in general points out how they could have made a better play, and what it was, then we are sometimes harder on them.
While it is good to learn from your mistakes, sometimes you have to keep them to learn the lesson.

Unless of course it strays into the realm of taunting from the lead player (HA! You could have moved here and blocked me/attacked me/etc.)
Then we might consider letting them take that move back after all....
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so a take off on this problem is uncollected money, or money paid in error or change that was wrong.

For example, playing St. Petersburg with my wife. She often forgets that she has a card that lets her pay less for the Aristocrats. We play on a sort of honor system, I usually handle the money, but she'll just tell me what she needs back for change or what her income is and I'll hand it out. (we have a little one and she is often holding a baby while playing) She has a habit of coming back after a couple of rounds, and say...oh I should have one more dollar...usually I end up giving in because she's my wife and holds the keys to my happiness, but it kind of bugs me.
 
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Carl Garber
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My opinion is very close to yours Mario. Except I take it one step farther and make it a house rule when we play games that I host. I have enough friends that are slow players as it is, I can`t even imagine how much slower things would go if we played with no grace! Also, I firmly beleive in beating the best! As for collecting things forgotten in later turns, that is dependant on what the group decides as well as how concrete it is (I forgot to grab my gold last turn usually with those I play with are allowed, I haven`t been collecting these points for the last couple turns usually will not). Grace is essential for fun for me. If I lose I want it to be because I was actually outsmarted or outplayed in some way, not because I made a brief mental error (eg. taking the trader in Puerto Rico when I don`t have any goods to trade -since I plan my turns ahead I decided that the trader was my best option unless, of course, the captain was chosen before it got to me, the captain was chosen and I forgot the whole unless part of my decision....). I like my wins and my losses to be as clean as possible!
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