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Subject: Rules Interpretations! rss

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Jason Aemisegger
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A game that I quite enjoy and have played quite a bit is Troyes, my enjoyment of the game lead to my recent purchase of The Ladies of Troyes expansion. While searching BGG looking at some of the Q & A about the new expansion, I discovered that I have been playing Troyes wrong this whole time.

We have been using multiple cubes to augment a single action, when it states only one action cube can be used. In my initial interpretation, I read it as only one action cube from each card can be used to augment the action. This is clearly not how others interpreted the rule and at that point I could see that theirs was the correct interpretation.

There I sat feeling embarrassed, and a little defeated, after my discovery. This got me thinking about board game rules in general. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

You read, then reread, the rules of a board game; then play it. During your first, second, and maybe even third play of that game you discover small rules you have missed. Questions come up and the rulebook is used as a reference tool to find the answer. Small disagreements and discussion happen while everyone playing tries to interpret the rules.
But things are still lost, mistakes are made, which can cause games to be played for months and years incorrectly. I have personally experienced this many times teaching games to others in a public setting, such as a convention or a game day. Admit it; it happens to even the most experienced board game players.

Sometimes this is due to a poorly written rulebook. Other times there aren’t any examples to use for judgment. More often than not it’s due to the game being taught wrong. (I have even seen this happen at a major convention, by a game company representative). Since parts of many rulebooks are left up to the interpretation of the reader, small nuances are missed when reading giving the wrong impression to the reader. What is clear in the author or designers head may not be clear on paper, leading to these misinterpretations.

I have made the statement many times, transcribing rulebooks down for the player is such an art form. The author knows exactly how to play the game. But between what is in the authors head and what is written on paper, things are lost. You only have to look at the rules discussion on every game here on BGG to see the variety of rules questions and interpretations.

Since on many occasions I am reading and teaching a game to other players, I try to be very careful while reading the rules. A majority of the time, my interpretations of the rules match either the consensus or what the author intended. But on occasion I make such a mistake that I question where I came up with the interpretation in question.

This causes me to take a step back, laugh at myself, and make sure I never take myself too seriously.

What kind of rule mistakes have you made? Have you made a rule interpretation that turned out to be wrong?

Thanks for Reading.

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David Debien
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CptSquash wrote:

We have been using multiple cubes to augment a single action, when it states only one action cube can be used. In my initial interpretation, I read it as only one action cube from each card can be used to augment the action. This is clearly not how others interpreted the rule and at that point I could see that theirs was the correct interpretation.


In a game I played last week, I used one cube to turn my workforce into all 5's and than another cube on a different card to turn the workforce from all whites to all yellows (or vice versa). Are you saying that is not legal? If so, then I am guilty of this as well...
 
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Tiamat
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When I played the beginner game of Caylus Magna Carta I somehow missed two rules... You get income, and you have to pay to place workers. Since those kind of cancel each other out I didn't notice a problem. I have no idea why my reading of the rules was so sloppy.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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In Master of Economy there are demand markers that go on the market sheet. These reset after every round.

I did not read that they reset.

Those were some seriously money-tight games.
 
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david landes
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As you point out, rules mistakes are more the rule than the exception.. heh.

Look at Monopoly.. how many people have gotten money from free parking or failed to put an unpurchased property up for auction?

In my first game of Through the Ages (recently), we made the following mistakes:
- During the initial turn where we seed our hands, we should not have restocked the card track until after all players had taken their card(s)
- It costs one ADDED civil action for EACH wonder you have built to take a new wonder
- The temple and lab cards you start with ARE urban buildings
- We should have started with two more events than players (4) in the initial current events pool.. not a slew more.
- As Future Events are made Current events, you shuffle them, but you also arrange them to come out by earliest age first in the current events. So if there are a mix of ages in the future events, sort by age and shuffle within age

Every reasonably complex game I have ever played has suffered this.. kinda just part of the hobby.. .

For some real fun, watch a couple miniatures players with complex rules argue over what interpretations and sub-rules apply to a given situation based on distance, terrain, unit types, morale, weapon types and/or modifiers, visibility, temperature, spell/other effects, leader bonuses, and so on, and so on.

 
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Marta Kelly
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The first time my boyfriend and his roommate played Arkham Horror they didn't know about weapons taking up hands or being one-use so they were throwing dynamite and holy water at the GOO every turn.
 
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Kyle Smith
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I've made a good number of rule omissions and rule mistakes. Mostly during war games. For example, in Commands & Colors: Ancients we used to frequently forget that:

Leaders attached to infantry give them a bonus attack.
Camels ignore one blue triangle hit from cavalry.
Elephants ignore one red square hit from cavalry.

And then one time we completely cocked up a complicated elephant retreat situations where they rampaged, then killed some guys behind them. I can't even remember how badly we messed up the order in which things occurred. But it was bad.
 
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Bill Kunes
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I've lost track of how many times this has happened to me.

Fortunately, I haven't allowed myself to get too worked up about it. In most cases the we enjoyed playing the game incorrectly, and even more so after the clarification.

We played Castles of Burgundy 33x before learning that players use both dice on their turn, not just one until it comes back around to them. Ironically, a new guy I introduced the game two pointed out to other, subtle corrections to CoB than we've been playing it this past weekend at Game Night after he just finished reading the rules the night before. Doh! Nothing major, just two minor tweeks.

I've just accepted that we are going to miss some of these things, and as long as we are having fun, we'll keep playing and clarifying the rules as we go.

meeple Keep playing...
 
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Anakin Man
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CptSquash wrote:
Sometimes this is due to a poorly written rulebook. Other times there aren’t any examples to use for judgment. More often than not it’s due to the game being taught wrong. (I have even seen this happen at a major convention, by a game company representative). Since parts of many rulebooks are left up to the interpretation of the reader...


I am a new designer who loves playing boardgames too. Your points are great! I am now designing my first game with a rulebook written already. After proofreading by some people, some feedback are positive but some comments said if they pretended themselves to be boardgame beginners, they are hard to understand the game.

I myself know the game inside-out and I tried my best to put the complete picture of it into the rulebook. Sometimes it is hard to tell from my own viewpoint whether the rulebook is too hard to understand, or it is just because the game itself is a difficult one. So that's why I am trying to let more and more people to see the rulebook: http://bit.ly/W14W9V (Dark Age Z). If you have time, feel free to have a quick scan of it and hopefully people here are willing to provide some comments. Many thanks.

//Anakin Man
 
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