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Overruled - Board Game House Rules
The old topic of "house rules" keeps cropping up. Some of us are purists and feel that you have to play games with the rules they came with, because otherwise you won't get the experience that the designer intended. Others feel that tweaking a few rules here and there can make a game more fun for you and the people you play with and that designers want us to enjoy their games. In this article, I want to speak for the latter group and show that house rules aren't a sacrilege.
Some examples include:
- Railways of the World (Combined East & West USA Map)
- MEGA-Carcassonne (Carcassonne with lots of tiles / expansions in a cut throat team-game (3 teams of 2).
- XIA: Legends of a Drift System (Sandbox games encourage fanspansion rules and play).
- Formula De (12 years of running a 10 player league had us augmenting some rules to add to the meta game of league play).
In essence, games are meant o be fun. Part of that fun for our group is exploring improvements and variants to suit our style of play).
Thanks for the article.
Matt "Bixby" Robertson
A lot of the the tinkering was a reflex from running early RPGs, where the intent was to simulate a full-fledged world but maybe you only had a 32-page rule book defining that world. One of my favorite early RPGs was Villains and Vigilantes, a game about super-powered crimefighters and their opponents. The basic structure of the game was okay, but there was a lot of hand-waving when it came to more specific rules for common comicbook elements like magic or cybernetics. Over time, I wrote up an additional 20 pages of rules for my V&V campaign.
Barnes made a remark here several years ago that left a lasting impression on me. There are so many games now that it isn't worth the effort to patch up a flawed game with house rules when you can just box-sweep it off the table and play something better. I generally agree, but sometimes a minor house rule can totally address a flaw in an otherwise good game.
If you take big damage you might say "you see wood fly from one of my wings" or "smoke starts coming out from the front of the plane."
Minor damage might be "you see a tear in the canvass" or even "you don't see anything."
We had one guy that got caught in a spot where not one but TWO artillery shells went off. Artillery shells either blow you to smithereens or do nothing. He pulled his two damage cards, apparently both 0s, and replied, "you see a thin stream of yellow liquid coming out the bottom of the cockpit." It took a few seconds, but everyone started laughing their fool heads off. We have yet to hear a better response than that one!
At times, house rules can be more about the narrative than the mechanics.
- Horus Heresy (FFG remake), they did a nifty thing with the initiative/time track, which determined the game length, where actions cost differing number of points movement but it just wasn't feeling quite right so I added a few options.
- Star Trek: Ascendancy, didn't like the simplistic Tech card mechanic of draw 2, choose 1 and put the other on the bottom of the deck so I made a few other options to choose from.
- Secrets of the Lost Tomb, spending a scarce resource to reroll dice required you to reroll all of them, the game was hard enough as it was so we played you could reroll any number you wanted.
And just looked on my laptop in my old documents and found the rules for it (from 2003) :
The Godzilla Variant
Well, Manhattan is already a good game. But, after having played a bit too much poker, Eric Moore and I were discussing the game and I said "Well, Ben can't wait to steal a godzilla from an Alan Moon game and play Manhattan with it."
A few minutes later, these rules were born.
Setup and Play
Take any convenient counter (of course, a Godzilla from one of Alan's games is preferred) and set it in the center of any city. For purposes of Godzilla, the cities form a 2x3 rectange that wraps around at both edges. Play of the game is completely normal, except, after you play a card and build a piece, Godzilla moves. If you played a card that let you build in the center, Godzilla doesn't move. If you played a card that let you build in any other space, Godzilla moves in that direction (diagonally if you built in a corner, horizantally or vertically if you built on an edge). Any building that Godzilla steps on is destroyed.
Big vs. Little Monster
Big monster destroys an entire building when he enters a space with a building. Little Monster only eats the tops floor piece (and if he stays where he is by playing a center card, he eats another piece.) I prefer big.