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Relentless Rules

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23 Feb 2021 00:00 #319507 by oliverkinne
Relentless Rules was created by oliverkinne
 
I know, the obvious answer is probably: always accept that...

I have talked about house rules before, but what I want to talk about in this article is slightly different. When you play a game for the first time, or when you play a game you know with someone who plays it for the first time, the rules aren't always clear and it's possible someone misunderstands them. That's to be expected, but when you base your whole game, your whole strategy on your misunderstanding, then the game experience can really suffer. (This topic was inspired by the always wonderful Bez.)

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23 Feb 2021 12:56 #319511 by ubarose
Replied by ubarose on topic Relentless Rules
If it is a learning game for everyone, and we discover mid-game that we have been playing wrong, we usually just immediately start playing by the correct rule, because the point of playing is to learn the correct rules.

When it is any of the other situations, particularly one where only one player has misunderstood, it can become far more awkward. Most often, in our group, the player who misunderstood, will just be like "Oh, drat," get over it, and play with the correct rule, even if they are really screwed by it. But sometimes people get quite pissed off, and it becomes really unpleasant for everyone.
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23 Feb 2021 13:42 - 23 Feb 2021 13:42 #319514 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic Relentless Rules
I often do a 1-2 round "trial run game" when running a new game (to myself or with several new players) for this very reason. We can kick the tires and rev the engine before we start the actual race. Especially with euro style games full of mechanics that make no sense when described but suddenly click when seen in play.

I suspect a LOT of "ho hum" game experiences were due to misapplying rules, most of those games never get a second chance.
Last edit: 23 Feb 2021 13:42 by jason10mm.

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23 Feb 2021 13:56 #319516 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Relentless Rules
When this has come up in the past, we have typically taken a quick vote on immediately adopting the correct rule or playing out the current game with the wrong rule. I can see where a competitive player might get upset, and that is yet another reason why I tend to avoid playing games with people who are obsessed with winning.
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23 Feb 2021 14:07 - 23 Feb 2021 14:09 #319520 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Relentless Rules
^agree, that's my general position on this too.

It's very frustrating, though, as a rules explainer. That petulance/disappointment by the wrong rules player feels like a shitty accusation if it starts to come to "well I didn't know that! Why didn't you say something?" I have a good friend who would do this constantly (my nickname was "rules master"), it stopped being personally funny to me at some point and just felt shitty. Which, when you're doing the rules explaining, which is hard, is extra bad.
Last edit: 23 Feb 2021 14:09 by Gary Sax.
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23 Feb 2021 14:36 #319523 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic Relentless Rules
One of my groups used to have a couple rules explainers go so in depth in rules explanations and even talk about strategy and stuff. I think it was to avoid the "you didn't tell me that!" guy, but it always bugged me. I remember at least one 45 minute rules explanation for a 1-hour long kids' racing game. I'm much more of a "start the game as soon as reasonably possible, and explain things as needed," kind of player, both when teaching and my preferred style of learning. Like if I'm teaching Codenames to a group where at least two people are already familiar with being the spy masters, I'll give only a cursory explanation of what they actually see, and instead try to get people started with, "which words match the clue given" within a much shorter time frame. If the game is interesting enough to me I'll want to play it again to learn how to play it better.
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23 Feb 2021 15:02 #319524 by engineer Al
Replied by engineer Al on topic Relentless Rules
Interesting topic. I think how this is handled really has far more to do with who you are playing with than anything else. Just the other day Shellie and I were playing Mariposas and I completely misunderstood the hieroglyphics on one of the end of the round scoring cards. Shellie had looked it up and explained it to me, but I still misunderstood what it was saying so I ended up missing out on some points. I think she thought I was going to flip the table or something, but why? I was having a great time moving the little butterflies around and coming up with strategies for getting the most points out of the cards that I had. And my strategy was great for what I THOUGHT the card said. As long as I'm having fun I really don't care what the scores is in the end. On the other hand, if this wasn't such a short game (especially two player) and I had blown the entire game on a misunderstanding, I probably would have been pretty frustrated.
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23 Feb 2021 15:08 #319525 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Relentless Rules
Jexik, I have to fight that overexplain instinct every time to avoid that guy, you nailed it.

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23 Feb 2021 15:18 #319527 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Relentless Rules

jason10mm wrote: I suspect a LOT of "ho hum" game experiences were due to misapplying rules, most of those games never get a second chance.


Great point. The stakes are higher for playing a game right the first time, because if the game flops it may never get played again. My original gaming group was always so excited to try a new game that we often breezed quickly through the rules and got some things wrong. And that was fine, because we didn't have a lot of options back then and everything we had got played repeatedly.
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23 Feb 2021 15:21 #319528 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Relentless Rules
That also explains why we experimented often with house rules. We didn't have many games back then, so we wanted to get as much as possible out of the games we had. So, house rules, homebrew expansions, and custom scenarios. Nobody has enough time for that anymore, and why make house rules to fix a game when there are plenty of games that don't need fixing.
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23 Feb 2021 16:02 #319531 by ubarose
Replied by ubarose on topic Relentless Rules

engineer Al wrote: I think she thought I was going to flip the table or something, but why?


I was mortified. I felt so bad, because it was so easy to misinterpret the text explanation which was pretty poor, and it was 7 points, which is huge in Mariposa. I wanted you to just take the 7 points. When something like this happens, the rules explainer usually feels just as bad as the player, if not worse.
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23 Feb 2021 17:21 #319540 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Relentless Rules
As the primary teacher/rules explainer in my various groups, I've gotten into two habits that help to avoid a lot of pitfalls. The first is, almost absurdly, practice. When I know I'm going to be introducing a new game to people, I spend a few random minutes running through the rules in my head and outlining a patter for them:

"This is Tiny Epic Quest. Everyone has three dudes, with which you'll try to complete quests, kill goblins, and learn magic to score points. Here's the scoresheet and we have five rounds to do it. In the beginning phase of each round, each of us will pick a movement type. Here are the five movement cards and this is how they work. Then everyone gets a chance to move one of their dudes with the selected type. BUT, if you move past a red goblin, it will cost you Power to make that move. Goblins are usually green, but can turn red. I'll get to that in a minute. There are four different kinds of locations to move to..."

And so on. I get it to basically a script that takes less time than me trying to remember everything at the table. The other habit is if I've only played once or, indeed, have never played a game of something new (a rare thing these days as I've reduced the collection size), I'll just say so: "First time effort here, so I'm learning with you. So, if there are mistakes, let's just roll with them." Most people are fine with that. But in the situation Oliver describes, we'll usually just switch to the right rule and, if it makes the endgame wonky, fine.

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23 Feb 2021 18:02 #319546 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Relentless Rules
How do members of The Cult of the New deal with teaching rules? Are they unusually good at teaching rules? Or do they stick to simple games?
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23 Feb 2021 20:47 #319553 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic Relentless Rules
Cult of the New is why we started getting "quickstart" rulebooks and "the real rules" rulebooks, i think. Or first play options that minimize game complexity in order to focus on learning the core concepts.

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24 Feb 2021 00:15 #319566 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Relentless Rules
I think teaching rules is a skill, and one you can get better at. It requires a certain thought process and strategy in its own right. Each game needs its own approach depending on the structure.
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